Posted on November 17, 2016
Tags: Haskell, Semirings
{-# LANGUAGE GeneralizedNewtypeDeriving, TypeFamilies #-}
{-# LANGUAGE DeriveFunctor, DeriveFoldable, DeriveTraversable #-}
{-# LANGUAGE PatternSynonyms, ViewPatterns, LambdaCase #-}
{-# LANGUAGE RankNTypes, FlexibleInstances, FlexibleContexts #-}
{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings, OverloadedLists, MonadComprehensions #-}

module Semirings where

import qualified Data.Map.Strict as Map
import           Data.Map.Strict      (Map)
import           Data.Monoid  hiding  (Endo(..))
import           Data.Foldable hiding (toList)
import           Control.Applicative
import           Control.Arrow        (first)
import           Control.Monad.Cont
import           Data.Functor.Identity
import           GHC.Exts
import           Data.List hiding     (insert)
import           Data.Maybe           (mapMaybe)

I’ve been playing around a lot with semirings recently. A semiring is anything with addition, multiplication, zero and one. You can represent that in Haskell as:

class Semiring a where
  zero :: a
  one  :: a
  infixl 7 <.>
  (<.>) :: a -> a -> a
  infixl 6 <+>
  (<+>) :: a -> a -> a

It’s kind of like a combination of two monoids. It has the normal monoid laws:

x <+> (y <+> z) = (x <+> y) <+> z
x <.> (y <.> z) = (x <.> y) <.> z
x <+> zero = zero <+> x = x
x <.> one  = one  <.> x = x

And a few extra:

x <+> y = y <+> x
x <.> (y <+> z) = (x <.> y) <+> (x <.> z)
(x <+> y) <.> z = (x <.> z) <+> (y <.> z)
zero <.> a = a <.> zero = zero

I should note that what I’m calling a semiring here is often called a rig. I actually prefer the name “rig”: a rig is a ring without negatives (cute!); whereas a semiring is a rig without neutral elements, which mirrors the definition of a semigroup. The nomenclature in this area is a bit of a mess, though, so I went with the more commonly-used name for the sake of googleability.

At first glance, it looks quite numeric. Indeed, PureScript uses it as the basis for its numeric hierarchy. (In my experience so far, it’s nicer to use than Haskell’s Num)

instance Semiring Integer where
  zero = 0
  one  = 1
  (<+>) = (+)
  (<.>) = (*)

instance Semiring Double where
  zero = 0
  one  = 1
  (<+>) = (+)
  (<.>) = (*)

However, there are far more types which can form a valid Semiring instance than can form a valid Num instance: the negate method, for example, excludes types representing the natural numbers:

newtype ChurchNat = ChurchNat 
  { runNat :: forall a. (a -> a) -> a -> a}
data Nat = Zero | Succ Nat

These form perfectly sensible semirings, though:

instance Semiring ChurchNat where
  zero = ChurchNat (const id)
  one = ChurchNat ($)
  ChurchNat n <+> ChurchNat m = ChurchNat (\f -> n f . m f)
  ChurchNat n <.> ChurchNat m = ChurchNat (n . m)

instance Semiring Nat where
  zero = Zero
  one = Succ Zero
  Zero <+> x = x
  Succ x <+> y = Succ (x <+> y)
  Zero <.> _ = Zero
  Succ Zero <.> x =x
  Succ x <.> y = y <+> (x <.> y)

The other missing method is fromInteger, which means decidedly non-numeric types are allowed:

instance Semiring Bool where
  zero = False
  one  = True
  (<+>) = (||)
  (<.>) = (&&)

We can provide a more general definition of the Sum and Product newtypes from Data.Monoid:

newtype Add a = Add
  { getAdd :: a
  } deriving (Eq, Ord, Read, Show, Semiring)

newtype Mul a = Mul
  { getMul :: a
  } deriving (Eq, Ord, Read, Show, Semiring)

instance Functor Add where
  fmap f (Add x) = Add (f x)

instance Applicative Add where
  pure = Add
  Add f <*> Add x = Add (f x)

I’m using Add and Mul here to avoid name clashing.

instance Semiring a => Monoid (Add a) where
  mempty = Add zero
  Add x `mappend` Add y = Add (x <+> y)

instance Semiring a => Monoid (Mul a) where
  mempty = Mul one
  Mul x `mappend` Mul y = Mul (x <.> y)
add :: (Semiring a, Foldable f) => f a -> a
add = getAdd . foldMap Add

mul :: (Semiring a, Foldable f) => f a -> a
mul = getMul . foldMap Mul

add and mul are equivalent to sum and product:

add xs == sum (xs :: [Integer])
mul xs == product (xs :: [Integer])

But they now work with a wider array of types: non-negative numbers, as we’ve seen, but specialised to Bool we get the familiar Any and All newtypes (and their corresponding folds).

add xs == or (xs :: [Bool])
mul xs == and (xs :: [Bool])

So far, nothing amazing. We avoid a little bit of code duplication, that’s all.

A Semiring Map

In older versions of Python, there was no native set type. In its place, dictionaries were used, where the values would be booleans. In a similar fashion, before the Counter type was added in 2.7, the traditional way of representing a multiset was using a dictionary where the values were integers.

Using semirings, both of these data structures can have the same type:

newtype GeneralMap a b = GeneralMap
  { getMap :: Map a b
  } deriving (Functor, Foldable, Show, Eq, Ord)

If operations are defined in terms of the Semiring class, the same code will work on a set and a multiset:

insert :: (Ord a, Semiring b) => a -> GeneralMap a b -> GeneralMap a b
insert x = GeneralMap . Map.insertWith (<+>) x one . getMap

delete :: Ord a => a -> GeneralMap a b -> GeneralMap a b
delete x = GeneralMap . Map.delete x . getMap

How to get back the dictionary-like behaviour, then? Well, operations like lookup and assoc are better suited to a Monoid constraint, rather than Semiring:

lookup :: (Ord a, Monoid b) => a -> GeneralMap a b -> b
lookup x = fold . Map.lookup x . getMap

assoc :: (Ord a, Applicative f, Monoid (f b)) 
      => a -> b -> GeneralMap a (f b) -> GeneralMap a (f b)
assoc k v = GeneralMap . Map.insertWith mappend k (pure v) . getMap

lookup is a function which should work on sets and multisets: however Bool and Integer don’t have Monoid instances. To fix this, we can use the Add newtype from earlier. The interface for each of these data structures can now be expressed like this:

type Set      a   = GeneralMap a (Add Bool)
type MultiSet a   = GeneralMap a (Add Integer)
type Map      a b = GeneralMap a (First b)
type MultiMap a b = GeneralMap a [b]

And each of the functions on the GeneralMap specialises like this:

-- Set
insert :: Ord a => a -> Set a -> Set a
lookup :: Ord a => a -> Set a -> Add Bool
delete :: Ord a => a -> Set a -> Set a

-- MultiSet
insert :: Ord a => a -> MultiSet a -> MultiSet a
lookup :: Ord a => a -> MultiSet a -> Add Integer
delete :: Ord a => a -> MultiSet a -> MultiSet a

-- Map
assoc  :: Ord a => a -> b -> Map a b -> Map a b
lookup :: Ord a => a -> Map a b -> First b
delete :: Ord a => a -> Map a b -> Map a b

-- MultiMap
assoc  :: Ord a => a -> b -> MultiMap a b -> MultiMap a b
lookup :: Ord a => a -> MultiMap a b -> [b]
delete :: Ord a => a -> MultiMap a b -> MultiMap a b

This was actually where I first came across semirings: I was trying to avoid code duplication for a trie implementation. I wanted to get the Boom Hierarchy (1981) (plus maps) from the same underlying implementation.

It works okay. On the one hand, it’s nice that you don’t have to wrap the map type itself to get the different behaviour. There’s only one delete function, which works on sets, maps, multisets, etc. I don’t need to import the TrieSet module qualified, to differentiate between the four delete functions I’ve written.

On the other hand, the Add wrapper is a pain: having lookup return the wrapped values is ugly, and the Applicative constraint is unwieldy (we only use it for pure). Both of those problems could be solved by using something like the Newtype or Wrapped class, which provide facilities for wrapping and unwrapping, but that might be overkill.

While Monoid and Semiring can take you pretty far, even to a Monoid instance:

fromList :: (Ord a, Semiring b, Foldable f) => f a -> GeneralMap a b
fromList = foldr insert (GeneralMap Map.empty)

fromAssocs :: (Ord a, Applicative f, Monoid (f b), Foldable t) 
           => t (a, b) -> GeneralMap a (f b)
fromAssocs = foldr (uncurry assoc) (GeneralMap Map.empty)

instance (Ord a, Monoid b) => Monoid (GeneralMap a b) where
  mempty = GeneralMap Map.empty
  mappend (GeneralMap x) (GeneralMap y) = 
    GeneralMap (Map.unionWith mappend x y)

singleton :: Semiring b => a -> GeneralMap a b
singleton x = GeneralMap (Map.singleton x one)

They seem to fall down around functions like intersection:

intersection :: (Ord a, Semiring b)
             => GeneralMap a b -> GeneralMap a b -> GeneralMap a b
intersection (GeneralMap x) (GeneralMap y) =
  GeneralMap (Map.intersectionWith (<.>) x y)

It works for sets, but it doesn’t make sense for multisets, and it doesn’t work for maps.

I couldn’t find a semiring for the map-like types which would give me a sensible intersection. I’m probably after a different algebraic structure.

A Probability Semiring

While looking for a semiring to represent a valid intersection, I came across the probability semiring. It’s just the normal semiring over the rationals, with a lower bound of 0, and an upper of 1.

It’s useful in some cool ways: you can combine it with a list to get the probability monad (Erwig and Kollmansberger 2006). There’s an example in PureScript’s Distributions package.

newtype Prob s a = Prob { runProb :: [(a,s)] }

There are some drawbacks to this representation, performance-wise. In particular, there’s a combinatorial explosion on every monadic bind. One of the strategies to reduce this explosion is to use a map:

newtype Prob s a = Prob { runProb :: Map a s }

Because this doesn’t allow duplicate keys, it will flatten the association list on every bind. Unfortunately, the performance gain doesn’t always materialize, and in some cases there’s a performance loss (Larsen 2011). Also, the Ord constraint on the keys prevents it from conforming to Monad (at least not without difficulty).

Interestingly, this type is exactly the same as the GeneralMap from before. This is a theme I kept running into, actually: the GeneralMap type represents not just maps, multimaps, sets, multisets, but also a whole host of other data structures.


Edward Kmett had an interesting blog post about “Free Modules and Functional Linear Functionals” (2011b). In it, he talked about this type:

infixr 0 $*
newtype Linear r a = Linear { ($*) :: (a -> r) -> r }

Also known as Cont, the continuation monad. It can encode the probability monad:

fromProbs :: (Semiring s, Applicative m) => [(a,s)] -> ContT s m a
fromProbs xs = ContT $ \k ->
  foldr (\(x,s) a -> liftA2 (<+>) (fmap (s<.>) (k x)) a) (pure zero) xs

probOfT :: (Semiring r, Applicative m) => (a -> Bool) -> ContT r m a -> m r
probOfT e c = runContT c (\x -> if e x then pure one else pure zero)

probOf :: Semiring r => (a -> Bool) -> Cont r a -> r
probOf e = runIdentity . probOfT e

uniform :: Applicative m => [a] -> ContT Double m a
uniform xs =
  let s = 1.0 / fromIntegral (length xs)
  in fromProbs (map (flip (,) s) xs)

Multiplication isn’t paid for on every bind, making this (potentially) a more efficient implementation than both the map and the association list.

You can actually make the whole thing a semiring:

instance (Semiring r, Applicative m) => Semiring (ContT r m a) where
  one  = ContT (const (pure one))
  zero = ContT (const (pure zero))
  f <+> g = ContT (\k -> liftA2 (<+>) (runContT f k) (runContT g k))
  f <.> g = ContT (\k -> liftA2 (<.>) (runContT f k) (runContT g k))

Which gives you a lovely Alternative instance:

instance (Semiring r, Applicative m) => Alternative (ContT r m) where
  (<|>) = (<+>)
  empty = zero

This sheds some light on what was going on with the unsatisfactory intersection function on GeneralMap: it’s actually multiplication. If you wanted to stretch the analogy and make GeneralMap conform to Semiring, you could use the empty map for zero, mappend for <+>, but you’d run into trouble for one. one is the map where every possible key has a value of one. In other words, you’d have to enumerate over every possible value for the keys. Interestingly, there’s kind of the inverse problem for Cont: while it has an easy Semiring instance, in order to inspect the values you have to enumerate over all the possible keys.

I now have a name for the probability monad / general map / Cont thing: a covector.

I think that the transformer version of Cont has a valid interpretation, also. If I ever understand Hirschowitz and Maggesi (2010) I’ll put it into a later follow-up post.

Conditional choice

As a short digression, you can beef up the <|> operator a little, with something like the conditional choice operator:

data BiWeighted s = s :|: s
infixl 8 :|:

(|>) :: (Applicative m, Semiring s)
     => BiWeighted s
     -> ContT s m a
     -> ContT s m a
     -> ContT s m a
((lp :|: rp) |> r) l =
  (mapContT.fmap.(<.>)) lp l <|> (mapContT.fmap.(<.>)) rp r
(<|) :: ContT s m a
     -> (ContT s m a -> ContT s m a)
     -> ContT s m a
l <| r = r l

infixr 0 <|
infixr 0 |>
probOf ('a'==) (uniform "a" <| 0.4 :|: 0.6 |> uniform "b")


If you fiddle around with the probability monad, you can break it apart in interesting ways. For instance, extracting the WriterT monad transformer gives you:

WriterT (Product Double) []

Eric Kidd describes it as PerhapsT: a Maybe with attached probability in his excellent blog post (and his paper in 2007).

Straight away, we can optimise this representation by transforming the leaky WriterT into a state monad:

newtype WeightedT s m a = WeightedT 
  { getWeightedT :: s -> m (a, s)
  } deriving Functor
instance Monad m => Applicative (WeightedT s m) where
  pure x = WeightedT $ \s -> pure (x,s)
  WeightedT fs <*> WeightedT xs = WeightedT $ \s -> do
    (f, p) <- fs s
    (x, t) <- xs p
    pure (f x, t)
instance Monad m => Monad (WeightedT s m) where
  WeightedT x >>= f = WeightedT $ \s -> do
    (x, p) <- x s
    getWeightedT (f x) p

I’m not sure yet, but I think this might have something to do with the isomorphism between Cont ((->) s) and State s (Kmett 2011a).

You can even make it look like a normal (non-transformer) writer with some pattern synonyms:

type Weighted s = WeightedT s Identity

pattern Weighted w <- (runIdentity . flip getWeightedT zero -> w) where
  Weighted (x,w) = WeightedT (\s -> Identity (x, s <.> w) )

And you can pretend that you’ve just got a normal tuple:

half :: a -> Weighted Double a
half x = Weighted (x, 0.5)

runWeighted :: Semiring s => Weighted s a -> (a, s)
runWeighted (Weighted w) = w

evalWeighted :: Semiring s => Weighted s a -> a
evalWeighted (Weighted (x,_)) = x

execWeighted :: Semiring s => Weighted s a -> s
execWeighted (Weighted (_,s)) = s


Looking back at Cont, it is reminiscent of a particular encoding of the free monoid from Doel (2015):

newtype FreeMonoid a = FreeMonoid
  { forall m. Monoid m => (a -> m) -> m }

So possibly covectors represent the free semiring, in some way.

Another encoding which looks free-ish is one of the efficient implementations of the probability monad from Larsen (2011):

data Dist a where
  Certainly :: a -> Dist a -- only possible value
  Choice :: Probability -> Dist a -> Dist a -> Dist a
  Fmap :: (a -> b) -> Dist a -> Dist b
  Join :: Dist (Dist a) -> Dist a

This looks an awful lot like a weighted free alternative. Is it a free semiring, then?

Maybe. There’s a parallel between the relationship between monoids and semirings and applicatives and Alternatives (Rivas, Jaskelioff, and Schrijvers 2015). In a way, where monads are monoids in the category of endofunctors, alternatives are semirings in the category of endofunctors.

This parallel probably isn’t what I first thought it was. First of all, the above paper uses near-semirings, not semirings. A near-semiring is a semiring where the requirements for left distribution of multiplication over addition and commutative addition are dropped. Secondly, the class which most mirrors near-semirings is MonadPlus, not alternative. (alternative doesn’t have annihilation) Thirdly, right distribution of multiplication over addition isn’t required MonadPlus: it’s a further law required on top of the existing laws. Fourthly, most types in the Haskell ecosystem today which conform to MonadPlus don’t conform to this extra law: in fact, those that do seem to be lists of some kind or another.

A further class is probably needed on top of the two already there, with the extra laws (called Nondet in Fischer 2009).

An actual free near-semiring looks like this:

data Free f x = Free { unFree :: [FFree f x] }
data FFree f x = Pure x | Con (f (Free f x))

Specialised to the Identity monad, that becomes:

data Forest a = Forest { unForest :: [Tree x] }
data Tree x = Leaf x | Branch (Forest x)

De-specialised to the free monad transformer, it becomes:

newtype FreeT f m a = FreeT
  { runFreeT :: m (FreeF f a (FreeT f m a)) }

data FreeF f a b
  = Pure a
  | Free (f b)

type FreeNearSemiring f = FreeT f []

These definitions all lend themselves to combinatorial search (Spivey 2009; Fischer 2009; Piponi 2009), with one extra operation needed: wrap.


Does the odds monad fit in to any of this?

While WriterT (Product Rational) [] is a valid definition of the traditional probability monad, it’s not the same as the odds monad. If you take the odds monad, and parameterize it over the weight of the tail, you get this:

data Odds m a = Certain a | Choice (m (a, Odds a))

Which looks remarkably like ListT done right:

newtype ListT m a = ListT { next :: m (Step m a) }
data Step m a = Cons a (ListT m a) | Nil

That suggests a relationship between probability and odds:

WriterT (Product  Rational) [] = Probability
ListT   (Weighted Rational)    = Odds

ListT isn’t a perfect match, though: it allows empty lists. To correct this, you could use the Cofree Comonad:

data Cofree f a = a :< (f (Cofree f a))

Subbing in Maybe for f, you get a non-empty list. A weighted Maybe is basically PerhapsT, as was mentioned earlier.

Generalizing Semirings

Types in haskell also form a semiring.

(<.>) = (,)
one = ()

(<+>) = Either
zero = Void

There’s a subset of semirings which are star semirings. They have an operation ** such that:

a*=1+aa*=1+a*aa* = 1 + aa* = 1 + a*a

Or, as a class:

class Semiring a => StarSemiring a where
  star :: a -> a
  star x = one <+> plus x
  plus :: a -> a
  plus x = x <.> star x

Using this on types, you get:

star a = Either () (a, star a)

Which is just a standard list! Some pseudo-haskell on alternatives will give you:

star :: (Alternative f, Monoid a) => f a -> f a
star x = (x <.> star x) <+> pure mempty where
  (<.>) = liftA2 mappend
  (<+>) = <|>

Also known as many. (although note that this breaks all the laws)

The ** for rationals is defined as (Droste and Kuich 2009, p8):

a*={11aif 0a<1,if a1.a* = \begin{cases} \frac{1}{1 - a} & \quad \text{if } & 0 \leq a \lt 1, \\ \infty & \quad \text{if } & a \geq 1. \end{cases}

So, combining the probability with the type-level business, the star of Writer s a is:

Either (1, a) (a, s / (1 - s), star (Writer s a))

Or, to put it another way: the odds monad!


An endomorphism is a morphism from an object to itself. A less general definition (and the one most often used in Haskell) is a function of the type a -> a:

newtype Endo a = Endo { appEndo :: a -> a }

It forms a monoid under composition:

instance Monoid (Endo a) where
  mempty = Endo id
  mappend (Endo f) (Endo g) = Endo (f . g)

If the underlying type is itself a commutative monoid, it also forms near-semiring:

instance Monoid a => Semiring (Endo a) where
  Endo f <+> Endo g = Endo (\x -> f x <> g x)
  zero = Endo (const mempty)
  one = Endo id
  Endo f <.> Endo g = Endo (f . g)
instance (Monoid a, Eq a) => StarSemiring (Endo a) where
  star (Endo f) = Endo converge where
    converge x = x <> (if y == mempty then y else converge y) where
      y = f x

Here’s something interesting: there’s a similarity here to the semiring for church numerals. In fact, as far as I can tell, the functions are exactly the same when applied to endomorphisms of endomorphisms. To the extent that you could define church numerals with something as simple as this:

type ChurchEndoNat = forall a. Endo (Endo a)

And it works!

two, three :: ChurchEndoNat
two = one <+> one
three = one <+> two

unChurch :: Num a => ChurchEndoNat -> a
unChurch f = appEndo (appEndo f (Endo (1+))) 0
unChurch (two <.> three)


One of the most important applications (and a source of much of the notation) is regular expressions. In fact, the free semiring looks like a haskell datatype for regular expressions:

data FreeStar a
 = Gen a
 | Zer
 | One
 | FreeStar a :<+> FreeStar a
 | FreeStar a :<.> FreeStar a
 | Star (FreeStar a)

instance Semiring (FreeStar a) where
  (<+>) = (:<+>)
  (<.>) = (:<.>)
  zero = Zer
  one = One
instance StarSemiring (FreeStar a) where
  star = Star
interpret :: StarSemiring s => (a -> s) -> FreeStar a -> s
interpret f = \case
  Gen x -> f x
  Zer -> zero
  One -> one
  l :<+> r -> interpret f l <+> interpret f r
  l :<.> r -> interpret f l <.> interpret f r
  Star x -> star (interpret f x)

Then, interpreting the regex is as simple as writing an interpreter (with some help from Endo):

asRegex :: Eq a => FreeStar (a -> Bool) -> [a] -> Bool
asRegex fs = any null . appEndo (interpret f fs) . pure where
  f p = Endo . mapMaybe $ \case
    (x:xs) | p x -> Just xs
    _ -> Nothing

char' :: Eq a => a -> FreeStar (a -> Bool)
char' c = Gen (c==)

Actually, you don’t need the free version at all!

runRegex :: Eq a => Endo [[a]] -> [a] -> Bool
runRegex fs = any null . appEndo fs . pure

char :: Eq a => a -> Endo [[a]]
char c = Endo . mapMaybe $ \case
  (x:xs) | c == x -> Just xs
  _ -> Nothing  

With some -XOverloadedStrings magic, you get a pretty nice interface:

instance IsString (Endo [String]) where
  fromString = mul . map char . reverse
(<^>) :: Semiring s => s -> s -> s
(<^>) = flip (<.>)

greet :: Endo [String]
greet = "H" <^> ("a" <+> "e") <^> "llo"
:set -XOverloadedStrings
runRegex greet "Hello"
runRegex greet "Hallo"
runRegex greet "Halo"


Of course, that’s about as slow as it gets when it comes to regexes. A faster representation is a nondeterministic finite automaton. One such implementation in haskell is Gabriel Gonzalez’s.

The regex type in that example can be immediately made to conform to Semiring and StarSemiring. However, it might be more interesting to translate the implementation into using semirings. The type of a regex looks like this:

type State = Int

{ _startingStates         :: Set State
, _transitionFunction     :: Char -> State -> Set State
, _acceptingStates        :: Set State }

The set data structure jumps out as an opportunity to sub in arbitrary semirings.Swapping in the GeneralMap is reasonably easy:

type State = Int

data Regex i s = Regex
  { _numberOfStates     :: Int 
  , _startingStates     :: GeneralMap State s
  , _transitionFunction :: i -> State -> GeneralMap State s
  , _acceptingStates    :: GeneralMap State s }

isEnd :: Semiring s => Regex i s -> s
isEnd (Regex _ as _ bs) = add (intersection as bs)

match :: Regex Char (Add Bool) -> String -> Bool
match r = getAdd . isEnd . foldl' run r where
  run (Regex n (GeneralMap as) f bs) i = Regex n as' f bs
    where as' = mconcat [ fmap (v<.>) (f i k)  | (k,v) <- Map.assocs as ]

satisfy :: Semiring s => (i -> s) -> Regex i (Add s)
satisfy predicate = Regex 2 as f bs
    as = singleton 0
    bs = singleton 1

    f i 0 = assoc 1 (predicate i) mempty
    f _ _ = mempty

once :: Eq i => i -> Regex i (Add Bool)
once x = satisfy (== x)

shift :: Int -> GeneralMap State s -> GeneralMap State s
shift n = GeneralMap . Map.fromAscList . (map.first) (+ n) . Map.toAscList . getMap

instance (Semiring s, Monoid s) => Semiring (Regex i s) where

  one = Regex 1 (singleton 0) (\_ _ -> mempty) (singleton 0)
  zero = Regex 0 mempty (\_ _ -> mempty) mempty

  Regex nL asL fL bsL <+> Regex nR asR fR bsR = Regex n as f bs
      n  = nL + nR
      as = mappend asL (shift nL asR)
      bs = mappend bsL (shift nL bsR)
      f i s | s < nL    = fL i s
            | otherwise = shift nL (fR i (s - nL))

  Regex nL asL fL bsL <.> Regex nR asR fR bsR = Regex n as f bs where

    n = nL + nR

    as = let ss = add (intersection asL bsL)
         in mappend asL (fmap (ss<.>) (shift nL asR))

    f i s =
        if s < nL
        then let ss = add (intersection r bsL)
             in mappend r (fmap (ss<.>) (shift nL asR))
        else shift nL (fR i (s - nL))
        r = fL i s
    bs = shift nL bsR

instance (StarSemiring s, Monoid s) => StarSemiring (Regex i s) where
  star (Regex n as f bs) = Regex n as f' as
      f' i s =
          let r = f i s
              ss = add (intersection r bs)
          in mappend r (fmap (ss<.>) as)

  plus (Regex n as f bs) = Regex n as f' bs
      f' i s =
          let r = f i s
              ss = add (intersection r bs)
          in mappend r (fmap (ss<.>) as)

instance IsString (Regex Char (Add Bool)) where
  fromString = mul . map once

This begins to show some of the real power of using semirings and covectors. We have a normal regular expression implementation when we use the covector over bools. Use the probability semiring, and you’ve got probabilistic parsing.

Swap in the tropical semiring: a semiring over the reals where addition is the max function, and multiplication is addition of reals. Now you’ve got a depth-first parser.

That’s how you might swap in different interpretations. How about swapping in different implementations? Well, there might be some use to swapping in the CYK algorithm, or the Gauss-Jordan-Floyd-Warshall-McNaughton-Yamada algorithm (O’Connor 2011).

Alternatively, you can swap in the underlying data structure. Instead of a map, if you use an integer (each bit being a value, the keys being the bit position), you have a super-fast implementation (and the final implementation used in the original example). Finally, you could use a different representation of the state transfer function: a matrix.

Square Matrices

A square matrix can be understood as a map from pairs of indices to values. This lets us use it to represent the state transfer function. Take, for instance, a regular expression with three possible states. Its state transfer function might look like this:

transfer={1{2,3}2{1}3\text{transfer} = \begin{cases} 1 \quad & \{ 2, 3 \} \\ 2 \quad & \{ 1 \} \\ 3 \quad & \emptyset \end{cases}

It has the type of:

State -> Set State

Where State is an integer. You can represent the set as a vector, where each position is a key, and each value is whether or not that key is present:

transfer={101121003000\text{transfer} = \begin{cases} 1 \quad & 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 2 \quad & 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 3 \quad & 0 & 0 & 0 \end{cases}

Then, the matrix representation is obvious:

transfer=(011100000)\text{transfer} = \left( \begin{array}{ccc} 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 0 \end{array} \right)

This is the semiring of square matrices. It is, of course, yet another covector. The “keys” are the transfers: 1 -> 2 or 2 -> 3, represented by the indices of the matrix. The “values” are whether or not that transfer is permitted.

The algorithms for the usual semiring operations on matrices like this are well-known and well-optimized. I haven’t yet benchmarked them in Haskell using the matrix libraries, so I don’t know how they compare to the other approaches. In the meantime, there’s an elegant list-based implementation in Dolan (2013):

data Matrix a = Scalar a
              | Matrix [[a]]
mjoin :: (Matrix a, Matrix a, Matrix a, Matrix a) -> Matrix a
mjoin (Matrix ws, Matrix xs, Matrix ys, Matrix zs) =
  Matrix ((zipWith (++) ws xs) ++ (zipWith (++) ys zs))
msplit :: Matrix a -> (Matrix a, Matrix a, Matrix a, Matrix a)
msplit (Matrix (row:rows)) = 
  (Matrix [[first]], Matrix [top]
  ,Matrix left,      Matrix rest )
    (first:top) = row
    (left,rest) = unzip (map (\(x:xs) -> ([x],xs)) rows)
instance Semiring a => Semiring (Matrix a) where
  zero = Scalar zero
  one = Scalar one
  Scalar x <+> Scalar y = Scalar (x <+> y)
  Matrix x <+> Matrix y =
    Matrix (zipWith (zipWith (<+>)) x y)
  Scalar x <+> m = m <+> Scalar x
  Matrix [[x]] <+> Scalar y = Matrix [[x <+> y]]
  x <+> y = mjoin (first <+> y, top, left, rest <+> y)
    where (first, top, left, rest) = msplit x
  Scalar x <.> Scalar y = Scalar (x <.> y)
  Scalar x <.> Matrix y = Matrix (( (x<.>) y)
  Matrix x <.> Scalar y = Matrix (( (<.>y) x)
  Matrix x <.> Matrix y = 
    Matrix [ [ foldl1 (<+>) (zipWith (<.>) row col) | col <- cols ] 
           | row <- x ] where cols = transpose y

instance StarSemiring a => StarSemiring (Matrix a) where
  star (Matrix [[x]]) = Matrix [[star x]]
  star m = mjoin (first' <+> top' <.> rest' <.> left'
                 ,top' <.> rest', rest' <.> left', rest')
      (first, top, left, rest) = msplit m
      first' = star first
      top' = first' <.> top
      left' = left <.> first'
      rest' = star (rest <+> left' <.> top)

Permutation parsing

A lot of the use from semirings comes from “attaching” them to other values. Attaching a semiring to effects (in the form of an applicative) can give you repetition of those effects. The excellent ReplicateEffects library explores this concept in depth.

It’s based on this type:

data Replicate a b
  = Nil
  | Cons (Maybe b) (Replicate a (a -> b))

This type can be made to conform to Semiring (and Starsemiring, etc) trivially.

In the simplest case, it has the same behaviour as replicateM. Even the more complex combinators, like atLeast, can be built on Alternative:

atLeast :: Alternative f => Int -> f a -> f [a]
atLeast m f = go (max 0 m) where
  go 0 = many f
  go n = liftA2 (:) f (go (n-1))
atMost :: Alternative f => Int -> f a -> f [a]
atMost m f = go (max 0 m) where
  go 0 = pure []
  go n = liftA2 (:) f (go (n-1)) <|> pure []

There are two main benefits over using the standard alternative implementation. First, you can choose greedy or lazy evaluation of the effects after the replication is built.

Secondly, the order of the effects doesn’t have to be specified. This allows you to execute permutations of the effects, in a permutation parser, for instance. The permutation is totally decoupled from the declaration of the repetition (it’s in a totally separate library, in fact: PermuteEffects). Its construction is reminiscent of the free alternative.

Having the replicate type conform to Semiring is all well and good: what I’m interested in is seeing if its implementation is another semiring-based object in disguise. I’ll revisit this in a later post.

List comprehension notation is one of my all-time favourite bits of syntactic sugar. It seems almost too declarative to have a reasonable implementation strategy. The vast majority of the time, it actually works in a sensible way. There are exceptions, though. Take a reasonable definition of a list of Pythagorean triples:

[ (x,y,z) | x <- [1..], y <- [1..], z <- [1..], x*x + y*y == z*z ]

This expression will diverge without yielding a single triple. It will search through every possible value for z before incrementing either x or y. Since there are infinite values for z, it will never find a triple. In other words, vanilla list comprehensions in Haskell perform depth-first search.

In order to express other kinds of search (either breadth-first or depth-bounded), different monads are needed. These monads are explored in Fischer (2009) and Spivey (2009).

You can actually use the exact same notation as above with arbitrary alternative monads using -XMonadComprehensions and -XOverloadedLists.

trips :: ( Alternative m
         , Monad m
         , IsList (m Integer)
         , Enum (Item (m Integer))
         , Num (Item (m Integer)))
      => m (Integer,Integer,Integer)
trips = [ (x,y,z) | x <- [1..], y <- [1..], z <- [1..], x*x + y*y == z*z ]

So then, here’s the challenge: swap in different ms via a type annotation, and prevent trips from diverging before getting any triples.

As one example, here’s some code adapted from Fischer (2009):

instance (Monoid r, Applicative m) => Monoid (ContT r m a) where
  mempty = ContT (const (pure mempty))
  mappend (ContT f) (ContT g) = ContT (\x -> liftA2 mappend (f x) (g x))
newtype List a = List 
  { runList :: forall m. Monoid m => Cont m a } deriving Functor

instance Foldable List where foldMap = flip (runCont.runList)
instance Show a => Show (List a) where show = show . foldr (:) []

instance Monoid (List a) where
  mappend (List x) (List y) = List (mappend x y)
  mempty = List mempty
instance Monoid a => Semiring (List a) where
  zero = mempty
  (<+>) = mappend
  (<.>) = liftA2 mappend
  one = pure mempty

bfs :: List a -> [a]
bfs = toList . fold . levels . anyOf

newtype Levels a = Levels { levels :: [List a] } deriving Functor

instance Applicative Levels where
  pure x = Levels [pure x]
  Levels fs <*> Levels xs = Levels [ f <*> x | f <- fs, x <- xs ]
instance Alternative Levels where
  empty = Levels []
  Levels x <|> Levels y = Levels (mempty : merge x y)

instance IsList (List a) where
  type Item (List a) = a
  fromList = anyOf
  toList = foldr (:) []
instance Applicative List where
  pure x = List (pure x)
  (<*>) = ap

instance Alternative List where
  empty = mempty
  (<|>) = mappend

instance Monad List where
  x >>= f = foldMap f x

anyOf :: (Alternative m, Foldable f) => f a -> m a
anyOf = getAlt . foldMap (Alt . pure)

merge :: [List a] -> [List a] -> [List a]
merge []      ys    = ys
merge xs      []    = xs
merge (x:xs) (y:ys) = mappend x y : merge xs ys
take 3 (bfs trips)

The only relevance to semirings is the merge function. The semiring over lists is the semiring over polynomials:

instance Semiring a => Semiring [a] where
  one = [one]
  zero = []
  [] <+> ys = ys
  xs <+> [] = xs
  (x:xs) <+> (y:ys) = (x <+> y) : (xs <+> ys)
  [] <.> _ = []
  _ <.> [] = []
  (x:xs) <.> (y:ys) =
    (x <.> y) : (map (x <.>) ys <+> map (<.> y) xs <+> (xs <.> ys))

The <+> is the same as the merge function. I think the <.> might be a more valid definition of the <*> function, also.

instance Applicative Levels where
  pure x = Levels [pure x]
  Levels [] <*> _ = Levels []
  _ <*> Levels [] = Levels []
  Levels (f:fs) <*> Levels (x:xs) = Levels $
    (f <*> x) : levels (Levels (fmap (f <*>) xs) 
             <|> Levels (fmap (<*> x) fs)
             <|> (Levels fs <*> Levels xs))


I’ve only scratched the surface of this abstraction. There are several other interesting semirings: polynomials, logs, Viterbi, Łukasiewicz, languages, multisets, bidirectional parsers, etc. Hopefully I’ll eventually be able to put this stuff into a library or something. In the meantime, I definitely will write some posts on the application to context-free parsing, bidirectional parsing (I just read Breitner (2016)) and search.


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