18 Jun 2018

A tour to Lisp

The Scheme dialect.

At first, it seems that the only difference between lisp and other programing languages is the writing style: in Julia, it is

+(1, 2)

and in Scheme, a dialect of of Lisp,

(+ 1 2)

Other than the placement of brackets, there do not seem much difference. …Until, an exercise in sicp came up:

(define (a-plus-abs-b a b)
    ((if (> b 0) + -) a b))

Here, the operator + or - is determined by some condition. This clearly shows the benefit of the arrangement of brackets in Lisp: easily manipulate functions just as any data.

Dive into julia-parser.scm

After the aperitif, let’s move to our real target: understand julia-parser.scm and modify it. The do-related function is,

(define (parse-do s)
   ((expect-end-current-line (input-port-line (ts:port s))))
    (let ((doargs (if (memv (peek-token s) '(#\newline #\;))
                      (parse-comma-separated s parse-range))))
      `(-> (tuple ,@doargs)
           ,(begin0 (parse-block s)
                    (expect-end s 'do)))))))

Some functions are used here:


This function comes from the femtoLisp standard library.

(define-macro (with-bindings binds . body)
(let ((vars (map car binds))
    (vals (map cadr binds))
    (olds (map (lambda (x) (gensym)) binds)))
    `(let ,(map list olds vars)
    ,@(map (lambda (v val) `(set! ,v ,val)) vars vals)
    (begin ,@body)
    (begin ,@(map (lambda (v old) `(set! ,v ,old)) vars olds))))))

To understand it, we have to figure out what

  • define-macro
  • the ` notation in `(blabla)
  • the , notation in ,(blabla) and ,v
  • the ,@ notation in ,@(blabla)

are talking about. From documentation

the forms 'datum `datum ,datum, and ,@datum denote two-element lists whose first elements are the symbols quote, quasiquote, unquote, and unquote-splicing, respectively. The second element in each case is datum.


This is a little bit strange. A number?

(define expect-end-current-line 0)


It is a built-in function which receives a port and returns the line number. Note that port is the I/O stream for scheme.


Note: aref is the common-lisp name for vector-ref. i.e., get the $i$-th element of a vector.

        (define-macro (ts:port s) `(aref ,s 1))


; treat newline like ordinary whitespace instead of as a potential separator
(define whitespace-newline #f)

(define-macro (with-whitespace-newline . body)
  `(with-bindings ((whitespace-newline #t))

(define-macro (without-whitespace-newline . body)
  `(with-bindings ((whitespace-newline #f))


memv object list returns the first pair of list whose car is object. Returns #f if not found.


Characters are written using the notation #\character or #\character-name. For example: #\newline is the newline character.


(define (parse-comma-separated s what)
  (let loop ((exprs '()))
    (let ((r (what s)))
      (case (peek-token s)
         (take-token s)
         (loop (cons r exprs)))
        (else   (reverse! (cons r exprs)))))))


;; parse ranges and postfix ...
;; colon is strange; 3 arguments with 2 colons yields one call:
;; 1:2   => (call : 1 2)
;; 1:2:3 => (call : 1 2 3)
(define (parse-range s)
  (let loop ((ex     (parse-expr s))
             (first? #t))
    (let* ((t   (peek-token s))
           (spc (ts:space? s)))
      (cond ((and first? (eq? t '|..|))
             (take-token s)
             `(call ,t ,ex ,(parse-expr s)))
            ((and range-colon-enabled (eq? t ':))
             (take-token s)
             (if (and space-sensitive spc
                      (or (peek-token s) #t) (not (ts:space? s)))
                 ;; "a :b" in space sensitive mode
                 (begin (ts:put-back! s ': spc)
                 (let ((argument
                        (cond ((closing-token? (peek-token s))
                               (error  (string "missing last argument in \""
                                               (deparse ex) ":\" range expression ")))
                              ((newline? (peek-token s))
                               (error "line break in \":\" expression"))
                               (parse-expr s)))))
                   (if (and (not (ts:space? s))
                            (or (eq? argument '<) (eq? argument '>)))
                       (error (string "\":" argument "\" found instead of \""
                                      argument ":\"")))
                   (if first?
                       (loop (list 'call t ex argument) #f)
                       (loop (append ex (list argument)) #t)))))
            ((eq? t '...)
             (take-token s)
             (list '... ex))
            (else ex)))))