CC-delcont-0.2: Delimited continuations and dynamically scoped variables

PortabilityNon-portable (rank-2 types, multi-parameter type classes, functional dependencies)
MaintainerDan Doel




A monadic treatment of delimited continuations.

Adapted from the paper A Monadic Framework for Delimited Continuations, by R. Kent Dybvig, Simon Peyton Jones and Amr Sabry (

This module implements the delimited continuation monad and transformer, using the sequence-of-frames implementation from the original paper.


The CC monad

data CC ans a Source

The CC monad may be used to execute computations with delimited control.


Monad (CC ans) 
Functor (CC ans) 
Applicative (CC ans) 
MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans Identity) (CC ans) 

runCC :: (forall ans. CC ans a) -> aSource

Executes a CC computation, yielding a resulting value.

The CCT monad transformer

data CCT ans m a Source

The CCT monad transformer allows you to layer delimited control effects over an arbitrary monad.

The CCT transformer is parameterized by the following types

  • ans : A region parameter, so that prompts and subcontinuations may only be used in the same region they are created.
  • m : the underlying monad
  • a : The contained value. A value of type CCT ans m a can be though of as a computation that calls its continuation with a value of type a


MonadReader r m => MonadReader r (CCT ans m) 
MonadState s m => MonadState s (CCT ans m) 
MonadTrans (CCT ans) 
Monad m => MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans m) (CCT ans m) 
Monad m => Monad (CCT ans m) 
Monad m => Functor (CCT ans m) 
Monad m => Applicative (CCT ans m) 
MonadIO m => MonadIO (CCT ans m) 

runCCT :: Monad m => (forall ans. CCT ans m a) -> m aSource

Executes a CCT computation, yielding a value in the underlying monad

data SubCont ans m a b Source


MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans Identity) (CC ans) 
Monad m => MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans m) (CCT ans m) 

data Prompt ans a Source

The prompt type, parameterized by two types: * ans : The region identifier, used to ensure that prompts are only used within the same context in which they are created.

  • a : The type of values that may be returned through a given prompt. For instance, only prompts of type 'Prompt r a' may be pushed onto a computation of type 'CC r a'.


MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans Identity) (CC ans) 
Monad m => MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans m) (CCT ans m) 

class Monad m => MonadDelimitedCont p s m | m -> p s whereSource

A typeclass for monads that support delimited control operators. The type varibles represent the following:

m : The monad itself

p : The associated type of prompts that may delimit computations in the monad

s : The associated type of sub-continuations that may be captured


newPrompt :: m (p a)Source

Creates a new, unique prompt.

pushPrompt :: p a -> m a -> m aSource

Delimits a computation with a given prompt.

withSubCont :: p b -> (s a b -> m b) -> m aSource

Abortively capture the sub-continuation delimited by the given prompt, and call the given function with it. The prompt does not appear delimiting the sub-continuation, nor the resulting computation.

pushSubCont :: s a b -> m a -> m bSource

Pushes a sub-continuation, reinstating it as part of the continuation.


MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans Identity) (CC ans) 
Monad m => MonadDelimitedCont (Prompt ans) (SubCont ans m) (CCT ans m) 

Assorted useful control operators

reset :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => (p a -> m a) -> m aSource

An approximation of the traditional reset operator. Creates a new prompt, calls the given function with it, and delimits the resulting computation with said prompt.

shift :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => p b -> ((m a -> m b) -> m b) -> m aSource

The traditional shift counterpart to the above reset. Reifies the subcontinuation into a function, keeping both the subcontinuation, and the resulting computation delimited by the given prompt.

control :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => p b -> ((m a -> m b) -> m b) -> m aSource

The control operator, traditionally the counterpart of prompt. It does not delimit the reified subcontinuation, so control effects therein can escape. The corresponding prompt is performed equally well by reset above.

shift0 :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => p b -> ((m a -> m b) -> m b) -> m aSource

Abortively captures the current subcontinuation, delimiting it in a reified function. The resulting computation, however, is undelimited.

control0 :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => p b -> ((m a -> m b) -> m b) -> m aSource

Abortively captures the current subcontinuation, delimiting neither it nor the resulting computation.

abort :: MonadDelimitedCont p s m => p b -> m b -> m aSource

Aborts the current continuation up to the given prompt.


This module provides many different control operators, so hopefully the examples herein can help in selecting the right ones. The most raw are the four contained in the MonadDelimitedCont type class. The first, of course, is newPrompt, which should be straight forward enough. Next comes pushPrompt, which is the basic operation that delimits a computation. In the absense of other control operators, it's simply a no-op, so

 pushPrompt p (return v) == return v

withSubCont is the primitive that allows the capture of sub-continuations. Unlike callCC, withSubCont aborts the delimited continuation it captures, so:

 pushPrompt p ((1:) `liftM` (2:) `liftM` withSubCont p (\k -> return []))

will yield a value of [] on running, not [1, 2].

The final primitive control operator is pushSubCont, which allows the use of the sub-continuations captured using withSubCont. So:

 pushPrompt p ((1:) `liftM1 (2:) `liftM`
                 withSubCont p (\k -> pushSubCont k (return [])))

will yield the answer [1, 2]. However, Capturing a sub-continuation and immediately pusshing it is not a no-op, because the sub-continuation does not contain the delimiting prompt (and, of course, pushSubCont does not re-instate it, as it doesn't know what prompt was originally used). Thus, capturing and pushing a sub-continuation results in the net loss of one delimiter, and said delimiter will need to be re-pushed to negate that effect, if desired.

Out of these four primitive operators have been built various functional abstractions that incorporate one or more operations. On the delimiting side is reset, which combines both prompt creation and delimiting. In some papers on the subject (such as Shift to Control), each capture operator would be paired with a corresponding delimiter operator (and indeed, a separate CPS transform). However, since prompts are explicitly passed in this implementation, a single delimiter suffices for supporting all capture operators (although pushPrompt will need to be used if one wishes to explicitly push a prompt more than once).

The simplest control flow operator is abort, which, as its name suggests, simply aborts a given sub-continuation. For instance, the second example above can be written:

 pushPrompt p ((1:) `liftM` (2:) `liftM` abort p (return []))

The rest of the functions reify the sub-continuation into a function, so that it can be used. The shift/control operators all have similar effects in this regard, but differ as to where they delimit various parts of the resulting computation. Some names may help a bit for the following explanation, so consider:

 shift p (\f -> e)

p is, obviously, the prompt; f is the reified continuation, and e is the computation that will be run in the aborted context. With these names in mind, the control operators work as follows:

  • shift delimits both e and every invocation of f. So, effectively, when using shift, control effects can never escape a delimiter, and computations of the form:
 reset (\p -> <computations with shift p>)

look pure from the outside.

  • control delimits e, but not the sub-continuation in f. Thus, if the sub-continuation contains other control invocations, the effects may escape an enclosing delimiter. So, for example:
 reset (\p -> shift p (\f -> (1:) `liftM` f (return []))
>= \y -> shift p (\_ -> return y))

yields a value of [1], while replacing the shifts with control yields a value of [].

  • shift0 delimits f, but not e. So:
 reset (\p -> (1:) `liftM` pushPrompt p
                             (shift0 p (\_ -> shift0 p (\_ -> return []))))

yields [], whereas using shift would yield [1].

  • control0 delimits neither e nor f, and is, in effect, the reified analogue to using withSubCont and pushSubCont directly.

For a more complete and in-depth discussion of these four control operators, see Shift to Control, by Chung-chieh Shan.

A small example program follows. It uses delimited continuations to reify a monadic loop into an iterator object. Saving references to old iterators allows one to effecively store references to various points in the traversal. Effectively, this is a simple, restricted case of a generalized zipper.

 data Iterator r a = I a (CC r (Iterator r a)) | Done

 current :: Iterator r a -> Maybe a
 current (I a _) = Just a
 current Done    = Nothing
 next :: Iterator r a -> CC r (Iterator r a)
 next (I _ m) = m
 next Done    = return Done
 iterator :: ((a -> CC r ()) -> CC r ()) -> CC r (Iterator r a)
 iterator loop = reset $ \p ->
                  loop (\a ->
                     shift p $ \k ->
                         return $ I a (k $ return ())) >> return Done
 test = do i <- iterator $ forM_ [1..5]
           go [] i
  go l Done = return l
  go l i    = do let (Just a) = current i
                     l' = replicate a a ++ l
                 i' <- next i
                 go l' i'

The results are what one might expect from such an iterator object:

 *Test> runCC test