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Practical Foundations for Programming Languages by Robert Harper

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15 Inductive and Coinductive Types

The inductive and the coinductive types are two important forms of recursive type. Inductive types correspond to least, or initial, solutions of certain type isomorphism equations, and coinductive types correspond to their greatest, or final, solutions. Intuitively, the elements of an inductive type are those that may be obtained by a finite composition of its introductory forms. Consequently, if we specify the behavior of a function on each of the introductory forms of an inductive type, then its behavior is determined for all values of that type. Such a function is called a recursor, or catamorphism. Dually, the elements of a coinductive type are those that behave properly in response to a finite composition ...

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