Lists and Tuples

Right, so you’ve seen constants, abstractions, and a means to split programs over files. Any pedantic scientist can now tell you that’s enough to encode any program. Maybe that’s correct, maybe not.

Let’s find out.


Working with lists follows a convention in Egel. They are constructed with the nil and cons constants from the System namespace. Of course, you are free to choose any convention you like, but for now, we kind-of rely on that programmers will follow that convention.

You can test that the constants are there in interactive mode.

>> using System
>> nil

Creating a list is trivial.

>> cons 'a' (cons 1 nil)
(System:cons 'a' (System:cons 1 System:nil))

But that’s a lot of typing. Egel provides what is called syntactic sugar for lists, a shorthand notation employing curly brackets.

>> {'a', 1}
(System:cons 'a' (System:cons 1 System:nil))

Let’s proceed with defining functions on lists. A length function is the first we’ll try.

>> def length = [ nil -> 0 | cons X XX -> 1 + length XX ]
>> length {'a', 1}

Egel is untyped, you might make a typo and apply length to something not a list. Can you guess what will happen?

>> length 0
(length 0)

The patterns are exhausted therefor the term will fail to reduce.

Functional programmers adore lists, there’s a lot one can do with them, if not everything. Egel suplies a number of convenience routines in the List namespace in the prelude.

>> import ""
>> using List

I’ll assume that you know some functional programming. Standardly, we can apply any function f to any list with the map combinator.

>> map [X -> X + 1] {0,1}
(System:cons 1 (System:cons 2 System:nil))

This documentation is on the Egel language, it’s not an introduction to functional programming. But did you get what happened there? map applied [X->X+1] to both elements of the list {0,1} resulting in the list {1,2}.

And the important foldl is defined too. It’s a useful operator but don’t go overboard with it!

>> foldl (+) 0 {1,2,3}

foldl will fold a function and a constant over a list, foldl (+) 0 {1,2,3} = 1 + (2 + (3 + 0)). It’s a summation.


Tuples in languages are used to group things. It’s a useful feature which you don’t always need in Egel since constants compose. Let’s find out how they work.

Like lists, tuples are syntactic sugar for applying the tuple constant out of the System namespace to a number of arguments.

>> (1,"hi")
(System:tuple 1 "hi")

Again, it’s all untyped so we can try to match against a tuple to find out how many fields it has.

>> def c = [ (X,Y) -> 2 | (X,Y,Z) -> 3 ]
>> c ("what", "a", "night")

That’s all for that subject. If you start programming Egel you’ll find many more useful constructs.


Egel has a concise syntax, so you might easily get confused between alternatives.

The folowing reduces two arguments. Two patterns, each one variable.

>> [X Y -> X] 0 1

And this rewrites two composed constants. One pattern of two variables.

>> [(X Y) -> X] (0 1)

And finally, this rewrites a tuple. One pattern using sugar for a tuple.

>> [(X, Y) -> X] (0, 1)