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Binary operators in Aya ‚Äč

We have designed a binary operator system in Aya which happens to be (we didn't copy!) very similar to Rhombus (a.k.a. Racket 2) and Swift 5.7.

TL;DR: it supports making any identifier a custom operator with precedences specified by a partial ordering. Left and right associativities are supported.

The precedence and associativity information is bound to a name, not a definition. This means we can import a name from another module with changes to its name, associativity, and precedence. Importing with renaming is an established feature, but changing associativity and precedence is not that popular (though implemented in Agda already).

Here are some code examples (implementations are omitted for simplicity):

-- Left-associative
def infixl + (x y : Nat) : Nat => {??}
-- Left-associative, bind tighter than +
def infixl * (x y : Nat) : Nat => {??} tighter +
-- Prefix operator
def fixl ! (x : Nat) : Nat => {??}
-- Postfix operator
def fixr ? (x : Nat) : Nat => {??}

The tighter keyword works like this: when there are expressions like a * b + c which may either mean (a * b) + c or a * (b + c), we will put the tighter operator in the parenthesis. In case we found the two operators share the same priority, Aya will report an error.

With imports, it looks like this:

open import Primitives using (
  invol       as fixl  ~  tighter =, \/, /\,
  intervalMin as infix /\ tighter \/,
  intervalMax as infix \/,

Specifying operator precedences with a partial ordering is way better than with a number. In Haskell, if we already have infix 3 + and infix 4 * and we hope to add a new operator which has higher precedence than + but lower than *, it's going to be impossible. Agda introduced float-point precedence levels to address the issue, but I think it does not solve the essential problem: that I have to lookup the numbers (of existing operator precedences) every time I write a new operator.

In the future, we plan to support mixfix operators as in Agda (the current framework can support mixfix easily, but abusing mixfix notations can harm readability).