I’m publishing the next article from ARFB series. This time rather short one, much like a warm up prior to the main workout.

But I’d like to devote this post to another subject. It’s too small for an article yet still worth special note. It was again inspired by one more post from Wenzel P.P. Peppmeyer. Actually, I knew there going to be a new post from him when found an error report in Rakudo repository. And this is the subject of the report which made me write the post.

In the report Wenzel claims that the following code results in incorrect Rakudo behaviour:

class C { };
my \px = C.new;
sub postcircumfix:«< >»(C $c is raw) {
    dd $c;
px<ls -l>;

And that either the operator redefinition must work or the error message he gets is less than awesome:

===SORRY!=== Error while compiling /home/dex/projects/raku/lib/raku-shell-piping/px.raku
Missing required term after infix
at /home/dex/projects/raku/lib/raku-shell-piping/px.raku:9
------> px<ls -l>⏏;
    expecting any of:

Before I tell why things are happening as intended here, let me notice two problems with the code itself which I copied over as-is since it doesn’t work anyway. First, the postcircumfix sub must be a multi and in Wenzel’s post it is done correctly. Second, it must receive two arguments: first is the object it is applied to, second is what is enclosed into the angle brakets.

So, why won’t it work as one might expect? In Raku there is a class of syntax constructs which look like operators but in fact they’re syntax sugars. There may be different reasons why is it done so. For example, the assignment operator = is done this way to achieve better performance. < > makes what is inclosed inside of it a string or a list of strings. Because of this it belongs to the same category, as quotes "", for example. Therefore, it can only be implemented properly as a syntax construct. When we try to redefine it we break the compiler’s parsing and instead of a postcircumfix it finds a pair of less than and greater than operators. Because the latter doesn’t have rhs statement hence the error we see.

And you know, it was really useful to make this post as I realized that closing of the tickat was preliminary and that such compiler behavior is still incorrect because the attempt to redefine the op should prbably not result in bad parsing.