Does there exist a Turing complete typed lambda calculus?

Do there exist any Turing complete typed lambda calculi? If so, what are a few examples?

• – ziggurism Nov 17 '15 at 4:22

Yes, sure. Many typed lambda calculi accept only strongly normalizing terms, by design, so they cannot express arbitrary computations. But a type system can be anything you like; make it broad enough, and you can express all deterministic computations.

A trivial type system that encompasses a Turing-complete fragment of the lambda calculus is the one that accepts every term as well-typed (with a top type). $$\dfrac{}{\Gamma \vdash M : \top}$$

More practically, statically typed functional programming languages have at their core a typed lambda calculus which allows a fixpoint combinator as well-typed. For example, start with the simply typed lambda calculus (or the ML type system or system F or any other type system of your choice) and add a rule that makes some fixpoint combinator like $\mathbf{Y} = \lambda f. (\lambda x. f (x\,x)) (\lambda x. f (x\,x))$ well-typed. $$\dfrac{\Gamma \vdash f : T \rightarrow T} {\Gamma \vdash \mathbf{Y}\,f : T} \qquad \dfrac{\Gamma \vdash f : T \rightarrow T} {\Gamma \vdash (\lambda x. f (x\,x)) (\lambda x. f (x\,x)) : T}$$ The rules as presented above are rather clumsy, as they make terms like $\mathbf{Y}\,f$ well-typed even though their constituents are not well-typed — they are not fully compositional. A simple fix is to add a fixpoint combinator as a language constant and provide a delta rule for it; then it is a simple matter to have a type system and reduction semantics with type preservation. You do get away from the pure lambda calculus into the realm of lambda calculus with constants. $$\begin{gather*} \dfrac{}{\Gamma \vdash \textbf{fix} : (T \rightarrow T) \rightarrow T} \\ \textbf{fix}\,f \to f (\textbf{fix}\,f) \\ \end{gather*}$$

Sticking to the pure lambda calculus, an interesting type system is the lambda calculus with intersection types.

$$\dfrac{\Gamma \vdash M : T_1 \quad \Gamma \vdash M : T_2} {\Gamma \vdash M : T_1 \wedge T_2} (\wedge I) \qquad\qquad \dfrac{} {\Gamma \vdash M : \top} (\top I)$$

Intersection types have interesting properties with respect to normalization:

• A lambda-term can be typed without using the $\top I$ rule iff it is strongly normalizing.
• A lambda-term admits a type not containing $\top$ iff it has a normal form.

See Characterization of lambda-terms that have union types for an insight as to why intersection types have such a remarkable scope.

So you have a type system that defines a Turing-complete language (since every term is well-typed), and a simple characterization of terminating computations. Of course, since this type system characterizes normalization, it is not decidable.

A remark on the rule names $(\top I)$ and $(\wedge I)$: they have no formal meaning, but they are chosen deliberately. the $I$ stands for “introduction”, because these are introduction rules — they introduce the symbol ($\wedge$ or $\top$) into the type below the line. Dually, you'll find elimination rules, when a symbol appears above the line but not below. For example, the rule to typecheck a lambda expression in the simply-typed lambda calculus is the introduction rule for $\rightarrow$, and the rule to typecheck an application is the elimination rule for $\rightarrow$.