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Keyword and Optional Arguments in PLT Scheme

March 5th, 2011 03:03 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Keyword and Optional Arguments in PLT Scheme, Matthew Flatt and Eli Barzilay, 2009 Workshop on Scheme and Functional Programming.

The lambda and procedure-application forms in PLT Scheme support arguments that are tagged with keywords, instead of identi?ed by position, as well as optional arguments with default values. Unlike previous keyword-argument systems for Scheme, a keyword is not self-quoting as an expression, and keyword arguments use a different calling convention than non-keyword arguments. Consequently, a keyword serves more reliably (e.g., in terms of error reporting) as a lightweight syntactic delimiter on procedure arguments. Our design requires no changes to the PLT Scheme core compiler, because lambda and application forms that support keywords are implemented by macros over conventional core forms that lack keyword support.

As usual, a solid paper by the PLTers, this time on flexible argument passing. Making named arguments apparent at compile-time (by introducing keyword symbols that may not be used as ordinary values) seems right and enables some optimizations. There are also some nice Racket-specifics in there, such as the use of the customizable application form #%app, which – together with “applicable structure types” – allows the implementation of named arguments in “userland”. The paper is rounded out by a performance evaluation and a description of similar facilities in other languages.

I think this is a very good design (and implementation technique) for named arguments. A facility [edit: syntax support] for receiving all named arguments of a function seems to be missing though – but it can probably be added in userland, too.

Source: Keyword and Optional Arguments in PLT Scheme

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