Higher-Order Narrowing with Definitional Trees

by Michael Hanus, Christian Prehofer

Journal of Functional Programming, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 33-75, 1999

Functional logic languages with a sound and complete operational semantics are mainly based on an inference rule called narrowing. Narrowing extends functional evaluation by goal solving capabilities as in logic programming. Due to the huge search space of simple narrowing, steadily improved narrowing strategies have been developed in the past. Needed narrowing is currently the best narrowing strategy for first-order functional logic programs due to its optimality properties w.r.t. the length of derivations and the number of computed solutions. In this paper, we extend the needed narrowing strategy to higher-order functions and lambda-terms as data structures. By the use of definitional trees, our strategy computes only independent solutions. Thus, it is the first calculus for higher-order functional logic programming which provides for such an optimality result. Since we allow higher-order logical variables denoting lambda-terms, applications go beyond current functional and logic programming languages. We show soundness and completeness of our strategy with respect to LNT reductions, a particular form of higher-order reductions defined via definitional trees. A general completeness result is only provided for terminating rewrite systems due to the lack of an overall theory of higher-order reduction which is outside the scope of this paper.

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