Data types with Negation (Talk Abstract)

Publication Information

Robert Atkey. Data types with Negation (Talk Abstract). In MSFP 2022. 2022.


Inductive data types are a foundational tool for representing data and knowledge in dependently typed programming languages. The user provides a collection of rules that determine positive evidence for membership in the type. Elimination of an inductive type corresponds to structural induction on its members.

But what if our data modelling requires negative information as well as positive? For example, representing the result of a backtracking parser requires evidence that a certain parsing attempt didn't work. Standard formulations of inductive types do not allow negative information mixed with positive.

Mixing positive and negative information has been studied in logic programming, resulting in concepts like Negation as Failure, stable model semantics, and well-founded semantics. Incorporating negative information into systems of rules leads us into the realm of non-monotonic logics, where simply adding knowledge does not necessarily preserve existing conclusions.

We describe a way to understand data types with negative information in type theory by combining ideas from 3-valued stable models in logic programming and constructive negation (or refutation) from linear logic.