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The Clay Programming Language

Language Reference, version 0.1

Conventions

BNF grammar rules are provided in monospace blocks beginning with # Grammar. Examples of Clay code are provided in monospace blocks beginning with // Example. Regular expressions in grammar rules are delimited by /slashes/ and use Perl /x syntax; that is, whitespace between the delimiting slashes is insignificant and used for readability. Literal strings in grammar rules are delimited by "quotation marks".

Tokenization

Source encoding

Clay source code is evaluated as a stream of ASCII text. (Anything other than ASCII in string and character literals is currently passed through as an opaque stream of bytes by the compiler.)

Whitespace

# Grammar
ws -> /[ \t\r\n\f]+/

ASCII space, tab, carriage return, newline, and form feed are treated as whitespace. Whitespace is used by the lexer to delimit tokens and is otherwise insignificant and eliminated during tokenization.

Comments

# Grammar
Comment -> "/*" /.*?/ "*/"
         | "//" /.*$/

Comments in Clay come in two forms: block comments, delimited by non-nesting /* and */, and line comments, begun with // and extending to the end of the current source line. Comments are treated grammatically as equivalent to a whitespace character.

Identifiers and keywords

# Grammar
Identifier -> !Keyword, /[A-Za-z_?][A-Za-z_0-9?]*/

Keyword -> "__ARG__"
         | "__COLUMN__"
         | "__FILE__"
         | "__LINE__"
         | "__llvm__"
         | "alias"
         | "and"
         | "as"
         | "break"
         | "case"
         | "catch"
         | "continue"
         | "define"
         | "else"
         | "enum"
         | "eval"
         | "external"
         | "false"
         | "finally"
         | "for"
         | "forward"
         | "goto"
         | "if"
         | "import"
         | "in"
         | "inline"
         | "instance"
         | "not"
         | "onerror"
         | "or"
         | "overload"
         | "private"
         | "public"
         | "record"
         | "ref"
         | "return"
         | "rvalue"
         | "static"
         | "switch"
         | "throw"
         | "true"
         | "try"
         | "var"
         | "variant"
         | "while"

Clay identifiers begin with an ASCII letter character, underscore (_), or question mark (?), and contain zero or more subsequent characters, which may be letters, underscores, question marks, or ASCII digits. A reserved keyword may not be used as an identifier.

// Examples of valid identifiers
a a1 a_1 abc123 a? ?a ?

Integer literals

# Grammar
IntToken -> "0x" HexDigits
          | DecimalDigits

HexDigits -> /([0-9A-Fa-f]_*)+/
DecimalDigits -> /([0-9]_*)+/

Integer literals may be expressed in decimal, or in hexadecimal prefixed by 0x. Either form may include any number of underscores after any digit for human readability purposes (excluding the leading 0 in the 0x prefix). Underscores have no effect on the value of the literal.

// Examples of integer literals
0 1 23 0x45abc 1_000_000 1_000_000_ 0xFFFF_FFFF

Floating-point literals

# Grammar
FloatToken -> "0x" HexDigits ("." HexDigits?)? /[pP] [+-]?/ DecimalDigits
            | DecimalDigits ("." DecimalDigits?)? (/[eE] [+-]?/ DecimalDigits)?

Like integers, floating-point literals also come in decimal and hexadecimal forms. A floating-point decimal literal is differentiated from an integer literal by including either a decimal point . followed by zero or more decimal digits, an exponential marker e or E followed by a decimal value indicating the decimal exponent, or both. Floating-point hexadecimal literals likewise contain an optional hexadecimal point (also .) followed by zero or more hex digits, but require their exponential marker p or P followed by a decimal value indicating the binary exponent. Like integer literals, floating-point literals may also include underscores after any digit in the integer, mantissa, or exponent for human readability.

// Examples of decimal floating-point literals
1. 1.0 1e0 1e-2 0.000_001 1e1_000
// Examples of hexadecimal floating-point literals
0x1p0 0x1.0p0 0x1.0000_0000_0000_1p1_023

Character literals

# Grammar
CharToken -> "'" CharChar "'"

CharChar -> /[^\\']/
          | EscapeCode

EscapeCode -> /\\ ([nrtf\\'"0] | x [0-9A-Fa-f]{2})/

Character literals represent a single ASCII character. Syntactically, they consist of either a single character (excluding \ and ') or a backslash followed by an escape code character, delimited by matching ' characters. The provided escape codes are a subset of those traditionally provided by C-like languages:

  • \0 encodes the ASCII null character.
  • \t encodes the ASCII tab character.
  • \n encodes the ASCII newline character.
  • \f encodes the ASCII form feed character.
  • \r encodes the ASCII carriage return character.
  • \" encodes the character ".
  • \' encodes the character '.
  • \\ encodes the character \.
  • \x followed by two hexadecimal digits encodes an arbitrary ASCII code point. For example '\x20' is the space character (code 0x20).

 

// Examples of character literals
'x'  ' '  '\n'  '\''  '\x7F'

String literals

# Grammar
StringToken -> "\"" StringChar* "\""
             | "\"\"\"" TripleStringChar* "\"\"\""

StringChar -> /[^\\"]/
            | EscapeCode

TripleStringChar -> /(?!=""" ([^"]|$)) [^\\]/
                  | EscapeCode

String literals represent a sequence of ASCII text. Syntactically, they consist of zero or more characters or escape codes as described for character literals, delimited by either matching " characters or by matching """ sequences. Within "-delimited strings, the characters " and \ must be escaped, whereas in """-delimited strings, only \ need be escaped. (The sequence """ may be escaped by escaping one or more of the " characters.) Whitespace within string literals is significant, including newlines.

// Examples of string literals
"hello world"  "\"hello world\""
"""the string "hello world""""
"apples\0bananas\0oranges\0\0"  "\x1B[31mALERT\x1B[0m"

"""
"But not with you, Derek, this star nonsense."
"Yes, yes."
"Which is it then?"
"I'm not sure."
"""

Compilation strategy

Clay uses a whole-program compilation strategy, with some support for interfacing compilation units through external functions. A compilation unit originates from an entry point module, the source file for which is specified in the compiler's command line. From that module, compilation proceeds as follows:

  • Additional module source files are looked up and loaded based on the entry point module's import declarations. Those modules' imports are then loaded recursively until all necessary modules have been loaded.
  • Each module's namespace is populated by visiting its import declarations and top-level definitions. Namespace initialization does not rely on any evaluation so that forward and circular references among global names may be made freely.
  • Program entry points are established:
    • If the entry point module contains a public symbol named main, it is passed to the callMain operator function, which is responsible for calling main with its command-line arguments. callMain(static main) thus becomes an entry point, ultimately corresponding to the C ABI main entry point.
    • For a main entry point, the setArgcArgv(argc:Int32, argv:Pointer[Pointer[Int8]]) operator function is also instantiated. It is called with the argc and argv parameters from the C main function prior to callMain.
    • If the entry point module defines any external functions, they are compiled as entry points.
  • Compilation proceeds from the established entry points. Types, functions, and global variable definitions are instantiated and compiled on-demand; if a definition is not used from any entry point, it is not visited after being parsed. (In a way, Clay can be thought of as a dynamic language in which operations normally emit LLVM as a side effect instead of performing computation directly.)

Compile-time evaluation

Clay's compiler provides a compile-time evaluator, which is used to evaluate the following things at compile time:

The compile-time evaluator follows the behavior of the runtime language for the target platform, with some restrictions.

Pattern matching

# Grammar
Pattern -> AtomicPattern PatternSuffix?

AtomicPattern -> Literal
               | PatternNameRef

PatternNameRef -> DottedName

PatternSuffix -> "[" comma_list(Pattern) "]"

In addition to evaluation, Clay also uses a simple unification-based pattern matching mechanism when matching overloads to call sites and when matching instance extensions to open variant types. A pattern may consist of a literal, a named symbol, or a free pattern variable, declared in a pattern guard. Symbols may further be suffixed with a parameter pattern, which will be matched against an input symbol's parameters. The pattern is then matched structurally to its input value. The pattern match fails if the structure of the pattern does not match the structure of the input, or if a pattern variable is matched against multiple unequal values.

// Example
define foo;
define bar;

define pattern;
[T]
overload pattern(static T) { println("a"); }
overload pattern(static bar) { println("b"); }

testPattern() {
    pattern(foo); // prints a
    pattern(bar); // prints b
}

define multiPattern;
[T, U]
overload multiPattern(static T, static U) { println("c"); }
[T, T]
overload multiPattern(static T, static T) { println("d"); }

testMultiPattern() {
    multiPattern(foo, bar); // prints c
    multiPattern(foo, foo); // prints d
}

record Baz[T] ();

define paramPattern;
[T]
overload paramPattern(static T) { println("x"); }
[T]
overload paramPattern(static Baz[T]) { println("y"); }
overload paramPattern(static Baz[bar]) { println("z"); }

testParamPattern() {
    paramPattern(foo); // prints x
    paramPattern(Baz[foo]); // prints y
    paramPattern(Baz[bar]); // prints z
}

Multiple-value patterns (including symbol parameters) may end with a trailing variadic pattern variable prefixed with ... The variadic variable with greedily match zero or more remaining input values after the prior input values have been matched to previous patterns.

Modules

Clay programs are organized into modules. Modules correspond one-to-one with Clay source files. Modules are named in Clay hierarchially using dotted names; these correspond to paths in the filesystem. The name foo.bar corresponds to (in search order) foo/bar.clay or foo/bar/bar.clay under one of the compiler's search paths. Hierarchical names are only used for source organization, and no semantic relationship is implied among modules with hierarchically related names.

Modules form the basis of encapsulation and namespacing in Clay. Every module has an independent namespace comprising its imported modules and symbols, selected via import declarations, and its own defined symbols, created by top-level definitions in the module source code. Modules can control access to their namespace from other importing modules by marking symbols as public or private.

Special modules

A few modules have special significance:

  • The __primitives__ module is synthesized by the compiler; it is always present and does not correspond to a source file. It contains fundamental types such as Int, Pointer[T], and Bool; functions providing basic operations on those types; and compile-time introspection functions. The Primitives Reference documentation describes its contents in detail.
  • The prelude module is loaded automatically and implicitly imported into every other module. This module is also the one searched for operator functions.
  • If the entry point module does not declare its name in a module declaration, it is given the default name __main__. Regardless of its name, this module is searched for a main function, which if found will be used as the entry point for a standalone executable generated from the given module.

Operator functions

Operator functions are symbols defined by library code that are used by the language to implement many syntactic forms. Operator functions must currently be publicly available for lookup through the prelude module; if the compiler cannot find an operator function after loading modules and populating namespaces, it will fail. The following operator functions are currently used:

  • Functions used to desugar overloadable operators in expressions:
    • add
    • call
    • dereference
    • divide
    • equals?
    • fieldRef
    • greater?
    • greaterEquals?
    • index
    • lesser?
    • lesserEquals?
    • minus
    • multiply
    • notEquals?
    • plus
    • remainder
    • staticIndex
    • subtract
    • tupleLiteral
  • Functions used to construct values from character and string literals:
    • Char
    • StringConstant
  • Functions used to implicitly copy, destroy, and move values:
    • copy
    • destroy
    • move
  • Functions used to implement switch statements:
    • case?
  • Functions used to implement assignment statements:
    • assign
    • fieldRefAssign
    • fieldRefUpdateAssign
    • indexAssign
    • indexUpdateAssign
    • staticIndexAssign
    • staticIndexUpdateAssign
    • updateAssign
  • Functions used to implement for loops:
    • hasNext?
    • iterator
    • next
  • Functions used to construct the main entry point for standalone programs:
    • callMain
    • setArgcArgv
  • Functions used to implement exception handling for throw statements and try blocks:
    • continueException
    • exceptionIs?
    • exceptionAs
    • exceptionAsAny
    • throwValue
  • Functions used as last-resort exception handlers for global variable initialization and deletion, and for external functions:
    • exceptionInFinalizer
    • exceptionInInitializer
    • unhandledExceptionInExternal

(Some additional, wartier operator function interfaces are currently required by the compiler as well. See compiler/src/libclaynames.hpp in the compiler source if you're morbidly interested.)

Source file layout

# Grammar
Module -> Import* ModuleDeclaration? TopLevelLLVM? TopLevelItem*

A clay module corresponds to a single source file. Source files are laid out in the following order:

List syntactic forms
# Grammar
comma_list(Rule) -> (Rule ("," Rule)* ","?)?

Comma-delimited lists are a common feature in Clay's grammar. In most contexts, Clay allows a comma-delimited list to optionally end with a trailing comma.

// Example
record US_Address (
    name:String,
    street:String,
    city:String,
    state:String,
    zip:String,
);

foo(a,b,c) { return a+b, b+c; }

In pattern matching contexts, a variation of the comma-delimited list is used that allows an optional tail syntax form, representing a variadic item that greedily matches the rest of the values being matched.

# Grammar
variadic_list(Rule, LastRule) -> Rule ("," Rule)* ("," (LastRule)?)?
                               | LastRule
                               | nil

// Example
define sum(..xs);
overload sum() = 0;
overload sum(a, ..b) = a + sum(..b);

Import declarations

# Grammar
Import -> Visibility? "import" DottedName ImportSpec? ";"

ImportSpec -> "as" Identifier
            | "." "(" comma_list(ImportedItem) ")"
            | "." "*"

DottedName -> Identifier ("." Identifier)*

ImportedItem -> Visibility? Identifier ("as" Identifier)?

Import declarations connect the module to other modules by making those other modules' definitions visible in the current namespace.

All import declaration forms start with an optional public or private visibility modifier, followed by the import keyword and the name of the module. Module names consist of one or more identifiers separated by the . character. With the private modifier, the effects of the import are private to the module—the name or names imported by the declaration are not available to be imported by modules that in turn import the current module. By contrast, public imports become visible through the current module to other modules. Without an explicit visibility, the import defaults to private.

// Example
public import foo.bar;
private import foo.bar;
import foo.bar; // equivalent to `private import`

The module name is followed by an import spec, and the import declaration is ended with a semicolon. The import spec comes in one of four general forms. If no import spec is provided (that is, the semicolon immediately follows the module name), the module's name is imported into the namespace as-is. Public members of the module may then be accessed by applying the . operator to the module name.

// Example
import foo.bar; // Import module `foo.bar` as `foo.bar`

main() {
    foo.bar.apple(); // Call member `apple` of module `foo.bar`
}

Alternately, a local alias for the module may be provided with as, in which case module members are instead accessed through the given alias name:

// Example
import foo.bar as bar; // Import module `foo.bar` as `bar`

main() {
    bar.apple(); // Call member `apple` of module `foo.bar` (alias `bar`)
}

Individual members of a module may be imported directly into the current module's namespace, with or without aliases:

// Example
import foo.bar.(            // Import selected members of `foo.bar`:
    apple,                  //      public member `foo.bar.apple` as `apple`
    mandarin as clementine, //      public member `foo.bar.mandarin` as `clementine`
);

main() {
    apple();      // Call member `apple` of module `foo.bar`
    clementine(); // Call member `mandarin` of module `foo.bar` (alias `clementine`)
}

Private members of a module can also be imported by explicitly prefixing the member name with private. (You should only do this if you know what you're doing.)

// Example
import foo.bar.(private banana);

main() {
    banana();
}

Finally, all of the public members of a module may be imported directly into the current module's namespace using .*. (You should also only do this if you know what you're doing.)

// Example
import foo.bar.*; // Import all public members of `foo.bar`

main() {
    apple();
    mandarin();
}
Conflict resolution

It is an error to import two modules or module members using the same name.

// Example
import malkevich;
import bar as malkevich; // ERROR
import bar.(malkevich); // ERROR
import bar.(bar as malkevich); // ERROR

However, it is allowed to import multiple modules with .* even if they contain members with conflicting names, so long as no ambiguous names are actually referenced.

// Example
// foo.clay
a() { }
b() { }

// bar.clay
b() { }
c() { }

// main.clay
import foo.*; // ok
import bar.*; // ok

main() {
    a(); // ok, only in foo
    c(); // ok, only in bar
    b(); // ERROR, ambiguous
}

Such ambiguities can be resolved by explicitly importing the ambiguous name from one of the imported modules.

// Example
// main.clay
import foo.*;
import bar.*;
import bar.(b);

main() {
    a(); // ok, only in foo
    c(); // ok, only in bar
    b(); // ok, explicitly disambiguated to bar.b
}

A name defined in the current module may also shadow a name imported by .*, in which case the current module's definition takes precedence.

// Example
// main.clay
import foo.*;
import bar.*;

b() { }

main() {
    a(); // ok, only in foo
    c(); // ok, only in bar
    b(); // ok, resolves to locally-defined main.b
}

Such ambiguities may of course also be avoided by using as to alias the conflicting names.

Module declaration

# Grammar
ModuleDeclaration -> "in" DottedName AttributeList? ";"

AttributeList -> "(" ExprList ")"

A module may optionally declare its name using the in keyword.

// Example
import foo.bar;

in foo.bas;

Such a declaration must appear after any import declarations and before any top-level LLVM or other top-level definitions. The module declaration may optionally include a parenthesized list of module attributes. If no attribute list is provided, it is equivalent to the empty list.

// Example
in foo.bas ();
in foo.bas (Float32);

The module attribute list can be an arbitrary multiple value expression, which can reference any imported symbols but not symbols defined within the module itself.

// Example
// foo.clay
GraphicsModuleAttributes() = Float32, Int32;

// bar.clay
import foo;

in bar (..foo.GraphicsModuleAttributes());

The following kinds of module attribute are currently supported:

  • A primitive floating-point type may be specified, which will be used as the default type of floating-point literal expressions without a type suffix in the current module.
  • A primitive integer type may be specified, which will be used as the default type of integer literal expressions without a type suffix in the current module.

 

// Example
in foo (Float32, Int64);

main() {
    println(Type(1.0)); // Float32
    println(Type(3)); // Int64
}

Top-level LLVM

# Grammar
TopLevelLLVM -> LLVMBlock
LLVMBlock -> "__llvm__" "{" /.*/ "}"

A module may optionally contain a top-level block of LLVM assembly language. The given code will be emitted directly into the top level of the generated LLVM module, and may contain function declarations, metadata nodes, or other global definitions needed by __llvm__ blocks in individual inline LLVM functions. The top-level LLVM block must appear after any import declarations or module declaration and before any top-level definitions.

// Example
in traps;
// Declare the llvm.trap intrinsic for use by the trap() function.
__llvm__ {
declare void @llvm.trap()
}

trap() __llvm__ {
    call void @llvm.trap()
    ret i8* null
}

Clay static values can be interpolated into LLVM code using LLVM interpolation as described for inline LLVM functions.

Top-level definitions

# Grammar
TopLevelItem -> Record              # Types
              | Variant
              | Instance
              | Enumeration
              | Define              # Functions
              | Overload
              | Function
              | ExternalFunction
              | GlobalVariable      # Global values
              | GlobalAlias
              | ExternalVariable

Top-level definitions make up the meat of Clay source code and come in three general flavors:

Clay uses a two-pass loading mechanism. Modules are imported and their namespaces populated in one pass before any definitions are evaluated. Forward and circular references are thus possible without requiring forward declarations.

// Example
// Mutually recursive functions
hurd() { hird(); }
hird() { hurd(); }

// Mutually recursive record types
record Ping (pong:Pointer[Pong]);
record Pong (ping:Pointer[Ping]);

Most top-level definitions in Clay share common syntactic features:

Pattern guards
# Grammar
PatternGuard -> "[" comma_list(PatternVar) ("|" Expression)? "]"
PatternVar -> Identifier | ".." Identifier

Most definition forms in Clay can be genericized. Pattern guards provide the means for declaring and controlling generic behavior. A simple pattern guard declares zero or more pattern variable names enclosed in brackets, which can be used as generic types or as type parameters in the subsequent definition.

// Example
// Define printTwice for all types T
[T]
printTwice(file:File, x:T) {
    printTo(file, x);
    printTo(file, x);
}

// Define the record type Point[T] for all types T
[T]
record Point[T] (x:T, y:T);

// Define printPoint for all Stream types, and Point[T] for all T
[Stream, T]
printPoint(s:Stream, p:Point[T]) {
    printTo(s, "(", p.x, ", ", p.y, ")");
}

Variadic pattern variables can be declared in the pattern guard as a name prefixed with ...

// Example
// Define printlnTwice for any bag of types ..TT
[..TT]
printlnTwice(file:File, ..x:TT) {
    printlnTo(file, ..x);
    printlnTo(file, ..x);
}

The list of declared pattern variables may optionally be followed by a | character and predicate expression. The predicate expression constrains the domain of valid values for the declared variables to those for which the given predicate evaluates to true.

// Example
// Define the record type Point[T] for all types T where `Numeric?(T)` is true
[T | Numeric?(T)]
record Point[T] (x:T, y:T);

A predicate may also appear in a pattern guard without any pattern variables, in order to conditionalize the following definition on compiler flags or platform attributes.

// Example
platformCheck() {}

[| TypeSize(Pointer[Int]) < 4]
overload platformCheck() { error("Time for a new computer"); }
Visibility modifiers
# Grammar
Visibility -> "public" | "private"

Every form that creates a new symbol name may be prefixed with a public or private visibility modifier. public symbols are available to be imported by other modules, whereas private symbols normally are not (though they can be force-imported using special import declarations). Definitions without an explicit visibility default to public.

Visibility modifiers are not valid for definitions that modify existing symbols instead of creating new ones, such as variant instances or function overloads. In forms that do admit a visibility modifier, the modifier must appear after the pattern guard, if any, but before the subsequent definition.

Symbols

Top-level forms work by creating or modifying symbols, which are module-level global names representing types or functions. Symbol names are used in overloads and pattern matching. Symbols may also be used as singleton types; in an expression, a symbol is the only value of the primitive type Static[symbol], which has no runtime state.

// Example
define foo;

main() {
    println(Type(foo)); // Static[foo]
}

Record and variant type symbols may also be parameterized. The unparameterized base symbol name is defined as a symbol in its own right, and applying the index operator to the base name instantiates parameterized instances of the symbol.

// Example
record Foo[T] ();

main() {
    println(Foo);
    println(Foo[Int32]);
    println(Foo[Float64]);
}

Static strings

Static strings (also referred to as identifiers in some places, though that causes confusion with identifier tokens), are similar to symbols in that they have no runtime state and implicitly evaluate to singleton Static[identifier] types. Unlike symbols, static strings are not associated with any module. A static string is referenced by a string literal prefixed with a # token; the same static string is identical everywhere. A static string that is a valid identifier token may also be referenced as a bare identifier prefixed with a #.

// Example
// a.clay
foo() = #"foo";

// b.clay
foo() = #foo;

// main.clay
import a;
import b;

main() {
    println(Type(#"foo")); // Static[#foo]
    println(Type(#foo)); // Static[#foo]

    println(a.foo() == b.foo() && a.foo == #foo && b.foo == #"foo"); // true
}

Static strings are used as operands to the fieldRef operator function in order to implement the . field reference operator. The __primitives__ module provides primitive operations for indexing, composing, and extracting substrings from static strings; see the Primitives Reference for details.

Type definitions

Clay provides four different kinds of user-defined types:

Records

# Grammar
Record -> PatternGuard? Visibility? "record" TypeDefinitionName RecordBody

TypeDefinitionName -> Identifier PatternVars?
PatternVars -> "[" comma_list(PatternVar) "]"

RecordBody -> NormalRecordBody
            | ComputedRecordBody

NormalRecordBody -> "(" comma_list(RecordField) ")" ";"
ComputedRecordBody -> "=" comma_list(Expression) ";"

RecordField -> Identifier TypeSpec
TypeSpec -> ":" Pattern

Record types are general-purpose aggregates. In memory, records are laid out in a manner compatible with the equivalent struct definition in C. In the simplest form, a record definition consists of the keyword record followed by the record's name, and a list of fieldName: Type pairs, separated by commas and enclosed in parens.

// Example
record Point (x:Int, y:Int);

A record type may also be parameterized with one or more pattern variables:

// Example
[T]
record Point[T] (x:T, y:T);

[T | Float?(T)]
record FloatPoint[T] (x:T, y:T);

If no predicate expression is needed, the pattern guard is optional; the named parameters are assumed to be unbounded variables rather than existing identifiers.

// Example
record Point[T] (x:T, y:T); // [T] guard is assumed

A record type's layout can also be evaluated from an expression. If the type name is followed by an = token, the following expression is evaluated to determine the layout of the record. The expression must evaluate to a tuple of pairs, each pair containing a static string field name and a field type symbol.

// Example
// Equivalent to the non-computed Point[T] definition:
record Point[T] = [[#"x", T], [#"y", T]];

// Point with our own coordinate names
// e.g. p:Point[Complex, #"zw"] would have Complex-typed fields p.z and p.w
record PointWithCoordinates[T, xy] = [[xy.0, T], [xy.1, T]];

Record definitions currently do not directly allow for template specialization. This can be worked around using an overloaded function as a computed record body.

// Example
record Vec3D[T] = Vec3DBody(T);

private define Vec3DBody;
[T | T != Double]
overload Vec3DBody(static T) = [[#"coords", Array[T, 3]]];
// Use a SIMD vector for Float
overload Vec3DBody(static Float) = [[#"coords", Vec[Float, 4]]];

Variants

# Grammar
Variant -> PatternGuard? Visibility? "variant" TypeDefinitionName ("(" ExprList ")")? ";"

Variant type definitions create a discriminated union type. A variant value can contain a value of any of the variant's instance types. The variant value knows what type it contains, and the contained value can be dispatched to an appropriately-typed function using the dispatch operator.

Syntactically, the variant's instance types are defined after the variant name in a parenthesized list.

// Example
variant Fruit (Apple, Orange, Banana);

Like record types, variant types may be parameterized.

// Example
[C | Color?(C)]
variant Fruit[C] (Apple[C], Orange[C], Banana[C]);

Also like record types, the pattern guard is optional if no predicate is needed; the specified parameters are taken as unbounded pattern variables rather than existing identifiers.

// Example
variant Maybe[T] (Nothing, T); // [T] pattern guard implied
variant Either[T, U] (T, U); // [T, U] pattern guard implied

The variant instance list may be an arbitrary multiple value expression. It is evaluated at compile time to derive the set of instances.

// Example
private RainbowTypes(Base) =
    Base[Red], Base[Orange], Base[Yellow], Base[Green],
    Base[Blue], Base[Indigo], Base[Violet];

// Fruit will admit as instances Apple[Red], Banana[Violet], etc.
variant Fruit (..RainbowTypes(Apple), ..RainbowTypes(Banana));
Extending variants
# Grammar
Instance -> PatternGuard? "instance" Pattern "(" ExprList ")" ";"

Variant types are open. Instance types can be added to an already-defined variant using the instance keyword.

// Example
variant Exception (); // type Exception starts with no members

// introduce RangeError and TypeError as instances of Exception
record RangeError (lowerBound:Int, upperBound:Int, attemptedValue:Int);
record TypeError (expectedTypeName:String, attemptedTypeName:String);
instance Exception (RangeError, TypeError);

instance definitions bind to variant types by pattern matching the name in the instance definition to each variant type name. Parameterized variant types may be extended for concrete parameter values, over all parameter values, or over some parameter variables with the use of pattern guards:

// Example
[C | Color?(C)]
variant Fruit[C] ();

// Extend Fruit[Yellow] to contain Banana
instance Fruit[Yellow] (Banana);

// Extend Fruit[Red] and Fruit[Green] to contain Apple
[C | C == Red or C == Green]
instance Fruit[C] (Apple);

// Extend all Fruit[C] to contain Berry[C]
[C]
instance Fruit[C] (Berry[C]);

Unlike variant forms, the pattern guard is not optional when extending a variant generically; without a pattern guard, instance Variant[T] will attempt to extend only the type Variant[T] for the concrete parameter value T (which would need to be defined for the form to be valid) rather than for all values T.

Enumerations

# Grammar
Enumeration -> Visibility? "enum" Identifier "(" comma_list(Identifier) ")" ";"

Enumerations define a new type, values of which may contain one of a given set of symbolic values. In addition to the type name, the symbol names are also defined in the current module as constants of the newly-created type. The symbol names share visibility with the parent type.

// Example
enum ThreatLevel (Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Red, Midnight);

// SecurityLevel and all of its values are private
private enum SecurityLevel (
    Angel_0A, Archangel_1B,
    Principal_2C, Power_3D,
    Virtue_4E, Domination_5F,
    Throne_6G, Cherubic_7H,
    Seraphic_8X,
);

Unlike record or variant types, enumeration types cannot currently be parameterized, and their definitions do not allow pattern guards.

Lambda types

Lambda types are record-like types that capture values from their enclosing scope. Unlike records, variants, or enumerations, they are not explicitly defined in top-level forms, but are implicitly created as needed when lambda expressions are used.

Function definitions

Function definitions control most of Clay's compile-time and run-time behavior. Clay functions are inherently generic. They can be parameterized to provide equivalent behavior over a variety of types or compile-time values, and they can be overloaded to provide divergent implementations of a common interface. Runtime functions are instantiated for every valid set of input types with which they are invoked.

Simple function definitions

# Grammar
Function -> PatternGuard? Visibility? CodegenAttribute?
            Identifier Arguments ReturnSpec? FunctionBody

The simplest form of function definition creates a new function symbol with a single overload. These definitions consist of the new function's name, followed by a list of arguments, an optional list of return types, and the function body. If the return types are omitted, they are inferred from the function body. Function definitions may also use visibility modifiers and/or pattern guards.

// Example
hello() { println(helloString()); }
private helloString() = "Hello World";

squareInt(x:Int) : Int = x*x;

[T]
square(x:T) : T = x*x;

[T | Float?(T)]
quadraticRoots(a:T, b:T, c:T) : T, T {
    var q = -0.5*(b+signum(b)*sqrt(b*b - 4.*a*c));
    return q/a, c/q;
}

A simple function definition always defines a new symbol name; it is an error if a symbol with the same name already exists.

// Example
abs(x:Int) = if (x < 0) -x else x;
// ERROR: abs is already defined
abs(x:Float) = if (x < 0.) -x else if (x == 0.) 0. else x;

Overloads are necessary to extend a function with multiple implementations.

Overloaded function definitions

# Grammar
Define -> PatternGuard? "define" Identifier (Arguments ReturnSpec?)? ";"

Overload -> PatternGuard? CodegenAttribute? "overload"
            Pattern Arguments ReturnSpec? FunctionBody

Simple function definitions define a symbol and attach a function implementation to the symbol in lockstep, but the two steps can also be performed independently. The define keyword defines a symbol without any initial overloads. The overload keyword extends an already-defined symbol with new implementations.

// Example
define abs;
overload abs(x:Int) = if (x < 0) -x else x;
overload abs(x:Float) = if (x < 0.) -x else if (x == 0.) 0. else x;

A define may also define an interface constraint for the symbol by following the symbol name with a list of arguments and optional return types. All overloads attached to the symbol must conform to a subset of the specified interface. If the define form does not specify arguments or return types, then the argument types and/or return types of the created symbol's overloads are unconstrained.

// Example
[T | Numeric?(T)]
define abs(x:T) : T;

[T | Integer?(T)]
overload abs(x:T) = if (x < 0) -x else x;
[T | Float?(T)]
overload abs(x:T) = if (x < 0.) -x else if (x == 0.) 0. else x;

// Not valid because Numeric?(String) is false
overload abs(x:String) {
    if (x[0] == "-")
        return sliceFrom(x, 1);
    else
        return x;
}

Overloads can extend not only symbols created by define, but type name symbols as well. Overloading type names is used idiomatically to implement constructor functions for types.

// Example
record LatLong (latitude:Float64, longitude:Float64);
record Address (street:String, city:String, state:String, zip:String);

overload Address(coords:LatLong) = geocode(coords);

Overloads bind to symbols by pattern matching. Overloads may thus attach to parameterized type names for all or some of their possible parameters.

// Example
record Point[T] (x:T, y:T);

// default-initialize points to a known-bad value
[T | Float?(T)]
overload Point[T]() = Point[T](nan(T), nan(T));

overload Point[Int]() = Point[Int](-0x8000_0000, 0x7FFF_FFFF);

The unparameterized base name of a type also may be overloaded independently of its parameterized instances.

// Example
// if no T given, give them a Point[Float]
overload Point() = Point[Float]();

Within a module, overloads are matched to a call site's symbol name and argument types in reverse definition order. (If you think this is stupid, you are correct.) The first overload that matches gets instantiated for the call site.

// Example
define foo(x);

// oops, the second overload gets visited first and always wins
overload foo(x:Int) { println("Hey, over here!"); }

overload foo(x) {
    println("Pay no attention to that overload behind the curtain.");
}

Match order among overloads from different modules is done walking the import graph depth-first. (If you think is this really stupid, you are correct.) Resolution order among circularly-dependent modules is undefined.

// Example
// a.clay
define foo(x);
// visited last
overload foo(x:Int) {}

// b.clay
import a;
// visited second
overload a.foo(x:Int) {}

// c.clay
import b;
import a;
// visited first
overload a.foo(x:Int) {}

Symbols created by simple function definitions may also be overloaded; in fact, a simple function definition is simply shorthand for an unconstrained define followed by an overload.

// Example
double(x) = x+x;
// is equivalent to:
define double;
overload double(x) = x+x;

Universal overloads are supported as a special case, in which the overloaded symbol name is itself a pattern variable.

// Example
record MyInt (value:Int);

// delegate any function called with a MyInt to be called on its Int value
[F]
overload F(x:MyInt) = ..F(x.value);

// Implement a default constructor for any Numeric? type
[T | Numeric?(T)]
overload T() = T(0);

Such overloads are matched against all call sites that aren't matched first by a more specific overload. In other words, universal overloads are ordered after all specific overloads.

Note that if a call site does not use a symbol in the function position, it is desugared into a call to the call operator function.

// Example
record MyCallable ();

overload call(f:MyCallable, x:Int, y:Int) : Int = x + y;

main() {
    var f = MyCallable();
    println(f(1, 2)); // really call(f, 1, 2)
}

Arguments

# Grammar
Arguments -> "(" ArgumentList ")"

ArgumentList -> variadic_list(Argument, VarArgument)

Argument -> NamedArgument
          | StaticArgument

NamedArgument -> ReferenceQualifier? Identifier TypeSpec?

Arguments are declared in a parenthesized list of names, each name optionally followed by a type specifier. The type specifiers are matched to the types of a call site's input values using pattern matching. If an argument is declared without a type specifier, it has an implicit unbounded pattern variable as its type specifier.

// Example
// Define double(x) for any type of x, with an explicit pattern var
[T]
double(x:T) = x+x;

// Define double(x) for any type of x, with less typing
double(x) = x+x;

Arguments are passed by reference.

// Example
inc(x:Int) {
    x += 1;
}

main() {
    var x = 2;
    println(x); // prints 2
    inc(x);
    println(x); // prints 3
}
Variadic arguments
# Grammar
VarArgument -> ReferenceQualifier? ".." Identifier TypeSpec?

The final argument of a function may be declared as variadic by being prefixed with a .. token, in which case it will match all remaining arguments after the previously-matched arguments. The argument name will be bound as a multiple value variable.

// Example
// Print ..stuff n times
printlnTimes(n:Int, ..stuff) {
    for (i in range(n))
        println(..stuff);
}

main(args) {
    printlnTimes(3, "She loves you ", "yeah yeah yeah");
}

The types of the variadic argument's values may be bound to a variadic pattern variable. In the argument specification, the multi-type variable's name does not require a second .. token.

// Example
// Print ..stuff n times, for only String? ..stuff
[..TT | allValues?(String?, ..TT)]
printlnTimes(n:Int, ..stuff:TT) {
    for (i in range(n))
        println(..stuff);
}

// Call a CodePointer object with input values matching its input types
[..In, ..Out]
overload call(f:CodePointer[[..In], [..Out]], ..in:In) : ..Out {
    return ..f(..in);
}
Reference qualifiers
# Grammar
ReferenceQualifier -> "ref" | "rvalue" | "forward"

Argument declarations may be prefixed with an optional reference qualifier. Clay distinguishes "lvalues", which are values bound to a variable, referenced through a pointer, or otherwise with externally-referenceable identities, from "rvalues", which are unnamed temporary values that will exist only for the extent of a single function call. (The terms come from an lvalue being a valid expression on the Left side of an assignment statement, whereas an rvalue is only valid on the Right side.) Local and global variables are lvalues, as are any expressions that return by reference; the results of return-by-value expressions are rvalues.

// Example
// The result of `2+2` in this example is bound to `x` and is thus an lvalue
lv() {
    var x = 2 + 2;
    f(x);
}

// The result of `2+2` in this example is temporary and is thus an rvalue
rv() {
    f(2 + 2);
}

Since rvalues are only referenceable for the duration of a single function call, functions can take advantage of this fact to perform move optimization. They can reclaim resources from their rvalue arguments instead of allocating new resources. In an argument list, an argument name may be annotated with the rvalue keyword, in which case it will only match rvalues. Rvalues will be deleted using the destroy operator function at the end of the statement for which they were allocated.

// Example
foo(rvalue x:String) {
    // Use `move` to steal x's buffer, then append " world" to the end
    return move(x) + " world";
}

Conversely, an argument name may be annotated with the ref keyword, in which case it will only match lvalues.

// Example
bar(ref x:String) {
    // Return a slice referencing the first five characters of x;
    // a bad idea if x is an rvalue and will be deallocated soon after
    // we return
    return sliced(x, 0, 5);
}

Without a ref or rvalue qualifier, the argument will match either lvalues or rvalues of a matching type. Within the function body, the argument's name will be bound as an lvalue.

// Example
foo(rvalue x:Int) {}

bar(x:Int) {
    // ERROR: our name `x` is an lvalue, even if bound to an rvalue from the caller
    foo(x);
}

main() {
    bar(2+2);
}

If a function needs to carry the ref- or rvalue-ness of an arbitrary argument through to other functions, it may qualify that argument with the forward keyword.

// Example
foo(rvalue x:Int) {}

bar(forward x:Int) {
    foo(x); // ok: we forward the rvalue-ness of our input from main()
}

main() {
    bar(2+2);
}

The ref, rvalue, and forward qualifiers may be applied to a variadic argument name, in which case the qualifier applies to all of the values the name matches. forward variadic arguments are especially useful for providing "perfect forwarding" through wrapper functions that should not alter the behavior of the functions they wrap.

// Example
trace(f, forward ..args) {
    println("enter ", f);
    finally println("exit  ", f);

    return forward ..f(..args);
}
Static arguments
# Grammar
StaticArgument -> "static" Pattern

Functions may match against values computed at compile-time using static arguments. A static argument matches against the result of a corresponding static expression at the call site using pattern matching.

// Example
define beetlejuice;

[n]
overload beetlejuice(static n) {
    for (i in range(n))
        println("Beetlejuice!");
}

// Unroll the common case
overload beetlejuice(static 3) {
    println("Beetlejuice!");
    println("Beetlejuice!");
    println("Beetlejuice!");
}

main() {
    beetlejuice(static 3);
}

In expressions, symbols and static strings are implicitly static and will also match static arguments.

// Example
define defaultValue;

[T]
defaultValue(static T) = T(0);

[T | Float?(T)]
defaultValue(static T) = nan(T);

main() {
    println(defaultValue(Int)); // 0
    println(defaultValue(Float64)); // nan
}

static arguments are implemented as syntactic sugar for an unnamed argument of primitive type Static[T].

// Example
[n] foo(static n) { }
// is equivalent to (aside from binding the name 'x'):
[n] foo(x:Static[n]) { }

Return types

# Grammar
ReturnSpec -> ReturnTypeSpec
            | NamedReturnSpec

ReturnTypeSpec -> ":" ExprList

A function definition may declare its return types by following the argument list with a : and a multiple value expression that evaluates to the return types. The expression may refer to any pattern variables bound by the argument list. If a return statement in the function body returns values of types that do not match the declared types, it is an error.

// Example
double(x:Int) : Int = x + x;

[T]
diagonal(x:T) : Point[T] = Point[T](x, x);

[T | Integer?(T)]
safeDouble(x:T) : NextLargerInt(T) {
    alias NextT = NextLargerInt(T);
    return NextT(x) + NextT(x);
}

If the function does not declare its return types, they will be inferred from the function body. To declare that a function returns no values, an empty return declaration (or a declaration that evaluates to no values) may be used.

// Example
foo() { } // infers no return values from the body

foo() : { } // explicitly declares no return values

foo() : () { } // also explicitly declares no return values
Named return values
NamedReturnSpec -> "-->" comma_list(NamedReturn)

NamedReturn -> ".."? Identifier ":" Expression

In special cases where constructing a return value as a whole is inadequate or inefficient, a function may bind names directly referencing its uninitialized return values. The return values may then be constructed piecemeal using initialization statements. Named returns are declared by following the argument list with a --> token. Similar to arguments, each subsequent named return value is declared with a name followed by a type specifier. Unlike arguments, the type specifier is required and is evaluated as an expression rather than matched as a pattern. A variadic named return may also be declared prefixed with a .. token, in which case the type expression is evaluated as a multiple value expression.

Note that named return values are inherently unsafe (hence the intentionally awkward syntax). They start out uninitialized and thus must be initialized with initialization statements (<--) rather than simple assignment statements (=); any operation other than initialization will have undefined behavior before the value is initialized. Special care must be taken with named returns and exception safety; since named return values are not implicitly destroyed during unwinding, even if partially or fully initialized, explicit catch blocks or onerror scope guard statements must be used to release resources in case an exception terminates the function.

// Example
record SOAPoint (xs:Vector[Float], ys:Vector[Float]);

overload SOAPoint(size:SizeT) --> returned:SOAPoint
{
    returned.xs <-- Vector[Float]();
    onerror destroy(returned.xs);
    resize(returned.xs, size);

    returned.ys <-- Vector[Float]();
    onerror destroy(returned.ys);
    resize(returned.ys, size);
}

Function body

# Grammar
FunctionBody -> Block
              | "=" ReturnExpression ";"
              | LLVMBlock

The implementation of a function is contained in its body. The most common body form is a block containing a series of statements.

// Example
demBones(a, b) {
    println(a, " bone's connected to the ", b, " bone");
}

main() {
    var bones = array("arm", "shoulder", "thigh", "hip", "leg");
    for (a in bones)
        for (b in bones)
            demBones(a, b);
}

If the function body consists of a single return statement, a shorthand form is provided. In lieu of the block and return keyword, = can be used after the argument and return type declarations. The = form is equivalent to the block-and-return form.

// Example
square(x) = x*x;
// is exactly the same as
square(x) {
    return x*x;
}

overload index(a:PitchedArray[T], i) = ref a.arr[i*a.pitch];
// is exactly the same as
overload index(a:PitchedArray[T], i) {
    return ref a.arr[i*a.pitch];
}
Inline LLVM functions
# Grammar
LLVMBlock -> "__llvm__" "{" /.*/ "}"

A function may also be implemented directly in LLVM assembly language by specifying the body as an __llvm__ block. The contents of the block will be emitted literally into the function's body.

LLVM blocks currently leak an unfortunate amount of implementation detail. To return values into Clay, named returns must be used. Arguments and named return values are bound as LLVM pointers of the corresponding LLVM type; for instance, an argument x:Int32 will be available as the i32*-typed value %x in the LLVM code. Clay functions internally return a value of type i8* which should normally be null; thus, all LLVM basic blocks that exit the function must end with ret i8* null.

// Example
// Who needs `__primitives__.numericAdd`?
overload add(x:Int32, y:Int32) --> sum:Int32 __llvm__ {
    %xv = load i32* %x
    %yv = load i32* %y
    %sumv = add i32 %xv, %yv
    store i32 %sumv, i32* %sum
    ret i8* null
}

Static values can be interpolated into the LLVM code using the forms $Identifier or ${Expression}. Symbols are interpolated as their underlying LLVM type; static strings are interpolated literally; and static integer, floating-point, and boolean values are interpolated as the equivalent LLVM numeric literals.

// Example
// A generic form of the above that works for all integer types

alias NORMAL_RETURN = #"ret i8* null";

[T | Integer?(T)]
overload add(x:T, y:T) --> sum:T __llvm__ {
    %xv = load $T* %x
    %yv = load $T* %y
    %sumv = add $T %xv, %yv
    store $T %sumv, $T* %sum
    $NORMAL_RETURN
}

If an inline LLVM block references intrinsics, metadata nodes, or other global LLVM symbols, those symbols must be declared in a top-level LLVM block.

Inline LLVM function bodies currently cannot be evaluated at compile time.

Inline and alias qualifiers

# Grammar
CodegenAttribute -> "inline" | "alias"

Any simple function or overload definition may be modified by an optional inline or alias attribute:

  • inline functions are compiled directly into their caller after their arguments are evaluated. If inlining is impossible (for instance, if the function is recursive), a compile-time error is raised. inline function code is also rendered invisible to debuggers or other source analysis tools. Clay's inline is intended primarily for trivial operator definitions rather than as the weaker code generation/linkage hint provided by C99 or C++'s inline modifiers.
  • alias functions evaluate their arguments using call-by-name semantics. In short, alias functions behave like C preprocessor macros without the hygiene or precedence issues. In detail: The caller, instead of evaluating the alias function's arguments and passing the values to the function, will pass the argument expressions themselves into the function as closure-like entities. Unlike actual lambda expressions, references into the caller's scope from alias arguments are statically resolved. Argument expressions are evaluated inside the alias function every time they are referenced. Alias functions are implicitly specialized on their source location and thus can use compilation context operators to query their source location and other compilation context information.

 

// Example
// An "assert()" function that only evaluates its argument if Debug?() is true

Debug?() = false;

define assert(x:Bool);

[| not Debug?()]
alias overload assert(x:Bool) { }

[| Debug?()]
alias overload assert(x:Bool) {
    if (not x) {
        printlnTo(stderr, __FILE__, ":", __LINE__, ": assertion failed!");
        abort();
    }
}

External functions

# Grammar
ExternalFunction -> Visibility? "external" AttributeList?
                    Identifier "(" ExternalArgs ")"
                    ":" Type? (FunctionBody | ";")

ExternalArgs -> variadic_list(ExternalArg, "..")

ExternalArg -> Identifier TypeSpec

Normal Clay functions are generated with internal linkage, and are compiled and linked together into an executable or object file as a single compilation unit. External function definitions must be used to define the interface with code from outside the unit, whether it be Clay code calling out to existing C or C++ libraries, or C, C++, or Clay code wanting to call into a precompiled Clay library.

An external definition without a function body declares an external entry point for access by Clay code. Variadic C functions may also be declared by including a trailing .. token in the declared argument list.

// Example
// Call out to `puts` and `printf` from libc
external puts(s:Pointer[Int8]) : Int;
external printf(fmt:Pointer[Int8], ..) : Int;

main() {
    puts(cstring("Hello world!"));
    printf(cstring("1 + 1 = %d"), 1 + 1);
}

An external definition with a body defines a Clay function with external linkage. The function will use C's symbol naming and calling convention (including passed-by-value arguments), in order to be linkable from C or other C-compatible language code.

// Example
// square.clay:
// Implement an function in Clay and make it available to C.
external square(x:Float64) : Float64 = x*x;

/*
 * square.c:
 */
#include <stdio.h>

double square(double x);

int main() {
    printf("%g\n", square(2.0));
}

Compared to internal Clay functions, external functions have several limitations:

  • External functions cannot be generic. Their argument and return types must be fully specified. Return types cannot be inferred, and named return bindings cannot be used. The definition cannot include a pattern guard. External functions cannot be overloaded.
  • External functions may return only zero or one values.
  • <stdarg.h>-compatible variadic C functions may be declared and called from Clay, but implementing C variadic functions is currently unsupported.
  • Clay exceptions cannot currently be propagated across an external boundary. A Clay exception that is unhandled in an external function will be passed to the unhandledExceptionInExternal operator function.
  • Clay types with nontrivial copy or destroy operator function overloads may not be passed by value to external functions. They must be passed by pointer instead.

Although they define a top-level name, external function names are not true symbols. An external function's name instead evaluates directly to a value of the primitive CCodePointer[[..InTypes], [..OutTypes]] type representing the external's function pointer.

External functions cannot currently be called by the compile-time evaluator.

External attributes

A parenthesized multiple value expression list may be provided after the external keyword in order to set attributes on the external function. A string value in the attribute list controls the function's external linkage name.

// Example
// Bypass crt1 and provide our own entry point
external write(fildes:Int, buf:Pointer[Int8], nbyte:SizeT) : SSizeT;

alias STDOUT_FILENO = 1;

external ("_start") start() {
    var greeting = "hello world";
    write(STDOUT_FILENO, cstring(greeting), size(greeting));
}

In the __primitives__ module, symbols are provided that, when used as external attributes, set the calling convention used by the function:

  • AttributeCCall corresponds to the default C calling convention.
  • AttributeLLVMCall uses the native LLVM calling convention. This can be used to bind to LLVM intrinsics or functions written in other LLVM-based languages.
  • AttributeStdCall, AttributeFastCall, and AttributeThisCall correspond to legacy x86 calling conventions on Windows.

Global value definitions

Like many old-fashioned languages, Clay supports global state.

Global aliases

# Grammar
GlobalAlias -> PatternGuard? Visibility?
               "alias" Identifier PatternVars? "=" Expression ";"

Analogous to alias functions, global aliases define a global expression that is evaluated on a call-by-name basis. This is useful for defining symbolic constants without allocating a true global variable.

// Example
alias PI = 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288;

degreesToRadians(deg:Double) : Double = (PI/180.)*deg;

Global aliases may be parameterized with a pattern guard. If no predicate is necessary, the pattern guard is optional; the given parameters will be taken as unbounded pattern variables.

// Example
[T | Float?(T)]
alias PI[T] = T(3.14159265358979323846264338327950288);

alias ZERO[T] = T(0); // [T] pattern guard implied

Global alias definitions do not define true symbols. The alias name evaluates directly into the bound expression.

Global variables

# Grammar
GlobalVariable -> PatternGuard? Visibility?
                  "var" Identifier PatternVars? "=" Expression ";"

Global variable definitions instantiate a globally-visible mutable variable. The bound expression is evaluated at runtime, before the main() entry point is called, to initialize the global variable. The variable's type is inferred from the type of the expression.

// Example
var msg = noisyString();

// This happens before main()
noisyString() {
    println("The following message is not endorsed by this global variable.");
    return String();
}

a() { push(msg, "Hello "); }
b() { push(msg, "world!"); }

main() {
    a();
    b();
    println(msg);
}

Global variables may be parameterized with a pattern guard. If no predicate is necessary, the pattern guard is optional; the given parameters will be taken as unbounded pattern variables.

// Example
// Generate tags for an "any" type as needed
private var TAG_COUNTER = 0;

private nextTagCounter() {
    inc(TAG_COUNTER);
    return TAG_COUNTER;
}

[T]
private var ANY_TAG[T] = nextTagCounter();

record Any (tag:Int, handle:RawPointer);

[T]
overload Any(forward value:T) {
    return Any(ANY_TAG[T], RawPointer(allocateObject(value)));
}

Global variables are instantiated on an as-needed basis. If a global variable is never referenced by runtime-executed code, it will not be instantiated. Global initializers should not be counted on for effects other than initializing the variable.

// Example
var rodney = f();

// rodney will not be instantiated, and this will not be executed
f() {
    println("I get no respect, I tell ya");
    return 0;
}

main() { }

Global variable initializer expressions are evaluated in dependency order, and it is an error if there is a circular dependency. The order of initialization among independently-initialized global variables is undefined. If an exception is thrown during global variable initialization, the exceptionInInitializer operator function is called.

// Example
var a = c + 1; // runs second
var b = a + c; // runs third
var c = 0;     // runs first

abc() = a + b + c;
var d = abc(); // runs fourth

// ERROR: circularity
var x = y;
var y = x;

// ERROR: circularity
getY() = y;
var x = getY();
var y = x;

Global variables are deleted in reverse initialization order using the destroy operator function after the program's main entry point has finished executing. If an exception is thrown during deletion, the exceptionInFinalizer operator function is called.

Since global variable initializers are executed at runtime, global variables are currently poorly supported by compile-time evaluation. The pointer value and type of global variables may be safely derived at compile time; however, the initial value of a global variable at compile time is currently undefined, and though a global variable may be initialized and mutated during compile time, the compile-time value of the global is not propagated in any form to runtime.

Global variable names are not true symbols. A global variable name evaluates to a reference to the global variable's value.

Runtime global variable access is subject to the memory model standardized in C11 and C++11. The __primitives__ module includes primitive atomic operations for atomic value access; see the primitive modules reference for details.

External variables

# Grammar
ExternalVariable -> Visibility? "external" AttributeList? Identifier TypeSpec ";"

C extern variables can be linked to with external variable definitions. An external variable definition consists of the variable name followed by its type. Like external functions, external variables cannot be parameterized.

// Example
// The year is 1979. Errno is still a global variable...
external errno : Int;

main() {
    if (null?(fopen(cstring("hello.txt"), cstring("r"))))
        println("error code ", errno);
}

Like external functions, external variable definitions may include an optional attribute list after the external keyword. Currently, the only kind of attribute supported is a string, which if provided, specifies the linkage name for the variable.

// Example
external ("____errno$OBSCURECOMPATIBILITYTAG") errno : Int;

Externally-linkable global variables defined in Clay are currently unsupported. External variables cannot currently be evaluated by the compile-time evaluator.

Statements

Statement -> Block
           | Assignment
           | IfStatement
           | SwitchStatement
           | WhileStatement
           | ForStatement
           | MultiValueForStatement
           | ReturnStatement
           | GotoStatement
           | BreakStatement
           | ContinueStatement
           | ThrowStatement
           | TryStatement
           | ScopeGuardStatement
           | EvalStatement
           | ExprStatement

Statements form the basic unit of control flow within function definitions.

Blocks

# Grammar
Block -> "{" (Statement | Binding | LabelDef)* "}"

Blocks group sequences of statements and provide scopes for local variable bindings. Within a block, statements are executed sequentially except as modified by control flow statements.

// Example
main() {
    println("VENI");
    println("VIDI");
    println("VICI");
}
Labels
# Grammar
LabelDef -> Identifier ":"

In addition to statements, blocks may also contain labels, which provide targets for goto statements. A label is declared as an identifier followed by a : token. Label names are lexically scoped to their parent block.

// Example
main() {
second_verse:
    println("I'm Henry VIII I am");
    println("I'm Henry VIII I am I am");
    goto second_verse;
}

Expression statements

# Grammar
ExprStatement -> CallWithTrailingBlock
               | Expression ";"
CallWithTrailingBlock -> AtomicExpr CallSuffix ":" (Lambda "::")*
                         ArgumentList LambdaArrow Block

The simplest form of statement is a single expression followed by a ; token. The expression is evaluated, and its return values, if any, are immediately deleted using the destroy operator function. If the expression returns by reference, the references are simply discarded without the referenced values being deleted.

// Example
main() {
    1 + 2;
    println("Hi");
}

As a special case, if a call expression with a block lambda expression as its final argument is used as a statement, the semicolon after the final lambda block may be omitted.

// Example
enableMode(maybeMode:Maybe[Mode]) {
    maybe(maybeMode): mode -> {
        println(mode.name, " mode selected");
    } :: () -> {
        println("Please select a mode");
    }
    // no semicolon
}

Return statements

# Grammar
ReturnStatement -> "return" ReturnExpression? ";"
ReturnExpression -> ReturnKind? ExprList ";"
ReturnKind -> "ref" | "forward"

Return statements end execution of the current function and provide the return value or values to which the function evaluates.

// Example
foo(x, y) {
    return x + y;
}

main() {
    println(foo(1, 2)); // prints 3
}

The function body = shorthand syntax is sugar for a block containing a single return statement.

// Example
// shorthand for the above
foo(x, y) = x + y;

Functions with branching control flow may have multiple return statements. The return types of each return statement within a function must match. If the function declares its return types, return statement values must also match the types declared.

// Example
[T | Float?(T)]
quadraticRoots(a:T, b:T, c:T) : T, T {
    if (b == 0.) {
        var r = sqrt(-c/a);
        return r, -r;
    }

    var q = -0.5*(b+signum(b)*sqrt(b*b - 4.*a*c));
    return q/a, c/q;
}

If control flow leaves code unreachable after all return statements, the compiler will raise an error.

// Example
populateArk() {
    rescueAmphibians();
    rescueReptiles();
    rescueBirds();
    rescueMammals();
    return;

    // ERROR: unreachable code
    rescueDinosaurs();
}

Functions may return by reference with return ref. The return values must all be lvalues, and the function will itself evaluate to an lvalue or lvalues. If there are multiple return statements, their ref-ness in addition to their return types must match.

// Example
record PitchedVector[T] (vec:Vector[T], pitch:SizeT);

[T]
overload index(pv:PitchedVector[T], n) {
    return ref pv.vec[n*pv.pitch];
}

record ZippedSequence[A,B] (a:A, b:B)

[A,B]
overload index(ab:ZippedSequence[A,B], n) {
    return ref ab.a[n], ab.b[n];
}

A return statement may also generically forward the ref-ness of its values with return forward. For each returned value, if the value is an lvalue, it is returned by reference; otherwise, it is returned by value.

// Example
// A more generic version of above that works for lvalue or rvalue sequences
[A,B]
overload index(ab:ZippedSequence[A,B], n) {
    return forward ab.a[n], ab.b[n];
}

Local variable bindings

Binding -> BindingKind comma_list(Identifier) "=" ExprList ";"
BindingKind -> "var" | "ref" | "forward" | "alias"

Local variables are introduced by binding statements. Local variables come in a few different flavors:

  • var bindings create new, independent local values. The right-hand expression is evaluated to initialize the values as if by an initialization statement.

    // Example
    main() {
        var x = 1;
        var y = 2;
        println("x = ", x, "; y = ", y); // x = 1; y = 2
        y = 3;
        println("x = ", x, "; y = ", y); // x = 1; y = 3
    }
    

    vars have deterministic lifetimes. They will be deleted by being passed to the destroy operator function at the end of their containing block.

    // Example
    record Noisy (x:Int);
    
    overload Noisy() { println("created"); return Noisy(0); }
    overload destroy(x:Noisy) { println("destroyed"); }
    
    main() {
        var x = Noisy(); // prints "created"
        println("hello world"); // prints "hello world"
    } // prints "destroyed"
    

    Deletion of vars happens when their scope is exited for any reason, whether by normal control flow, by return, break, continue, or goto statements, or by unwinding caused by exceptions.

  • ref bindings create named references to existing lvalues. (See Reference qualifiers for a discussion of lvalues and rvalues.)

    // Example
    main() {
        var x = 1;
        ref y = x;
        println("x = ", x, "; y = ", y); // x = 1; y = 1
        y = 3;
        println("x = ", x, "; y = ", y); // x = 3; y = 3
    }
    

    A ref binding only binds a new name to an existing value and does not affect the lifetime of the value. If the ref references a value in dynamically-allocated memory, care must be taken that the ref is not referenced after the underlying value is freed.

    // Example
    external malloc(size:SizeT) : Pointer[Int8];
    external free(p:Pointer[Int8]) :;
    
    main() {
        var p = Pointer[Int](malloc(TypeSize(Int)));
        ref x = p^;
        free(Pointer[Int8](p));
        // oops, the ref x is still in scope, but its underlying value was freed
        x = 0;
    }
    
  • forward bindings can be used if a binding needs to be generic over lvalues or rvalues. If the bound value is an lvalue, the bound variable behaves like a ref and references the existing value; otherwise, it behaves like var and moves the temporary value into a new local value.

    // Example
    
    main() {
        var xs = range(4); // 0 to 3 as a lazy sequence
        var ys = array(0, 1, 2, 3); // 0 to 3 as an in-memory sequence
    
        // xs[2] is an rvalue, so x2 will store it in a new `var`
        // ys[2] is an lvalue, so y2 will be a `ref` to ys[2]
        forward x2, y2 = xs[2], ys[2];
    }
    
  • alias bindings have call-by-name semantics, like alias functions or global aliases. The alias's name expands to the bound expression (evaluated in its original lexical context) every time it is referenced.

Multiple variable bindings can be assigned to the values of a multiple value expression. Each value from the right-hand side is bound to the corresponding variable name on the left-hand side. It is an error if the number of values does not correspond to the number of variables.

// Example
twoAndThree() = 2, 3;

main() {
    // x = 1; y = 2
    var x, y = 1, 2;

    // a = 1; b = 2; c = 3; d = 4
    var a, b, c, d = 1, ..twoAndThree(), 4;
}

If multiple variables are being bound, the right-hand side is implicitly evaluated in multiple value context.

// Example
oneAndTwo() = 1, 2;

main() {
    // x = 1; y = 2
    var x, y = oneAndTwo();
}

Variable names are scoped from after the binding statement to the end of their enclosing block. New binding names may shadow module-global names, variable names from outer scopes, or previous bindings from the same block. Variable names are bound after the right-hand expression is evaluated, so the right-hand expression may refer to outer bindings before they are shadowed.

// Example
var x = 1;

main() {
    println(x); // prints 1
    var x = x + 1;
    println(x); // prints 2
    {
        var x = x + 1;
        println(x); // prints 3
        var x = x + 1;
        println(x); // prints 4
    }
    println(x); // prints 2
}

Binding statements must appear in a block. A binding statement cannot be used as a single-statement body of an if, while or other compound statement.

// Example
foo() {
    if (true)
        var x = 1; // ERROR
}

Assignment statements

# Grammar
Assignment -> ExprList AssignmentOp ExprList ";"
AssignmentOp -> "="
              | "+=" | "-=" | "*=" | "/=" | "%="
              | "<--"

Assignment statements update variables with new values.

Simple assignment statements

The most common form of assignment uses the = token. The multiple value expression on the right side of the = is evaluated, followed by the left side. It is an error if the number of values on the left and right sides do not match. If both sides evaluate to a single value, the assign operator function is called with the left and right values.

// Example
main() {
    var x = 1;
    x = 2;
    // is equivalent to
    assign(x, 2);
}

If both sides evaluate to multiple values, the right-hand values are evaluated into temporary values, and each temporary value is then moved and assigned to the corresponding left-hand value using assign. This allows multiple-value assignment to safely shuffle values.

// Example
main() {
    var x = 1;
    var y = 2;
    x, y = y, x;

    // is like

    var tmp1 = y;
    var tmp2 = x;
    assign(x, move(tmp1));
    assign(y, move(tmp2));
}

shellGame(shellA, shellB, shellC) {
    shellB, shellC, shellA = shellA, shellB, shellC;
    shellC, shellB, shellA = shellA, shellB, shellC;
    shellA, shellC, shellB = shellA, shellB, shellC;
    shellB, shellA, shellC = shellA, shellB, shellC;
    shellC, shellA, shellB = shellA, shellB, shellC;
}

The left-hand expression should generally evaluate to an lvalue or lvalues; however, this is not strictly enforced. assign may also be overloaded for non-lvalues in order to support temporary proxy-assignment objects. Typical assign overloads should qualify their left-hand argument as ref.

If the left-hand expression is a single index, static index, or field reference expression, special property assignment operator functions are used instead of assign.

  • a[..b] = c; desugars into indexAssign(a, ..b, c);
  • a.0 = c; desugars into staticIndexAssign(a, static 0, c);
  • a.field = c; desugars into fieldRefAssign(a, #"field", c);

Property assignment operators are currently only supported for single assignment. Multiple-value assignment will always be evaluated, moved, and assigned as described above.

Assignment is a statement in Clay. Attempting to use assignment in an expression is a syntax error.

// Example
foo(x) {
    // ERROR
    if (x = 0)
        zero();
}
Update assignment statements

Like other C-like languages, Clay provides special assignment syntax for updating a value using one of the additive operators or multiplicative operators.

// Example
main() {
    var x = 1;
    println(x);
    x += 1;
    println(x);
}

The assignment tokens +=, -=, *=, /=, and %= desugar into calls to the updateAssign operator function, which is passed three arguments: the add, subtract, multiply, divide, or remainder operator symbol corresponding to the update operation; the left-hand value; and the right-hand value. Update assignment is currently only supported for single values.

// Example
main() {
    var x = 1;

    x += 1;
    x -= 2;
    x *= 4;
    x /= 8;
    x %= 16;

    // equivalent to

    updateAssign(add, x, 1);
    updateAssign(subtract, x, 2);
    updateAssign(multiply, x, 4);
    updateAssign(divide, x, 8);
    updateAssign(remainder, x, 16);
}

Like single-value simple assignment, update assignment also supports special property update operators for when the left-hand expression is an index, static index, or field reference expression.

  • a[..b] += c; desugars into indexUpdateAssign(add, a, ..b, c);
  • a.0 += c; desugars into staticIndexUpdateAssign(add, a, static 0, c);
  • a.field += c; desugars into fieldRefUpdateAssign(add, a, #"field", c);
Initialization statements

The above assignment operators assume that the values being assigned have already been initialized. If the prior value owns resources, the assign implementation needs to adjust or release those resources to accommodate the new value. However, if the value being updated is uninitialized, such as when it comes from a primitive memory allocator like malloc or is a named return value, the value has no defined state, and there are no already-existing resources to manage. In these cases, initialization must be performed instead of assignment.

// Example
main() {
    var p = allocateRawMemory(Foo);
    finally freeRawMemory(p);

    p^ <-- Foo();
}

Unlike the other assignment forms, initialization is handled as a primitive. The left-hand expression must evaluate to an lvalue or lvalues. If the right-hand expression returns by value, then a reference to the left-hand side is implicitly passed to the outermost function invocation on the right-hand side. Return statements in the called function will write their return values directly into the left-hand value to initialize it.

// Example
foo(p:Pointer[Int]) {
    p^ <-- bar();
}

bar() {
    return 2; // The value 2 is directly written into p^
}

If the right-hand side is an lvalue, the copy operator function, which must return by value, is called to copy the value into the left-hand side.

// Example
foo(p:Pointer[Int]) {
    var x = 1;
    p^ <-- x; // really p^ <-- copy(x);
}

As a special case, if the right-hand side is a forward argument bound to an rvalue, the move operator function (which must also return by value) is applied instead of copy.

// Example
foo(p:Pointer[Int], forward x:Int) {
    p^ <-- x;
}

bar(p:Pointer[Int]) {
    var x = 2;
    foo(p, 2); // p^ <-- move(2);
    foo(p, x); // p^ <-- copy(x);
}

var binding statements behave identically to initialization statements when initializing their newly-bound variables.

Note that, just as assigning uninitialized values with = is undefined, so is initializing already-initialized values with <--. The <-- operator should not generally be used except when necessary.

Conditional statements

# Grammar
IfStatement -> "if" "(" Expression ")" Statement
               ("else" Statement)?

SwitchStatement -> "switch" "(" Expression ")"
                   ("case" "(" ExprList ")" Statement)*
                   ("else" Statement)?

Conditional statements alter control flow based on the execution state. if statements conditionally execute a statement if an expression, which must evaluate to a value of the primitive Bool type, is true. An else clause may immediately follow the if statement, in which case the else statement will be executed only if the condition is false. Without an else clause, execution for a false condition resumes after the if statement.

// Example
explainJoke(asFoghornLeghorn?:Bool) {
    print("That");

    if (asFoghornLeghorn?)
        print(", I say, that");

    print(" was a joke");

    if (asFoghornLeghorn?)
        println(" son");
    else
        println();
}

Switch statements dispatch to one of several branches based on the value of an expression. The switch expression is evaluated, and its value is compared against each subsequent case clause until one is found for which the case? operator function returns true. If no case clause matches, the else clause is executed if present; if there is no else clause, then execution resumes after the switch statement. After the chosen case or else clause is executed, execution continues after the switch statement.

// Example
enum Suit (Spades, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds);
record Card (rank:Int, suit:Suit);

overload printTo(stream, card:Card) {
    switch (card.rank)
    case (1) // evaluates case?(card.rank, 1)
        printTo(stream, "Ace");
    case (2) // evaluates case?(card.rank, 2)
        printTo(stream, "Deuce");
    case (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) // evaluates case?(card.rank, 3, 4, ...)
        printTo(stream, card.rank);
    case (11)
        printTo(stream, "Jack");
    case (12)
        printTo(stream, "Queen");
    case (13)
        printTo(stream, "King");
    else
        assert(false);

    printTo(stream, " of ", card.suit);
}

Unlike other languages with switch forms, Clay does not allow "fall-through" between cases.

Loop statements

Loop statements repeatedly execute a statement while a condition holds.

While loops
# Grammar
WhileStatement -> "while" "(" Expression ")" Statement

A while loop evaluates an expression, which must evaluate to a value of the Bool primitive type, and if the expression is true, it executes the associated body statement. The expression is then reevaluated and the body executed in a loop until the expression evaluates to false. When the expression evaluates to false, execution resumes after the while statement.

// Example
main() {
    // Print 0 through 9, the hard way
    var x = 0;
    while (x < 10) {
        println(x);
        x += 1;
    }
}
For loops
# Grammar
ForStatement -> "for" "(" comma_list(Identifier) "in" Expression ")" Statement

A for loop provides a higher-level looping mechanism than while to loop over sequences. It binds values yielded from a iterator object to variables in the scope of its body statement, repeatedly executing the body for each value until the iterator is exhausted.

// Example
main() {
    // Print 0 through 9, the easier way
    for (x in range(10))
        println(x);
}

for loops are implemented in terms of while loops using the iterator, hasNext?, and next operator functions. Before the loop is entered, iterator(expr) is called to derive an iterator object for the sequence. Within the loop, on each iteration, hasNext?(iter) is called to test whether the iterator has more values, and if true, next(iter) is called to fetch the next result from the iterator. The return values from next are bound to the loop variables, and the loop body is then executed.

// Example
main() {
    // The above example, desugared
    {
        forward _iter = iterator(range(10));
        while (hasNext?(_iter)) {
            forward x = next(_iter);
            println(x);
        }
    }
}
Multiple-value for loops
# Grammar
MultiValueForStatement -> ".." "for" "(" Identifier "in" ExprList ")" Statement

A special syntactic form is provided to apply an operation over each individual value of a multiple value expression. The iterated expression is evaluated in an implicit multiple value context.

// Example
// implement printTo(stream, ..xs) in terms of individual printTo(stream, x)
// overloads
[..TT | countValues(..TT) != 1]
overload printTo(stream, ..xs:TT) {
    ..for (x in xs)
        printTo(stream, x);
}

Unlike while or for, ..for is not a proper loop. It is unrolled; that is, the body is instantiated repeatedly for each value. The bound variable is locally rebound for each instantiation; thus, unlike a normal for loop's bindings, the ..for binding's type may change for each instantiation.

// Example
foo() {
    ..for (x in 1, '2', "three")
        bar(x);

    // desugars to

    {
        forward x = 1;
        bar(x);
    }
    {
        forward x = '2';
        bar(x);
    }
    {
        forward x = "three";
        bar(x);
    }
}

Branch statements

Branch statements provide nonlocal control flow within a function.

Break and continue statements
BreakStatement -> "break" ";"
ContinueStatement -> "continue" ";"

break and continue prematurely halt execution of a while, for, or ..for loop. continue resumes execution at the next iteration of the loop, and break resumes execution after the loop. break and continue apply to the innermost loop in which they lexically appear; they are invalid outside of a loop.

Goto statements
# Grammar
GotoStatement -> "goto" Identifier ";"

goto statements jump to (almost) arbitrary labels within the function. There are some restrictions: goto statements may not jump into a var binding's scope from outside (and thereby skip the variable's initialization). Jumping from an outer block into a label defined in an inner block is also currently unsupported.

Exception handling statements

Clay optionally supports exception handling. The ExceptionsEnabled? global alias from the __primitives__ module will evaluate to true when exceptions are enabled for the current compilation unit. Regardless of whether exception handling is enabled at runtime, the compile-time evaluator does not currently support exception handling; the compile-time evaluator always behaves as if exceptions are disabled.

Throw statements
ThrowStatement -> "throw" Expression ";"

The throw statement throws an exception, to be caught by a try block from an enclosing scope. Execution jumps from the throw to the innermost matching catch clause in the current dynamic scope, unwinding any intervening stack frames and destroying their local variables along the way.

// Example
safeDivide(x:Int, y:Int) {
    if (y == 0)
        throw DivisionByZero();
    return x/y;
}

The exception is thrown by calling the throwValue operator function with the value of the given expression as an input. The call is assumed not to locally return; even if exceptions are disabled, throwValue must otherwise arrange for execution to terminate (such as by calling abort from libc).

Try blocks
TryStatement -> "try" Block
                ("catch" "(" (Identifier (":" Type)?) ")" Block)+

Try statements execute their associated block normally. If an exception occurs during the dynamic extent of the try statement, the exception is caught and tested against the try block's associated catch clauses, and if a matching catch clause is found, execution resumes inside the matching clause. Catch clauses are matched by declared type, and the thrown exception value is bound as the specified type. A catch-all clause can also be declared without a type; the clause will match any exception not caught by a previous catch clause. If no catch clause matches the exception, it is rethrown to be caught by an outer scope.

// Example
main() {
    try {
        var file = File("hello.txt", CREATE);
        printlnTo(file, "hello world");
        return 0;
    }
    catch (ex:IOError) {
        printlnTo(stderr, "Unable to initialize hello.txt: ", ex);
        return 1;
    }
    catch (ex) {
        printlnTo(stderr, "Unexpected exception?!");
        abort();
    }
}

A series of catch clauses desugars into the try block's exception handler as a series of if statements constructed from the exceptionIs?, exceptionAs, exceptionAsAny, and continueException operator functions, with some additional help from the activeException primitive function from the __primitives__ module, which returns a pointer to the exception that instigated the current unwinding. Clay does not yet provide a facility for fully manually coding a handler.

// Example
foo(x) {
    try {
        throw x;
    }
    catch (a:A) {
        handleA(a);
    }
    catch (b:B) {
        handleB(b);
    }
    catch (any) {
        handleAny(any);
    }
}

// foo's handler will look like this:
fooHandler() {
    var exp = activeException();
    if (exceptionIs?(A, exp)) {
        forward a = exceptionAs(A, exp);
        handleA(a);
    }
    else if (exceptionIs?(B, exp)) {
        forward b = exceptionAs(B, exp);
        handleB(b);
    }
    else {
        forward any = exceptionAsAny(exp);
        handleAny(any);
    }
    // Without a catch-all, the final else branch would continue unwinding:
    /*
    else
        continueException();
    */
}

Catch clauses may rethrow the current exception by reusing the given exception object in a throw statement inside the catch clause.

If exceptions are disabled, a try statement's body is treated as a normal block, and its catch clauses are ignored.

Scope guard statements
ScopeGuardStatement -> ScopeGuardKind Statement
ScopeGuardKind -> "finally" | "onerror"

Scope guard statements provide a convenient shorthand for deterministically and safely performing required cleanup in the face of arbitrary nonlocal control flow. A finally statement causes the associated statement to be executed when the enclosing block is exited for any reason, much like a var's destructor but without the associated var.

// Example
main() {
    while (true) {
        var p = malloc(SizeT(128));
        finally free(p);

        switch (rand() % 3)
        case (0)
            throw Exception();
        case (1)
            return;
        case (2)
            break;
    }
}

An onerror statement causes the associated statement to be executed only when the enclosing block is unwound by an exception. If the block is exited by normal control flow, or by break, continue, goto, or return, the associated statement will not be executed.

// Example
record SomeType (p:RawPointer);

overload SomeType(size:SizeT) {
    var p = malloc(size);
    onerror free(p); // release memory if we don't make it to the end

    potentiallyFail();

    return SomeType(p);
}

If exceptions are disabled, onerror scope guards are ignored. finally scope guards behave normally and will still execute when their associated scope is exited by non-exceptional means.

Eval statements

EvalStatement -> "eval" ExprList ";"

Eval statements provide compile-time access to the Clay parser. The associated multiple value expression is evaluated at compile time and concatenated into a static string, which is then parsed and expanded into one or more statements. Those statements then take the eval statement's place in execution. Eval statements may synthesize any statement, including new variable bindings.

// Example
main() {
    eval #"""var x = "hello world";""";
    eval #"""println(x);""";
}

eval's operand must be parsable as a complete statement or statements; it cannot synthesize half-open blocks, partial statements, or other incomplete constructs. Labels currently cannot be generated by eval.

// Example
foo() {
    // ERROR: can't create a half-block
    eval #"{"; }

    // ERROR: can't create a half-statement
    eval #"var x ="; 1;
}

Eval expressions are also supported for generating expressions.

Expressions

Expressions describe how values flow among functions in a computation. Clay provides a hierarchy of operators with which to construct expressions. Many operators are syntactic sugar for overloadable operator functions. The precedence hierarchy for Clay is summarized below, from highest to lowest precedence, along with sample syntax and associated operator functions where appropriate.

Atomic expressions

# Grammar
AtomicExpr -> NameRef
            | Literal
            | ParenExpr
            | TupleExpr
            | Literal
            | EvalExpr
            | ContextOp

Atomic expressions form the basic units of expressions.

Name references
# Grammar
NameRef -> Identifier

A name reference consists simply of an identifier. It evaluates to the named local or global entity within the current scope. An error is raised if no matching entity is found for the given name.

// Example
import a;
import a.(b);

var c = 0;

foo(d) {
    var e = 0;
    println(a, b, c, d, e);
}

If a name is bound to multiple values, such as a variadic pattern variable or argument, then the name must be referenced in a multiple value context, typically by applying the .. unpack operator.

[..TT]
foo(..xs:TT) {
    println(..xs, " have the types ", ..TT);
}
Literal expressions
# Grammar
Literal -> BoolLiteral
         | IntLiteral
         | FloatLiteral
         | CharLiteral
         | StringLiteral
         | StaticStringLiteral
BoolLiteral -> "true" | "false"

IntLiteral -> Sign? IntToken NumericTypeSuffix?
FloatLiteral -> Sign? FloatToken NumericTypeSuffix?

Sign -> "+" | "-"
NumericTypeSuffix -> Identifier

CharLiteral -> CharToken
StringLiteral -> StringToken
StaticStringLiteral -> "#" StringToken
                     | "#" Identifier

Literals evaluate to primitive constant values.

  • The boolean literals true and false evaluate to the two possible values of the primitive Bool type.
  • Integer literals evaluate to constant integer values. They consist of an integer literal token, optionally prefixed by a sign + or - and/or suffixed by a type specifier. Without a type specifier suffix, the literal is of the primitive Int32 type, unless the module declares a different default integer type in its module attributes. To create a literal of another type, the following suffixes are allowed, with the corresponding primitive types:

    • ssInt8 ("short short")
    • sInt16 ("short")
    • iInt32 ("int")
    • lInt64 ("long")
    • llInt128 ("long long")
    • ussUInt8
    • usUInt16
    • uUInt32
    • ulUInt64
    • ullInt128

    One of the floating-point type suffixes described below may also be applied to an integer literal to create a floating-point literal with an integral value. If the integer literal represents a value that is not within the valid range of the specified type, it is an error.

    // Example
    main() {
        println(Type(1)); // Int32
        println(Type(-1)); // Int32
        println(Type(+1ul)); // UInt64
        println(Type(-1ss)); // Int8
        println(Type(-1f)); // Float32
    }
    
  • Floating-point literals evaluate to constant floating-point real or imaginary values. They consist of a floating-point literal token, and, like integer literals, can be modified by an optional sign prefix and/or type specifier suffix. Without a suffix, the literal is of the primitive Float64 type, unless the module declares a different default floating-point type in its module attributes. To create a literal of another type, the following suffixes are allowed:

    • fFloat32 ("single" Float)
    • ffFloat64 ("double" Float)
    • flFloat80
    • fjImag32
    • j or ffjImag64
    • fljImag80

    Floating-point literals may not use integer suffixes.

    // Example
    main() {
        println(Type(1.0f)); // Float32
        println(Type(-1.0)); // Float64
        println(Type(+1.j)); // Imag64
    }
    
  • Character literals consist of a character literal token. They are evaluated by passing the ASCII code of the represented character to the Char operator function.

  • String literals consist of a string literal token. The constant string is emitted into the string table, and pointers to the first character and after the last character are passed as arguments of the primitive Pointer[Int8] type to the StringConstant operator function.

  • Static string literals consist of a string literal token prefixed with a # token. They exist entirely as compile-time entities, and thus evaluate to values of the stateless primitive Static[#"identifier"] type. If the contents of the static string are a valid identifier, it may also be specified as a bare, unquoted identifier prefixed with a # token.

Parentheses
# Grammar
ParenExpr -> "(" ExprList ")"

Parentheses override precedence order and have no effect on evaluation themselves.

Tuple expressions
# Grammar
TupleExpr -> "[" ExprList "]"

Tuple expressions are used to construct tuple objects. They are evaluated by passing the bracketed expression list to the tupleLiteral operator function.

Compilation context operators
# Grammar
ContextOp -> "__FILE__"
           | "__LINE__"
           | "__COLUMN__"
           | "__ARG__" Identifier

Alias functions have magic powers to access the source location of their invocation and string representations of their arguments. The __FILE__ operator evaluates to a static string containing the file from which the function was called. __LINE__ and __COLUMN__ evaluate to Int32 values representing the source line and column. __ARG__ returns a static string representation of the argument named after the __ARG__ token. __ARG__ does not evaluate the named argument. These four operators are only valid inside alias functions, and __ARG__ is only valid applied to an alias function argument.

// Example
// An assert function that reports the condition and source location of the failure
alias assert(cond:Bool) {
    if (not cond) {
        println(stderr, "Assertion \"", __ARG__ cond, "\" failed at ",
            __FILE__, ":", __LINE__, ":", __COLUMN__);
        flush(stderr);
        abort();
    }
}
Eval expressions
# Grammar
EvalExpr -> "eval" Expression

Like eval statements, eval expressions provide access to the Clay parser at compile time, but in expression context. The given expression is evaluated at compile time into a static string, and the result is parsed as an expression and evaluated in place of the eval form.

// Example
main() {
    println(eval #""" "hello world" """);
}

The generated static string must parse as a complete expression; open brackets or other partial expressions cannot be generated.

The eval expression may be a parenthesized multiple value expression, in which case the values are concatenated to form the parsed string.

Suffix operators

# Grammar
SuffixExpr -> AtomicExpr SuffixOp*
SuffixOp -> CallSuffix
          | IndexSuffix
          | FieldRefSuffix
          | StaticIndexSuffix
          | DereferenceSuffix
Call operator
# Grammar
CallSuffix -> "(" ExprList ")" CallLambdaList?
CallLambdaList -> ":" Lambda ("::" Lambda)*

Functions are called by suffixing a multiple value expression in parentheses, which is evaluated to derive the function's arguments, to the function value, which is then evaluated. If the function value is a symbol, the argument types are matched to the symbol's overloads, and a call to the matching overload is generated. If the function value is a value of the primitive CodePointer type, the pointed-to function instance is invoked.

// Example
greet(subject) { println("hello, ", subject); }

main() {
    greet("world");

    var greetp = CodePointer[[StringConstant], []](greet);
    greetp("nurse!");
}

If the function value is not a symbol or CodePointer, the call is transformed into an invocation of the call operator function, with the function value prepended to the argument list.

// Example
record MyCallable ();

overload call(f:MyCallable, x:Int, y:Int) : Int = x + y;

main() {
    var f = MyCallable();
    println(f(1, 2)); // really call(f, 1, 2)
}

Extra syntactic sugar is provided for higher-order functions that take lambda expressions as arguments. One or more lambda literals may be expressed after the main argument list and a : token, multiple lambdas delimited by :: tokens. The lambdas are appended in order to the end of the argument list.

// Example
ifZero(x, andThen, orElse) {
    if (x == 0)
        return ..andThen();
    else
        return ..orElse(x);
}

main() {
    ifZero(rand()): () -> {
        println("Reply hazy; try again")
    } :: x -> {
        println("You will inherit a large sum of money");
        println("Lucky number: ", x);
    }
}

One or more of a call's arguments may be modified by a dispatch operator, in which case the call is transformed into a dynamically-dispatched invocation on a variant type. See the dispatch operator section for details.

Index operator
# Grammar
IndexSuffix -> "[" ExprList "]"

The index operator desugars into a call to the index operator function. It is typically used to index into containers. The indexed object is used as the first argument, followed by the values from the bracketed multiple value expression.

If the indexed object is a parameterized symbol, then the operation is primitive. The symbol is instantiated for the given parameters, which are evaluated at compile time.

// Example
[T,n]
overload index(array:Array[T,n], i) = ref (begin(array) + i)^;

main() {
    // Symbol index instantiates Array[Int, 3]
    var xs = Array[Int, 3](0, 111, 222);

    // Normal index desugars to index(xs, 2)
    println(xs[2]);
}
Static index operator
# Grammar
StaticIndexSuffix -> "." IntToken

The static index operator consists of a . token followed by an integer literal token. It is desugared into a call to the staticIndex operator function, with the indexed object and the static integer value as arguments. It is intended for accessing fields of tuples or other heterogeneous aggregate values.

// Example
main() {
    var x = ["hello", "cruel", "world"];
    println(x.0, ' ', x.2);

    println(staticIndex(x, static 0), ' ', staticIndex(x, static 2));
}
Field reference operator
# Grammar
FieldRefSuffix -> "." Identifier

The field reference operator consists of a . token followed by an identifier. It is desugared into a call to the fieldRef operator function, with the indexed object and a static string representing the field name identifier as parameters. It is intended for accessing named fields of record types or similar types.

If the indexed object is an imported module name symbol, the operation is primitive, and the identifier is used to look up the named top-level definition within that module.

// Example
import foo;

record Point (coords:Array[Float64,2]);

// Define .x, .y, .xy, .yx accessors
overload fieldRef(p:Point, static #"x") = ref p.coords[0];
overload fieldRef(p:Point, static #"y") = ref p.coords[1];
overload fieldRef(p:Point, static #"xy") = ref p.coords[0], p.coords[1];
overload fieldRef(p:Point, static #"yx") = ref p.coords[1], p.coords[0];

main() {
    // Module field reference is resolved statically
    foo.bar();

    // Normal field reference uses `fieldRef`
    var p = Point(array(1.0, 2.0));
    println("<", p.x, ",", p.y, ">");

    ref x, y = p.xy;
    println("<", x, ",", y, ">");
}
Dereference operator
# Grammar
DereferenceSuffix -> "^"

The dereference operator consists of a "^" token. It is desugared into a call to the dereference operator function with the dereferenced object. It is intended for obtaining a reference to the value referenced by a pointer or pointer-like object.

// Example
record SafeVectorPointer[T] (parent:Pointer[Vector[T]], ptr:Pointer[T]);

overload dereference(p:VectorPointer[T]) {
    assert(p.ptr >= begin(parent^) and p.ptr < end(parent^));
    return ref p.ptr^;
}

Prefix operators

# Grammar
PrefixExpr -> PrefixOp PrefixExpr
            | SuffixExpr
PrefixOp -> "+" | "-" | "&" | "*"
Unary plus operator

The prefix + operator desugars to the plus operator function.

Unary minus operator

The prefix - operator desugars to the minus operator function. It is intended for negating numeric values.

Address operator

The prefix & operator returns the address of its operand as a value of the primitive Pointer[T] type, for operand type T. The operand must be an lvalue.

The & operator may not be overloaded. The __primitives__ module contains an addressOf function that is equivalent.

Dispatch operator

The prefix * operator transforms a call operator expression into a dynamic dispatch on a variant. It may only be applied to an argument of a call expression, and the operand must evaluate to a single value of a variant type. Multiple arguments may be dispatched on. For each instance type of each dispatched argument, an overload is looked up for those instance types, and a dispatch table is constructed. The return values and ref-ness of each overload must exactly match, or else the dispatch expression raises a compile-time error.

// Example
variant Shape (Circle, Square);

[S | VariantMember?(Shape, S)]
define draw(s:S) :;
overload draw(s:Circle) { println("()"); }
overload draw(s:Square) { println("[]"); }

drawShapes(ss:Vector[Shape]) {
    for (s in ss)
        draw(*s);
}

The dispatch implementation is not currently overloadable.

Multiplicative operators

# Grammar
# (impossible left recursion used for simplicity's sake)
MulExpr -> (MulExpr MulOp)? PrefixExpr
MulOp -> "*" | "/" | "%"
  • The infix * operator desugars to the multiply operator function.
  • The infix / operator desugars to the divide operator function.
  • The infix % operator desugars to the remainder operator function.

These operators are left-associative among each other.

Additive operators

# Grammar
AddExpr -> (AddExpr AddOp)? MulExpr
AddOp -> "+" | "-"
  • The infix + operator desugars to the add operator function.
  • The infix - operator desugars to the subtract operator function.

These operators are left-associative among each other.

Ordered comparison operators

# Grammar
CompareExpr -> (CompareExpr CompareOp)? AddExpr
CompareOp -> "<=" | "<" | ">" | ">="
  • The infix <= operator desugars to the lesserEquals? operator function.
  • The infix < operator desugars to the lesser? operator function.
  • The infix > operator desugars to the greater? operator function.
  • The infix >= operator desugars to the greaterEquals? operator function.

These operators are left-associative among each other.

Equality comparison operators

# Grammar
EqualExpr -> (EqualExpr EqualOp)? CompareExpr
EqualOp -> "==" | "!="
  • The infix == operator desugars to the equals? operator function.
  • The infix != operator desugars to the notEquals? operator function.

These operators are left-associative among each other.

Boolean not

# Grammar
NotExpr -> "not" EqualExpr
         | EqualExpr

The prefix not operator complements its operand, which must evaluate to a value of the primitive type Bool. not true evaluates to false, and not false evaluates to true. The not operator may not be overloaded. The __primitives__ module contains a boolNot function that is equivalent.

Boolean and

# Grammar
AndExpr -> NotExpr ("and" AndExpr)?

The infix and operator performs short-circuit boolean conjunction. Both operands must evaluate to a value of the primitive type Bool. The left-hand expression is evaluated, and if true, the right-hand expression is evaluated and its result becomes the value of the and expression. If the left-hand expression evaluates to false, the and expression immediately evaluates to false without evaluating the right-hand expression.

The and operator may not be overloaded. and is right-associative.

Boolean or

# Grammar
OrExpr -> AndExpr ("or" OrExpr)?

The infix or operator performs short-circuit boolean disjunction. Both operands must evaluate to a value of the primitive type Bool. The left-hand expression is evaluated, and if false, the right-hand expression is evaluated and its result becomes the value of the or expression. If the left-hand expression evaluates to true, the or expression immediately evaluates to true without evaluating the right-hand expression.

The or operator may not be overloaded. or is right-associative.

Low-precedence prefix operators

# Grammar
Expression -> PairExpr
            | IfExpr
            | Unpack
            | StaticExpr
            | Lambda
            | OrExpr
If expressions
# Grammar
IfExpr -> "if" "(" Expression ")" Expression "else" Expression

Similar to if statements, if expressions conditionally evaluate subexpressions based on a boolean condition. The first operand is evaluated, and if true, the second operand is evaluated; otherwise, the third operand is evaluated. The first operand must evaluate to a value of the primitive type Bool, and the types of the second and third arguments must be the same. Unlike an if statement, an if expression may not omit its else clause.

Keyword pair expressions
# Grammar
PairExpr -> Identifier ":" Expression

A sugar syntax is provided for name-value pairs. The syntax name: expr is sugar for the tuple literal [#"name", expr] (which in turn is sugar for a tupleLiteral operator function call).

Static expressions
# Grammar
StaticExpr -> "static" Expression

The static operator evaluates its operand at compile time. The result of the evaluation is then used as the type parameter of the stateless primitive Static[n] type. static expressions can be used to pass values to static arguments of functions.

// Example
enum LogLevel (LOG, INFO, WARN, ERROR);

// adjust to make program noisier
alias MinLogLevel = INFO;

define log;

[LEVEL | LEVEL < MinLogLevel]
overload log(static LEVEL, ..x) {}

[LEVEL | LEVEL >= MinLogLevel]
overload log(static LEVEL, ..x) {
    printlnTo(stderr, LEVEL, ": ", ..x);
}

main() {
    log(static LOG, "starting program");
    finally log(static LOG, "ending program");

    log(static INFO, "computer status: on");
}

If the static operator is applied to a value that is inherently static, such as a symbol or static string, then it is a no-op.

Unpack operator
# Grammar
Unpack -> ".." Expression

The unpack operator evaluates its operand in multiple value context, allowing a multiple-value expression to be interpolated.

// Example
twoThroughFour() = 2, 3, 4;
oneThroughFive() = 1, ..twoThroughFour(), 5;
Lambda expressions
# Grammar
Lambda -> LambdaArguments LambdaArrow LambdaBody
LambdaArguments -> ".."? Identifier
                 | Arguments
LambdaArrow -> "=>" | "->"
LambdaBody -> Block
            | ReturnExpression

Lambda expressions define anonymous functions in-line. They consist of an argument list, an arrow token -> or =>, and a function body. The lambda function's return types are inferred from its body; declaring lambda return types is currently unsupported.

// Example
main() {
    var squares = mapped((x) -> { return x*x; }, range(10));
    for (sq in squares)
        println(sq);
}

Similar to named function definitions, the body may be either a block or an expression; the expression form is shorthand for a block body consisting of a single return statement.

// Example
main() {
    // Equivalent to the above
    var squares = mapped((x) -> x*x, range(10));
    for (sq in squares)
        println(sq);
}

If the lambda declares a single untyped argument, the parentheses around the argument name may additionally be omitted.

// Example
main() {
    // Equivalent to the above
    var squares = mapped(x -> x*x, range(10));
    for (sq in squares)
        println(sq);
}

If a lambda does not reference its enclosing scope, it evaluates to a newly-created anonymous symbol, which is equivalent to a simple function definition aside from having no name.

// Example
// Equivalent to the above
square(x) = x*x;

main() {
    var squares = mapped(square, range(10));
    for (sq in squares)
        println(sq);
}

Note that lambda expressions have higher precedence than the multiple value comma separator. a -> b, c parses as (a -> b), c rather than a -> (b, c). To return multiple values from a lambda, parens or a block body must be used.

// Example
main() {
    var squaresAndCubes = mapped(x -> { return x*x, x*x*x; }, range(10));
    // - or -
    // var squaresAndCubes = mapped(x -> (x*x, x*x*x), range(10));
    for (sq, cb in squaresAndCubes)
        println(sq, ' ', cb);
}

A lambda's body may reference local bindings from its enclosing scope, in which case the referenced bindings are implicitly captured by the lambda value. The arrow token controls how capture is done:

  • A lambda using the -> token captures its enclosing scope by reference. The lambda may mutate values from its enclosing scope, and those changes will be externally visible from outside the lambda; however, the lambda may not be used after the function that created it returns and its originating scope is deleted.

    // Example
    main() {
        var sum = 0;
        var squares = mapped(
            x -> {
                var sq = x*x;
                sum += sq;
                return sq;
            },
            range(10));
        for (sq in squares)
            println(sq);
        println(sum);
    }
    
  • A lambda using the => token captures referenced values by copying them into the lambda object. If the lambda mutates its captured values, the changes will remain local to the lambda; however, the lambda may safely be used independently of the lifetime of its originating scope.

    // Example
    curriedAdd(x) = y => x + y;
    
    main() {
        var plus3 = curriedAdd(3);
        var plus5 = curriedAdd(5);
    
        println(plus3(1));
        println(plus5(1));
    }
    

In either case, an anonymous record type is synthesized to store the captured reference or values. The lambda expression evaluates into a constructor call for this anonymous record type. The lambda implicitly defines a call operator function overload for the anonymous record type, in which references to the enclosing scope are transformed into references to the lambda record's own state.

// Example
curriedAdd(x) = y => x + y;

// desugars into something resembling:

record CurriedAddLambda[T] (x:T);

[T]
overload call(lambda:CurriedAddLambda[T], y) = lambda.x + y;

[T]
curriedAdd2(x:T) = CurriedAddLambda[T](x);

Multiple value expressions

# Grammar
ExprList -> comma_list(Expression)

Clay functions, and thereby most expression forms, can return multiple values. The comma operator concatenates values into a multiple value list.

// Example
twoThroughFour() = 2, 3, 4;

However, for sanity's sake, expressions are normally constrained to single values, and it is an error to use a multiple-value expression in a single value context. (Zero values is considered "multiple values" by this rule.)

// Example
twoThroughFour() = 2, 3, 4;
// ERROR: multiple-value expression used in single-value context
oneThroughFive() = 1, twoThroughFour(), 5;

A multiple value context may be introduced using the unpack operator ... The multiple values of the .. expression are interpolated directly into the surrounding multiple value list.

// Example
twoThroughFour() = 2, 3, 4;
oneThroughFive() = 1, ..twoThroughFour(), 5;

Certain syntactic forms provide implicit multiple value context:

In these contexts, a lone multiple value expression may be used without an explicit unpack. However, within a multiple value expression that concatenates multiple expressions, multiple-value subexpressions still require an explicit unpack. In other words, the .. operator has higher precedence than the , operator, and implicit multiple value context only applies to the outermost precedence level.

// Example
oneTwoThree() = 1, 2, 3;
fourFiveSix() = 4, 5, 6;

foo() {
    // no `..` needed
    oneTwoThree();

    var x, y, z = oneTwoThree();

    x, y, z = fourFiveSix();

    ..for (i in oneTwoThree())
        println(i);

    // `..` still needed

    ..oneTwoThree(), ..fourFiveSix(); // pointless, but possible

    var a, b, c, d = 0, ..oneTwoThree();

    a, b, c, d = ..fourFiveSix(), 7;

    ..for (i in ..oneTwoThree(), ..fourFiveSix())
        println(i);
}
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