Towards an ML-style Polymorphic Type System for C
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Advanced polymorphic type systems have come to play an important role in the world of functional programming. But, curiously, these type systems have so far had little impact upon widely-used imperative programming languages like C and C++. We show that ML-style polymorphism can be integrated smoothly into a dialect of C, which we call Polymorphic C. It has the same pointer operations as C, including the address-of operator &, the dereferencing operator*, and pointer arithmetic. Our type system allows these operations in their full generality, so that programmers need not give up the flexibility of C to gain the benefits of ML-style polymorphism. We prove a type soundness theorem that gives a rigorous and useful characterization of well-typed Polymorphic C programs in terms of what can go wrong when they are evaluated.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/