This chapter is about writing higher-order procedures—that is, procedures that implement
higher-order functions. We are going to study the implementation
keep, and so on.
Really there are no new techniques involved. You know how to write
recursive procedures that follow the
every pattern, the
pattern, and so on; it's a small additional step to generalize those
patterns. The truly important point made in this chapter is that you aren't
limited to a fixed set of higher-order functions. If you feel a need for a
new one, you can implement it.
In Chapter 14, we showed you the procedures
pigl-sent, which follow the
every pattern of recursion. In order to
write the general tool,
every itself, we have to
generalize the pattern that those two have in common.
Before we get to writing higher-order procedures, let's look at a simpler case of generalizing patterns.
Suppose we want to find out the areas of several different kinds of shapes, given one linear dimension. A straightforward way would be to do it like this:
(define pi 3.141592654) (define (square-area r) (* r r)) (define (circle-area r) (* pi r r)) (define (sphere-area r) (* 4 pi r r)) (define (hexagon-area r) (* (sqrt 3) 1.5 r r)) > (square-area 6) 36 > (circle-area 5) 78.53981635
This works fine, but it's somewhat tedious to define all four of these procedures, given that they're so similar. Each one returns the square of its argument times some constant factor; the only difference is the constant factor.
We want to generalize the pattern that these four procedures
exhibit. Each of these procedures has a particular constant factor built in
to its definition. What we'd like instead is one single procedure that lets
you choose a constant factor when you invoke it. This new procedure will
take a second argument besides the linear dimension
r (the radius or
shape argument whose value is the desired constant factor.
(define (area shape r) (* shape r r)) (define square 1) (define circle pi) (define sphere (* 4 pi)) (define hexagon (* (sqrt 3) 1.5)) > (area sphere 7) 615.752160184
What's the point? We started with several procedures. Then we found that they had certain points of similarity and certain differences. In order to write a single procedure that generalizes the points of similarity, we had to use an additional argument for each point of difference. (In this example, there was only one point of difference.)
In fact, every procedure with arguments is a generalization in the
same way. Even
square-area, which we presented as the special case
to be generalized, is more general than these procedures:
(define (area-of-square-of-side-5) (* 5 5)) (define (area-of-square-of-side-6) (* 6 6))
These may seem too trivial to be taken seriously. Indeed, nobody would write such procedures. But it's possible to take the area of a particular size square without using a procedure at all, and then later discover that you need to deal with squares of several sizes.
This idea of using a procedure to generalize a pattern is part of the larger idea of abstraction that we've been discussing throughout the book. We notice an algorithm that we need to use repeatedly, and so we separate the algorithm from any particular data values and give it a name.
The idea of generalization may seem obvious in the example about areas of squares. But when we apply the same idea to generalizing over a function, rather than merely generalizing over a number, we gain the enormous expressive power of higher-order functions.
Here again is the
(define (every-something sent) (if (empty? sent) '() (se (______ (first sent)) (every-something (bf sent)))))
You've been writing
every-like procedures by filling in the
blank with a specific function. To generalize the pattern, we'll use the
trick of adding an argument, as we discussed in the last section.
(define (every fn sent) (if (empty? sent) '() (se (fn (first sent)) (every fn (bf sent)))))
This is hardly any work at all for something that seemed as
every probably did when you first saw it.
every will also work if you pass it a word as its second
argument. The version shown here does indeed work for words, because
butfirst work for words. So probably "
be a better formal parameter than "
sent." (The result from
every is always a sentence, because
sentence is used to construct the
Here's the definition of the
(define (map fn lst) (if (null? lst) '() (cons (fn (car lst)) (map fn (cdr lst)))))
The structure here is identical to that of
every; the only
difference is that we use
cdr instead of
One implication of this is that you can't use
map with a word, since
it's an error to take the
car of a word. When is it advantageous
map instead of
every? Suppose you're using
with a structured list, like this:
> (map (lambda (flavor) (se flavor '(is great))) '(ginger (ultra chocolate) pumpkin (rum raisin))) ((GINGER IS GREAT) (ULTRA CHOCOLATE IS GREAT) (PUMPKIN IS GREAT) (RUM RAISIN IS GREAT))
> (every (lambda (flavor) (se flavor '(is great))) '(ginger (ultra chocolate) pumpkin (rum raisin))) (GINGER IS GREAT ULTRA CHOCOLATE IS GREAT PUMPKIN IS GREAT RUM RAISIN IS GREAT)
map preserve the structure of the sublists while
cons to combine the elements of the result,
> (cons '(pumpkin is great) (cons '(rum raisin is great) '())) ((PUMPKIN IS GREAT) (RUM RAISIN IS GREAT)) > (se '(pumpkin is great) (se '(rum raisin is great) '())) (PUMPKIN IS GREAT RUM RAISIN IS GREAT)
Here's the implementation of
(define (filter pred lst) (cond ((null? lst) '()) ((pred (car lst)) (cons (car lst) (filter pred (cdr lst)))) (else (filter pred (cdr lst)))))
map, this uses
cons as the constructor so that it
will work properly on structured lists. We're leaving the definition of
keep, the version for words and sentences, as an exercise.
(Aside from the difference between lists and sentences, this is just like
keep template on page there.)
Here are the examples of the
accumulate pattern that we showed
(define (addup nums) (if (empty? nums) 0 (+ (first nums) (addup (bf nums))))) (define (scrunch-words sent) (if (empty? sent) "" (word (first sent) (scrunch-words (bf sent)))))
What are the similarities and differences? There are two important
differences between these procedures: the combiners (
word) and the values returned in the base cases (zero versus the empty
word). According to what we said about generalizing patterns, you might
expect that we'd need two extra arguments. You'd invoke
three-arg-accumulate like this:
> (three-arg-accumulate + 0 '(6 7 8)) 21 > (three-arg-accumulate word "" '(come together)) COMETOGETHER
But we've actually defined
that only two arguments are required, the procedure and the sentence or
list. We thought it would be too much trouble to have to provide the
identity element all the time. How did we manage to avoid it?
The trick is that in our
accumulate the base case is
a one-element argument, rather than an empty argument. When we're down to
one element in the argument, we just return that element:
(define (accumulate combiner stuff) ;; first version (if (empty? (bf stuff)) (first stuff) (combiner (first stuff) (accumulate combiner (bf stuff)))))
This version is a simplification of the one we actually provide.
What happens if
stuff is empty? This version blows up, since it tries
to take the
stuff immediately. Our final version
has a specific check for empty arguments:
(define (accumulate combiner stuff) (cond ((not (empty? stuff)) (real-accumulate combiner stuff)) ((member combiner (list + * word se append)) (combiner)) (else (error "Can't accumulate empty input with that combiner")))) (define (real-accumulate combiner stuff) (if (empty? (bf stuff)) (first stuff) (combiner (first stuff) (real-accumulate combiner (bf stuff)))))
This version works just like the earlier version as long as
stuff isn't empty. (
Reduce is the same, except that it uses
As we mentioned in Chapter 8, many of Scheme's primitive procedures
return their identity element when invoked with no arguments. We can take
advantage of this; if
accumulate is invoked with an empty second
argument and one of the procedures
list, we invoke the combiner with no
arguments to produce the return value.
On the other hand, if
accumulate's combiner argument is something like
(lambda (x y) (word x '- y)) or
max, then there's nothing
accumulate can return, so we give an error message. (But it's a more
descriptive error message than the first version; what message do you get
when you call that first version with an empty second argument?)
It's somewhat of a kludge that we have to include in our procedure a list of the functions that can be called without arguments. What we'd like to do is invoke the combiner and find out if that causes an error, but Scheme doesn't provide a mechanism for causing errors on purpose and recovering from them. (Some dialects of Lisp do have that capability.)
Instead of providing a special error message for empty-argument cases
accumulate can't handle, we could have just let it blow up:
(define (accumulate combiner stuff) ;; non-robust version (if (not (empty? stuff)) (real-accumulate combiner stuff) (combiner)))
Some questions about programming have clear right and wrong answers—if your program doesn't work, it's wrong! But the decision about whether to include the extra check for a procedure that's usable with an empty argument is a matter of judgment.
Here is the reasoning in favor of this simpler version: In either version, the user who tries to evaluate an expression like
(accumulate max '())
is going to get an error message. In the longer version we've spent both our own programming effort and a little of the computer's time on every invocation just to give a different error message from the one that Scheme would have given anyway. What's the point?
Here is the reasoning in favor of the longer version: In practice, the
empty-argument situation isn't going to arise because someone uses a quoted
empty sentence; instead the second argument to
accumulate will be some
expression whose value happens to be empty under certain conditions. The
user will then have to debug the program that caused those conditions.
Debugging is hard; we should make it easier for the user, if we can, by
giving an error message that points clearly to the problem.
A program that behaves politely when given incorrect input is called robust. It's not always a matter of better or worse error messages. For example, a program that reads input from a human user might offer the chance to try again if some input value is incorrect. A robust program will also be alert for hardware problems, such as running out of space on a disk, or getting garbled information over a telephone connection to another machine because of noise on the line.
It's possible to pay either too little or too much attention to program robustness. If you're a professional programmer, your employer will expect your programs to survive errors that are likely to happen. On the other hand, your programs will be hard to read and debug if the error checking swamps the real work! As a student, unless you are specifically asked to "bulletproof" your program, don't answer exam questions by writing procedures like this one:
(define (even? num) ;; silly example (cond ((not (number? num)) (error "Not a number.")) ((not (integer? num)) (error "Not an integer.")) ((< num 0) (error "Argument must be positive.")) (else (= (remainder num 2) 0))))
In the case of
accumulate, we decided to be extra robust
because we were writing a procedure for use in a beginning programming
course. If we were writing this tool just for our own use, we might have
chosen the non-robust version. Deciding how robust a program will be is a
matter of taste.
We've given you a fairly standard set of higher-order functions, but there's no law that says these are the only ones. Any time you notice yourself writing what feels like the same procedure over again, but with different details, consider inventing a higher-order function.
For example, here's a procedure we defined in Chapter 17.
(define (deep-pigl structure) (cond ((word? structure) (pigl structure)) ((null? structure) '()) (else (cons (deep-pigl (car structure)) (deep-pigl (cdr structure))))))
This procedure converts every word in a structured list
to Pig Latin.
Suppose we have a structure full of numbers and we want to compute all of their
squares. We could write a specific procedure
instead, we'll write a higher-order procedure:
(define (deep-map f structure) (cond ((word? structure) (f structure)) ((null? structure) '()) (else (cons (deep-map f (car structure)) (deep-map f (cdr structure))))))
The first programming language that provided a level of abstraction over the instructions understood directly by computer hardware was Fortran, a language that is still widely used today despite the advances in programming language design since then. Fortran remains popular because of the enormous number of useful programs that have already been written in it; if an improvement is needed, it's easier to modify the Fortran program than to start again in some more modern language.
Fortran includes a control mechanism called
do, a sort of higher-order
procedure that carries out a computation repeatedly, as
But instead of carrying out the computation once for each element of a given
collection of data (like the sentence argument to
performs a computation once for each integer in a range specified by its
endpoints. "For every number between 4 and 16, do such-and-such."
What if you specify endpoints such that the starting value is greater than
the ending value? In the first implementation of Fortran, nobody thought
very hard about this question, and they happened to implement
such a way that if you specified a backward range, the computation was done
once, for the given starting value, before Fortran noticed that it was past
the ending value.
Twenty years later, a bunch of computer scientists argued that this behavior
was wrong—that a
do loop with its starting value greater than its
ending value should not carry out its computation at all. This proposal for
do loop" was strongly opposed by Fortran old-timers,
not because of any principle but because of all the thousands of Fortran
programs that had been written to rely on the one-trip behavior.
The point of this story is that the Fortran users had to debate the issue so heatedly because they are stuck with only the control mechanisms that are built into the language. Fortran doesn't have the idea of function as data, so Fortran programmers can't write their own higher-order procedures. But you, using the techniques of this chapter, can create precisely the control mechanism that you need for whatever problem you happen to be working on.
The most crucial point in inventing a higher-order function is to make
sure that the pattern you have in mind really does generalize. For example,
if you want to write a higher-order function for structured data, what is the base
case? Will you use the tree abstract data type, or will you use
When you generalize a pattern by adding a new argument (typically a procedure), be sure you add it to the recursive invocation(s) as well as to the formal parameter list!
19.1 What happens if you say the following?
(every cdr '((john lennon) (paul mccartney) (george harrison) (ringo starr)))
How is this different from using
map, and why? How about
cadr instead of
keep. Don't forget that
keep has to return a sentence if
its second argument is a sentence, and a word if its second argument is a
(Hint: it might be useful to write a
combine procedure that uses either
sentence depending on the types of its arguments.)
19.3 Write the three-argument version of
accumulate that we described.
> (three-arg-accumulate + 0 '(4 5 6)) 15 > (three-arg-accumulate + 0 '()) 0 > (three-arg-accumulate cons '() '(a b c d e)) (A B C D E)
accumulate combines elements from right to left. That is,
(accumulate - '(2 3 4 5))
computes 2−(3−(4−5)). Write
will compute ((2−3)−4)−5 instead. (The result will be the same for
an operation such as
+, for which grouping order doesn't matter, but
will be different for
19.5 Rewrite the
true-for-all? procedure from Exercise 8.10.
Do not use
19.6 Write a procedure
true-for-any-pair? that takes a predicate and a
sentence as arguments. The predicate must accept two words as its arguments.
Your procedure should return
#t if the argument predicate will return
true for any two adjacent words in the sentence:
> (true-for-any-pair? equal? '(a b c b a)) #F > (true-for-any-pair? equal? '(a b c c d)) #T > (true-for-any-pair? < '(20 16 5 8 6)) ;; 5 is less than 8 #T
19.7 Write a procedure
true-for-all-pairs? that takes a predicate
and a sentence as arguments. The predicate must accept two words as its
arguments. Your procedure should return
#t if the argument predicate
will return true for every two adjacent words in the sentence:
> (true-for-all-pairs? equal? '(a b c c d)) #F > (true-for-all-pairs? equal? '(a a a a a)) #T > (true-for-all-pairs? < '(20 16 5 8 6)) #F > (true-for-all-pairs? < '(3 7 19 22 43)) #T
true-for-all-pairs? (Exercise 19.7) using
true-for-any-pair? (Exercise 19.6) as a helper procedure. Don't use
recursion in solving this problem (except for the recursion you've already
used to write
true-for-any-pair?). Hint: You'll find the
19.9 Rewrite either of the sort procedures from Chapter 15 to take two arguments, a list and a predicate. It should sort the elements of that list according to the given predicate:
> (sort '(4 23 7 5 16 3) <) (3 4 5 7 16 23) > (sort '(4 23 7 5 16 3) >) (23 16 7 5 4 3) > (sort '(john paul george ringo) before?) (GEORGE JOHN PAUL RINGO)
tree-map, analogous to our
deep-map, but for trees, using
repeated. (This is a hard exercise!)
tree-reduce. You may assume that the combiner argument can
be invoked with no arguments.
> (tree-reduce + (make-node 3 (list (make-node 4 '()) (make-node 7 '()) (make-node 2 (list (make-node 3 '()) (make-node 8 '())))))) 27
deep-reduce, similar to
tree-reduce, but for structured
> (deep-reduce word '(r ((a (m b) (l)) (e (r))))) RAMBLER
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