Haskell (programming language)

Haskell (programming language)
Logo of Haskell
Paradigm(s) functional, lazy/non-strict, modular
Appeared in 1990
Designed by Simon Peyton Jones, Lennart Augustsson, Dave Barton, Brian Boutel, Warren Burton, Joseph Fasel, Kevin Hammond, Ralf Hinze, Paul Hudak, John Hughes, Thomas Johnsson, Mark Jones, John Launchbury, Erik Meijer, John Peterson, Alastair Reid, Colin Runciman, Philip Wadler
Stable release Haskell 2010[1] (July 2010; 15 months ago (2010-07))
Preview release Haskell 2011[citation needed]
Typing discipline static, strong, inferred
Major implementations GHC, Hugs, NHC, JHC, Yhc, UHC
Dialects Helium, Gofer, Hugs, Ωmega
Influenced by Alfl, APL, Clean,[2] FP,[2] Gofer,[2] Hope and Hope+,[2] Id,[2] ISWIM,[2] KRC,[2] Lisp,[2] Miranda,[2] ML and Standard ML,[2] Lazy ML, Orwell, Ponder, SASL,[2] SISAL,[2] Scheme[2]
Influenced Agda, Bluespec, Clojure, C#, CAL, Cayenne, Clean, CoffeeScript, Curry, Epigram, Escher, F#, Factor, Isabelle, Java Generics, Kaya, LINQ, Mercury, Omega, Perl 6, Python, Qi, Scala, Timber, Visual Basic 9.0
OS Cross-platform
Usual filename extensions .hs, .lhs
Website haskell.org

Haskell (pronounced /ˈhæskəl/)[3] is a standardized, general-purpose purely functional programming language, with non-strict semantics and strong static typing.[4] It is named after logician Haskell Curry. In Haskell, "a function is a first-class citizen" of the programming language.[5] As a functional programming language, the primary control construct is the function. The language is rooted in the observations of Haskell Curry and his intellectual descendants, that "a proof is a program; the formula it proves is a type for the program".[6][7][8][9]



Following the release of Miranda by Research Software Ltd, in 1985, interest in lazy functional languages grew: by 1987, more than a dozen non-strict, purely functional programming languages existed. Of these, Miranda was the most widely used, but was not in the public domain. At the conference on Functional Programming Languages and Computer Architecture (FPCA '87) in Portland, Oregon, a meeting was held during which participants formed a strong consensus that a committee should be formed to define an open standard for such languages. The committee's purpose was to consolidate the existing functional languages into a common one that would serve as a basis for future research in functional-language design.[10]

Haskell 1.0 to 1.4

The first version of Haskell ("Haskell 1.0") was defined in 1990.[11] The committee's efforts resulted in a series of language definitions (1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4).

Haskell 98

In late 1997, the series culminated in Haskell 98, intended to specify a stable, minimal, portable version of the language and an accompanying standard library for teaching, and as a base for future extensions. The committee expressly welcomed the creation of extensions and variants of Haskell 98 via adding and incorporating experimental features.[10]

In February 1999, the Haskell 98 language standard was originally published as "The Haskell 98 Report".[10] In January 2003, a revised version was published as "Haskell 98 Language and Libraries: The Revised Report".[12] The language continues to evolve rapidly, with the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC) implementation representing the current de facto standard.

Haskell Prime

In early 2006, the process of defining a successor to the Haskell 98 standard, informally named Haskell Prime, was begun.[13] This is an ongoing incremental process to revise the language definition, producing a new revision once per year. The first revision, named Haskell 2010, was announced in November 2009[1] and published in July 2010.

Haskell 2010

Haskell 2010 adds the Foreign Function Interface (FFI) to Haskell, allowing for bindings to other programming languages, fixes some syntax issues (changes in the formal grammar) and bans so-called "n-plus-k-patterns", that is, definitions of the form fact (n+1) = (n+1) * fact n are no longer allowed. It introduces the Language-Pragma-Syntax-Extension which allows for designating a haskell source as Haskell 2010 or requiring certain Extensions to the Haskell Language. The names of the extensions introduced in Haskell 2010 are DoAndIfThenElse, HierarchicalModules, EmptyDataDeclarations, FixityResolution, ForeignFunctionInterface, LineCommentSyntax, PatternGuards, RelaxedDependencyAnalysis, LanguagePragma, NoNPlusKPatterns.[1]


Haskell features lazy evaluation, pattern matching, list comprehension, typeclasses, and type polymorphism. It is a purely functional language, which means that in general, functions in Haskell do not have side effects. There is a distinct type for representing side effects, orthogonal to the type of functions. A pure function may return a side effect which is subsequently executed, modeling the impure functions of other languages.

Haskell has a strong, static type system based on Hindley–Milner type inference. Haskell's principal innovation in this area is to add type classes, which were originally conceived as a principled way to add overloading to the language,[14] but have since found many more uses.[15]

The type which represents side effects is an example of a monad. Monads are a general framework which can model different kinds of computation, including error handling, nondeterminism, parsing, and software transactional memory. Monads are defined as ordinary datatypes, but Haskell provides some syntactic sugar for their use.

The language has an open, published specification,[12] and multiple implementations exist.

There is an active community around the language, and more than 3100 third-party open-source libraries and tools are available in the online package repository Hackage.[16]

The main implementation of Haskell, GHC, is both an interpreter and native-code compiler that runs on most platforms. GHC is noted for its high-performance implementation of concurrency and parallelism,[17] and for having a rich type system incorporating recent innovations such as generalized algebraic data types and Type Families.

Code examples

The following is a Hello world program written in Haskell (note that all but the last line can be omitted):

module Main where
main :: IO ()
main = putStrLn "Hello, World!"

Here is the factorial function in Haskell, defined in five different ways:

-- Type annotation (optional)
factorial :: Integer -> Integer
-- Using recursion
factorial 0 = 1
factorial n = n * factorial (n - 1)
-- Using recursion but written without pattern matching
factorial n = if n > 0 then n * factorial (n-1) else 1
-- Using a list
factorial n = product [1..n]
-- Using fold (implements product)
factorial n = foldl (*) 1 [1..n]
-- Point-free style
factorial = foldr (*) 1 . enumFromTo 1

An efficient implementation of the Fibonacci numbers, as an infinite list, is this:

-- Type annotation (optional)
fib :: Int -> Integer
-- Point-free style
fib = (fibs !!)
       where fibs = 0 : scanl (+) 1 fibs
-- Explicit
fib n = fibs !! n
        where fibs = 0 : scanl (+) 1 fibs
-- With a similar idea, using zipWith
fib n = fibs !! n
        where fibs = 0 : 1 : zipWith (+) fibs (tail fibs)
-- Using a generator function
fib n = fibs (0,1) !! n
        where fibs (a,b) = a : fibs (b,a+b)

The "Int" type refers to a machine-sized integer (used as a list subscript with the !! operator), while "Integer" is an arbitrary-precision integer. For example, the above code quickly computes "fib 10000" as a 2090-digit number.


All listed implementations are distributed under open source licenses. There are currently no proprietary Haskell implementations.

The following implementations comply fully, or very nearly, with the Haskell 98 standard.

  • The Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC) compiles to native code on a number of different architectures—as well as to ANSI C—using C-- as an intermediate language. GHC is probably the most popular Haskell compiler, and there are quite a few useful libraries (e.g. bindings to OpenGL) that will work only with GHC. GHC is also distributed along with the Haskell platform.
  • HBC is another native-code Haskell compiler. It has not been actively developed for some time but is still usable.
  • The Utrecht Haskell Compiler (UHC) is a Haskell implementation from Utrecht University. UHC supports almost all Haskell 98 features plus many experimental extensions. It is implemented using attribute grammars and is currently mainly used for research into generated type systems and language extensions.
  • Hugs, the Haskell User's Gofer System, is a bytecode interpreter. It offers fast compilation of programs and reasonable execution speed. It also comes with a simple graphics library. Hugs is good for people learning the basics of Haskell[citation needed], but is by no means a "toy" implementation. It is the most portable and lightweight of the Haskell implementations.
  • Jhc is a Haskell compiler written by John Meacham emphasising speed and efficiency of generated programs as well as exploration of new program transformations. LHC is a recent fork of Jhc.
  • nhc98 is another bytecode compiler, but the bytecode runs significantly faster than with Hugs[citation needed]. Nhc98 focuses on minimizing memory usage, and is a particularly good choice for older, slower machines.
  • Yhc, the York Haskell Compiler was a fork of nhc98, with the goals of being simpler, more portable and more efficient, and integrating support for Hat, the Haskell tracer. It also featured a JavaScript backend allowing users to run Haskell programs in a web browser.

Implementations below are not fully Haskell 98 compliant, and use a language that is a variant of Haskell:

  • Gofer was an educational dialect of Haskell, with a feature called "constructor classes", developed by Mark Jones. It was supplanted by Hugs (see above).
  • Helium is a newer dialect of Haskell. The focus is on making it easy to learn by providing clearer error messages. It currently lacks full support for type classes, rendering it incompatible with many Haskell programs.


Haskell is increasingly being used in commercial situations.[18] Audrey Tang's Pugs is an implementation for the long-forthcoming Perl 6 language with an interpreter and compilers that proved useful after just a few months of its writing; similarly, GHC is often a testbed for advanced functional programming features and optimizations. Darcs is a revision control system written in Haskell, with several innovative features. Linspire GNU/Linux chose Haskell for system tools development.[19] Xmonad is a window manager for the X Window System, written entirely in Haskell.

Bluespec SystemVerilog is a language for semiconductor design that is an extension of Haskell. Additionally, Bluespec, Inc.'s tools are implemented in Haskell. Cryptol, a language and toolchain for developing and verifying cryptographic algorithms, is implemented in Haskell. Notably, the first formally verified microkernel, seL4 was verified using Haskell.

Related languages

Concurrent Clean is a close relative of Haskell. Its biggest deviation from Haskell is in the use of uniqueness types instead of monads for I/O and side-effects.

A series of languages inspired by Haskell, but with different type systems, have been developed, including:

  • Epigram, a functional language with dependent types suitable for proving properties of programs
  • Agda, a functional language with dependent types

Other related languages include:

  • Curry, a language based on Haskell
  • Jaskell, a functional scripting programming language that runs in Java VM

Haskell has served as a testbed for many new ideas in language design. There have been a wide number of Haskell variants produced, exploring new language ideas, including:

  • Parallel Haskell:
    • From Glasgow University, supports clusters of machines or single multiprocessors.[20][21] Also within Haskell is support for Symmetric Multiprocessor parallelism.[22]
    • From MIT[23]
  • Distributed Haskell (formerly Goffin) and Eden.[citation needed]
  • Eager Haskell, based on speculative evaluation.
  • Several object-oriented versions: Haskell++, and Mondrian.
  • Generic Haskell, a version of Haskell with type system support for generic programming.
  • O'Haskell, an extension of Haskell adding object-orientation and concurrent programming support.
  • Disciple, a strict-by-default (laziness available by annotation) dialect of Haskell which supports destructive update, computational effects, type directed field projections and allied functional goodness.
  • Scotch, a kind of hybrid of Haskell and Python[24]
  • Hume, a strict functional programming language for embedded systems based on processes as stateless automata over a sort of tuples of single element mailbox channels where the state is kept by feedback into the mailboxes, and a mapping description from outputs to channels as box wiring, with a Haskell-like expression language and syntax.


Jan-Willem Maessen, in 2002, and Simon Peyton Jones, in 2003, discussed problems associated with lazy evaluation while also acknowledging the theoretical motivation for it,[25][26] in addition to purely practical considerations such as improved performance.[27] They note that, in addition to adding some performance overhead, laziness makes it more difficult for programmers to reason about the performance of their code (particularly its space usage).

Bastiaan Heeren, Daan Leijen, and Arjan van IJzendoorn in 2003 also observed some stumbling blocks for Haskell learners: "The subtle syntax and sophisticated type system of Haskell are a double edged sword — highly appreciated by experienced programmers but also a source of frustration among beginners, since the generality of Haskell often leads to cryptic error messages."[28] To address these, researchers from Utrecht University developed an advanced interpreter called Helium which improved the user-friendliness of error messages by limiting the generality of some Haskell features, and in particular removing support for type classes.

Ben Lippmeier designed Disciple[29] as a strict-by-default (lazy by explicit annotation) dialect of Haskell with a type-and-effect system, to address Haskell's difficulties in reasoning about lazy evaluation and in using traditional data structures such as mutable arrays.[30] He argues (p. 20) that "destructive update furnishes the programmer with two important and powerful tools... a set of efficient array-like data structures for managing collections of objects, and ... the ability to broadcast a new value to all parts of a program with minimal burden on the programmer."

Robert Harper, using Standard ML to teach introductory programming, has given his reasons for not using Haskell. Among these are the difficulty of reasoning about resource usage with non-strict evaluation, that laziness complicates the definition of data types and inductive reasoning,[31] and the inferiority of Haskell's class system compared to ML's module system.[32]

Conferences and workshops

The Haskell community meets regularly for research and development activities. The primary events are:

Since 2006 there has been a series of organized "hackathons", the Hac series, aimed at improving the programming language tools and libraries.[33]

Since 2005, a growing number of Haskell User Groups have formed, in the United States, Canada, Australia, South America, Europe and Asia.


  1. ^ a b c Marlow, Simon (November 24, 2009). "Announcing Haskell 2010". Haskell mailing list. http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell/2009-November/021750.html. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Haskell 98 Report, p. xi
  3. ^ Chevalier, Tim (January 28, 2008). "anybody can tell me the pronuncation of "haskell"?". Haskell-cafe mailing list. http://www.haskell.org/pipermail/haskell-cafe/2008-January/038756.html. Retrieved 2011-03-12. 
  4. ^ Haskell Report
  5. ^ Burstall, Rod (2000). "Christopher Strachey—Understanding Programming Languages". Higher-Order and Symbolic Computation 13 (52) 
  6. ^ Curry, Haskell (1934). "Functionality in Combinatory Logic". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 20. pp. 584–590 
  7. ^ Curry, Haskell B.; Feys, Robert (1958). Craig, William. ed. Combinatory Logic Vol. I. Amsterdam: North-Holland , with 2 sections by William Craig, see paragraph 9E
  8. ^ De Bruijn, Nicolaas (1968). "Automath, a language for mathematics". TH-report 68-WSK-05 (Department of Mathematics, Eindhoven University of Technology)  Reprinted in revised form, with two pages commentary, in: "Classical papers on computational logic 1967-1970". Automation and Reasoning. 2. Springer Verlag. 1983. pp. 159–200 
  9. ^ Howard, William A. (09 1980) [original paper manuscript from 1969]. "The formulae-as-types notion of construction". In Seldin, Jonathan P.; Hindley, J. Roger. To H.B. Curry: Essays on Combinatory Logic, Lambda Calculus and Formalism. Boston, MA: Academic Press. pp. 479–490. ISBN 978-0-12-349050-6 .
  10. ^ a b c "Preface". Haskell 98 Language and Libraries: The Revised Report. December 2002. http://haskell.org/onlinereport/preface-jfp.html. 
  11. ^ Hudak, Paul; Hughes, John; Peyton Jones, Simon; Wadler, Philip (2007). "A history of Haskell: being lazy with class". Proceedings of the third ACM SIGPLAN conference on History of programming languages (HOPL III): 12–1–12–55. doi:10.1145/1238844.1238856. ISBN 978159593766X. 
  12. ^ a b Simon Peyton Jones (editor) (December 2002). "Haskell 98 Language and Libraries: The Revised Report". http://haskell.org/onlinereport/. 
  13. ^ "Welcome to Haskell'". The Haskell' Wiki. http://hackage.haskell.org/trac/haskell-prime. 
  14. ^ Wadler, P.; Blott, S. (1989). "How to make ad-hoc polymorphism less ad hoc". Proceedings of the 16th ACM SIGPLAN-SIGACT Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages (ACM): 60–76. doi:10.1145/75277.75283. ISBN 0897912942. 
  15. ^ Hallgren, T. (January 2001). "Fun with Functional Dependencies, or Types as Values in Static Computations in Haskell". Proceedings of the Joint CS/CE Winter Meeting (Varberg, Sweden). http://www.cs.chalmers.se/~hallgren/Papers/wm01.html. 
  16. ^ http://hackage.haskell.org/cgi-bin/hackage-scripts/stats
  17. ^ Computer Language Benchmarks Game
  18. ^ See Industrial Haskell Group for collaborative development, Commercial Users of Functional Programming for specific projects and Haskell in industry for a list of companies using Haskell commercially
  19. ^ "Linspire/Freespire Core OS Team and Haskell". Debian Haskell mailing list. May 2006. http://urchin.earth.li/pipermail/debian-haskell/2006-May/000169.html. 
  20. ^ Glasgow Parallel Haskell
  21. ^ GHC Language Features: Parallel Haskell
  22. ^ Using GHC: Using SML parallelism
  23. ^ MIT Parallel Haskell
  24. ^ Scotch
  25. ^ Jan-Willem Maessen. Eager Haskell: Resource-bounded execution yields efficient iteration. Proceedings of the 2002 ACM SIGPLAN workshop on Haskell.
  26. ^ Simon Peyton Jones. Wearing the hair shirt: a retrospective on Haskell. Invited talk at POPL 2003.
  27. ^ Lazy evaluation can lead to excellent performance, such as in The Computer Language Benchmarks Game [1]
  28. ^ Heeren, Bastiaan; Leijen, Daan; van IJzendoorn, Arjan (2003). "Helium, for learning Haskell". Proceedings of the 2003 ACM SIGPLAN workshop on Haskell. http://www.cs.uu.nl/~bastiaan/heeren-helium.pdf. 
  29. ^ http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/DDC
  30. ^ Ben Lippmeier, Type Inference and Optimisation for an Impure World, Australian National University (2010) PhD thesis, chapter 1
  31. ^ Robert Harper. "The point of laziness". http://existentialtype.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/the-real-point-of-laziness/. 
  32. ^ Robert Harper. "Modules matter most.". http://existentialtype.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/modules-matter-most/. 
  33. ^ "Hackathon - HaskellWiki". http://haskell.org/haskellwiki/Hackathon. 

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