Synopsis A Lisp interpreter.
Description Here is the core of our Lisp interpreter. Its basic functionality is to take
  • An Lval and an Environment (both defined in Runtime).
  • Distinguish the various forms an Lval can have and compute the effect of evaluating it.
  • Return a Result that captures the value just computed and possibleside-effects on the environment.
Rascal provides pattern-directed dispatch: a function with the same name can have complete patterns as arguments. When called, a pattern match determines which variant of the function will be called. This is used extensively in the definitions below:
module demo::lang::Lisra::Eval

import Prelude;
import demo::lang::Lisra::Runtime;

public Lval eval(Lval x) = eval(x, [()]).val;

// Evaluate an Lval in a given environment and return a Result.

public Result eval(Integer(int x), Env e) = <Integer(x), e>; 

public Result eval(var:Atom(str name), Env e) {              
  n = find(var, e);
  return <(n < 0) ? var : e[n][var], e>;

public Result eval(List([Atom("quote"), exp*]), Env e) =     
  <size(exp) == 1 ? exp[0] : List(exp), e>;

public Result eval(List([Atom("set!"), var, exp]), Env e) {  
  val = eval(exp, e).val;
  n = find(var, e);
  if(n < 0) e[0][var] = val; else e[n][var] = val;
  return <val, e>;
public Result eval(List([Atom("if"), Lval tst, Lval conseq, Lval alt]), Env e) = 
       eval(tst, e).val != FALSE ? eval(conseq, e) : eval(alt, e);
public Result eval(List([Atom("begin"), *Lval exps]) , Env e) {
  val = FALSE;
  for(Lval exp <- exps){
      <val, e> = eval(exp, e);
  return <val, e>;
public Result eval(List([Atom("define"), var, exp]), Env e){
   e[0][var] = eval(exp, e).val;
   return <FALSE, e>;
public Result eval(List([Atom("lambda"), List(vars*), exp]), Env defEnv) =
  <Closure(Result(list[Lval] args, Env callEnv) { return eval(exp, makeEnv(vars, args, tail(callEnv, size(defEnv))));}),

public default Result eval(List([ exps* ]), Env e) {         
     return <FALSE, e>;
  vals = [ eval(exp, e).val | exp <- exps ];
  return apply(head(vals), tail(vals), e);

//public default Result eval(Lval exp, Env e) = <exp, e>;

// Apply an Lval to a list of arguments and return a Result
public Result apply(Closure(Result(list[Lval] args, Env env) fn), list[Lval] args, Env e) {
  return <fn(args, e).val, e>;

public Result apply(Atom("+"),      [Integer(x), Integer(y)], Env e) = <Integer(x + y), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("-"),      [Integer(x), Integer(y)], Env e) = <Integer(x - y), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("*"),      [Integer(x), Integer(y)], Env e) = <Integer(x * y), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("\<"),     [x, y],                   Env e) = <x < y ? TRUE : FALSE, e>;
public Result apply(Atom("\>"),     [x, y],                   Env e) = <x >= y ? TRUE : FALSE, e>;
public Result apply(Atom("equal?"), [x, y],                   Env e) = <x == y ? TRUE : FALSE, e>;
public Result apply(Atom("null?"),  [List(*x)],               Env e) = <isEmpty(x) ? TRUE : FALSE, e>;
public Result apply(Atom("cons"),   [x, List(y*)],            Env e) = <List([x, *y]), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("append"), [List(x*), y],            Env e) = <List([*x, *y]), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("car"),    [List(x*)],               Env e) = <head(x), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("cdr"),    [List(x*)],               Env e) = <List(tail(x)), e>;
public Result apply(Atom("list"),   list[Lval] x,             Env e) = <List(x), e>;

default Result apply(Lval a,     list[Lval] b, Env e) {      
  println("Cannot apply <a> to <b> using <e>");
  return <FALSE, e>;
We now explain the different cases in more detail:
  • An integer constant evaluates to itself. Note how Integer(int x) is used as first argument of this eval function. It is a pattern that describes that the constructor Integer with an int argument x is to be matched.
  • An atom evaluates to the value to which it is bound or to itself. find (see Runtime) is used to search for the atom in question. The first argument is var:Atom(str name), a pattern that matches an Atom. The var: prefix binds the complete atom to a variable var to be used in the body of the function.
  • A quoted list evaluates to itself. The pattern List([Atom("quote"), exp*]) matches a List constructor whose first element is Atom("quote"). exp* means that the remaining list elements are assignment to exp. There are two cases: if the argument list has size 1, its first element is used, otherwise a list with all elements of exp vare returned. This ensures that List([Atom("quote"), Integer(17)]) evaluates to Integer(17) and not to List([ Integer(17)].
  • Evaluates a set! expression that assigns the value of exp to variable var.
  • Evaluates the if expression. The test tst is evaluated and is not false, the value of conseq is returned and otherwise that of alt.
  • Evaluates a block expression. The list of expressions exps is evaluated one by one. Observe that in the for loop <val, e> = eval(exp, e); captures both the value and the environment that results from executing one expression. That new environment is is used to evaluate the next expression(s) in the list. The value of the last expression and a possible modied environment are returned.
  • Evaluate a define expression that binds the value of exp to variable var. The value of the expression is bound var in the local scope.
  • Evaluate a lambda expression. Essentially we return a Closure value that contains the expression in the lambda expression properly wrapped to do variable binding and environment management. A Closure contains a function that return type Results and has two arguments: list[lval] args the actual parameter values when the closure is applied, and Env e the environment at the site of the call. In the body of the closure we construct a new environment makeEnv(vars, args, tail(callEnv, size(defEnv))) that binds the variables in the lambda expression to the actual parameter values. What is special here is that we shorten the calling environment to the same length as the defining environment. This implements lexical scoping and avoids that names are visible in the called function that were not visible when the function was defined. Remember that Rascal values are immutable, meaning that after a value was created it cannot be changed. Using the above trick, we ensure that the called function has access to the most recent version of its environment.
  • Evaluates an arbitrary list. As a special case, the empty list is returned as false. Otherwise, all elements are evaluated and the auxiliary function apply is used to apply the value of the first element to the values of the remaining elements.
  • Apply an Lval to a list of arguments and return a Result. The first case handles a Closure; it amounts to calling the function in the closure (environment handling and parameter binding are done in the closure as discussed above ().
  • Definition of all built-in functions.
  • A default function that prints an error message when an undefined function is called.
rascal>import demo::lang::Lisra::Runtime;
rascal>import demo::lang::Lisra::Eval;
Lval: Integer(5)
Lval: Atom("x")
rascal>eval(List([Atom("+"), Integer(5), Integer(7)]));
Lval: Integer(12)
  • A very modular, rule-based, type safe Lisp interpreter.
  • It is no pleasure to type in Lvals directly, that is why a parser is needed (Parse).
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