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Pattern matching algorithm


Where can I find a description (in symbolic form or much better in 
Mathematica) of the algorithm used to interpret pattern-matching ?

Did anybody try to translate rules:
foo[{}] = 1;
foo[{x_,L__}]=1+foo(L);

into a function:

foo := Function[L,If[...]]

More generally, is there an interpreter of the Mathematica language core 
in Mathematica or Lisp ?

Thanks,

    JGP


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