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Last active Aug 6, 2017

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SIP-ZZ - NewType Classes


This is a proposal to introduce syntax for classes in Scala that can get completely inlined, so operations on these classes have zero overhead compared to external methods. Some use cases for inlined classes are:

  • Inlined implicit wrappers. Methods on those wrappers would be translated to extensions methods.

  • New numeric classes, such as unsigned ints. There would no longer need to be a boxing overhead for such classes. So this is similar to value types in .NET.

  • Classes representing units of measure. Again, no boxing overhead would be incurred for these classes.

The proposal is currently in an early stage. It’s not yet been implemented, and the proposed implementation strategy is too complicated to be able to predict with certainty that it will work as specified. Consequently, details of the proposal might change driven by implementation concerns.

NewType Classes

The gist of the proposal is to allow user-defined classes to extend from NewType in situations like this:

class C (val u: U) extends NewType {
  def m1(ps1) = ...
  def mN(psN) = ...

Such classes are called newtype classes. A newtype class C must satisfy the following criteria:

  • C must have exactly one parameter, which is marked with val and which has public accessibility. The type of that parameter (e.g. U above) is called the underlying type of C.

  • Other than its underlying value (of type U) C may not define any other val members (def members are OK).

  • C may not have secondary constructors.

  • C must not be a case class.

  • C may not define concrete equals, hashCode, or toString methods.

  • C must be either a top-level class or a member of a statically accessible object.

  • C must be ephemeral (as defined in SIP-15).

The runtime representation of C is always the same as the runtime representation of U (its underlying type). This means that ClassTag[U] is used as C's class tag, Array[C] erases to []U in Java, and so on.

The following implicit assumptions apply to newtype classes.

  • Newtype classes are implicitly treated as final, so they cannot be extended by other classes.

  • Newtype classes are implicitly assumed to have structural equality and hash codes (using their underlying value). Their universal methods (equals, toString, hashCode) cannot be implemented, and are erased to those defined by U.

Universal traits

Unlike value classes, newtype classes cannot extend universal traits.

Expansion of newtype classes.

Newtype classes are expanded as follows. For concreteness, we assume a newtype class Logarithm that is defined like this:

class Logarithm(val exponent: Double) extends NewType {
  def toDouble: Double = math.exp(exponent)

  def plus(that: Logarithm): Logarithm = Logarithm.logOf(toDouble + that.toDouble)
  def plus(n: Double): Logarithm = Logarithm.logOf(toDouble + n)

  def times(that: Logarithm): Logarithm = new Logarithm(exponent + that.exponent)

object Logarithm {
  def logOf(n: Double): Logarithm = {
    require(n > 0.0)
    new Logarithm(math.log(n))


We can express the required code transformations in three steps. In practice we may do the transformation in a single transformation step, but logically breaking up the transformations makes them easier to discuss in this document.

Step 1: Extracting methods.

Let the extractable methods of a newtype class be all methods that are directly declared in the class. (It is not possible for a newtype class to inherit methods.) For each extractable method m, we create another method named extension$m in the companion object of that class (if no companion object exists, a fresh one is created). The extension$m method takes an additional parameter in first position which is named $this and has runtime representation as its type. Generally, in a value class

class C(val u: U) extends AnyVal

a method

def m(params): R = body

is expanded to the following method in the companion object of class C:

def extension$m($this: C, params): R = body2

Here body2 is the same as body with each occurence of this or C.this replaced by $this.

Overloaded methods may be also augmented with an additional integer to distinguish them after types are erased (see the transformations of the add method in the following steps).

In our example, the Logarithm companion would be expanded as follows:

object Logarithm {
  def logOf(n: Double): Logarithm = {
    require(n > 0.0)
    new Logarithm(math.log(n))

  // generated methods follow
  def extension$toDouble($this: Logarithm): Double =

  def extension1$plus($this: Logarithm, that: Logarithm): Logarithm =
    Logarithm.logOf($this.toDouble + that.toDouble)

  def extension2$plus($this: Logarithm, n: Double): Logarithm =
    Logarithm.logOf($this.toDouble + n)

  def extension$times($this: Logarithm, that: Logarithm): Logarithm =
    new Logarithm($this.exponent + that.exponent)

Currently, we think that certain annotations (like @inline) will not be preserved when methods are extracted and rerouted. We think that most other annotations will be supported but more work is needed here.

Step 2: Rerouting calls

In this step any call to a method that got extracted in step 1 into a companion object gets redirected to the newly created method in that companion object. Generally, a call:


where m is an extractable method declared in a newtype class C gets rewritten to:

C.extension$m(p, args)

For instance the two calls in the following code fragment:

val x: Logarithm = new Logarithm(1.0)
val y: Logarithm = new Logarithm(2.0)
val z = x.times(y)
val a =

would be rewritten to

val x: Logarithm = new Logarithm(1.0)
val y: Logarithm = new Logarithm(2.0)
val z = Logarithm.extension$times(x, y)
val a = Logarithm.extension2$plus(x, 12345.0)

(Note that at this point we are still talking about the Logarithm type. We've just re-routed calls to extension methods, so that we are no longer accessing any members of Logarithm except for its underlying value exponent.)

Step 3: Unwrapping

At this point, using U (the underlying type of C) we calculate C's transitive underlying type (called W). This is done by the following recursive definition:

  • If U is a newtype class, use the transitive underlying type of U.
  • Otherwise, use U as the transitive underlying type.

We now do the following four replacements:

  1. We replace every occurence of the type C in a symbol’s type or in a tree’s type annotation by W.

  2. We replace every occurence of new C(e) with e.

  3. We replace every occurence of (c: C).u with c. (After applying replacement 1 the type of c here will actually be W.)

  4. We replace any other methods calls (c: C).m with c.m. These will be universal methods available on Any, which we need to re-route to the underlying value. (Examples includes equals, hashCode, toString, etc.)

We then re-typecheck the program.

Types such as Array, ClassTag, Class, etc. will all be rewritten according to these same rules:

  • Array[C] becomes Array[W]
  • ClassTag[C] becomes ClassTag[W]
  • Class[C] becomes Class[W]

Newtype classes are removed at this stage. That is, the class C is removed (although the companion object C stays). Other than the companion, there should be no mention of C (either as a class or a type) in any tree.

The effect of this is that at runtime values whose provided type was C are not distinguishable from values whose type is W.


These rewrites should occur as early as possible (but after typer, of course). Specifically, we would like for these to occur before the existing AnyVal rewrites, before the specialization phase, and before the erasure phase.

This allows us to support specialized newtype classes, as well as wrapping AnyVal types in newtype classes. It also means that platforms like scala-js don't have to worry about adding encodings for newtypes (since they reduce to the existing language).


Example 1

The program statements on the left are converted using steps 1 to 3 to the statements on the right.

var m, n: Logarithm       var m, n: Double
var o: AnyRef             var o: AnyRef
m = n                     m = n
o = m                     o = m.asInstanceOf[AnyRef]
m plus n                  Logarithm.extension1$plus(m, n)
o.isInstanceOf[Logarithm] o.isInstanceOf[Double]
o.asInstanceOf[Logarithm] o.asInstanceOf[Double]
m.isInstanceOf[Logarithm] m.isInstanceOf[Double]
m.asInstanceOf[Logarithm] m.asInstanceOf[Double]

Example 2

After all 3 steps the Logarithm class is translated to the following code.

object Logarithm {
  def logOf(n: Double): Double = {
    require(n > 0.0)

  // generated methods follow
  def extension$toDouble($this: Double): Double =

  def extension1$plus($this: Double, that: Double): Double =
    Logarithm.logOf(Logarithm.extension$toDouble($this) + Logarithm.extension$toDouble(that))

  def extension2$plus($this: Double, n: Double): Double =
    Logarithm.logOf(Logarithm.extension$toDouble($this) + n)

  def extension$times($this: Double, that: Double): Double =
    $this + that

Note that the two plus methods end up with the same type in object Logarithm. That’s why we needed to distinguish them by adding an integer number.

The same situation can arise in other circumstances as well: Two overloaded methods might end up with the same type after unwrapping. In the general case, Scala would treat this situation as an error, as it would for other types that get erased. So we propose to solve only the specific problem that multiple overloaded methods in a newtype class itself might clash after unwrapping.

Further Optimizations?

We could imagine this newtype feature being generalized to tuples. In that case, a newtype class could wrap N values (0-22), and be represented either by 0-22 positional parameters (in the extension methods) or by a single tuple of the appropriate arity (when a reified value was needed, e.g. for use in a collection).

Newtype classes as written here can already wrap tuples in a transparent way, so the required addition would be allowing multiple parameters to be provided positionally rather than in a tuple (i.e. adding two kinds of extension method for every method in the base class).

Work in this direction should only start once single-parameter newtype classes are implemented (at least experimentally), since one of the places multi-value newtype classes may struggle is in performance.

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