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Initializing default arguments
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Date: 2000-01-14 (07:55)
From: Jacques Garrigue <garrigue@k...>
Subject: Re: Initializing default arguments
From: Markus Mottl <>

> using labels and default arguments. There I found a problem with functions
> like:
>   let rec tautology ?(:vs = variables t) t = ...
> It is not possible to reference arguments (here: 't') from default
> arguments if they appear later in the function definition.  It is clear
> that this would be problematic if the other argument also had a default
> value and if it referenced the first value again (recursion).
> However, I believe it should be always ok to use non-default arguments
> regardless of order, because they are always already initialized.

We indeed thought about it. It is technically possible, since the
compiler automatically moves the computation of [variables t] inside
the body of the function. The only difficulty is that it changes the
definition of scopes. Currently you can use several times the same
variable in a function definition:

        # let ck x x = x;;
        val ck : 'a -> 'b -> 'b = <fun>

With the new semantics you suggest, this would be ambiguous.
On the other hand, prohibiting the above function definition might
seem reasonable.

Another problem is cascading definitions:

  let sub ?(:pos = 0) ?(:len = String.length s - pos) s =
    String.sub s pos len

Here we want to access the value of pos inside the default definition
of len. Again we can consider all these definitions as working in the
same scope, and do a topological sort to get the right order.

Last, what to do with definitions like:

  let f ?(:x = y) = fun y -> ...
  let f ?(:x = y) : int -> int = fun y -> ..

Should we refuse both, accept both, accept only the first one ?
Currently the parser does not distinguish between the first one and
let f  ?(:x = y) y = ...

Conclusion: this is possible, and if nobody opposes I think it should
be in a future release. Since it's a bit tricky to implement I do not
say 3.00.

By the way, there is a workaround. Write by hand what the compiler

  let rec tautology ?:vs t =
    let vs = match vs with None -> variables t | Some x -> x in

A bit heavier, but works ok in 2.99.


Jacques Garrigue      Kyoto University     garrigue at
		<A HREF=>JG</A>