Книга: Practical Common Lisp

Lexical Variables and Closures

Lexical Variables and Closures

By default all binding forms in Common Lisp introduce lexically scoped variables. Lexically scoped variables can be referred to only by code that's textually within the binding form. Lexical scoping should be familiar to anyone who has programmed in Java, C, Perl, or Python since they all provide lexically scoped "local" variables. For that matter, Algol programmers should also feel right at home, as Algol first introduced lexical scoping in the 1960s.

However, Common Lisp's lexical variables are lexical variables with a twist, at least compared to the original Algol model. The twist is provided by the combination of lexical scoping with nested functions. By the rules of lexical scoping, only code textually within the binding form can refer to a lexical variable. But what happens when an anonymous function contains a reference to a lexical variable from an enclosing scope? For instance, in this expression:

(let ((count 0)) #'(lambda () (setf count (1+ count))))

the reference to count inside the LAMBDA form should be legal according to the rules of lexical scoping. Yet the anonymous function containing the reference will be returned as the value of the LET form and can be invoked, via FUNCALL, by code that's not in the scope of the LET. So what happens? As it turns out, when count is a lexical variable, it just works. The binding of count created when the flow of control entered the LET form will stick around for as long as needed, in this case for as long as someone holds onto a reference to the function object returned by the LET form. The anonymous function is called a closure because it "closes over" the binding created by the LET.

The key thing to understand about closures is that it's the binding, not the value of the variable, that's captured. Thus, a closure can not only access the value of the variables it closes over but can also assign new values that will persist between calls to the closure. For instance, you can capture the closure created by the previous expression in a global variable like this:

(defparameter *fn* (let ((count 0)) #'(lambda () (setf count (1+ count)))))

Then each time you invoke it, the value of count will increase by one.

CL-USER> (funcall *fn*)
CL-USER> (funcall *fn*)
CL-USER> (funcall *fn*)

A single closure can close over many variable bindings simply by referring to them. Or multiple closures can capture the same binding. For instance, the following expression returns a list of three closures, one that increments the value of the closed over count binding, one that decrements it, and one that returns the current value:

(let ((count 0))
#'(lambda () (incf count))
#'(lambda () (decf count))
#'(lambda () count)))

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