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Journal Articles Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence Year : 2021

Functions-as-constructors higher-order unification: extended pattern unification


Abstract Unification is a central operation in constructing a range of computational logic systems based on first-order and higher-order logics. First-order unification has several properties that guide its incorporation into such systems. In particular, first-order unification is decidable, unary, and can be performed on untyped term structures. None of these three properties hold for full higher-order unification: unification is undecidable, unifiers can be incomparable, and term-level typing can dominate the search for unifiers. The so-called pattern subset of higher-order unification was designed to be a small extension to first-order unification that respects the laws governing λ-binding (i.e., the equalities for α, β, and η -conversion) but which also satisfied those three properties. While the pattern fragment of higher-order unification has been used in numerous implemented systems and in various theoretical settings, it is too weak for many applications. This paper defines an extension of pattern unification that should make it more generally applicable, especially in proof assistants that allow for higher-order functions. This extension’s main idea is that the arguments to a higher-order, free variable can be more than just distinct bound variables. In particular, such arguments can be terms constructed from (sufficient numbers of) such bound variables using term constructors and where no argument is a subterm of any other argument. We show that this extension to pattern unification satisfies the three properties mentioned above.

Dates and versions

hal-03457303 , version 1 (30-11-2021)



Tomer Libal, Dale Miller. Functions-as-constructors higher-order unification: extended pattern unification. Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence, 2021, ⟨10.1007/s10472-021-09774-y⟩. ⟨hal-03457303⟩
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