(Link)**Author:** Daniel Gratzer (Aarhus University)**Reference:** Daniel Gratzer. 2022. Normalization for Multimodal Type Theory. In Proceedings of the 37th Annual ACM/IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science (LICS '22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 2, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1145/3531130.3532398**Why this reference?** Cited by Semantics of Multimodal Adjoint Type Theory, A Categorical Normalization Proof for the Modal Lambda-Calculus, and For the Metatheory of Type Theory, Internal Sconing Is Enough

While my reading program for this blog often sends me bouncing around from subject to subject, this blog post is exactly the sequel to the last one, as one of the authors of the Multimodal Type Theory paper tackles the question of normalisation for these systems. Normalisation is the property that all programs in a language terminate; this is not a typical property of programming languages but is important for *dependent* types: as terms can appear in types, type checking can require execution of arbitrary code, and so termination of type checking in general requires termination of all possible programs. Terminating type checking is a standard requirement, but is particularly desirable when we use type theories to formalise mathematics. In this paradigm type checking corresponds to proof checking, and it seems a bizarre violation of usual practice for it to be impossible to decide whether a putative proof of a theorem is indeed valid.

Proving normalisation of even quite simple type theories, such as the simply typed lambda calculus, is not easy (although the techniques are now well studied and understood). While evaluation is sometimes called ‘reduction’, in fact terms do not reduce in size, or in any other obvious sense, as they compute. Matters get even more difficult in this paper, which refers to not one system, but multiple different type theories depending on one’s choice of mode theory. A recent proof of the property for one particular modal type theory was not encouraging, requiring a 77 page technical report to state all details. This paper also has a companion technical report weighing in at a comparatively svelte 39 pages, and yet proves the result for all modal type theories in the framework (provided that the mode theory chosen is not itself undecidable). How is this possible?

The technology behind this is *Synthetic Tait Computability*, as developed quite recently by Sterling and Harper. I am not yet entirely on top of this material, and frankly probably need to become so to appreciate the technical details of this quite dense paper (at least the Aarhus group, to which I used to belong, are good about publishing longer follow-ups in journals rather than leaving work in ultra-terse conference-truncated form, as sometimes happens with important or promising work in our field, so a more approachable but still reviewed version of this work might well be coming).

Given the technical prerequisites, perhaps a blow-by-blow of the development will not be so illuminating in a short blog post. Suffice it to say that the approach is deeply category theoretic; even the syntax is defined (it is claimed as a theorem, but looks more like a definition to me) to be an initial model, where model is defined as a certain 2-functor (this would provide a form of ‘fully annotated’ syntax which would probably be the target of an elaboration algorithm rather than pleasant to work with directly, but this is outside the bounds of this paper). Similarly, the normalisation algorithm is defined via the construction of a 'normalisation cosmos' (a cosmos is a weaker notion of model, avoiding some strictness requirements). While I am used to the denotational semantics (‘mathematical meaning’) of type theory being expressed in such terms, and syntax as initial model is OK as well, defining syntactic algorithms via category theory is a bit of a new one on me. It’s always good to have plenty to learn!

## Sunday 2 April 2023

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