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Issue: APPEND-DOTTED (Version 3)
- To: cl-cleanup@Sail.stanford.edu
- Subject: Issue: APPEND-DOTTED (Version 3)
- From: Masinter.pa@Xerox.COM
- Date: 14 Nov 87 15:38 PST
- Cc: Masinter.pa@Xerox.COM
I fixed a nit in current practice, added an endorsement, and formatted
for release. This issue had somehow gotten dropped from the list of open
issues. The only mail after the last note were several "looks OK"
messages. I think this issue is ready for release.
References: APPEND (p268)
Edit history: 27-Jul-87, Version 1 by Pitman
29-Oct-87, Version 2 by Pitman (loose ends)
14-Nov-87, Version 3 by Masinter
The description of APPEND on p268 is not adequately clear on the issue
of what happens if an argument to APPEND is a dotted list.
Define that the cdr of the last cons in any but the last list given to
APPEND or NCONC is discarded (whether NIL or not) when preparing the
list to be returned.
In the degenerate case where there is no last cons (i.e., the argument
is NIL) in any but the last list argument, clarify that the entire
argument is effectively ignored. Point out that in this situation, if
the last argument is a non-list, the result of APPEND or NCONC can be a
Remove any text which suggests that (APPEND x '()) and (COPY-LIST x) are
the same, since these two might legitimately differ in situations
involving dotted lists. As such, deciding which to use is not just a
(APPEND '(A B C . D) '()) => (A B C) ;Proposed
(NCONC (LIST* 'A 'B 'C 'D) '()) => (A B C) ;Proposed
Note that (COPY-LIST '(A B C . D)) would still return (A B C . D).
(APPEND '(A B . C) '() 3) => (A B . 3) ;Proposed
(NCONC (LIST* 'A 'B 'C) '() 3) => (A B . 3) ;Proposed
(APPEND '() 17) => 17 ;Proposed
(NCONC (LIST) 17) => 17 ;Proposed
This function is used a lot and its behavior should be well-defined
across implementations. This proposal upholds the apparent status quo in
a number of implementations.
Symbolics Lisp, Vaxlisp, and Lucid Lisp appear to implement the proposed
interpretation (at least in the interpreter).
Kyoto Common Lisp signal an error when using APPEND or NCONC on a dotted
list. Xerox Common Lisp signals an error on APPEND and implements the
proposed interpretation on NCONC.
Technically, the change should be relatively small for those
implementations which don't already implement it. However:
If there are any implementations which have microcoded APPEND or NCONC
incompatibly, the small change may nevertheless be somewhat painful.
Some implementations may have optimized their APPEND or NCONC to expect
only NIL when SAFETY is 0. In this case, depending on implementation
details, requiring an ATOM check rather than a NULL check may slow
Since non-lists are allowed as a last argument and since APPEND and
NCONC can therefore produce dotted lists, some readers may have
(incorrectly) assumed that APPEND and NCONC can reliably deal in general
with dotted lists, something that doesn't appear to be guaranteed by a
strict reading. The proposed extension would happen to legitimize such
This change is upward compatible.
Whether or not users will think this improves the aesthetics of the
language will depend largely on how they view the relation between lists
and dotted lists. Those who view dotted lists as a special kind of list
may feel differently than those who view lists as a special kind of
The cleanup committee supports this extension.