declaration vs. assignment and dynamic vs. static binding

*To*: mathgroup at yoda.physics.unc.edu*Subject*: declaration vs. assignment and dynamic vs. static binding*From*: gaylord at ux1.cso.uiuc.edu*Date*: Wed, 11 Mar 1992 14:39:34 -0600

this is a question as to the difference between (functional) declaration and (procedural) assignment. i am specifically trying to figure out what := and = really are. does Mathematica (the language) use assignment or declaration or assignment with dynamic or static binding or what and when? i received a lot of really interesting responses, some of which i understood. Thomas Yan of Cornell sent ML code which I translated into M and ran ========================= from Thomas Yan: terminology is a problem. i think mine is what is generally used in the cs community. declaration is like that for constants: you declare it, and the value never changes. assignment reassigns/updates an old value. dynamic binding is even nastier, since it is not "lexically scoped": in the previous examples, the only things (e.g. functions) that see the values are those textually nearby (after the declaration/assignment). in dynamic binding, the values can be anywhere. here is an example that distinguishes all three cases. fun g(f,x) = let val c = 3 in f(x) end fun h() = let val c = 5 fun f(x) = x + c val a = g(f,0) val c = 7 val b = g(f,1) in (a,b) end what is h()? 1) declaration: in gc, the "val=c" has no effect, since c is never used. essentially, g is just function application, and you get (5,6). note that in sml, declarations are sequential. thus, f(x) = x + c would not be legal until c is defined, e.g. illegal before val c = 5, unless there was already a c declared in an outer scope. 2) assignment: in g, the "val=c" has no effect, since c is never used. suppose c is a local variable, and c=7 reassigns the value of c. well, f is in the scope of c (the scope of variables, that is, where they are visible for use, are just within the "let"), so it uses the local c. you get our friend (5,8). 3) dynamic binding: the local declarations of c in h don't matter in this case, since the c in g overrides it. you would get (3,4). this also shows you why i think dynamic binding can be a problem -- suppose you defined g in a separate file, before the definition of h. there is no reason to expect the "val c = 3" to have any effect on f or x. of course, you might think of f as shorthand notation which just uses the current value of c, and this can be useful. it just requires careful use. -----remainder deleted---------------- ====================== Thomas said that declaration would give (5, 6), assignment would give (5, 8) and dynamic binding would give (3, 4). in Mathematica (if i'm translating correctly) his program reads: Clear[f, g, h] g[f_, x_] := Module[{c = 3}, f[x]] h[] := Module[{c = 5}, f[x_] := x + c; a = g[f, 0]; c = 7; b = g[f, 1]; {a, b}] h[] {5, 8} Clear[f, g, h] g[f_, x_] := Module[{c = 3}, f[x]] h[] := Module[{c = 5}, f[x_] = x + c; a = g[f, 0]; c = 7; b = g[f, 1]; {a, b}] h[] {5, 6} It would appear that according to Thomas Yan , Mathematica uses declaration (when f[x] = is used) and assignment (when f[x_] := is used), but not dynamic binding. this is confusing because of notational idiosyncracies of Mathematica which calls = assignment and := delayed assignment. i have codefrom other people as well that i'm presently translating but i thought i'd send this out to the people who sent me stuff and to groups that might be interested. any comments on this topic will be welcome. ====================================

**printing postscript notebooks**

**declaration-assignment-dynamic binding update**

**printing postscript notebooks**

**declaration-assignment-dynamic binding update**