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Function Declarations

A function, or method, or action, is a named block of code that can be invoked.

A function declaration starts with the keyword def. This declaration can only occur in top-level features, such as agent.

##1. Standard Declarations

The standard function declaration follows the following syntax:

The parameters are implicitly declared with the keyword `val` so are read-only.

The following code gives examples of function declarations:

// No parameter.
// Return type: void
def action1 {

// No parameter.
// Return type: int
def action2 : int {
	return 0

// Parameter 1, named 'a', of type int.
// Return type: void
def action3(a : int) {

// Parameter 1, named 'a', of type int.
// Parameter 2, named 'b', of type String.
// Return type: void
def action4(a : int, b : String) {

// Parameter 1, named 'a', of type int.
// Return type: double
def action5(a : int) : double {
	return 0

// Parameter 1, named 'a', of type int.
// Parameter 2, named 'b', of type String.
// Return type: String
def action6(a : int, b : String) : String {

##2. Declare exceptions in the function prototype

The section “Exception Support” shows how to write an exception handler in the code. Sometimes, it is appropriate for code to catch exceptions that can occur within it. In other cases, however, it is better to let a method further down the call stack handle the exception.

If a function doesn’t catch the checked exceptions that can occur within it, the function may specify that it can throw these exceptions.

This specification is optional since the SARL compiler determines the exceptions that are not catched, and assumes that they are implicitly thrown outside the function.

The declaration of the thrown exceptions is done with the throws keyword, followed by a list of thrown exception types. This declaration must be put between the list of formal parameters and the function’s code.

In the following example, the function myaction is defined with no formal parameters and no return type. This function indicates to its caller that it could throw an exception of type IllegalStateException.

def myaction throws IllegalStateException {

##3. Generic Function

Generic functions are methods that introduce their own type parameters. This is similar to declaring a generic type, but the type parameter’s scope is limited to the function where it is declared. Static and non-static generic functions are allowed.

You can write a single generic method declaration that can be called with arguments of different types. Based on the types of the arguments passed to the generic method, the compiler handles each method call appropriately. Following are the rules to define generic functions:

A generic method’s body is declared like that of any other method.

Type parameters can represent only reference types, not primitive types (like `int`, `double` and `char`).

Two syntaxes are allowed for defining the type parameters of the actions: the with syntax, and the bracket syntax.

###3.1. Definition with “with” keyword

The with syntax for a generic function includes a type parameter, after the with keyword, between the function’s return type and the function’s body.

In the following example, the function specifies a type T, which is used both as type for the element parameter and the generic type of the Collection.

def addAndReturn(element : T, collection : Collection<T>) : T with T {
    return element

###3.2. Definition with brackets

The bracket syntax for a generic function includes a type parameter, inside angle brackets, and appears before the function’s name.

In the following example, the function specifies a type T, which is used both as type for the element parameter and the generic type of the Collection.

def <T> addAndReturn(element : T, collection : Collection<T>) : T {
    return element

###3.3. Bounded Type Parameters

There may be times when you’ll want to restrict the kinds of types that are allowed to be passed to a type parameter. For example, a method that operates on numbers might only want to accept instances of Number or its subclasses. This is what bounded type parameters are for.

To declare a bounded type parameter, list the type parameter’s name, followed by the extends keyword, followed by a class name. This keyword indicates that T must be a subtype of the following type.

def print(value : T) with T extends Number {
    System.out.println("Type = " + value.getClass)
    System.out.println("Value = " + value)

##4. Variadic Function

A variadic function is a function of indefinite arity: one which accepts a variable number of arguments.

SARL allows you to define the last parameter of a function as variadic with the operator *. This operator has an informal meaning similar to the cardinality in UML: zero to many.

In the code of the variadic function, the variadic parameter is assumed to be an array of objects of the parameter type.

In other languages, such as Java and C++, the variadic operator is ....

In the following example, two variadic functions are defined:

// Function with indefinite number of integers as parameters
def action1(v : int*) {
	for (value : v) {
// Function which takes a boolean, a double and an indefinite 
// number of integers as parameters
def action2(a : boolean, b : double, c : int*) {
	for (value : c) {

Examples of calls to the two previous variadic functions are:

action1(1, 3)
action2(true, 3.0)
action2(true, 3.0, 1)
action2(true, 3.0, 1, 5)

##5. Default Value for the Formal Parameters

SARL allows you to specify a default value for a formal parameter.

When a default value is specified, it means that the caller of the action can skip passing a value for the corresponding argument. And, when the function is called, the default value is given to the skipped argument.

In SARL, if a formal parameter has a default value, the following formal parameters do not need to have default values as well. This is a major difference with the default values in other languages, such as C++.
// Function with one parameter with a default value.
def action1(v : int = 5) {
	info("v == " + v)
// Function which takes a boolean, a double and an integer as parameters.
// The first and third parameters have default values. 
def action2(a : boolean=true, b : double, c : int=7) {
	info("a == " + a)
	info("b == " + b)
	info("c == " + c)

Examples of calls to the two previous functions are:

// v == 1

// v == 5

// a == true, b == 3.0, c == 1
action2(true, 3.0, 1)

// a == false, b == 4.0, c == 7
action2(false, 4.0)

// a == true, b == 7.0, c == 56
action2(7.0, 56)

// a == true, b == 9.0, c == 7

##6. Mixing Variadic Parameter and Default Values

It is possible to mix the variadic parameter and the default values, except that the variadic parameter cannot have a default value.

def action(v : int = 5, a : float*) { }

##7. Dispatch Function

Generally, method resolution and binding is done statically at compile time. Method calls are bound based on the static types of arguments.

Sometimes this is not what you want. Especially in the context of extension methods you would like to have polymorphic behavior.

The dispatch modifier permits defining a dispatch method.

dispatch def getType(x : Integer) { 
  "it's an int" 
dispatch def getType(x : String) { 
  "it's a string" 
dispatch def getType(x : Number) { 
  "it's a number" 
def clientCode {
	getType("a string").println

For a set of visible dispatch methods in the current type hierarchy with the same name and the same number of arguments, the compiler infers a synthetic dispatcher method. From the example above, the SARL compiler infers the following function, named the synthesized dispatcher.

def printType(x : Object) { 
  if (x instanceof Integer) {
    printType(x as Integer)
  } else if (x instanceof Number) {
    printType(x as Number)
  } else if (x instanceof String) {
    printType(x as String)

This dispatcher uses the common super type of all declared arguments. Client code always binds to the synthesized dispatcher method.

In the example, the calls to the getType functions produces the output:

it's a number
it's an int
it's a string

##8. Acknowledgements

This documentation is inspired by the documentations from the Xtext and Xtend projects.

##9. Legal Notice

Copyright © 2014-2019 the original authors or authors.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0; you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License.

You are free to reproduce the content of this page on copyleft websites such as Wikipedia.

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