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  ANSI Common Lisp   23 Reader   23.1 Reader Concepts   23.1.3 Argument Conventions of Some Reader Functions

23.1.3.2 The RECURSIVE-P argument

If recursive-p is supplied and not nil, it specifies that this function call is not an outermost call to read but an embedded call, typically from a reader macro function. It is important to distinguish such recursive calls for three reasons.

  • 1. An outermost call establishes the context within which the #n= and #n# syntax is scoped. Consider, for example, the expression

     (cons '#3=(p q r) '(x y . #3#))
    
    If the single-quote reader macro were defined in this way:

     (set-macro-character #\'       ;incorrect
        #'(lambda (stream char)
             (declare (ignore char))
             (list 'quote (read stream))))
    

    then each call to the single-quote reader macro function would establish independent contexts for the scope of read information, including the scope of identifications between markers like "#3=" and "#3#". However, for this expression, the scope was clearly intended to be determined by the outer set of parentheses, so such a definition would be incorrect. The correct way to define the single-quote reader macro uses recursive-p:

     (set-macro-character #\'       ;correct
        #'(lambda (stream char)
             (declare (ignore char))
             (list 'quote (read stream t nil t))))
    

  • 2. A recursive call does not alter whether the reading process is to preserve whitespace2 or not (as determined by whether the outermost call was to read or read-preserving-whitespace). Suppose again that single-quote were to be defined as shown above in the incorrect definition. Then a call to read-preserving-whitespace that read the expression 'foo<Space> would fail to preserve the space character following the symbol foo because the single-quote reader macro function calls read, not read-preserving-whitespace, to read the following expression (in this case foo). The correct definition, which passes the value true for recursive-p to read, allows the outermost call to determine whether whitespace2 is preserved.

  • 3. When end-of-file is encountered and the eof-error-p argument is not nil, the kind of error that is signaled may depend on the value of recursive-p. If recursive-p is true, then the end-of-file is deemed to have occurred within the middle of a printed representation; if recursive-p is false, then the end-of-file may be deemed to have occurred between objects rather than within the middle of one.


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