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2 points by rocketnia 2468 days ago | link | parent

I was a fan of fexprs not too long ago, and I still kinda am, but they lost their luster for me at about this point:

Quoting from myself,

Quote syntax (as well as fexprs in general) lets you take code you've written use it as data, but it does little to assure you that any of that computation will happen at compile time. If you want some intensive calculation to happen at compile time, you have to do it in a way you know the compiler (as well as any compiler-like functionality you've defined) will be nice enough to constant-propagate and inline for you.

I've realized "compiler-like functionality you've defined" is much easier to create in a compiled language where the code-walking framework already exists than in an interpreted language where you have to make your own.

If part of a language's goal is to be great at syntax, it has a conflict of interest when it comes to fexprs. They're extremely elegant, but user libraries can't get very far beyond them (at least, without making isolated sublanguages). On the other hand, the dilemma can be resolved by seeing that an fexpr call can compile into a call to the fexpr interpreter. The compiler at the core may be less elegant, but the language code can have the best of both worlds.

This is an approach I hope will work for Penknife. In a way, Penknife's a compiled language in order to support fexpr libraries. I don't actually expect to support fexprs in the core, but I may write a library. Kernel-style fexprs really are elegant. ^_^

Speaking of such Kernel-like libraries, I've thrown together a sketch of a Kernel-like interpreter written in Arc. It's totally untested, but if the stars have aligned, it may only have a few crippling typos and omissions. :-p

Can't say I'm a fan of PicoLisp yet, though. No local variables at all? Come on! ^_^

1 point by evanrmurphy 2468 days ago | link

> Can't say I'm a fan of PicoLisp yet, though. No local variables at all? Come on! ^_^

Hmm... not sure what you mean by this. I can define a local variable at the PicoLisp REPL using let just as I would in Arc:

  : x   
  -> NIL
  : (let x 5
  -> 5
  : x     
  -> NIL
The rest of your comment was really interesting. Thanks for the links!


1 point by rocketnia 2468 days ago | link

Sorry, I spoke too soon. I could tell 'let and function arguments would be possible, but I was a bit put off by From, it sounds like dynamic scope. Is that right? (I'm not in a position to try it out at the moment. >.> )

Speaking of speaking too soon, I may have said "user libraries can't get very far beyond [an fexpr language's core syntax]," but I want to add the disclaimer that there's no way I actually know that.

In fact, I was noticing that Penknife's parse/compile phase is a lot like fexpr evaluation. The operator's behavior is called with the form body, and that operator takes care of parsing the rest, just like an fexpr takes care of evaluating the rest. So I think a natural fexpr take on compiler techniques is just to eval code in an environment full of fexprs that calculate compiled expressions or static types. That approach sounds really familiar to me, so it probably isn't my idea. :-p


1 point by evanrmurphy 2468 days ago | link

No harm done. :) PicoLisp appears to have lexical scoping but dynamic binding, although my PLT is too weak to understand all the implications of that. From the FAQ:

> This is a form of lexical scoping - though we still have dynamic binding - of symbols, similar to the static keyword in C. [1]

> "But with dynamic binding I cannot implement closures!" This is not true. Closures are a matter of scope, not of binding. [2]





2 points by rocketnia 2468 days ago | link

Sounds like transient symbols are essentially in a file-local namespace, which makes them lexically scoped (the lexical context being the file!), and that transient symbols are bound in the dynamic environment just like internal symbols are. So whenever lexical scope is needed, another file is used. Meanwhile, (====) can simulate a file break, making it a little less troublesome.


1 point by evanrmurphy 2468 days ago | link

But the let example I gave a few comments ago didn't use a transient symbol. Why does it work?

I chatted with PicoLisp's author, Alexander Burger, yesterday on IRC. If I catch him again, I can ask for clarification about the scoping/binding quirks.


2 points by rocketnia 2468 days ago | link

I think it works because while you're inside the let, you don't call anything that depends on a global function named x. :) That's in the FAQ too:


What happens when I locally bind a symbol which has a function definition?

That's not a good idea. The next time that function gets executed within the dynamic context the system may crash. Therefore we have a convention to use an upper case first letter for locally bound symbols:

  (de findCar (Car List)
     (when (member Car (cdr List))
        (list Car (car List)) ) )