proper tail calls

Steven Johnson stejohns at adobe.com
Tue Jan 22 12:44:24 PST 2008


On 1/22/08 12:14 PM, "Lars T Hansen" <lth at acm.org> wrote:

> IMO, the best design is that (a) a call that is syntatically in tail
> position is executed as a tail call when that is possible, but as a
> non-tail call when type conversions or type checking interferes, and
> that this happens without the programmer having to think about it, and
> (b) an annotation ("goto", whatever) can be used to check that the
> tail call is in fact possible, and it will cause an error (at compile
> time in strict mode, possible) if that is not possible.  Thus we have
> tail call annotations like we have type annotations; people use them
> if they feel that provides benefit.  For everyone else it "just works
> except when it doesn't" -- again, exactly like typing.

I think you've hit the nail on the head with this one. IMHO this fits well
with rest of the optional-type-annotation mode of operation in ES4.

I don't really care what the syntax is, but I do very much like the idea of
an obvious directive that means "I expect this to be a tail call; please
fail immediately if it can't be one".

Question: should an implementation be *required* to execute a tail call as a
Proper Tail Call when possible, even if said syntax is not present? (or
merely *permitted* to do so?)




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