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RE: [Caml-list] strict?
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Date: 2006-08-03 (07:29)
From: Alexander Bottema <Alexander.Bottema@m...>
Subject: RE: [Caml-list] strict?
When writing real compilers, strictness is not that interesting. What we
focus on is whether a function is side-effect free or program-effect
free. Side-effect free basically practically means not doing I/O and
program effect free practically means that we don't write to "unknown"
locations in the heap/memory.

We then allow certain transformations based on whether functions are
side-effect free or program-effect free. You can probably imagine other
categories as well. After all, it is what kind of
optimizations/transformations that you'd like to do that gives your
domain of parameters to control them.

When I learned the concept of strictness it was in the context of pure
functional programming. For me the definition was mostly there to
distinguish non-strict functions, such as if(e,t,f) from other
functions. Bottom encodes essentially two different things,
non-termination or "domain error". The non-termination aspect is crucial
for non-strict functions such as if, since the non-termination of 't' or
'f' may not imply that if() itself will not terminate. However, in real
compiler design, the number of non-strict functions is very small and
usually built-ins. However, this is of course not true if you implement
lazy functional programming languages where basically everything is


-----Original Message-----
From: caml-list-bounces@yquem.inria.fr
[mailto:caml-list-bounces@yquem.inria.fr] On Behalf Of skaller
Sent: Thursday, August 03, 2006 07:13 AM
To: O'Caml Mailing List
Subject: [Caml-list] strict?

I'm looking for a pair of concepts such as

nice function/transparent expression

which allow an arbitrary choice of evaluation strategy.

A nice function is basically one like 'sin' which is
total, has no side effects, depends only on its arguments,
and always returns a value. I think this is basically
'total, pure and strict'.

A transparent expression is one which can be evaluated
at any time, anywhere. For example 'sin 1.0' is the same
no matter when and where it is evaluated. More or less
an expression is transparent if it is a constant or
application of nice functions to transparent arguments.

The idea is basically to know when a compiler can choose
the evaluation strategy based on performance, without
worrying that this will change semantics. More precisely
my translator *already* does this .. and I want to know
when this is justified (so I can figure out how to
give the programmer enough annotations and control
to get the result they want, and be able to reason
about their code).

Note I use the word 'function' in the C (or Ocaml) sense here.
Clearly the Wikipedia definition of strict:

	f(bottom) = bottom

is rubbish when applied to a mathematical function like 'sin', 
since bottom isn't a valid argument, but it makes sense
for 'sin' in the programming language sense.

John Skaller <skaller at users dot sf dot net>
Felix, successor to C++: http://felix.sf.net

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