An implementation of the Common Lisp type system.

Upstream URL



Bike <aeshtaer@gmail.com>



This system is an implementation of the Common Lisp type system; particularly cl:typep and cl:subtypep.

The function specifier-ctype takes a type specifier and environment as input, and returns a "ctype": a reified representation of a type, independent of any environment. Ctypes are a precise reflection of their input specifier, i.e. information independent of the environment is not lost. They are however simplified as much as possible, so they will not reflect redundant information in the specifier. For example, (and list cons) and cons are interpreted as the same ctype.

The ctypep and subctypep functions implement cl:typep and cl:subtypep, except that they take ctype objects as arguments, rather than type specifiers. Then the CL functions could be defined as

(defun typep (object type-specifier &optional environment)
  (ctypep object (specifier-ctype type-specifier environment)))

(defun subtypep (type-specifier-1 type-specifier-2 &optional environment)
  (subctypep (specifier-ctype type-specifier-1 environment)
             (specifier-ctype type-specifier-2 environment)))

The functions negate, disjoin, and conjoin can be used to compute functions of ctypes. They are analogous to the compound type specifiers not, or, and and respectively.

The functions top and bot return the top ctype and bottom ctype (t and nil), respectively. top-p and bot-p determine whether a given ctype is the top or the bottom ctype, respectively.


This system is intended for use in an implementation of typep and subtypep, and so does not use cl:typep or cl:subtypep at all. Unfortunately, not all aspects of the type system on a given Lisp system are determinable with standard means without using typep and subtypep, and must be manually configured per implementation. See config/ for more information.

Currently, the following Lisps are supported:

  • CCL
  • Clasp
  • ECL
  • SBCL
  • SICL


Ctypes are of class ctype. Various subclasses of ctype implement kinds of types in the CL type system. The following subclasses are defined by the system:

  • cclass: a ctype representing a class. The class may be read with the cclass-class function.
  • negation: The negation of its negation-ctype.
  • conjunction/disjunction: Represents uses of the and/or (resp.) type specifier that could not be further simplified. junction-ctypes returns a list of the ctypes it is a con/disjunction of.
  • ccons: A cons type. ccons-car and ccons-cdr read the car and cdr types respectively.
  • range: A range of real numbers. range-kind is one of integer, ratio, short-float, single-float, double-float, or long-float. range-low, range-low-exclusive-p, range-high, and range-high-exclusive-p read the properties of the range.
  • ccomplex: A complex type. ccomplex-ucpt reads the upgraded complex part type, which is either the symbol cl:*, or something returned by cl:upgraded-complex-part-type.
  • cmember: A member or eql type. cmember-members returns a list of the objects of the type.
  • carray: An array type. carray-simplicity reads :simple or :complex accordingly; array types including both are represented as disjunctions. carray-uaet reads the upgraded array element type. carray-dims reads the dimension specification, which is a dimension-spec as accepted by the cl:array compound type specifier.
  • charset: A subtype of character. charset-pairs reads the description of the codes included, which is as described above for +standard-charset+ in the configuration section.
  • cvalues: A values type.
  • cfunction: A function type.
  • csatisfies: A satisfies type.

Additional classes may be defined by the programmer.

Generic functions

Methods on ctypep and subctypep must be implemented for subclasses of ctype in order for those functions to work correctly.

Methods on subctypep should return the result of (call-next-method) if they cannot determine a conclusive answer, i.e. if they would return (values nil nil). This ensures that all applicable methods can have a shot at giving a definitive answer.

A method on unparse must be defined for ctypes to print correctly. unparse should return a type specifier that could specify the given ctype. This is only used for display purposes, so it doesn't have strict requirements.

The additional generic functions disjointp, negate, conjoin/2, disjoin/2, and subtract may also need methods in order for subctypep and specifier-ctype to work correctly. Particularly, if the conjunction of two types is recognizably (with subctypep) the bottom type, conjoin/2 must return (bot) and disjointp must return definite truth, and similarly with disjunction and (top).

  • disjointp has the same return value convention as subtypep, and similarly, methods should use call-next-method if the answer cannot be determined. disjointp can be used to determine if two ctypes are completely disjoint: (disjointp (specifier-ctype x) (specifier-ctype y)) is equivalent to (subctypep (conjoin (specifier-ctype x) (specifier-ctype y)) (specifier-ctype nil)).
  • negate computes the negation of a ctype, i.e. if a ctype is specified by x, (negate that-ctype) is specified by (not x). The default method makes a negation ctype. These ctypes do not provide enough information for all functions to work well, e.g. they may result in nil nil answers from subctypep. As such, if the negation of a type can be expressed in a better way, a specializing method on negate should be defined.
  • conjoin/2 and disjoin/2 are the two-argument functions underlying conjoin and disjoin respectively. If no special behavior is defined, conjoin and disjoin will create conjunction and disjunction types, which do not always provide enough information for precise answers from subctypep.
  • subtract, given ctypes specified by x and y, may compute the ctype specified by (and x (not y)). If no special behavior is defined with a method, a conjunction ctype will be made, which is suboptimal.


While ctype implements the Common Lisp type system, some users may be interested in defining extensions to said type system. One can do so by defining subclasses of CTYPE and defining methods on some or all of the above functions.

The ext/ directory contains a few example extensions. See the README in that directory for more information.

Extension mechanisms for the type specifier parser have not been solidly defined yet.

Dependencies (1)

  • alexandria
  • GitHub
  • Quicklisp