The reader will have noted that the Scheme example programs provided thus far are also s-expressions. This is true of all Scheme programs: Programs are data.
Thus, the character datum
#\c is a program, or a
form. We will use the more general term form instead of program, so that we can deal
with program fragments too.
Scheme evaluates the form
#\c to the value
#\c is self-evaluating. Not all
s-expressions are self-evaluating. For instance the
xyz evaluates to the value held by the variable
xyz. The list s-expression
evaluates to the number 16.
Not all s-expressions are valid programs. If you typed
the dotted-pair s-expression
(1 . 2) at the Scheme
listener, you will get an error.
Scheme evaluates a list form by examining the first element, or head, of the form. If the head evaluates to a procedure, the rest of the form is evaluated to get the procedure’s arguments, and the procedure is applied to the arguments.
If the head of the form is a special form, the
evaluation proceeds in a manner idiosyncratic to that
form. Some special forms we have already seen
begin causes its
subforms to be evaluated in order, the result of the
entire form being the result of the last subform.
define introduces and initializes a variable.
set! changes the binding of a variable.
We have seen quite a few primitive Scheme procedures,
string‑>list, and the like. Users
can create their own procedures using the special form
lambda. For example, the following defines a
procedure that adds
2 to its argument:
(lambda (x) (+ x 2))
The first subform,
(x), is the list of parameters.
The remaining subform(s) constitute the procedure’s
body. This procedure can be called on an argument,
just like a primitive procedure:
((lambda (x) (+ x 2)) 5) => 7
If we wanted to call this same procedure many times, we
could create a replica using
lambda each time, but
we can do better. We can use a variable to hold the
(define add2 (lambda (x) (+ x 2)))
We can then use the variable
add2 each time we need
a procedure for adding
2 to its argument:
(add2 4) => 6 (add2 9) => 11
The parameters of a
lambda-procedure are specified
by its first subform (the form immediately following
the head, the symbol
is a single-argument — or unary — procedure, and so its parameter
list is the singleton list
(x). The symbol
acts as a variable holding the procedure’s argument.
Each occurrence of
x in the procedure’s body refers
to the procedure’s argument. The variable
said to be local to the procedure’s body.
We can use 2-element lists for 2-argument procedures, and in general, n-element lists for n-argument procedures. The following is a 2-argument procedure that calculates the area of a rectangle. Its two arguments are the length and breadth of the rectangle.
(define area (lambda (length breadth) (* length breadth)))
area multiplies its arguments, and so
does the primitive procedure
*. We could have
(define area *)
Some procedures can be called at different times with
different numbers of arguments. To do this, the
lambda parameter list is replaced by a single
symbol. This symbol acts as a variable that is bound
to the list of the arguments that the procedure is
In general, the
lambda parameter list can be a list
of the form
(x ...), a symbol, or a dotted pair of
(x ... . z). In the dotted-pair case, all
the variables before the dot are bound to the
corresponding arguments in the procedure call, with the
single variable after the dot picking up all the
remaining arguments as one list.
The Scheme procedure
apply lets us call a procedure
on a list of its arguments.
(define x '(1 2 3)) (apply + x) => 6
apply takes a procedure, followed by a
variable number of other arguments, the last of which
must be a list. It constructs the argument list by
prefixing the last argument with all the other
(intervening) arguments. It then returns the result of
calling the procedure
on this argument list. Eg,
(apply + 1 2 3 x) => 12
We used the
begin special form to bunch together a
group of subforms that need to be evaluated in
sequence. Many Scheme forms have implicit
begins. For example, let’s define a 3-argument procedure that
displays its three arguments, with spaces between
them. A possible definition is:
(define display3 (lambda (arg1 arg2 arg3) (begin (display arg1) (display " ") (display arg2) (display " ") (display arg3) (newline))))
lambda-bodies are implicit
display3’s body isn’t needed, although it doesn’t
display3, more simply, is:
(define display3 (lambda (arg1 arg2 arg3) (display arg1) (display " ") (display arg2) (display " ") (display arg3) (newline)))