I wrote this in scala and it won't compile:

class TestDoubleDef{
  def foo(p:List[String]) = {}
  def foo(p:List[Int]) = {}

the compiler notify:

[error] double definition:
[error] method foo:(List[String])Unit and
[error] method foo:(List[Int])Unit at line 120
[error] have same type after erasure: (List)Unit

I know JVM has no native support for generics so I understand this error.

I could write wrappers for List[String] and List[Int] but I'm lazy :)

I'm doubtful but, is there another way expressing List[String] is not the same type than List[Int]?


+5  A: 

Due to the wonders of type erasure, the type parameters of your methods' List get erased during compilation, thus reducing both methods to the same signature, which is a compiler error.

Viktor Klang
+6  A: 

As Viktor Klang already says, the generic type will be erased by the compiler. Fortunately, there's a workaround:

class TestDoubleDef{
  def foo(p:List[String])(implicit ignore: String) = {}
  def foo(p:List[Int])(implicit ignore: Int) = {}

object App extends Application {
  implicit val x = 0
  implicit val y = ""

  val a = new A()"a"::"b"::Nil)

Thanks for Michid for the tip!

Michel Krämer
This seems like a horrible kludge to me, and not worth the effort. A better kludge (still questionably worth it) would be to use parameters with default values to differentiate the two methods.
@peletom: your method (of default parameters) fails to compile with the error "multiple overloaded alternatives of method foo define default arguments."
Ken Bloom
+2  A: 

There is (at least one) another way, even if it is not too nice and not really type safe:

import scala.reflect.Manifest

object Reified {

  def foo[T](p:List[T])(implicit m: Manifest[T]) = {

    def stringList(l: List[String]) {
    def intList(l: List[Int]) {

    val StringClass = classOf[String]
    val IntClass = classOf[Int]

    m.erasure match {
      case StringClass => stringList(p.asInstanceOf[List[String]])
      case IntClass => intList(p.asInstanceOf[List[Int]])
      case _ => error("???")

  def main(args: Array[String]) {
      foo(List(1, 2, 3))

The implicit manifest paramenter can be used to "reify" the erased type and thus hack around erasure. You can learn a bit more about it in many blog posts,e.g. this one.

What happens is that the manifest param can give you back what T was before erasure. Then a simple dispatch based on T to the various real implementation does the rest.

Probably there is a nicer way to do the pattern matching, but I haven't seen it yet. What people usually do is matching on m.toString, but I think keeping classes is a bit cleaner (even if it's a bit more verbose). Unfortunately the documentation of Manifest is not too detailed, maybe it also has something that could simplify it.

A big disadvantage of it is that it's not really type safe: foo will be happy with any T, if you can't handle it you will have a problem. I guess it could be worked around with some constraints on T, but it would further complicate it.

And of course this whole stuff is also not too nice, I'm not sure if it worth doing it, especially if you are lazy ;-)

Sandor Murakozi
+11  A: 

I like Michael Krämer's idea to use implicits, but I think it can be applied more directly:

case class IntList(list: List[Int])
case class StringList(list: List[String])

implicit def il(list: List[Int]) = IntList(list)
implicit def sl(list: List[String]) = StringList(list)

def foo(i: IntList) { println("Int: " + i.list)}
def foo(s: StringList) { println("String: " + s.list)}

I think this is quite readable and straightforward.


There is another easy way which seems to work:

def foo(p: List[String]) { println("Strings") }
def foo[X: ClassManifest](p: List[Int]) { println("Ints") }
def foo[X: ClassManifest, Y: ClassManifest](p: List[Double]) { println("Doubles") }

For every version you need an additional type parameter, so this doesn't scale, but I think for three or four versions it's fine.

[Update 2]

For exactly two methods I found another nice trick:

def foo(list: => List[Int]) = { println("Int-List " + list)}
def foo(list: List[String]) = { println("String-List " + list)}
+1  A: 

Instead of using manifests you could also use dispatchers objects implicitly imported in a similar manner. I blogged about this before manifests came up:

This has the advantage of type safety: the overloaded method will only be callable for types which have dispatchers imported into the current scope.

+1  A: 

To understand Michael Krämer's solution, it's necessary to recognize that the types of the implicit parameters are unimportant. What is important is that their types are distinct. The following code works in the same way:

class TestDoubleDef {
   object dummy1 { implicit val dummy: dummy1.type = this }
   object dummy2 { implicit val dummy: dummy2.type = this }

   def foo(p:List[String])(implicit d: dummy1.type) = {}
   def foo(p:List[Int])(implicit d: dummy2.type) = {}

object App extends Application {
   val a = new TestDoubleDef()"a"::"b"::Nil)

While it's more verbose, this approach relieves the caller of the burden of supplying the implicit arguments. In fact, it even works if the dummyN objects are private to the TestDoubleDef class.

Aaron Novstrup
If I mark the dummyN as private and put an implementation in foo methods I get an java.lang.NoSuchMethodError when executing them.
Further explanation on how this works would be nice.
Sorry, Brent, I've been out of town and don't have easy access to Scala right now. As to how it works -- When the foo methods are compiled to bytecode, they both become two-argument methods (JVM bytecode has no notion of implicit arguments). At the callsite, the Scala compiler selects the appropriate foo method to call (and therefore the appropriate dummy object to pass in) by looking at the type of the list being passed in (which isn't erased until later).
Aaron Novstrup
+2  A: 

If I combine Daniels response and Sandor Murakozis response here I get:

sealed abstract class Acceptable[T]; object Acceptable {
        implicit object IntOk extends Acceptable[Int]
        implicit object StringOk extends Acceptable[String]

class TestDoubleDef {
   def foo[A : Acceptable : Manifest](p:List[A]) =  {
        val m = manifest[A]
        if (m equals manifest[String]) {
        } else if (m equals manifest[Int]) {

I get a typesafe(ish) variant

scala> val a = new TestDoubleDef
a: TestDoubleDef = [email protected]



<console>:9: error: could not find implicit value for evidence parameter of type

<console>:9: error: type mismatch;
 found   : java.lang.String("test")
 required: List[?]"test")

The logic may also be included in the type class as such (thanks to jsuereth):

sealed trait Foo[T] { def apply(list : List[T]) : Unit }

object Foo {
   implicit def stringImpl = new Foo[String] {
      def apply(list : List[String]) = println("String")
   implicit def intImpl = new Foo[Int] {
      def apply(list : List[Int]) =  println("Int")

def foo[A : Foo](x : List[A]) = implicitly[Foo[A]].apply(x)

Which gives:

scala> sealed trait Foo[T] { def apply(list : List[T]) : Unit }; object Foo {
     |         implicit def stringImpl = new Foo[String] {
     |           def apply(list : List[String]) = println("String")
     |         }
     |         implicit def intImpl = new Foo[Int] {
     |           def apply(list : List[Int]) =  println("Int")
     |         }
     |       } ; def foo[A : Foo](x : List[A]) = implicitly[Foo[A]].apply(x)
defined trait Foo
defined module Foo
foo: [A](x: List[A])(implicit evidence$1: Foo[A])Unit

scala> foo(1)
<console>:8: error: type mismatch;
 found   : Int(1)
 required: List[?]
scala> foo(List(1,2,3))
scala> foo(List("a","b","c"))
scala> foo(List(1.0))
<console>:8: error: could not find implicit value for evidence parameter of type

Note that we have to write implicitly[Foo[A]].apply(x) since the compiler thinks that implicitly[Foo[A]](x) means that we call implicitly with parameters.