Typed Lambda Calculus

Lambda calculus is a very simple language. If you take away any syntactic sugar, all you are left with is functions that take arguments and return results. You can use these simple building blocks to construct functions that represent numbers and arithmetic, but there is no way to restrict, for example, arithmetic functions to require numeric operands. This is where types come in. Generally speaking, types allow you to control the use of functions so that only meaningful combinations of inputs and outputs are used. [Read More]

Recursive Lambda Functions the Y-Combinator

In a purely functional language — like lambda calculus — programs are expressed as nested function calls. Repetition in such an environment requires that nesting of function calls continues until some condition is met. During the repetition, each function passes its result to the next function in the nested chain and this repetition is completed when a test for some condition passes. The repetitive behaviour I’ve just described is recursion: [Read More]

Simplifying Lambda Syntax

Evaluating lambda functions requires using lots of brackets, which can be tedious and are a major source of error for evaluating expressions by hand. To simplify expressions, you can omit brackets when it is clear what the intention of the function is. Particularly, a function application can omit the brackets surrounding each individual parameter and assume the function is applied to the nearest argument. So, instead of expressing a function of three arguments as [Read More]

Introducing Lambda Calculus

Lambda calculus provides some of the foundational structures that functional programming is built from. It therefore seems fitting to start my journey through functional programming with a thorough examination of lambda calculus. This first post will introduce Lambda calculus with references to the book An Introduction to Functional Programming Through Lambda Calculus. Syntax The complete syntax for Lambda calculus is surprisingly small and comprehensible. This section lists the syntax in its entirety, while following sections break the syntax down to explain each part. [Read More]

Range, Domain, and Codomain

Three common terms come up whenever we talk about functions: domain, range, and codomain. This post clarifies what each of those terms mean. Before we start talking about domain and range, lets quickly recap what a function is: A function relates each element of a set with exactly one element of another set (possibly the same set). Math is Fun That is, a function relates an input to an output. [Read More]

A Functional Programming Learning Plan

I’m documenting my journey from functional neophyte to (hopefully) functional programmer by writing a series of blog posts on the topic. So far I’ve covered what functional programming is and why you would want to learn about it. In this post, I’m going to describe the resources I will be using to become functionally fluent. Although I have previously said I’m learning about functional programming, I should be more specific. [Read More]

Practical Differences Between Functional and Imperative Programming

I previously talked about what functional programming is by comparing it to other programming paradigms. This post expands on that post to talk specifically about practical differences between functional programming and the paradigm most of us are intimately familiar with — imperative. This post is punctuated with some quotes from the book An Introduction to Functional Programming Through Lambda Calculus. It’s worth noting that each of these practical differences are enabled because of the power of referential transparency. [Read More]

Why Functional Programming? The Benefits of Referential Transparency

Having covered what functional programming is, I wanted to spend a minute or two discussing why I want to learn functional programming in the first place. I’m sure we have all heard vague things about “side-effects”, “immutability”, and “composition”, but I wanted to dive a bit deeper on the topic to describe what — to me — is important about functional programming. Referential Transparency The key differentiating feature of (pure) functional programs is that they provide referential transparency. [Read More]

What is Functional Programming?

I’m documenting my journey from functional neophyte to (hopefully) functional programmer by writing a series of blog posts on the topic. This is the first post describing what, exactly, the word functional programming means. Functional programming is a programming paradigm that lives alongside other programming paradigms. None of these paradigms have a precise, unanimous definition or standard, and there is not real agreement on which paradigm is better or worse for building particular types of software. [Read More]