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Flexible Java Types


Flexible Types

This is a new kind of types. A flexible type consists of two inflexible ones: a lower bound and an upper bound, written


This syntax is not supported in Kotlin. Flexible types are non-denotable.

Invariants: * Lower <: Upper (also, can’t be the same) * Lower, Upper are not flexible types themselves, but may contain flexible types (e.g. as type arguments) * Lower, Upper are not error types

Subtyping rules:

Let T, L, U, A, B be inflexible types. Symbol |- (turnstile) means “entails”.

Least Upper Bound (aka “common supertype”):

Type equivalence (aka JetTypeChecker.DEFAULT.equalTypes()):

T1 ~~ T2 <=> T1 <: T2 && T2 <: T1

NOTE: This relation is NOT transitive: T? ~~ (T..T?)and(T..T?) ~~ T, butT? !~ T`

Loading Java Types

For the sake of notation, we’ll write k(T) for a Kotlin type loaded for a Java type T

A Java type T that legitimately has no type arguments (not a Raw type) is loaded as

k(T) = (T..T?) // T is not a generic type,  notation: T!
k(G<T>) = (G<k(T)>..G<k(T)>?)            // notation: G<T!>!
k(T[]) = (Array<k(T)>..Array<out k(T)>?) // notation: Array<(out) T!>!
k(java.util.Collection<T>) = (kotlin.MutableCollection<k(T)>..kotlin.Collection<k(T)>?)
                                         // notation (Mutable)Collection<T!>!


k(java.lang.String) = kotlin.String!
k(int) = kotlin.Int // No flexible types here
k(java.lang.Integer) = kotlin.Int!
k(Foo<Bar>) = Foo<Bar!>!
k(int[]) = IntArray

Raw types

Raw Java types (see https://docs.oracle.com/javase/specs/jls/se8/html/jls-4.html#jls-4.8 for clarification) are loaded as usual flexible types with special arguments projections.

Raw(G) = (G<ErasedUpperBound(T)>..G<out ErasedUpperBound(T)>?) // T is a generic parameter of G and it's invariant or has `out` variance.
                                                               // notation: G<(raw) ErasedUpperBound(T)>!

Raw(G) = (G<ErasedUpperBound(T1)>..G<Nothing>?)                // T is a generic parameter of G and it has `in` variance.

Raw(java.util.Collection) = (MutableCollection<ErasedUpperBound(T)>..Collection<out ErasedUpperBound(T)?>)
                                                               // notation: (Mutable)Collection<(raw) ErasedUpperBound(T)>!

Raw(A) = (A..A?) // A has no generic parameter
                 // notation: A(raw)!

ErasedUpperBound defined as follows:

ErasedUpperBound(T : G<t>) = G<*> // UB(T) is a type G<t> with arguments
ErasedUpperBound(T : A) = A // UB(T) is a type A without arguments
ErasedUpperBound(T : F) = ErasedUpperBound(F) // UB(T) is another type parameter F

and UB(T) means first upper bound with notation T : UB(T).

NOTE: On Java code with errors later definition may recursively depend on the same type parameter, that should be handled properly, e.g. by loading such ErasedUpperBound as Error type


Raw(java.util.concurrent.Future) = (Future<Any!>..Future<out Any!>?)         // notation: Future<(raw) Any!>!

class A<T extends CharSequence> {}
Raw(A) = (A<CharSequence!>..A<out CharSequence>?) // notation: A<(raw) CharSequence!>!

Raw(java.lang.Enum) = (Enum<Enum<*>!>..Enum<out Enum<*>!>?) // notation: Enum<(raw) Enum<*>!>!

Also raw types have special types of contained members, each of them is replaced with it’s JVM erasure representation:

Erase(T) = Erase(UpperBound(T)) // T is a type variable
Erase(Array<T>) = Array<Erase(T)>
Erase(G<T>) = Raw(G)
Erase(A) = Raw(A) // `A` is a type constructor without parameters
                  // NOTE: The latter rule needed for proper erasure inside member scope of A
                  // E.g. if A has property with type `Foo<String>``
                  // then it becomes `Foo<(raw) Any!>` inside Erase(A)

Unsafe covariant conversions

In case of platform collections their upper bound contains covariant parameter, which means they may behave covariantly even it doesn’t meant to do so.


class JavaClass {
 void addObject(List<Object> x) {
  x.add(new Object());
val x: MutableList<String> = arrayListOf()
JavaClass.addObject(x) // Ok
x[0].length() // ClassCastException

This happens because MutableList<String> <: List<String> <: List<Any> and by subtyping rule for flexible types MutableList<String> <: (Mutable)Collection<Any!>! follows.

While it’s legal from point of view of type system, in most cases such conversion is unintended and must be prohibited when being made implicitly.

So implicit covariant conversion by i-th argument from type source to target is prohibited when: - target is flexible type with invariant i-th parameter of lower bound (when same parameter in upper bound may be covariant) - i-th argument of target’s lower bound is invariant (which means it declared as invariant in Java) - type of i-th argument of source is not equal to same argument in target’s lower bound.

NOTE: Such conversion still may be done explicitly, with covariant upcast. E.g. for upper case: JavaClass.addObject(x as List<Any>) // No unchecked cast warning


When overriding a method from a Java class, one can not use flexible type, only replace them with denotable Kotlin types:

class Foo {
    List<String> list(String s);
class Bar : Foo() {
    override fun list(s: String): List<String>
    // or
    override fun list(s: String?): List<String?>?
    // or
    override fun list(s: String?): List<String>?
    // or
    override fun list(s: String): MutableList<String?>
    // or
    // any other combination of nullability and mutability

Translation to Java byte codes

Goal: blow early when a null is assigned to a non-null holder.

If there’s an expected type and the upper bound is not its subtype, an assertion should be emitted.


val x: String = javaStringMethod() // assert that value is not null
val y: MutableList<Foo> = javaListMethod() // assert that value "is MutableList" returns true
val arr: Array<Bar> = javaArrayMethod() // assert value "is Bar[]"

a++ stands for a = a.inc(), so - check a to satisfy the a.inc() conditions for receiver - check a.inc() result for assignability to a

Assertion Generation

Constructs in question: anything that provides an expected type, i.e. - assignments - parameter default values - delegation by: supertypes and properties - dereferencing: x.foo - all kinds of calls (foo, foo(), x[], x foo y, x + y, x++, x += 3, for loop, multi-declarations, invoke-convention, …) - explicit expected type (foo: Bar) - for booleans: if (foo), foo || bar, foo && bar (!foo is a call) - argument of throw

Warnings on nullability misuse

A type loaded from Java is said to bear a @Nullable/@NotNull annotation when - it’s a return type a method so annotated; - it’s a type of a field or a parameter so annotated; - it’s a so annotated type (Java 8 and later).

A value is @Nullable/@NotNull when its type bears such an annotation.

Inside this section, a value is nullable/not-null when - it’s @Nullable/@NotNull, or - it’s type in Kotlin when refined with data flow info is nullable/not-null.

The compiler issues warnings specific to @Nullable/@NotNull in the following situations: - a @Nullable value is assigned to a not-null location (including passing parameters and receivers to functions/properties); - a nullable value is assigned to a @NotNull location; - a @NotNull value is dereferenced with a safe call (?.), used in !! or on the left-hand side of an elvis operator ?:; - a @NotNull value is compared with null through ==, !=, === or !==

More precise type information from annotations

Goals: - Catch more errors related to nullability in case of Java interop - Keep all class hierarchies consistent at all times (no hierarchy errors related to incorrect annotations) - (!) If the code compiled with annotations, it should always compile without annotations (because external annotations may disappear)

This process never results in errors. On any mismatch, a bare platform signature is used (and a warning issued).

Annotations recognized by the compiler

See appendix for more details

Enhancing signatures with annotated declarations

NOTE: the intention is that if the enhanced signature is not compatible with the overridden signatures from superclasses, it is discarded, and a warning is issued. We also would like to discard only the mismatching parts of the signature, and thus keep as much information as possible.


class Super {
    void foo(@NotNull String p) {...}

class Sub extends Super {
    void foo(@Nullable String p) {...} // Warning: Signature does not match the one in the superclass, discarded

@Nullable, @NotNull, @ReadOnly, @Mutable

What can be annotated: - field: annotation applies to its type - method: annotation applies to its return type - parameter: annotation applies to its type - type (in Java 8): annotation applies to this type

Consider a type (L..U?). Nullability annotations enhance it in the following way: - @Nullable: (L?..U?) - @NotNull: (L..U)

Note that if upper and lower bound of a flexible type are the same, it is replaced by the bounds (e.g. (T?..T?) => T?)

Consider a collection type (MC<T>..C<T>?) (upper bound may be nullable or not). Mutability annotations enhance it in the following way: - @ReadOnly: (C<T>..C<T>?) - @Mutable: (MC<T>..MC<T>?)

Nullability annotations are applied after mutability annotations.


Java Kotlin
Foo Foo!
@Nullable Foo Foo?
@NotNull Foo Foo
List<T> (Mutable)List<T!>!
@ReadOnly List<T> List<T!>!
@Mutable List<T> MutableList<T!>!
@NotNull @Mutable List<T> MutableList<T!>
@Nullable @ReadOnly List<T> List<T!>?

NOTE: array types are never flattened: @NotNull Object[] becomes (Array<Any!>..Array<out Any!>).

Propagating type information from superclasses

A signature is represented as a list of its parts: - upper bounds of type parameters - value parameter types - return type

Enhancement rules (the result of their application is called a propagated signature) for each part: - collect annotations from all supertypes and the override in the subclass - for parts other than return type (which may be covariantly overridden) if there are conflicts (@Nullable together with @NotNull or @ReadOnly together with @Mutable), discard the respective annotations and issue appropriate warnings - for return types (full if the type from override is ~~-equivalent to all from supertypes, and only 0-index (see below) otherwise)): - fist, take annotations from supertypes, and among them: if there’s @NotNull, discard @Nullable, if there’s @Mutable discard @ReadOnly - then if in the subtype there’s @Nullable and in the supertype there’s @NotNull, discard the nullability annotations (analogously, for mutability annotations) - apply the annotations and check compatibility with all parts from supertypes, if there’s any incompatibility, issue a warning and take a platform type

NOTE: Only flexible types are enhanced, because we want to avoid cases like this

          void foo(@Nullable int x) {...}

this code is incorrect, but Java does not reject it, so if we see this as a Kotlin declaration

          fun foo(x: Int?)

we can’t even call it properly (this, in theory, can be worked around by storing pure Java signatures alongside Kotlin ones).

Detecting annotations on parts from supertypes: - consider all types have the form of (L..U), where an inflexible type T is written (T..T) - if L is nullable, say that @Nullable annotation is present - if U is not-null, say that @NotNull is present - if L is a read-only collection/iterable/iterator type, say that @ReadOnly is present - if U is a mutable collection/iterable/iterator type, say that @Mutable is present


interface A {
  String foo(@NotNull String p);

interface B {
  String foo(@Nullable String p);

interface C extends A, B {
  // this is an override in Java, but would not be an override in Kotlin because of a conflict in parameter types: String vs String?
  // Thus, the resulting descriptor is
  //    fun foo(p: String!): String
  // return type is covariantly enhanced to not-null,
  // a warning issued about the parameter

  String foo(String p);

Other cases:

R foo(@NotNull P p) // super A
R foo(P p) // super B
R foo(P p) // subclass C

// Result:
fun foo(p: P): R! // parameter type propagated from A
R foo(@NotNull P p) // super A
R foo(P p) // super B
R foo(@Nullable P p) // subclass C

// Result:
fun foo(p: P!): R! // conflict on parameter between A and C
R foo(P p) // super A
R foo(P p) // super B
R foo(@NotNull P p) // subclass C

// Result:
fun foo(p: P): R! // parameter type specified in C, no conflict with superclasses
R foo(P p) // super A
R foo(P p) // super B
R foo(P p) // subclass C

// Result:
fun foo(p: P!): R! // conflict on return type: subtype wants a nullable, but not-null already promised
R foo(@NotNull @ReadOnly List<T> p) // super A
R foo(@Nullable @ReadOnly List<T> p) // subclass B

// Result:
fun foo(p: List<T>!): R! // conflict on nullability, no conflict on mutability
fun foo(MutableList<T> p): R // super A, written in Kotlin
R foo(List<T> p) // subclass B

// Result:
fun foo(MutableList<T> p): R! // parameter propagated from superclass (@Mutable, @NotNull), conflict on return type

NOTE: nullability warnings should still be reported in the Kotlin code in case of discarding the enhancing information due to conflicts.

Propagation into generic arguments. Since annotations have to be propagated to type arguments as well as the head type constructor, the following procedure is used. First, every sub-tree of the type is assigned an index which is its zero-based position in the textual representation of the type (0 is root). Example: for A<B, C<D, E>>, indices go as follows: 0 - A<...>, 1 - B, 2 - C<D, E>, 3 - D, 4 - E, which corresponds to the left-to-right breadth-first walk of the tree representation of the type. For flexible types, both bounds are indexed in the same way: (A<B>..C<D>) gives 0 - (A<B>..C<D>), 1 - B and D.

Now, in the aforementioned procedure, annotations are collected and considered at each index for types other than return types. Return types are co-variant, thus the overriding type may not match the overridden ones in its shape (e.g. we can have Foo<Bar> from super, and Baz<One, Two<Three>> in the override, where Baz extends Foo<Bar>). This makes it impossible sometimes to propagate data into covariant overrides, and in such cases we resort to only looking at the head constructor (index == 0). The safe cases are detected by checking that the overriding type is ~~-equivalent to all the overridden ones, which guarantees that their shapes match. For example, the overriding type may be (Mutable)List<Foo!>! while the overridden ones may be List<Foo> and List<Foo?>, the equivalence holds and we can safely assume the enhanced return type to be List<Foo> (subtype of both overridden ones).

Example: - Mutable(List)<A!>! - Mutable(List)<A?>! - 0: Mutable(List)<A>!, Mutable(List)<A?>! - 1: A!, A!, A?, A?

NOTE: if the set of descriptors overridden by the resulting enhanced signature differs from the set overridden by the platform signature, the enhanced signature must be discarded and a warning issued.

Checklist: - any platform signature should override any enhanced/propagated signature created for the same member or one of its overridden.

Problematic cases of Java inheritance

Case 1. Fake override for conflicting signatures with the same erasure:

// Kotlin
trait A {
    fun foo(x: String)

trait B {
    fun foo(x: String?)

// Java
interface JC extends A, B {}

// Kotlin

class D : JC {
    // how to override both foo(String) and foo(String?) in this class?

Possible solution: make fake overrides generated for Java class have platform signatures and perform normal enhancement for them

Case 2. Inheriting a property through a Java class

It may be overridden by a Java function, for example

Case 3. Inheriting an extension function/property through a Java class

Explicit override(s) may also interfere.

Case 4. Raw types interfering with override-compatibility of Java signatures with Kotlin ones

Case 5. Order of type parameters in Java methods matters only partly

The first parameter matters, others may come in any order.

See also: KT-7496


We can also support the following annotations out-of-the-box: * android.support.annotation * android.support.annotation.Nullable * android.support.annotation.NonNull * From FindBugs and javax.annotation * *.annotations.CheckForNull * *.NonNull * *.Nullable * javax.validation.constraints * NotNull and NotNull.List * Project Lombok * org.eclipse.jdt.annotation * org.checkerframework.checker.nullness * *.qual.Nullable * *.qual.NonNull * *.compatqual.NullableDecl * *.compatqual.NonNullDecl