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On Equivalence and Canonical Forms in the LF Type Theory

By Robert Harper and Frank Pfenning


Decidability of definitional equality and conversion of terms into canonical form play a central role in the meta-theory of a type-theoretic logical framework. Most studies of definitional equality are based on a confluent, strongly-normalizing notion of reduction. Coquand has considered a different approach, directly proving the correctness of a practical equivalance algorithm based on the shape of terms. Neither approach appears to scale well to richer languages with, for example, unit types or subtyping, and neither provides a notion of canonical form suitable for proving adequacy of encodings. In this paper we present a new, type-directed equivalence algorithm for the LF type theory that overcomes the weaknesses of previous approaches. The algorithm is practical, scales to richer languages, and yields a new notion of canonical form sufficient for adequate encodings of logical systems. The algorithm is proved complete by a Kripke-style logical relations argument similar to that suggested by Coquand. Crucially, both the algorithm itself and the logical relations rely only on the shapes of types, ignoring dependencies on terms

Topics: General Terms, Languages, Theory Additional Key Words and Phrases, Logical frameworks, type theory
Year: 2009
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