A type-and-effect system for object initialization

Fengyun Liu, Ondřej Lhoták, Aggelos Biboudis, Paolo G. Giarrusso, Martin Odersky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Every newly created object goes through several initialization states: starting from a state where all fields are uninitialized until all of them are assigned. Any operation on the object during its initialization process, which usually happens in the constructor via this, has to observe the initialization states of the object for correctness, i.e. only initialized fields may be used. Checking safe usage of this statically, without manual annotation of initialization states in the source code, is a challenge, due to aliasing and virtual method calls on this. Mainstream languages either do not check initialization errors, such as Java, C++, Scala, or they defend against them by not supporting useful initialization patterns, such as Swift. In parallel, past research has shown that safe initialization can be achieved for varying degrees of expressiveness but by sacrificing syntactic simplicity. We approach the problem by upholding local reasoning about initialization which avoids whole-program analysis, and we achieve typestate polymorphism via subtyping. On this basis, we put forward a novel type-and-effect system that can effectively ensure initialization safety while allowing flexible initialization patterns. We implement an initialization checker in the Scala 3 compiler and evaluate on several real-world projects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number175
Number of pages28
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages
Issue numberOOPSLA
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Object initialization
  • Type-and-effect syste


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