Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writer comonad in Haskell

Writer monad is readily available in Haskell. But what about Writer comonad? Let us start with the basics. Comonad class is defined as:

Comonad w where
    extract :: w a -> a
    duplicate :: w a -> w (w a)
    extend :: (w a -> b) -> w a -> w b

The minimal implementation requires you to implement 'extract' and 'extend.'  Additionally, it must satisfy the following comonad laws:

extend extract      = id
extract . extend f  = f
extend f . extend g = extend (f . extend g)

The 'extract' is pretty straightforward -- it allows safely extract value from the monad:

extract x = fst $ runWriter x

Our first intuition for 'extend' would be something like this:

extend f wa = return (f wa)

Which is incorrect, as it losses the state accumulated so far and replaces it with 'mempty' and thus do not satisfy the 1st law above (extend extract = id).

Without further ado, the writer comonad definition below correctly preserves the state and meets all three laws:

instance (Monoid w) => Comonad (Writer w) where
    extract x = fst $ runWriter x
    extend f wa = (tell $ execWriter wa) >> return (f wa)


  1. Haskell comonad library
  2. Category Theoretical view of comonads
  3. Another implementation of Writer and Reader comonads in Haskell