Tree data structure supporting functional manipulation

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Functional Trees

A system that allows walking and rewriting of parts of trees in a functional manner, along with translation of references to internal nodes that can be carried from one tree to its successors.

Implemented in a manner that is compatible with and depends upon FSet.

Design and Usage

To start, load this library (system name :functional-trees) using Quicklisp:

(ql:quickload :functional-trees)

This library defines one package, :functional-trees, which we will refer to by its nickname :ft. The main thing provided by :ft is the node class, an object of which represents a node in a tree. Here are its slots:

(describe (make-instance 'ft:node))

Slots with :CLASS allocation:
  CHILD-SLOTS                    = NIL
  CHILD-SLOT-SPECIFIERS          = #<unbound slot>
Slots with :INSTANCE allocation:
  DESCENDANT-MAP                 = #<unbound slot>
  SERIAL-NUMBER                  = 0
  SIZE                           = #<unbound slot>

The :class-allocated child-slots slot holds a list of the slots that actually hold children. Thus, since it holds the value nil here, we see that the raw ft:node class can only really represent leaf nodes. Next we'll address this by defining our own node class that can hold children. Afterward, we'll discuss the other ft:node slots.

Sub-classing the node class

In most cases it is likely that one would subclass the node class provided by this package. Any subclass of node can specify which of its slots might hold subtrees by defining a child-slots slot which should be initialized to hold the names of these fields and should be allocated on the class itself. See the following example.

(ft:define-node-class if-then-else-node (ft:node)
  ((ft:child-slots :initform '((then . 1) else) :allocation :class)
   (then :reader then :initarg :then :type ft:node)
   (else :reader else :initarg :else :type list))
  (:documentation "An if-then-else subtree of a program AST."))

Note that we used ft:define-node-class instead of just defclass. The latter would work, but the former also sets up some additional useful infrastructure for our new node subclass. This infrastructure is already defined generically for all nodes, but the ft:define-node-class macro defines it more efficiently for a specific class of nodes.

Note also that the :initarg keywords for then and else are necessary, as they are used by automatic tree-copying functions in this library. If they are omitted, many functions (including the FSet generic sequence transformation functions described below) will not work properly.

Each child slot should hold children nodes. Child slots may hold a single node or multiple nodes. It is possible to specify the arity of a child slot using the child-slots class-level field. This changes the behavior of relevant generic functions. E.g., the then slot in if-then-else-node above holds a single node child while the else slot may hold a list of any number of children.

In addition to customizing the functional-tree generic functions to traverse your tree appropriately, defining child-slots will cause the generic children function to be defined to return all children of a newly defined node subclass--this is done by hooking the MOP sub-class finalization process for sub-classes of node.

Thus if we create a node using our new class and give values to its child-slots, the children function will return the list of those children according to the order of the child-slots list:

(ft:children (make-instance 'if-then-else-node
                            :else '(:foo :bar)
                            :then :baz))

(In this particular example we eschewed the :type annotations on the child slots, for simplicity.)

"Functional" and "applicative"

The word "functional" usually means multiple things:

  1. Objects cannot be modified after they have been created (immutability).
  2. Functions always return the same results when given the same inputs (referential transparency).

(Note that the second condition implies the first.) This library satisfies the first condition but not the second, which is why we will sometimes use the word "applicative" instead of "functional". Also, we slightly relax our definition of immutability: because slots can be unbound, we do not consider an assignment to an unbound slot to be a mutation of the object. So rather than immutability meaning that the object never changes, it instead means that the object can only ever go upward in a lattice ordered by boundness of slots.

The reason we don't have referential transparency is that each newly created node has a unique serial number:

(ft::serial-number (make-instance 'ft:node))

These serial numbers increase monotonically, and are used internally in the library for various algorithmic tasks. One important thing to note is that these serial numbers must be unique in any given tree in addition to being unique per node. That is, if you transform a tree by copying one of its subtrees to another location in the tree, you must clone that entire subtree to ensure that the new tree does not contain any duplicate serial numbers.

Constructing trees

As the above examples show, make-instance is fairly barebones: it sets the serial-number but not much else. Because this library incorporates FSet, though, we can extend the generic convert function to provide an easier way to construct our nodes:

(defmethod fset:convert ((to-type (eql 'if-then-else-node)) (sequence list)
                         &key &allow-other-keys)
  (labels ((construct (form)
             (etypecase form
                (make-instance 'if-then-else-node
                  :then (construct (first form))
                  :else (mapcar #'construct (rest form))))
                (make-instance 'ft:node)))))
    (construct sequence)))

This method may be used to easily create a functional tree from a list.

(progn (defvar my-node (fset:convert 'if-then-else-node '((nil) nil)))
       (describe my-node))
#<IF-THEN-ELSE-NODE 6 (#<IF-THEN-ELSE-NODE 4 (#1=#<NODE 3 NIL>)> #1#..

Slots with :CLASS allocation:
  CHILD-SLOTS                    = ((THEN . 1) ELSE)
  CHILD-SLOT-SPECIFIERS          = #<unbound slot>
Slots with :INSTANCE allocation:
  DESCENDANT-MAP                 = #<unbound slot>
  SERIAL-NUMBER                  = 6
  SIZE                           = #<unbound slot>
  THEN                           = #<IF-THEN-ELSE-NODE 4 (#<NODE 3 NIL>)>
  ELSE                           = (#<FUNCTIONAL-TREES:NODE 5 NIL>)

Now we can round-trip from a list to an if-then-else-node and back, because this library already defines an fset:convert method to convert from nodes to lists, essentially a recursive version of ft:children.

(ft::convert 'list my-node)
                        #<NODE 5 NIL>)>

The convert functions to and from lists may be specialized for a particular subclass of node to achieve translation to and from functional trees which don't lose information. However, doing that in general is not possible without specific knowledge of the desired tree structure -- namely how the tree stores list values vs list strucure.


This library provides ft:node implementations for the following generic sequence functions from FSet:

  • reduce
  • find-if
  • find-if-not
  • find
  • count-if
  • count-if-not
  • count
  • position-if
  • position-if-not
  • position
  • remove-if
  • remove-if-not
  • remove
  • substitute-if
  • substitute-if-not
  • substitute

It also provides a couple additional generic methods, also with implementations for ft:node:

  • mapc takes as arguments a function and a node, respectively. It calls the given function on every node in the tree of the given node, and then returns nil.

  • mapcar does the same thing as mapc, except that it constructs a new tree from the results of all those function calls, and returns the newly constructed tree.

    For example, we could expand an if-then-else-node by adding an extra ft:node to every else branch:

      (defvar expanded
        (ft:mapcar (lambda (n)
                     (if (typep n 'if-then-else-node)
                         (make-instance 'if-then-else-node
                                        :then (then n)
                                        :else (list* (make-instance 'ft:node)
                                                     (else n)))
      (describe expanded))
    Slots with :CLASS allocation:
      CHILD-SLOTS                    = ((THEN . 1) ELSE)
    Slots with :INSTANCE allocation:
      DESCENDANT-MAP                 = #<3=>THEN,5=>ELSE,7=>ELSE,8=>NIL,[9,10]=>THEN>
      SERIAL-NUMBER                  = 8
      SIZE                           = #<unbound slot>
      THEN                           = #<IF-THEN-ELSE-NODE 10 (#<NODE 3 NIL> #<NODE 9 NIL>)>
      ELSE                           = (#<FUNCTIONAL-TREES:NODE 7 NIL> #<FUNCTIONAL-TREES:NODE 5 NIL>)


  • Eliminate hard-coded children.
  • Address all FIXMEs
  • Address all #+broken
  • Find should return the subtree.
  • Define replacements for cl:subst and friends.
  • Integrate with FSet.
  • Define a map-tree function.
  • Replace update-tree with map-tree
  • Ensure tests provide good coverage.
  • Automatically define convert methods for subclasses of node.
  • Consider hooking into the class definition mechanisms with the MOP to define copy-based setf setters for all fields on any child of a node.
  • Eliminate 'data' as default key in trees.
  • Make default equality test in tree methods be EQL, as on sequences.
  • Add :START, :END for tree methods, where these are paths not integers.
  • Define copying setf expanders for non-class-allocated slots of node subclasses.
  • Make trie maps switch to hash tables if the branching is too large (efficiency.)
  • Splice should report error on nodes of fixed arity.

Dependencies (15)

  • alexandria
  • asdf-package-system
  • closer-mop
  • cl-store
  • cl-utils
  • curry-compose-reader-macros
  • flexi-streams
  • fset
  • iterate
  • named-readtables
  • sel
  • serapeum
  • stefil-
  • trivial-garbage
  • uiop

Dependents (3)

  • GitHub
  • Quicklisp