Deprecation of constructors keyword

Migrate your code to remove the obsolete constructors keyword

On November 20, 2018 the language standard changed to remove the need for the constructors keyword and beginning the deprecation cycle for the constructors keyword. This section describes what changed and how to migrate your code.


Before this change users would generate constructors for a union type using the constructors keyword, which converted a union type into a record of constructors:

let Example = < Left : Natural | Right : Bool >

let example = constructors Example

in  [ example.Left 1, example.Right True ]

After this change, you can now access union constructors as if they were fields of the original union type instead of creating an intermediate record of constructors. For example, this is now valid:

let Example = < Left : Natural | Right : Bool >

in  [ Example.Left 1, Example.Right True ]


The constructors keyword is being phased out in three steps:

  • Phase 1 - Allow accessing constructors as fields of the union types

    • Standard version: 4.0.0

    • dhall version: 1.19.0

    • dhall-to-json/dhall-to-yaml version: 1.2.5

    The first phase is backwards compatible, adding support for accessing constructors directly from a union type without changing the behavior of the constructors key word.

  • Phase 2 - constructors x = x

    • Standard version: 5.0.0

    • dhall version: 1.20.0

    • dhall-to-json/dhall-to-yaml version: 1.2.6

    The second phase slightly breaks backwards compatibility by changing the constructors keyword to behaves as if it were the identity function for both type-checking and normalization purposes. In other words, any Dhall expression of the form:

    constructors x

    … behaves exactly as if it were just:


    For the common idiom of:

    let SomeUnionType =let someUnionType = constructors SomeUnionType
    in  … someUnionType.SomeConstructor …

    … this is not a breaking change because someUnionType becomes a synonym for SomeUnionType and you can access constructors directly off the original union type just as you did for the old constructors record.

    This change also improves type-checking and normalization performance because the interpreter no longer needs to materialize the intermediate record of constructors. Now the interpreter only needs to type-check and normalize the constructors that you actually use.

    However, this is still a breaking change because constructors x is now a type instead of a term. For example, this means that you can no longer store the expression constructors x inside of a record containing other terms:

    -- This expression used to type-check before this change and
    -- no longer type-checks afterwards
    { foo = constructors MyUnionType
    , bar = 1

    This change would also break any code that gave an explicit type annotation to a constructors expression (unlikely, but possible).

  • Phase 3 - Remove the constructors keyword

    • Standard version: 6.0.0

    • dhall version: 1.21.0

    • dhall-to-json/dhall-to-yaml version: 1.2.7

    This change is strongly backwards-incompatible by removing support for the constructors keyword, breaking all code that still uses the keyword.


  • Phase 1 - Manually migrate your code

    During Phase 1 the dhall interpreter does not provide support for code migration since replacing constructors x with x is not a safe transformation until Phase 2. If you wish to migrate your code you will need to do so manually.

    The main benefit of migrating your code manually (before Phase 2) is to get early access to the performance improvement from eliminating the intermediate constructors records.

  • Phase 2 - Automatically migrate your code

    During Phase 2 you can automatically migrate your code using dhall lint, which will automatically replace all occurrences of constructors x with x now that this is a behavior-preserving transformation.

  • Phase 3 - Your code breaks if you haven’t migrated

    During Phase 3 the deprecation cycle is complete and if you haven’t migrated then your code will fail to type-check with an “Unbound variable: constructors” error message.