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Synopsis_06 - Subroutines


Damian Conway <> and Allison Randal <>


  Maintainer: Larry Wall <>
  Date: 21 Mar 2003
  Last Modified: 24 Feb 2006
  Number: 6
  Version: 18

This document summarizes Apocalypse 6, which covers subroutines and the new type system.

Subroutines and other code objects ^

Subroutines (keyword: sub) are non-inheritable routines with parameter lists.

Methods (keyword: method) are inheritable routines which always have an associated object (known as their invocant) and belong to a particular kind or class.

Submethods (keyword: submethod) are non-inheritable methods, or subroutines masquerading as methods. They have an invocant and belong to a particular kind or class.

Multimethods (keyword: multi) are routines that transcend class boundaries, and can have one or more invocants.

Rules (keyword: rule) are methods (of a grammar) that perform pattern matching. Their associated block has a special syntax (see Synopsis 5).

Tokens (keyword: token) are rules that perform low-level pattern matching (and also enable rules to do whitespace dwimmery).

Macros (keyword: macro) are routines whose calls execute as soon as they are parsed (i.e. at compile-time). Macros may return another source code string or a parse-tree.

Named subroutines

The general syntax for named subroutines is any of:

     my RETTYPE sub NAME ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...}    # lexical only
    our RETTYPE sub NAME ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...}    # also package-scoped
                sub NAME ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...}    # same as "our"

The return type may also be put inside the parentheses:

    sub NAME (PARAMS --> RETTYPE) {...}

Unlike in Perl 5, named subroutines are considered expressions, so this is valid Perl 6:

    my @subs = (sub foo { ... }, sub bar { ... });

Anonymous subroutines

The general syntax for anonymous subroutines is:

    sub ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...}

But one can also use a scope modifier to introduce the return type first:

     my RETTYPE sub ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...}
    our RETTYPE sub ( PARAMS ) TRAITS {...} # means the same as "my" here

Trait is the name for a compile-time (is) property. See "Traits and Properties"

Perl5ish subroutine declarations

You can declare a sub without parameter list, as in Perl 5:

    sub foo {...}

Arguments implicitly come in via the @_ array, but they are readonly aliases to actual arguments:

    sub say { print qq{"@_[]"\n}; }   # args appear in @_

    sub cap { $_ = uc $_ for @_ }   # Error: elements of @_ are constant

If you need to modify the elements of @_, declare it explicitly with the is rw trait:

    sub swap (*@_ is rw) { @_[0,1] = @_[1,0] }


Raw blocks are also executable code structures in Perl 6.

Every block defines an object of type Code, which may either be executed immediately or passed on as a Code reference argument. A bare block where an operator is expected is bound to the current statement level control syntax. A bare block where a term is expected merely produces a reference. If the term bare block occurs in a list, it is considered the final element of that list unless followed immediately by a comma or comma surrogate.

"Pointy subs"

Semantically the arrow operator -> is almost a synonym for the anonymous sub keyword, except that the parameter list of a pointy sub does not require parentheses, and a pointy sub may not be given traits. Syntactically a pointy sub is parsed exactly like a bare block.

    $sq = -> $val { $val**2 };  # Same as: $sq = sub ($val) { $val**2 };

    for @list -> $elem {        # Same as: for @list, sub ($elem) {
        print "$elem\n";        #              print "$elem\n";
    }                           #          }

It also behaves like a block with respect to control exceptions. If you return from within a pointy sub, it will return from the innermost enclosing sub or method, not the block itself. It is referenced by &?BLOCK, not &?SUB.

Stub declarations

To predeclare a subroutine without actually defining it, use a "stub block":

    sub foo {...}     # Yes, those three dots are part of the actual syntax

The old Perl 5 form:

    sub foo;

is a compile-time error in Perl 6 (for reasons explained in Apocalypse 6).

Redefining a stub subroutine does not produce an error. To redefine any other subroutine you must explicitly use the "is instead" trait.

The ... is the "yadayadayada" operator, which is executable but returns a failure. You can also use ??? to produce a warning, or !!! to always die. These also officially define stub blocks if used as the only expression in the block.

Globally scoped subroutines

Subroutines and variables can be declared in the global namespace, and are thereafter visible everywhere in a program.

Global subroutines and variables are normally referred to by prefixing their identifiers with * (short for "GLOBAL::"). The * is normally required on the declaration but may be omitted on use if the reference is unambiguous:

    $*next_id = 0;
    sub *saith($text)  { print "Yea verily, $text" }

    module A {
        my $next_id = 2;    # hides any global or package $next_id
        saith($next_id);    # print the lexical $next_id;
        saith($*next_id);   # print the global $next_id;

    module B {
        saith($next_id);    # Unambiguously the global $next_id

Only the name is installed into the GLOBAL package by *. To define subs completely within the scope of the GLOBAL namespace you should use "package GLOBAL {...}" around the declaration.

Lvalue subroutines

Lvalue subroutines return a "proxy" object that can be assigned to. It's known as a proxy because the object usually represents the purpose or outcome of the subroutine call.

Subroutines are specified as being lvalue using the is rw trait.

An lvalue subroutine may return a variable:

    my $lastval;
    sub lastval () is rw { return $lastval }

or the result of some nested call to an lvalue subroutine:

    sub prevval () is rw { return lastval() }

or a specially tied proxy object, with suitably programmed FETCH and STORE methods:

    sub checklastval ($passwd) is rw {
        return new Proxy:
                FETCH => sub ($self) {
                            return lastval();
                STORE => sub ($self, $val) {
                            die unless check($passwd);
                            lastval() = $val;

Other methods may be defined for specialized purposes such as temporizing the value of the proxy.

Operator overloading

Operators are just subroutines with special names and scoping. An operator name consists of a grammatical category name followed by a single colon followed by an operator name specified as if it were a hash subscript (but evaluated at compile time). So any of these indicate the same binary addition operator:


Use the & sigil just as you would on ordinary subs.

Unary operators are defined as prefix or postfix:

    sub prefix:<OPNAME>  ($operand) {...}
    sub postfix:<OPNAME> ($operand) {...}

Binary operators are defined as infix:

    sub infix:<OPNAME> ($leftop, $rightop) {...}

Bracketing operators are defined as circumfix where a term is expected or postcircumfix where a postfix is expected. A two-element slice containing the leading and trailing delimiters is the name of the operator.

    sub circumfix:<LEFTDELIM RIGHTDELIM> ($contents) {...}
    sub circumfix:{'LEFTDELIM','RIGHTDELIM'} ($contents) {...}

Contrary to A6, there is no longer any rule about splitting an even number of characters. You must use a two element slice. Such names are canonicalized to a single form within the symbol table, so you must use the canonical name if you wish to subscript the symbol table directly (as in PKG::{'infix:<+>'}). Otherwise any form will do. (Symbolic references do not count as direct subscripts since they go through a parsing process.) The canonical form always uses angle brackets and a single space between slice elements. The elements are not escaped, so PKG::circumfix:{'<','>'} is canonicalized to PKG::{'circumfix:<< >>'}, and decanonicalizing always involves stripping the outer angles and splitting on space, if any. This works because a hash key knows how long it is, so there's no ambiguity about where the final angle is. And space works because operators are not allowed to contain spaces.

Operator names can be any sequence of non-whitespace characters including Unicode characters. For example:

    sub infix:<(c)> ($text, $owner) { return $text but Copyright($owner) }
    method prefix:<±> (Num $x) returns Num { return +$x | -$x }
    multi sub postfix:<!> (Int $n) { $n < 2 ?? 1 :: $n*($n-1)! }
    macro circumfix:«<!-- -->» ($text) is parsed / .*? / { "" }

    my $document = $text (c) $me;

    my $tolerance = ±7!;

    <!-- This is now a comment -->

Whitespace may never be part of the name (except as separator within a <...> or «...» slice, as in the example above).

A null operator name does not define a null or whitespace operator, but a default matching rule for that syntactic category, which is useful when there is no fixed string that can be recognized, such as tokens beginning with digits. Such an operator must supply an is parsed trait. The Perl grammar uses a default rule for the :1st, :2nd, :3rd, etc. rule modifiers, something like this:

    sub rxmodexternal:<> ($x) is parsed(rx:p/\d+[st|nd|rd|th]/) {...}

Such default rules are attempted in the order declared. (They always follow any rules with a known prefix, by the longest-token-first rule.)

Although the name of an operator can be installed into any package or lexical namespace, the syntactic effects of an operator declaration are always lexically scoped. Operators other than the standard ones should not be installed into the * namespace. Always use exportation to make non-standard syntax available to other scopes.

Parameters and arguments ^

Perl 6 subroutines may be declared with parameter lists.

By default, all parameters are readonly aliases to their corresponding arguments--the parameter is just another name for the original argument, but the argument can't be modified through it. To allow modification, use the is rw trait. To pass-by-copy, use the is copy trait.

Parameters may be required or optional. They may be passed by position, or by name. Individual parameters may confer a scalar or list context on their corresponding arguments, but unlike in Perl 5, this is decided lazily at parameter binding time.

Arguments destined for required positional parameters must come before those bound to optional positional parameters. Arguments destined for named parameters may come before and/or after the positional parameters. (To avoid confusion it is highly recommended that all positional parameters be kept contiguous in the call syntax, but this is not enforced, and custom arg list processors are certainly possible on those arguments that are bound to a final slurpy or arglist variable.)

Named arguments are recognized syntactically at the "comma" level. Pairs intended as positional arguments rather than named arguments must be isolated by extra parens:

    doit :when<now>,1,2,3;      # always a named arg
    doit (:when<now>),1,2,3;    # always a positional arg

    doit when => 'now',1,2,3;   # always a named arg
    doit (when => 'now'),1,2,3; # always a positional arg

Going the other way, pairs intended as named arguments that don't look like pairs must be introduced with *:

    $pair = :when<now>;
    doit $pair,1,2,3;   # always a positional arg
    doit *$pair,1,2,3;  # always a named arg

Likewise, if you wish to pass a hash and have its entries treated as named arguments, you must introduce it with a *:

    %pairs = {:when<now> :what<any>};
    doit %pairs,1,2,3;  # always a positional arg
    doit *%pairs,1,2,3; # always named args

Variables with a : prefix in rvalue context autogenerate pairs, so you can also say this:

    $when = 'now';
    doit $when,1,2,3;   # always a positional arg of 'now'
    doit :$when,1,2,3;  # always a named arg of :when<now>

In other words :$when is shorthand for :when($when). This works for any sigil:

    :$what      :what($what)
    :@what      :what(@what)
    :%what      :what(%what)
    :&what      :what(&what)

There is a corresponding shortcut for hash keys if you prefix the subscript instead of the sigil. The : is not functioning as an operator here, but as a modifier of the following token:

    doit %hash:<a>,1,2,3;
    doit %hash:{'b'},1,2,3;

are short for

    doit :a(%hash<a>),1,2,3;
    doit :b(%hash{'b'}),1,2,3;

Ordinary hash notation will just pass the value of the hash entry as a positional argument regardless of whether it is a pair or not. To pass both key and value out of hash as a positional pair, use :p.

    doit %hash<a>:p,1,2,3;
    doit %hash{'b'}:p,1,2,3;

instead.. (The :p stands for "pairs", not "positional"--the :p adverb may be placed on any hash reference to make it mean "pairs" instead of "values".)

Pairs are recognized syntactically at the call level and mystically transformed into special Named objects that may be bound to positionals only by name, not as ordinary positional Pair objects. Leftover special Named objects can be slurped into a slurpy hash.

After the positional and named arguments, all the rest of the arguments are taken to be list arguments. Any pairs within the list are taken to be list elements rather than named arguments, and mystically show up as Pair arguments even if the compiler marked them as Named.

It is possible that named pairs are not really a separate type; it would be sufficient to have a bit somewhere in the Pair that can be interrogated under the .named property. The compiler is allowed to stop marking "named" pairs at the first <==, but the code that converts unused positional arguments to implicit slurpy list needs to be careful to clear the .named property on arguments so converted. For instance, if you say

    push @array, 1, 2, :a<b>;

the compiler cannot know that the slurpy list starts at 1, so it markes :a<b> as a named pair. But that mark needs to be cleared, or

    say pop(@array);

will then think you said:

    say *pop(@array);

and treat :a<b> as a named argument to print, which is not what you want.

In any event, the named parameters need to be kept in the list until bound. An implementation that pulls named parameters out of the list into a hash prematurely will lose the ordering of the push above, for instance.

Invocant parameters

A method invocant is specified as the first parameter in the parameter list, with a colon (rather than a comma) immediately after it:

    method get_name ($self:) {...}
    method set_name ($me: $newname) {...}

The corresponding argument (the invocant) is evaluated in scalar context and is passed as the left operand of the method call operator:

    print $obj.get_name();

Multimethod and multisub invocants are specified at the start of the parameter list, with a colon terminating the list of invocants:

    multi sub handle_event ($window, $event: $mode) {...}    # two invocants

Multi invocant arguments are passed positionally, though the first invocant can be passed via the method call syntax if the multi happens to be defined as a multi method within the class of the first invocant.

    # Multimethod calls...
    handle_event($w, $e, $m);
    $w.handle_event($e, $m);

Invocants may also be passed using the indirect object syntax, with a colon after them. The colon is just a special form of the comma, and has the same precedence:

    # Indirect method call...
    set_name $obj: "Sam";

    # Indirect multimethod call...
    handle_event $w, $e: $m;

Passing too many or too few invocants is a fatal error if no matching definition can be found.

An invocant is the topic of the corresponding method or multi if that formal parameter is declared with the name $_. A method's single invocant always has the alias self. Other styles of self can be declared with the self pragma.

Required parameters

Required parameters are specified at the start of a subroutine's parameter list:

    sub numcmp ($x, $y) { return $x <=> $y }

Required parameters may optionally be declared with a trailing !, though that's already the default for positional parameters:

    sub numcmp ($x!, $y!) { return $x <=> $y }

The corresponding arguments are evaluated in scalar context and may be passed positionally or by name. To pass an argument by name, specify it as a pair: parameter_name => argument_value.

    $comparison = numcmp(2,7);
    $comparison = numcmp(x=>2, y=>7);
    $comparison = numcmp(y=>7, x=>2);

Pairs may also be passed in adverbial pair notation:

    $comparison = numcmp(:x(2), :y(7));
    $comparison = numcmp(:y(7), :x(2));

Passing the wrong number of required arguments to a normal subroutine is a fatal error. Passing a NamedArg that cannot be bound to a normal subroutine is also a fatal error. (Methods are different.)

The number of required parameters a subroutine has can be determined by calling its .arity method:

    $args_required = &foo.arity;

Optional parameters

Optional positional parameters are specified after all the required parameters and each is marked with a ? after the parameter:

    sub my_substr ($str, $from?, $len?) {...}

Alternately, optional fields may be marked by supplying a default value. The = sign introduces a default value:

    sub my_substr ($str, $from = 0, $len = Inf) {...}

Default values can be calculated at run-time. They may even use the values of preceding parameters:

    sub xml_tag ($tag, $endtag = matching_tag($tag) ) {...}

Arguments that correspond to optional parameters are evaluated in scalar context. They can be omitted, passed positionally, or passed by name:

    my_substr("foobar");            # $from is 0, $len is infinite
    my_substr("foobar",1);          # $from is 1, $len is infinite
    my_substr("foobar",1,3);        # $from is 1, $len is 3
    my_substr("foobar",len=>3);     # $from is 0, $len is 3

Missing optional arguments default to their default value, or to an undefined value if they have no default. (A supplied argument that is undefined is not considered to be missing, and hence does not trigger the default. Use //= within the body for that.)

(Conjectural: Within the body you may also use exists on the parameter name to determine whether it was passed. Maybe this will have to be restricted to the ? form, unless we're willing to admit that a parameter could be simultaneously defined and non-existant.)

Named parameters

Named-only parameters follow any required or optional parameters in the signature. They are marked by a ::

    sub formalize($text, :$case, :$justify) {...}

This is actually shorthand for:

    sub formalize($text, :case($case), :justify($justify)) {...}

Arguments that correspond to named parameters are evaluated in scalar context. They can only be passed by name, so it doesn't matter what order you pass them in, so long as they don't intermingle with any positional arguments:

    $formal = formalize($title, case=>'upper');
    $formal = formalize($title, justify=>'left');
    $formal = formalize($title, :justify<right>, :case<title>);

Named parameters are optional unless marked with !. Default values for optional named parameters are defined in the same way as for positional parameters, but may depend only on the values of parameters that have already been bound. (Note that binding happens in the call order, not declaration order.) Named optional parameters default to undef if they have no default. Named required parameters fail unless an argument pair of that name is supplied.

Again, note the use of adverbial pairs in the argument list. The following table shows the correspondence:

    Fat arrow           Adverbial pair
    =========           ==============
    a => 1              :a
    a => 0              :a(0)
    a => $x             :a($x)
    a => 'foo'          :a<foo>
    a => <foo bar>      :a<foo bar>
    a => «$foo @bar»    :a«$foo @bar»
    a => {...}          :a{...}
    a => [...]          :a[...]
    a => $a             :$a
    a => @a             :@a
    a => %a             :%a
    a => %foo<a>        %foo:<a>

List parameters

List parameters capture a variable length list of data. They're used in subroutines like print, where the number of arguments needs to be flexible. They're also called "variadic parameters", because they take a variable number of arguments. But generally we call them "slurpy" parameters because they slurp up arguments.

Slurpy parameters follow any required or optional parameters. They are marked by a * before the parameter:

    sub duplicate($n, *%flag, *@data) {...}

Named arguments are bound to the slurpy hash (*%flag in the above example). Such arguments are evaluated in scalar context. Any remaining variadic arguments at the end of the argument list are bound to the slurpy array (*@data above) and are evaluated in list context.

For example:

    duplicate(3, reverse => 1, collate => 0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14);
    duplicate(3, :reverse, :collate(0), 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14);  # same

    # The @data parameter receives [2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14]
    # The %flag parameter receives { reverse => 1, collate => 0 }

Slurpy scalar parameters capture what would otherwise be the first elements of the variadic array:

    sub head(*$head, *@tail)         { return $head }
    sub neck(*$head, *$neck, *@tail) { return $neck }
    sub tail(*$head, *@tail)         { return @tail }

    head(1, 2, 3, 4, 5);        # $head parameter receives 1
                                # @tail parameter receives [2, 3, 4, 5]

    neck(1, 2, 3, 4, 5);        # $head parameter receives 1
                                # $neck parameter receives 2
                                # @tail parameter receives [3, 4, 5]

Slurpy scalars still impose list context on their arguments.

Slurpy parameters are treated lazily -- the list is only flattened into an array when individual elements are actually accessed:

    @fromtwo = tail(1..Inf);        # @fromtwo contains a lazy [2..Inf]

You can't bind to the name of a slurpy parameter: the name is just there so you can refer to it within the body.

    sub foo(*%flag, *@data) {...}

    foo(:flag{ a => 1 }, :data[ 1, 2, 3 ]);
        # %flag has elements (flag => (a => 1)) and (data => [1,2,3])
        # @data has nothing

Slurpy block

It's also possible to declare a slurpy block: *&block. It slurps up any nameless block, specified by {...}, at either the current positional location or the end of the syntactic list. Put it first if you want the option of putting a block either first or last in the arguments. Put it last if you want to force it to come in as the last argument.

Argument list binding

The underlying argument list (List) object may be bound to a single scalar parameter marked with a \:

    sub foo (\$args) { say $args.perl; &*$args); }
    sub bar ($a,$b,$c,:$mice) { say $mice }

    foo 1,2,3,:mice<blind>;     # says "\(1,2,3,:mice<blind>)" then "blind"

It is allowed to specify a return type:

    sub foo (\$args --> Num) { ... }

Apart from that, no other parameters are allowed in the signature after the List. Parameters before the List either do not show up in the List or are marked as already bound somehow. In other words, parameters are bound normally up to the List parameter, and then \$args takes a snapshot of the remaining input without further attempts at binding.

Flattening argument lists

The unary prefix operator * dereferences its operand (which allows the elements of an array or iterator or List or Tuple to be used as part of an argument list). The * operator also causes its operand -- and any subsequent arguments in the argument list -- to be evaluated in list context. It also turns off syntactic recognition of named pairs. The eventual argument list will be parsed at call time for named pairs. All contiguous pairs are treated as named arguments until the first non-Pair, and the rest of the arguments are considered slurpy args. [XXX still underspecified...]

    sub foo($x, $y, $z) {...}    # expects three scalars
    @onetothree = 1..3;          # array stores three scalars

    foo(1,2,3);                  # okay:  three args found
    foo(@onetothree);            # error: only one arg
    foo(*@onetothree);           # okay:  @onetothree flattened to three args

The * operator flattens lazily -- the array is flattened only if flattening is actually required within the subroutine. To flatten before the list is even passed into the subroutine, use the unary prefix ** operator:

    foo(**@onetothree);          # array flattened before &foo called

Multidimensional argument list binding

Some functions take multiple Lists that they wish not to be flattened into one list. For instance, zip() wants to iterate several lists in parallel, while array and hash subscripts want to process multidimensional slices. The set of underlying argument list (List) objects may be bound to a single array parameter declared with a ; twigil:

    sub foo (*@;slices) { ... }

It is allowed to specify a return type:

    sub foo (*@;slices --> Num) { ... }

Pipe operators

The variadic array of a subroutine call can be passed in separately from the normal argument list, by using either of the "pipe" operators: <== or ==>.

Each operator expects to find a call to a variadic receiver on its "sharp" end, and a list of values on its "blunt" end:

    grep { $_ % 2 } <== @data;

    @data ==> grep { $_ % 2 };

It binds the (potentially lazy) list from the blunt end to the slurpy parameter(s) of the receiver on the sharp end. In the case of a receiver that is a variadic function, the pipe is received as part of its slurpy list. So both of the calls above are equivalent to:

    grep { $_ % 2 } @data;

Leftward pipes are a convenient way of explicitly indicating the typical right-to-left flow of data through a chain of operations:

    @oddsquares = map { $_**2 }, sort grep { $_ % 2 }, @nums;

    # more clearly written as...

    @oddsquares = map { $_**2 } <== sort <== grep { $_ % 2 } <== @nums;

Rightward pipes are a convenient way of reversing the normal data flow in a chain of operations, to make it read left-to-right:

    @oddsquares =
            (@nums ==> grep { $_ % 2 } ==> sort ==> map { $_**2 });

Note that the parens are necessary there due to precedence.

If the operand on the sharp end of a pipe is not a call to a variadic operation, it must be something else that can be interpreted as a list receiver.

You may use a variable (or variable declaration) as a receiver, in which case the list value is bound as the "todo" of the variable. Do not think of it as an assignment, nor as an ordinary binding. Think of it as iterator creation. In the case of a scalar variable, that variable contains the newly created iterator itself. In the case of an array, the new iterator is installed as the method for extending the array. Unlike with assignment, no clobbering of the array is implied. It's therefore more like a push than an assignment.

In general you can simply think of a receiver array as representing the results of the pipeline, so you can equivalently write any of:

    my @oddsquares <== map { $_**2 } <== sort <== grep { $_ % 2 } <== @nums;

    my @oddsquares
        <== map { $_**2 }
        <== sort
        <== grep { $_ % 2 }
        <== @nums;

    @nums ==> grep { $_ % 2 } ==> sort ==> map { $_**2 } ==> my @oddsquares;

    ==> grep { $_ % 2 }
    ==> sort
    ==> map { $_**2 }
    ==> my @oddsquares;

Since the pipe iterator is bound into the final variable, the variable can be just as lazy as the pipe that is producing the values.

Because pipes are bound to arrays with "push" semantics, you can have a receiver for multiple pipes:

    my @foo;
    0..2       ==> @foo;
    'a'..'c'   ==> @foo;
    say @foo;   # 0,1,2,'a','b','c'

Note how the pipes are concatenated in @foo so that @foo is a list of 6 elements. This is the default behavior. However, sometimes you want to capture the outputs as a list of two iterators, namely the two iterators that represent the two input pipes. You can get at those two iterators by using the name @;foo instead, where the "pipe" twigil marks a multidimensional array, that is, an array of slices.

    0...       ==> @;foo;
    'a'...     ==> @;foo;
    pidigits() ==> @;foo;

    for zip(@;foo) { say }


Here @;foo is an array of three iterators, so


is equivalent to

    zip(@;foo[0]; @;foo[1]; @;foo[2])

A semicolon inside brackets is equivalent to stacked pipes. The code above could be rewritten as:

    (0...; 'a'...; pidigits()) ==> my @;foo;
    for @; { say }

which is in turn equivalent to

    for zip(0...; 'a'...; pidigits()) { say }

A named receiver array is useful when you wish to pipe into an expression that is not an ordinary list operator, and you wish to be clear where the pipe's destination is supposed to be:

    picklist() ==> my @baz;
    my @foo = @bar[@baz];

Various contexts may or may not be expecting multi-dimensional slices or pipes. By default, ordinary arrays are flattened, that is, they have "cat" semantics. If you say

    (0..2; 'a'..'c') ==> my @tmp;
    for @tmp { say }

then you get 0,1,2,'a','b','c'. If you have a multidim array, you can ask for cat semantics explicitly with cat():

    (0..2; 'a'..'c') ==> my @;tmp;
    for @; { say }

As we saw earlier, "zip" produces little arrays by taking one element from each list in turn, so

    (0..2; 'a'..'c') ==> my @;tmp;
    for @; { say }

produces [0,'a'],[1,'b'],[2,'c']. If you don't want the subarrays, then use each() instead:

    (0..2; 'a'..'c') ==> my @;tmp;
    for @; { say }

and then you just get 0,'a',1,'b',2,'c'. This is good for

    for @; -> $i, $a { say "$i: $a" }

In list context the @;foo notation is really a shorthand for [;](@;foo).

Every lexical scope gets its own implicitly declared @; variable, which is the default receiver. So instead of using @;foo above you can just say

    0...       ==> ;
    'a'...     ==> ;
    pidigits() ==> ;

    for zip(@;) { say }

Note that with the current definition, the order of pipes is preserved left to right in general regardless of the position of the receiver.


    ('a'...; 0...) ==> ;
     for zip(@; <== @foo) -> [$a, $i, $x] { ...}

is the same as

    'a'... ==> ;
     0...  ==> ;
     for zip(@; <== @foo) -> [$a, $i, $x] { ...}

which is the same as

    for zip('a'...; 0...; @foo) -> [$a, $i, $x] { ...}


    @foo ==> ;
    0... ==> ;
    for each(@;) -> $x, $i { ...}

is the same as

    0... ==> ;
    for each(@foo; @;) -> $x, $i { ...}

which is the same as

    for each(@foo; 0...) -> $x, $i { ...}

Note that the each method is also sensitive to multislicing, so you could also just write that as:

    (@foo; 0...).map: -> $x, $i { ...}

Also note that these come out to identical for ordinary arrays:

Closure parameters

Parameters declared with the & sigil take blocks, closures, or subroutines as their arguments. Closure parameters can be required, optional, named, or slurpy.

    sub limited_grep (Int $count, &block, *@list) {...}

    # and later...

    @first_three = limited_grep 3, {$_<10}, @data;

Within the subroutine, the closure parameter can be used like any other lexically scoped subroutine:

    sub limited_grep (Int $count, &block, *@list) {
        if block($nextelem) {...}

The closure parameter can have its own signature in a type specification written with :(...):

    sub limited_Dog_grep ($count, &block:(Dog), Dog *@list) {...}

and even a return type:

    sub limited_Dog_grep ($count, &block:(Dog --> Bool), Dog *@list) {...}

When an argument is passed to a closure parameter that has this kind of signature, the argument must be a Code object with a compatible parameter list and return type.

Type parameters

Unlike normal parameters, type parameters often come in piggybacked on the actual value as "kind", and you'd like a way to capture both the value and its kind at once. (A "kind" is a class or type that an object is allowed to be. An object is not officially allowed to take on a constrained or contravariant type.) A type variable can be used anywhere a type name can, but instead of asserting that the value must conform to a particular type, instead captures the actual "kind" of object and also declares a package/type name by which you can refer to that kind later in the signature or body. For instance, if you wanted to match any two Dogs as long as they were of the same kind, you can say:

    sub matchedset (Dog ::T $fido, T $spot) {...}

(Note that ::T is not required to contain Dog, only a type that is compatible with Dog.)

The :: sigil is short for "subset" in much the same way that & is short for "sub". Just as & can be used to name any kind of code, so too :: can be used to name any kind of type. Both of them insert a bare identifier into the grammar, though they fill different syntactic spots.

Note that it is not required to capture the object associated with the class unless you want it. The sub above could be written

    sub matchedset (Dog ::T, T) {...}

if we're not interested in $fido or $spot. Or just

    sub matchedset (::T, T) {...}

if we don't care about anything but the matching.

Unpacking array parameters

Instead of specifying an array parameter as an array:

    sub quicksort (@data, ?$reverse, ?$inplace) {
        my $pivot := shift @data;

it may be broken up into components in the signature, by specifying the parameter as if it were an anonymous array of parameters:

    sub quicksort ([$pivot, *@data], ?$reverse, ?$inplace) {

This subroutine still expects an array as its first argument, just like the first version.

Unpacking a single list argument

To match the first element of the slurpy list, use a "slurpy" scalar:

    sub quicksort (:$reverse, :$inplace, *$pivot, *@data)

Unpacking hash parameters

Likewise, a hash argument can be mapped to a hash of parameters, specified as named parameters within curlies. Instead of saying:

    sub register (%guest_data, $room_num) {
        my $name := delete %guest_data<name>;
        my $addr := delete %guest_data<addr>;

you can get the same effect with:

    sub register ({:$name, :$addr, *%guest_data}, $room_num) {

Unpacking tree node parameters

You can unpack tree nodes in various dwimmy ways by enclosing the bindings of child nodes and attributes in parentheses following the declaration of the node itself

    sub traverse ( BinTree $top ( $left, $right ) ) {

In this, $left and $right are automatically bound to the left and right nodes of the tree. If $top is an ordinary object, it binds the $top.left and $top.right attributes. If it's a hash, it binds $top<left> and $top<right>. If BinTree is a signature type and $top is a List (argument list) object, the child types of the signature are applied to the actual arguments in the argument list object. (Signature types have the benefit that you can view them inside-out as constructors with positional arguments, such that the transformations can be reversible.)

However, the full power of signatures can be applied to pattern match just about any argument or set of arguments, even though in some cases the reverse transformation is not intuitable. For instance, to bind to an array of children named .kids or .<kids>, use something like:

    sub traverse ( NAry $top ( :kids [$eldest, *@siblings] ) ) {

Likewise, to bind to a hash element of the node and then bind to keys in that hash by name:

    sub traverse ( AttrNode $top ( :%attr{ :$vocalic, :$tense } ) {
        say "Has {+%attr} attributes, of which";
        say "vocalic = $vocalic";
        say "tense = $tense";

You may omit the top variable if you prefix the parentheses with a colon to indicate a signature. Otherwise you must at least put the sigil of the variable, or we can't correctly differentiate:

    my Dog ($fido, $spot) = twodogs();          # list of two dogs
    my Dog $ ($fido, $spot) := twodogs();       # one twodog object
    my Dog :($fido, $spot) := twodogs();        # one twodog object

Subsignatures can be matched directly with rules by using :(...) notation.

    push @a, "foo";
    push @a, \(1,2,3);
    push @a, "bar";
    my ($i, $j, $k);
    @a ~~ rx/
            <,>                         # match initial elem boundary
            :(Int $i,Int $j,Int? $k)    # match tuple with 2 or 3 ints
            <,>                         # match final elem boundary
    say "i = $<i>";
    say "j = $<j>";
    say "k = $<k>" if defined $<k>;

If you want a parameter bound into $/, you have to say $<i> within the signature. Otherwise it will try to bind an external $i instead, and fail if no such variable is declared.

Note that unlike a sub declaration, a rule-embedded signature has no associated "returns" syntactic slot, so you have to use --> within the signature to specify the type of the tuple, or match as an arglist:

    :(Num, Num --> Coord)
    :(\Coord(Num, Num))

A consequence of the latter form is that you can match the type of an object with :(\Dog) without actually breaking it into its components. Note, however, that it's not equivalent to say

    :(--> Dog)

which would be equivalent to


that is, match a null tuple of type Dog. Nor is it equivalent to


which would be equivalent to




and match a tuple-ish item with a single value of type Dog.

Note also that bare \(1,2,3) is never legal in a rule since the first paren would try to match literally.

Attributive parameters

If a submethod's parameter is declared with a . or ! after the sigil (like an attribute):

    submethod initialize($.name, $!age) {}

then the argument is assigned directly to the object's attribute of the same name. This avoids the frequent need to write code like:

    submethod initialize($name, $age) {
        $.name = $name;
        $!age  = $age;

To rename an attribute parameter you can use the explicit pair form:

    submethod initialize(:moniker($.name), :youth($!age)) {}

The :$name shortcut may be combined with the $.name shortcut, but the twigil is ignored for the parameter name, so

    submethod initialize(:$.name, :$!age) {}

is the same as:

    submethod initialize(:name($.name), :age($!age)) {}

Note that $!age actually refers to the private "has" variable that can be referred to either as $age or $!age.

Placeholder variables

Even though every bare block is a closure, bare blocks can't have explicit parameter lists. Instead, they use "placeholder" variables, marked by a caret (^) after their sigils.

Using placeholders in a block defines an implicit parameter list. The signature is the list of distinct placeholder names, sorted in Unicode order. So:

    { $^y < $^z && $^x != 2 }

is a shorthand for:

    -> $x,$y,$z { $y < $z && $x != 2 }

Note that placeholder variables syntactically cannot have type constraints.

Types ^

These are some of the standard type names in Perl 6 (at least this week):

    bit         single native bit
    int         native integer
    buf         native 8-bit string (sequence of 8-bit integers, no Unicode)
    str         native string (sequence of arbitrary integers, no Unicode)
    num         native floating point
    complex     native complex number
    ref         native pointer 
    bool        native boolean
    Bit         Perl single bit (allows traits, aliasing, undef, etc.)
    Int         Perl integer (allows traits, aliasing, undef, etc.)
    Str         Perl string (Unicode semantics)
    Num         Perl number
    Complex     Perl complex number
    Ref         Perl reference
    Bool        Perl boolean
    Array       Perl array
    Hash        Perl hash
    IO          Perl filehandle
    Code        Base class for all executable objects
    Routine     Base class for all nameable executable objects
    Sub         Perl subroutine
    Method      Perl method
    Submethod   Perl subroutine acting like a method
    Macro       Perl compile-time subroutine
    Rule        Perl pattern
    Block       Base class for all embedded executable objects
    Package     Perl 5 compatible namespace
    Module      Perl 6 standard namespace
    Class       Perl 6 standard class namespace
    Role        Perl 6 standard generic interface/implementation
    Object      Perl 6 object
    Grammar     Perl 6 pattern matching namespace
    List        Lazy Perl list
    Tuple       Completely evaluated (hence immutable) list

Value types

Explicit types are optional. Perl variables have two associated types: their "value type" and their "implementation type". (More generally, any container has an implementation type, including subroutines and modules.)

The value type specifies what kinds of values may be stored in the variable. A value type is given as a prefix or with the returns or of keywords:

    my Dog $spot;
    my $spot returns Dog;
    my $spot of Dog;

    our Animal sub get_pet() {...}
    sub get_pet() returns Animal {...}
    sub get_pet() of Animal {...}

A value type on an array or hash specifies the type stored by each element:

    my Dog @pound;  # each element of the array stores a Dog

    my Rat %ship;   # the value of each entry stores a Rat

The key type of a hash may be specified as a shape trait--see S09.

Implementation types

The implementation type specifies how the variable itself is implemented. It is given as a trait of the variable:

    my $spot is Scalar;             # this is the default
    my $spot is PersistentScalar;
    my $spot is DataBase;

Defining an implementation type is the Perl 6 equivalent to tying a variable in Perl 5. But Perl 6 variables are tied directly at declaration time, and for performance reasons may not be tied with a run-time tie statement unless the variable is explicitly declared with an implementation type that does the Tieable role.

Hierarchical types

A non-scalar type may be qualified, in order to specify what type of value each of its elements stores:

    my Egg $cup;                       # the value is an Egg
    my Egg @carton;                    # each elem is an Egg
    my Array of Egg @box;              # each elem is an array of Eggs
    my Array of Array of Egg @crate;   # each elem is an array of arrays of Eggs
    my Hash of Array of Recipe %book;  # each value is a hash of arrays of Recipes

Each successive of makes the type on its right a parameter of the type on its left. Parametric types are named using square brackets, so:

    my Hash of Array of Recipe %book;

actually means:

    my Hash[returns => Array[returns => Recipe]] %book; 

Because the actual variable can be hard to find when complex types are specified, there is a postfix form as well:

    my Hash of Array of Recipe %book;           # HoHoAoRecipe
    my %book of Hash of Array of Recipe;        # same thing
    my %book returns Hash of Array of Recipe;   # same thing

The returns form is more commonly seen in subroutines:

    my Hash of Array of Recipe sub get_book ($key) {...}
    my sub get_book ($key) of Hash of Array of Recipe {...}
    my sub get_book ($key) returns Hash of Array of Recipe {...}

Alternately, the return type may be specified within the signature:

    my sub get_book ($key --> Hash of Array of Recipe) {...}

There is a slight difference, insofar as the type inferencer will ignore a returns but pay attention to --> declarations. Only the inside of the subroutine pays attention to returns.

Polymorphic types

Anywhere you can use a single type you can use a set of types, for convenience specifiable as if it were an "or" junction:

    my Int|Str $error = $val;              # can assign if $val~~Int or $val~~Str

Fancier type constraints may be expressed through a subtype:

    subset Shinola of Any where {.does(DessertWax) and .does(FloorTopping)};
    if $shimmer ~~ Shinola {...}  # $shimmer must do both interfaces

Since the terms in a parameter could be viewed as a set of contraints that are implicitly "anded" together (the variable itself supplies type constraints, and where clauses or tree matching just add more constraints), we relax this to allow juxtaposition of anded types:

    my Cat|Dog Fish $mitsy = new Fish but { int rand 2 ?? .does Cat;
                                                       !! .does Dog };

Parameter types

Parameters may be given types, just like any other variable:

    sub max (int @array is rw) {...}
    sub max (@array of int is rw) {...}

Generic types

Within a declaration, a class variable (either by itself or following an existing type name) declares a new type name and takes its parametric value from the actual type of the parameter it is associated with. It declares the new type name in the same scope as the associated declaration.

    sub max (Num ::X @array ) {
        push @array,;

The new type name is introduced immediately, so two such types in the same signature must unify compatibly if they have the same name:

    sub compare (Any ::T $x, T $y) {
        return $x eqv $y;

Return types

On a scoped subroutine, a return type can be specified before or after the name:

    our Egg sub lay {...}
    our sub lay returns Egg {...}

    my Rabbit sub hat {...}
    my sub hat returns Rabbit {...}

If a subroutine is not explicitly scoped, it belongs to the current namespace (module, class, grammar, or package), as if it's scoped with the our scope modifier. Any return type must go after the name:

    sub lay returns Egg {...}

On an anonymous subroutine, any return type can only go after the sub keyword:

    $lay = sub returns Egg {...};

but you can use a scope modifier to introduce a return type:

    $lay = my Egg sub {...};
    $hat = my Rabbit sub {...};

Because they are anonymous, you can change the my modifier to our without affecting the meaning.

The return type may also be specified after a --> token within the signature. This doesn't mean exactly the same thing as returns. The arrow form is an "official" return type, and may be used to do type inferencing outside the sub. The returns form only makes the return type available to the internals of the sub so that the return statement can know its context, but outside the sub we don't know anything about the return value, as if no return type had been declared. The prefix form actually corresponds to the --> semantics rather than the returns semantics, so the return type of

    my Fish sub wanda ($x) { ... }

is known to return an object of type Fish, as if you'd said:

    my sub wanda ($x --> Fish) { ... }

not as if you'd said

    my sub wanda ($x) returns Fish { ... }

It is possible for the outer type to disagree with the outside type:

    my Squid sub wanda ($x) returns Fish { ... }

or equivalently,

    my sub wanda ($x --> Squid) returns Fish { ... }

It's not clear why you'd want to lie to yourself like that, though.

Properties and traits ^

Compile-time properties are called "traits". The is NAME (DATA) syntax defines traits on containers and subroutines, as part of their declaration:

    my $pi is constant = 3;

    my $key is Persistent(:file<.key>);

    sub fib is cached {...}

The will NAME BLOCK syntax is a synonym for is NAME (BLOCK):

    my $fh will undo { close $fh };    # Same as: my $fh is undo({ close $fh });

The but NAME (DATA) syntax specifies run-time properties on values:

    my $pi = 3 but Approximate("legislated");

    sub system {
        return $error but false if $error;
        return 0 but true;

Properties are predeclared as roles and implemented as mixins--see S12.

Subroutine traits

These traits may be declared on the subroutine as a whole (individual parameters take other traits).

is signature

The signature of a subroutine. Normally declared implicitly, by providing a parameter list and/or return type.

returns/is returns

The type returned by a subroutine.

will do

The block of code executed when the subroutine is called. Normally declared implicitly, by providing a block after the subroutine's signature definition.

is rw

Marks a subroutine as returning an lvalue.

is parsed

Specifies the rule by which a macro call is parsed.

is cached

Marks a subroutine as being memoized.

is inline

Suggests to the compiler that the subroutine is a candidate for optimization via inlining.

is tighter/is looser/is equiv

Specifies the precedence of an operator relative to an existing operator. equiv also specifies the default associativity to be the same as the operator to which the new operator is equivalent. tighter and looser operators default to left associative.

is assoc

Specifies the associativity of an operator explicitly. Valid values are:

    Tag         Examples        Meaning of $a op $b op $c
    ===         ========        =========================
    left        + - * / x       ($a op $b) op $c
    right       ** =            $a op ($b op $c)
    non         cmp <=> ..      ILLEGAL
    chain       == eq ~~        ($a op $b) and ($b op $c)
    list        | & ^ ¥         listop($a, $b, $c) or listop($a; $b; $c)

Note that operators "equiv" to relationals are automatically considered chaining operators. When creating a new precedence level, the chaining is determined by by the presence or absence of "is assoc('chaining')", and other operators defined at that level are required to be the same.


Mark blocks that are to be unconditionally executed before/after the subroutine's do block. These blocks must return a true value, otherwise an exception is thrown.


Mark blocks that are to be conditionally executed before or after the subroutine's do block. These blocks are generally used only for their side effects, since most return values will be ignored. FIRST may be an exception, but in that case you probably want to use a state variable anyway.

Parameter traits

The following traits can be applied to many types of parameters.

is readonly

Specifies that the parameter cannot be modified (e.g. assigned to, incremented). It is the default for parameters.

is rw

Specifies that the parameter can be modified (assigned to, incremented, etc). Requires that the corresponding argument is an lvalue or can be converted to one.

When applied to a variadic parameter, the rw trait applies to each element of the list:

    sub incr (*@vars is rw) { $_++ for @vars }

(The variadic array as a whole is always modifiable, but such modifications have no effect on the original argument list.)

is ref

Specifies that the parameter is passed by reference. Unlike is rw, the corresponding argument must already be a suitable lvalue. No attempt at coercion or autovivification is made, so unsuitable values throw an exception when you try to modify them.

is copy

Specifies that the parameter receives a distinct, read-writable copy of the original argument. This is commonly known as "pass-by-value".

    sub reprint ($text, $count is copy) {
        print $text while $count-- > 0;
is context(TYPE)

Specifies the context that a parameter applies to its argument. Typically used to cause a final list parameter to apply a series of scalar contexts:

    # &format may have as many arguments as it likes,
    # each of which is evaluated in scalar context

    sub format(*@data is context(Scalar)) {...}

Note that the compiler may not be able to propagate such a scalar context to a function call used as a parameter to a method or multisub whose signature is not visible until dispatch time. Such function call parameters are called in list context by default, and must be coerced to scalar context explicitly if that is desired.

Advanced subroutine features ^

The caller function

The caller function returns an object that describes a particular "higher" dynamic scope, from which the current scope was called.

    print "In ",           caller.sub,
          " called from ", caller.file,
          " line ",        caller.line,

caller may be given arguments telling it what kind of higher scope to look for, and how many such scopes to skip over when looking:

    $caller = caller;                      # immediate caller
    $caller = caller Method;               # nearest caller that is method
    $caller = caller Bare;                 # nearest caller that is bare block
    $caller = caller Sub, :skip(2);        # caller three levels up
    $caller = caller Block, :label<Foo>;   # caller whose label is 'Foo'

The want function

The want function returns an object that contains information about the context in which the current block, closure, or subroutine was called.

The returned context object is typically tested with a smart match (~~) or a when:

   given want {
        when Scalar {...}           # called in scalar context
        when List   {...}           # called in list context
        when Lvalue {...}           # expected to return an lvalue
        when 2      {...}           # expected to return two values

or has the corresponding methods called on it:

       if (want.Scalar)    {...}    # called in scalar context
    elsif (want.List)      {...}    # called in list context
    elsif (        {...}    # expected to return an lvalue
    elsif (want.count > 2) {...}    # expected to return more than two values

Note these are pseudo type associations. There's no such thing as an Lvalue object, and a List is really an unbound argument list object, parts of which may in fact be eventually bound into scalar context.

The leave function

A return statement causes the innermost surrounding subroutine, method, rule, macro, or multimethod to return. Only declarations with an explicit keyword such as "sub" may be returned from.

To return from other types of code structures, the leave function is used:

    leave;                      # return from innermost block of any kind
    leave Method;               # return from innermost calling method
    leave &?SUB <== 1,2,3;      # Return from current sub. Same as: return 1,2,3
    leave &foo <== 1,2,3;       # Return from innermost surrounding call to &foo
    leave Loop, :label<COUNT>;  # Same as: last COUNT;


The temp function temporarily replaces the value of an existing variable, subroutine, or other object in a given scope:

       temp $*foo = 'foo';      # Temporarily replace global $foo
       temp &bar = sub {...};   # Temporarily replace sub &bar
    } # Old values of $*foo and &bar reinstated at this point

temp invokes its argument's .TEMP method. The method is expected to return a reference to a subroutine that can later restore the current value of the object. At the end of the lexical scope in which the temp was applied, the subroutine returned by the .TEMP method is executed.

The default .TEMP method for variables simply creates a closure that assigns the variable's pre-temp value back to the variable.

New kinds of temporization can be created by writing storage classes with their own .TEMP methods:

    class LoudArray is Array {
        method TEMP {
            print "Replacing $ at $(caller.location)\n";
            my $restorer = .SUPER::TEMP();
            return { 
                print "Restoring $ at $(caller.location)\n";

You can also modify the behaviour of temporized code structures, by giving them a TEMP block. As with .TEMP methods, this block is expected to return a closure, which will be executed at the end of the temporizing scope to restore the subroutine to its pre-temp state:

    my $next = 0;
    sub next {
        my $curr = $next++;
        TEMP {{ $next = $curr }}  # TEMP block returns the closure { $next = $curr }
        return $curr;

    # and later...
    say next();     # prints 0; $next == 1
    say next();     # prints 1; $next == 2
    say next();     # prints 2; $next == 3
    if ($hiccough) {
        say temp next();  # prints 3; closes $curr at 3; $next == 4
        say next();       # prints 4; $next == 5
        say next();       # prints 5; $next == 6
    }                     # $next = 3
    say next();     # prints 3; $next == 4
    say next();     # prints 4; $next == 5

Hypothetical variables use the same mechanism, except that the restoring closure is called only on failure.

Note that "env" variables may be a better solution than temporized globals in the face of multithreading.


Every subroutine has a .wrap method. This method expects a single argument consisting of a block, closure, or subroutine. That argument must contain a call to the special call function:

    sub thermo ($t) {...}   # set temperature in Celsius, returns old temp

    # Add a wrapper to convert from Fahrenheit...

    $id = &thermo.wrap( { call( ($^t-32)/1.8 ) } );

The call to .wrap replaces the original subroutine with the closure argument, and arranges that the closure's call to call invokes the original (unwrapped) version of the subroutine. In other words, the call to .wrap has more or less the same effect as:

    &old_thermo := &thermo;
    &thermo := sub ($t) { old_thermo( ($t-32)/1.8 ) }

The call to .wrap returns a unique identifier that can later be passed to the .unwrap method, to undo the wrapping:


A wrapping can also be restricted to a particular dynamic scope with temporization:

    # Add a wrapper to convert from Kelvin
    # wrapper self-unwraps at end of current scope

    temp &thermo.wrap( { call($^t + 273.16) } );

Within a wrapper, the &_ variable is implicitly declared as a lexical by the wrapper, and refers to the function that call implicitly calls. Thus, for non-wrappers, you may also declare your own &_ lexical variable (or parameter) and then use call to call whatever is referenced by &_. (In the absence of such a declaration, call magically steals the dispatch list from the current dispatcher, and redispatches to the next-most-likely method or multi-sub.)

The entire unprocessed argument List can be captured by a \$args parameter. It can then be passed to call as *$args.

The &?SUB routine

&?SUB is always an alias for the current subroutine, so you can specify tail-recursion on an anonymous sub:

    my $anonfactorial = sub (Int $n) {
                            return 1 if $n<2;
                            return $n * &?SUB($n-1);

$?SUBNAME contains the name of the current subroutine, if any.

Note that &?SUB refers to the current single sub, even if it is declared "multi". To redispatch to the entire suite under a given short name, just use the named form, since there are no anonymous multis.

The &?BLOCK routine

&?BLOCK is always an alias for the current block, so you can specify tail-recursion on an anonymous block:

    my $anonfactorial = -> Int $n { $n < 2
                                        ?? 1
                                        :: $n * &?BLOCK($n-1)

$?BLOCKLABEL contains the label of the current block, if any.

[Note: to refer to any $? or &? variable at the time the sub or block is being compiled, use the COMPILING:: pseudopackage.]


Every subroutine has an .assuming method. This method does a partial binding of a set of arguments to a signature and returns a new function that takes only the remaining arguments.

    &textfrom := &substr.assuming(str=>$text, len=>Inf);

or equivalently:

    &textfrom := &substr.assuming(:str($text) :len(Inf));

or even:

    &textfrom := &substr.assuming:str($text):len(Inf);

It returns a reference to a subroutine that implements the same behaviour as the original subroutine, but has the values passed to .assuming already bound to the corresponding parameters:

    $all  = $textfrom(0);   # same as: $all  = substr($text,0,Inf);
    $some = $textfrom(50);  # same as: $some = substr($text,50,Inf);
    $last = $textfrom(-1);  # same as: $last = substr($text,-1,Inf);

The result of a use statement is a (compile-time) object that also has an .assuming method, allowing the user to bind parameters in all the module's subroutines/methods/etc. simultaneously:

    (use IO::Logging).assuming(logfile => ".log");

This form should generally be restricted to named parameters.

To curry a particular multimethod it may be necessary to specify the type of one or more of its invocants:

    &woof ::= &bark:(Dog).assuming :pitch<low>;
    &pine ::= &bark:(Tree).assuming :pitch<yes>;


Macros are functions or operators that are called by the compiler as soon as their arguments are parsed (if not sooner). The syntactic effect of a macro declaration or importation is always lexically scoped, even if the name of the macro is visible elsewhere. As with ordinary operators, macros may be classified by their grammatical category. For a given grammatical category, a default parsing rule or set of rules is used, but those rules that have not yet been "used" by the time the macro keyword or token is seen can be replaced by use of "is parsed" trait. (This means, for instance, that an infix operator can change the parse rules for its right operand but not its left operand.)

In the absence of a signature to the contrary, a macro is called as if it were a method on the current match object returned from the grammar rule being reduced; that is, all the current parse information is available by treating self as if it were a $/ object. [Conjecture: alternate representations may be available if arguments are declared with particular AST types.]

Macros may return either a string to be reparsed, or a syntax tree that needs no further parsing. The textual form is handy, but the syntax tree form is generally preferred because it allows the parser and debugger to give better error messages. Textual substitution on the other hand tends to yield error messages that are opaque to the user. Syntax trees are also better in general because they are reversible, so things like syntax highlighters can get back to the original language and know which parts of the derived program come from which parts of the user's view of the program.

In aid of returning syntax tree, Perl provides a "quasiquoting" mechanism using the quote q:code, followed by a block intended to represent an AST:

    return q:code { say "foo" };

Modifiers to the :code adverb can modify the operation:

    :ast(MyAst)         # Default :ast(AST)
    :lang(Ruby)         # Default :lang($?PARSER)
    :unquote<[: :]>     # Default "triple rule"

Within a quasiquote, variable and function names resolve according to the lexical scope of the macro definition. Unrecognized symbols raise errors when the macro is being compiled, not when it's being used.

To make a symbol resolve to the (partially compiled) scope of the macro call, use the COMPILING:: pseudo-package:

    macro moose () { q:code { $COMPILING::x } }

    moose(); # macro-call-time error
    my $x;
    moose(); # resolves to 'my $x'

If you want to mention symbols from the scope of the macro call, use the import syntax as modifiers to :code:

    :COMPILING<$x>      # $x always refers to $x in caller's scope
    :COMPILING          # All free variables fallback to caller's scope

If those symbols do not exist in the scope of the compiling scope, a compile-time exception is thrown at macro call time.

Similarly, in the macro body you may either refer to the $x declared in the scope of the macro call as $COMPILING::x, or bind to them explicitly:

    my $x := $COMPILING::x;

You may also use an import list to bind multiple symbols into the macro's lexical scope:

    require COMPILING <$x $y $z>;

Note that you need to use the run-time := and require forms, not ::= and use, because the macro caller's compile-time is the macro's runtime.


Bare AST variables (such as the arguments to the macro) may not be spliced directly into a quasiquote because they would be taken as normal bindings. Likewise, program text strings to be inserted need to be specially marked or they will be bound normally. To insert a "unquoted" expression of either type within a quasiquote, use the quasiquote delimiter tripled, typically a bracketing quote of some sort:

    return q:code { say $a + {{{ $ast }}} }
    return q:code [ say $a + [[[ $ast ]]] ]
    return q:code < say $a + <<< $ast >>> >
    return q:code ( say $a + ((( $ast ))) )

(Note to implementors: this must not be implemented by finding the final closing delimiter and preprocessing, or we'll violate our one-pass parsing rule. Perl 6 parsing rules are parameterized to know their closing delimiter, so adding the opening delimiter should not be a hardship. Alternately the opening delimiter can be deduced from the closing delimiter. Writing a rule that looks for three opening delimiters in a row should not be a problem. It has to be a special grammar rule, though, not a fixed token, since we need to be able to nest code blocks with different delimiters. Likewise when parsing the inner expression, the inner parser rule is parameterized to know that }}} or whatever is its closing delimiter.)

The delimiters don't have to be bracketing quotes, but the following is probably to be construed as Bad Style:

    return q:code / say $a + /// $ast /// /

Dequoted expressions are inserted appropriately depending on the type of the variable, which may be either a syntax tree or a string. (Again, syntax tree is preferred.) The case is similar to that of a macro called from within the quasiquote, insofar as reparsing only happens with the string version of interpolation, except that such a reparse happens at macro call time rather than macro definition time, so its result cannot change the parser's expectations about what follows the interpolated variable.

Hence, while the quasiquote itself is being parsed, the syntactic interpolation of a unquoted expression into the quasiquote always results in the expectation of an operator following the variable. (You must use a call to a submacro if you want to expect something else.) Of course, the macro definition as a whole can expect whatever it likes afterwards, according to its syntactic category. (Generally, a term expects a following postfix or infix operator, and an operator expects a following term or prefix operator.)

A quasiquote is not a block (even if the delimiters are curlies), so any declaration of a variable is taken to be part of the block surrounding the macro call location. Add your own {...} if you want a block to surround your declarations.

Other matters ^

Anonymous hashes vs blocks

{...} is always a block. However, if it is completely empty or consists of a single list, the first element of which is either a hash or a pair, it is executed immediately to compose a hash reference.

The standard pair list operator is equivalent to:

    sub pair (*@LIST) {
        my @pairs;
        for @LIST -> $key, $val {
            push @pairs, $key => $val;
        return @pairs;

or more succinctly (and lazily):

    sub pair (*@LIST) {
        gather {
            for @LIST -> $key, $val {
                take $key => $val;

The standard hash list operator is equivalent to:

    sub hash (*@LIST) {
        return { pair @LIST };

So you may use sub or hash or pair to disambiguate:

    $ref =  sub { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 };   # Anonymous sub returning list
    $ref =      { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 };   # Anonymous sub returning list
    $ref =      { 1=>2, 3=>4, 5=>6 };   # Anonymous hash
    $ref =      { 1=>2, 3, 4, 5, 6 };   # Anonymous hash
    $ref =  hash( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 );   # Anonymous hash
    $ref =  hash  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  ;   # Anonymous hash
    $ref = { pair 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 };   # Anonymous hash

Pairs as lvalues

Pairs can be used as lvalues. The value of the pair is the recipient of the assignment:

    (key => $var) = "value";

When binding pairs, names can be used to "match up" lvalues and rvalues, provided you write the left side as a signature using :(...) notation:

    :(:who($name), :why($reason)) := (why => $because, who => "me");

(Otherwise the parser doesn't know it should parse the insides as a signature and not as an ordinary expression until it gets to the :=, and that would be bad. Possibly we should require a "my" out front as well...)

Out-of-scope names

GLOBAL::<$varname> specifies the $varname declared in the * namespace. Or maybe it's the other way around...

CALLER::<$varname> specifies the $varname visible in the dynamic scope from which the current block/closure/subroutine was called, provided that variable is declared with the "env" declarator. (Implicit lexicals such as $_ are automatically assumed to be environmental.)

ENV::<$varname> specifies the $varname visible in the innermost dynamic scope that declares the variable with the "env" declarator.

MY::<$varname> specifies the lexical $varname declared in the current lexical scope.

OUR::<$varname> specifies the $varname declared in the current package's namespace.

COMPILING::<$varname> specifies the $varname declared (or about to be declared) in the lexical scope currently being compiled.

OUTER::<$varname> specifies the $varname declared in the lexical scope surrounding the current lexical scope (i.e. the scope in which the current block was defined).

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