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The Go Annotated Specification
This document supersedes all previous Go spec attempts. The intent is
to make this a reference for syntax and semantics. It is annotated
with additional information not strictly belonging into a language
Recent design decisions
A list of decisions made but for which we haven't incorporated proper
language into this spec. Keep this section small and the spec
up-to-date instead.
- multi-dimensional arrays: implementation restriction for now
- no '->', always '.'
- (*a)[i] can be sugared into: a[i]
- '.' to select package elements
- arrays are not automatically pointers, we must always say
explicitly: "*array T" if we mean a pointer to that array
- there is no pointer arithmetic in the language
- there are no unions
- packages: need to pin it all down
- tuple notation: (a, b) = (b, a);
generally: need to make this clear
- for now: no (C) 'static' variables inside functions
- exports: we write: 'export a, b, c;' (with a, b, c, etc. a list of
exported names, possibly also: structure.field)
- the ordering of methods in interfaces is not relevant
- structs must be identical (same decl) to be the same
(Ken has different implementation: equivalent declaration is the
same; what about methods?)
- new methods can be added to a struct outside the package where the
struct is declared (need to think through all implications)
- array assignment by value
- do we need a type switch?
- write down scoping rules for statements
- semicolons: where are they needed and where are they not needed.
need a simple and consistent rule
- we have: postfix ++ and -- as statements
Guiding principles
Go is an attempt at a new systems programming language.
[gri: this needs to be expanded. some keywords below]
- small, concise, crisp
- procedural
- strongly typed
- few, orthogonal, and general concepts
- avoid repetition of declarations
- multi-threading support in the language
- garbage collected
- containers w/o templates
- compiler can be written in Go and so can it's GC
- very fast compilation possible (1MLOC/s stretch goal)
- reasonably efficient (C ballpark)
- compact, predictable code
(local program changes generally have local effects)
- no macros
The syntax of Go borrows from the C tradition with respect to
statements and from the Pascal tradition with respect to declarations.
Go programs are written using a lean notation with a small set of
keywords, without filler keywords (such as 'of', 'to', etc.) or other
gratuitous syntax, and with a slight preference for expressive
keywords (e.g. 'function') over operators or other syntactic
mechanisms. Generally, "light" language features (variables, simple
control flow, etc.) are expressed using a light-weight notation (short
keywords, little syntax), while "heavy" language features use a more
heavy-weight notation (longer keywords, more syntax).
[gri: should say something about syntactic alternatives: if a
syntactic form foreseeably will lead to a style recommendation, try to
make that the syntactic form instead. For instance, Go structured
statements always require the {} braces even if there is only a single
sub-statement. Similar ideas apply elsewhere.]
Modularity, identifiers and scopes
A Go program consists of one or more files compiled separately, though
not independently. A single file or compilation unit may make
individual identifiers visible to other files by marking them as
exported; there is no "header file". The exported interface of a file
may be exposed in condensed form (without the corresponding
implementation) through tools.
A package collects types, constants, functions, and so on into a named
entity that may be imported to enable its constituents be used in
another compilation unit. Each source file is part of exactly one
package; each package is constructed from one source file.
Within a file, all identifiers are declared explicitly (expect for
general predeclared identifiers such as true and false) and thus for
each identifier in a file the corresponding declaration can be found
in that same file (usually before its use, except for the rare case of
forward declarations). Identifiers may denote program entities that
are implemented in other files. Nevertheless, such identifiers are
still declared via an import declaration in the file that is referring
to them. This explicit declaration requirement ensures that every
compilation unit can be read by itself.
The scoping of identifiers is uniform: An identifier is visible from
the point of its declaration to the end of the immediately surrounding
block, and nested identifiers shadow outer identifiers with the same
name. All identifiers are in the same namespace; i.e., no two
identifiers in the same scope may have the same name even if they
denote different language concepts (for instance, such as variable vs
a function). Uniform scoping rules make Go programs easier to read
and to understand.
Program structure
A compilation unit consists of a package specifier followed by import
declarations followed by other declarations. There are no statements
at the top level of a file. [gri: do we have a main function? or do
we treat all functions uniformly and instead permit a program to be
started by providing a package name and a "start" function? I like
the latter because if gives a lot of flexibility and should be not
hard to implement]. [r: i suggest that we define a symbol, main or
Main or start or Start, and begin execution in the single exported
function of that name in the program. the flexibility of having a
choice of name is unimportant and the corresponding need to define the
name in order to link or execute adds complexity. by default it
should be trivial; we could allow a run-time flag to override the
default for gri's flexibility.]
Typing, polymorphism, and object-orientation
Go programs are strongly typed; i.e., each program entity has a static
type known at compile time. Variables also have a dynamic type, which
is the type of the value they hold at run-time. Generally, the
dynamic and the static type of a variable are identical, except for
variables of interface type. In that case the dynamic type of the
variable is a pointer to a structure that implements the variable's
(static) interface type. There may be many different structures
implementing an interface and thus the dynamic type of such variables
is generally not known at compile time. Such variables are called
Interface types are the mechanism to support an object-oriented
programming style. Different interface types are independent of each
other and no explicit hierarchy is required (such as single or
multiple inheritance explicitly specified through respective type
declarations). Interface types only define a set of functions that a
corresponding implementation must provide. Thus interface and
implementation are strictly separated.
An interface is implemented by associating functions (methods) with
structures. If a structure implements all methods of an interface, it
implements that interface and thus can be used where that interface is
required. Unless used through a variable of interface type, methods
can always be statically bound (they are not "virtual"), and incur no
runtime overhead compared to an ordinary function.
Go has no explicit notion of classes, sub-classes, or inheritance.
These concepts are trivially modeled in Go through the use of
functions, structures, associated methods, and interfaces.
Go has no explicit notion of type parameters or templates. Instead,
containers (such as stacks, lists, etc.) are implemented through the
use of abstract data types operating on interface types. [gri: there
is some automatic boxing, semi-automatic unboxing support for basic
Pointers and garbage collection
Variables may be allocated automatically (when entering the scope of
the variable) or explicitly on the heap. Pointers are used to refer
to heap-allocated variables. Pointers may also be used to point to
any other variable; such a pointer is obtained by "getting the
address" of that variable. In particular, pointers may point "inside"
other variables, or to automatic variables (which are usually
allocated on the stack). Variables are automatically reclaimed when
they are no longer accessible. There is no pointer arithmetic in Go.
Functions contain declarations and statements. They may be invoked
recursively. Functions may declare nested functions, and nested
functions have access to the variables in the surrounding functions,
they are in fact closures. Functions may be anonymous and appear as
literals in expressions.
Multithreading and channels
[Rob: We need something here]
The syntax is specified in green productions using Extended
Backus-Naur Form (EBNF). In particular:
'' encloses lexical symbols
| separates alternatives
() used for grouping
[] specifies option (0 or 1 times)
{} specifies repetition (0 to n times)
A production may be referred to from various places in this document
but is usually defined close to its first use. Code examples are
written in gray. Annotations are in blue, and open issues are in red.
One goal is to get rid of all red text in this document. [r: done!]
Vocabulary and representation
Go program source is a sequence of characters. Each character is a
Unicode code point encoded in UTF-8.
A Go program is a sequence of symbols satisfying the Go syntax. A
symbol is a non-empty sequence of characters. Symbols are
identifiers, numbers, strings, operators, delimiters, and comments.
White space must not occur within symbols (except in comments, and in
the case of blanks and tabs in strings). They are ignored unless they
are essential to separate two consecutive symbols.
White space is composed of blanks, newlines, carriage returns, and
tabs only.
A character is a Unicode code point. In particular, capital and
lower-case letters are considered as being distinct. Note that some
Unicode characters (e.g., the character ä), may be representable in
two forms, as a single code point, or as two code points. For the
Unicode standard these two encodings represent the same character, but
for Go, these two encodings correspond to two different characters).
Source encoding
The input is encoded in UTF-8. In the grammar we use the notation
to refer to an arbitrary Unicode code point encoded in UTF-8.
Digits and Letters
octal_digit = { '0' | '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' } .
decimal_digit = { '0' | '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9' } .
hex_digit = { '0' | '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9' | 'a' |
'A' | 'b' | 'B' | 'c' | 'C' | 'd' | 'D' | 'e' | 'E' | 'f' | 'F' } .
letter = 'A' | 'a' | ... 'Z' | 'z' | '_' .
For now, letters and digits are ASCII. We may expand this to allow
Unicode definitions of letters and digits.
An identifier is a name for a program entity such as a variable, a
type, a function, etc.
identifier = letter { letter | decimal_digit } .
- need to explain scopes, visibility (elsewhere)
- need to say something about predeclared identifiers, and their
(universe) scope (elsewhere)
Character and string literals
A RawStringLit is a string literal delimited by back quotes ``; the
first back quote encountered after the opening back quote terminates
the string.
RawStringLit = '`' { utf8_char } '`' .
Character and string literals are very similar to C except:
- Octal character escapes are always 3 digits (\077 not \77)
- Hexadecimal character escapes are always 2 digits (\x07 not \x7)
- Strings are UTF-8 and represent Unicode
- `` strings exist; they do not interpret backslashes
CharLit = '\'' ( UnicodeValue | ByteValue ) '\'' .
StringLit = RawStringLit | InterpretedStringLit .
InterpretedStringLit = '"' { UnicodeValue | ByteValue } '"' .
ByteValue = OctalByteValue | HexByteValue .
OctalByteValue = '\' octal_digit octal_digit octal_digit .
HexByteValue = '\' 'x' hex_digit hex_digit .
UnicodeValue = utf8_char | EscapedCharacter | LittleUValue | BigUValue .
LittleUValue = '\' 'u' hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit .
BigUValue = '\' 'U' hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit
hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit hex_digit .
EscapedCharacter = '\' ( 'a' | 'b' | 'f' | 'n' | 'r' | 't' | 'v' ) .
An OctalByteValue contains three octal digits. A HexByteValue
contains two hexadecimal digits. (Note: This differs from C but is
It is erroneous for an OctalByteValue to represent a value larger than 255.
(By construction, a HexByteValue cannot.)
A UnicodeValue takes one of four forms:
1. The UTF-8 encoding of a Unicode code point. Since Go source
text is in UTF-8, this is the obvious translation from input
text into Unicode characters.
2. The usual list of C backslash escapes: \n \t etc. 3. A
`little u' value, such as \u12AB. This represents the Unicode
code point with the corresponding hexadecimal value. It always
has exactly 4 hexadecimal digits.
4. A `big U' value, such as '\U00101234'. This represents the
Unicode code point with the corresponding hexadecimal value.
It always has exactly 8 hexadecimal digits.
Some values that can be represented this way are illegal because they
are not valid Unicode code points. These include values above
0x10FFFF and surrogate halves.
A character literal is a form of unsigned integer constant. Its value
is that of the Unicode code point represented by the text between the
A string literal has type 'string'. Its value is constructed by
taking the byte values formed by the successive elements of the
literal. For ByteValues, these are the literal bytes; for
UnicodeValues, these are the bytes of the UTF-8 encoding of the
corresponding Unicode code points. Note that "\u00FF" and "\xFF" are
different strings: the first contains the two-byte UTF-8 expansion of
the value 255, while the second contains a single byte of value 255.
The same rules apply to raw string literals, except the contents are
uninterpreted UTF-8.
"Hello, world!\n"
These examples all represent the same string:
"日本語" // UTF-8 input text
`日本語` // UTF-8 input text as a raw literal
"\u65e5\u672c\u8a9e" // The explicit Unicode code points
"\U000065e5\U0000672c\U00008a9e" // The explicit Unicode code points
"\xe6\x97\xa5\xe6\x9c\xac\xe8\xaa\x9e" // The explicit UTF-8 bytes
The language does not canonicalize Unicode text or evaluate combining
forms. The text of source code is passed uninterpreted.
If the source code represents a character as two code points, such as
a combining form involving an accent and a letter, the result will be
an error if placed in a character literal (it is not a single code
point), and will appear as two code points if placed in a string
literal. [This simple strategy may be insufficient in the long run
but is surely fine for now.]
Numeric literals
Integer literals take the usual C form, except for the absence of the
'U', 'L' etc. suffixes, and represent integer constants. (Character
literals are also integer constants.) Similarly, floating point
literals are also C-like, without suffixes and decimal only.
An integer constant represents an abstract integer value of arbitrary
precision. Only when an integer constant (or arithmetic expression
formed from integer constants) is assigned to a variable (or other
l-value) is it required to fit into a particular size - that of type
of the variable. In other words, integer constants and arithmetic
upon them is not subject to overflow; only assignment of integer
constants (and constant expressions) to an l-value can cause overflow.
It is an error if the value of the constant or expression cannot be
represented correctly in the range of the type of the l-value.
Floating point literals also represent an abstract, ideal floating
point value that is constrained only upon assignment. [r: what do we
need to say here? trickier because of truncation of fractions.]
IntLit = [ '+' | '-' ] UnsignedIntLit .
UnsignedIntLit = DecimalIntLit | OctalIntLit | HexIntLit .
DecimalIntLit = ( '1' | '2' | '3' | '4' | '5' | '6' | '7' | '8' | '9' )
{ decimal_digit } .
OctalIntLit = '0' { octal_digit } .
HexIntLit = '0' ( 'x' | 'X' ) hex_digit { hex_digit } .
FloatLit = [ '+' | '-' ] UnsignedFloatLit .
UnsignedFloatLit = "the usual decimal-only floating point representation".
Compound Literals
Compound literals require some fine tuning. I think we did ok in
Sawzall but there are some loose ends. I don't like that one cannot
easily distinguish between an array and a struct. We may need to
specify a type if these literals appear in expressions, but we don't
want to specify a type if these literals appear as intializer
expressions where the variable is already typed. And we don't want to
do any implicit conversions.
CompoundLit = ArrayLit | FunctionLit | StructureLit | MapLit.
ArrayLit = '{' [ ExpressionList ] ']'. // all elems must have "the same" type
StructureLit = '{' [ ExpressionList ] '}'.
MapLit = '{' [ PairList ] '}'.
PairList = Pair { ',' Pair }.
Pair = Expression ':' Expression.
Literal = BasicLit | CompoundLit .
BasicLit = CharLit | StringLit | IntLit | FloatLit .
Function Literals
FunctionLit = FunctionType Block.
// Function literal
func (a, b int, z float) bool { return a*b < int(z); }
// Method literal
func (p *T) . (a, b int, z float) bool { return a*b < int(z) + p.x; }
- incomplete
- incomplete
There are two forms of comments.
The first starts '//' and ends at a newline.
The second starts at '/*' and ends at the first '*/'. It may cross
newlines. It does not nest.
Comments are treated like white space.
Common productions
IdentifierList = identifier { ',' identifier }.
ExpressionList = Expression { ',' Expression }.
QualifiedIdent = [ PackageName '.' ] identifier.
PackageName = identifier.
A type specifies the set of values which variables of that type may
assume, and the operators that are applicable.
Except for variables of interface types, the static type of a variable
(i.e. the type the variable is declared with) is the same as the
dynamic type of the variable (i.e. the type of the variable at
run-time). Variables of interface types may hold variables of
different dynamic types, but their dynamic types must be compatible
with the static interface type. At any given instant during run-time,
a variable has exactly one dynamic type. A type declaration
associates an identifier with a type.
Array and struct types are called structured types, all other types
are called unstructured. A structured type cannot contain itself.
[gri: this needs to be formulated much more precisely].
Type = TypeName | ArrayType | ChannelType | InterfaceType |
FunctionType | MapType | StructType | PointerType .
TypeName = QualifiedIdent.
[gri: To make the types specifications more precise we need to
introduce some general concepts such as what it means to 'contain'
another type, to be 'equal' to another type, etc. Furthermore, we are
imprecise as we sometimes use the word type, sometimes just the type
name (int), or the structure (array) to denote different things (types
and variables). We should explain more precisely. Finally, there is
a difference between equality of types and assignment compatibility -
or isn't there?]
Basic types
Go defines a number of basic types which are referred to by their
predeclared type names. There are signed and unsigned integer types,
and floating point types:
bool the truth values true and false
uint8 the set of all unsigned 8bit integers
uint16 the set of all unsigned 16bit integers
uint32 the set of all unsigned 32bit integers
unit64 the set of all unsigned 64bit integers
byte same as uint8
int8 the set of all signed 8bit integers, in 2's complement
int16 the set of all signed 16bit integers, in 2's complement
int32 the set of all signed 32bit integers, in 2's complement
int64 the set of all signed 64bit integers, in 2's complement
float32 the set of all valid IEEE-754 32bit floating point numbers
float64 the set of all valid IEEE-754 64bit floating point numbers
float80 the set of all valid IEEE-754 80bit floating point numbers
double same as float64
Additionally, Go declares 3 basic types, uint, int, and float, which
are platform-specific. The bit width of these types corresponds to
the "natural bit width" for the respective types for the given
platform (e.g. int is usally the same as int32 on a 32bit
architecture, or int64 on a 64bit architecture). These types are by
definition platform-specific and should be used with the appropriate
[gri: do we specify minimal sizes for uint, int, float? e.g. int is
at least int32?] [gri: do we say something about the correspondence of
sizeof(*T) and sizeof(int)? Are they the same?] [r: do we want
int128 and uint128?.]
Built-in types
Besides the basic types there is a set of built-in types: string, and chan,
with maybe more to follow.
Type string
The string type represents the set of string values (strings).
A string behaves like an array of bytes, with the following properties:
- They are immutable: after creation, it is not possible to change the
contents of a string
- No internal pointers: it is illegal to create a pointer to an inner
element of a string
- They can be indexed: given string s1, s1[i] is a byte value
- They can be concatenated: given strings s1 and s2, s1 + s2 is a value
combining the elements of s1 and s2 in sequence
- Known length: the length of a string s1 can be obtained by the function/
operator len(s1). [r: is it a bulitin? do we make it a method? etc. this is
a placeholder]. The length of a string is the number of bytes within.
Unlike in C, there is no terminal NUL byte.
- Creation 1: a string can be created from an integer value by a conversion
string('x') yields "x"
- Creation 2: a string can by created from an array of integer values (maybe
just array of bytes) by a conversion
a [3]byte; a[0] = 'a'; a[1] = 'b'; a[2] = 'c'; string(a) == "abc";
The language has string literals as dicussed above. The type of a string
literal is 'string'.
Array types
An array is a structured type consisting of a number of elements which
are all of the same type, called the element type. The number of
elements of an array is called its length. The elements of an array
are designated by indices which are integers between 0 and the length
- 1.
An array type specifies a set of arrays with a given element type and
an optional array length. The array length must be (compile-time)
constant expression, if present. Arrays without length specification
are called open arrays. An open array must not contain other open
arrays, and open arrays can only be used as parameter types or in a
pointer type (for instance, a struct may not contain an open array
field, but only a pointer to an open array).
[gri: Need to define when array types are the same! Also need to
define assignment compatibility] [gri: Need to define a mechanism to
get to the length of an array at run-time. This could be a
predeclared function 'length' (which may be problematic due to the
name). Alternatively, we could define an interface for array types
and say that there is a 'length()' method. So we would write
a.length() which I think is pretty clean.]. [r: if array types have
an interface and a string is an array, some stuff (but not enough)
falls out nicely.]
ArrayType = 'array' { '[' ArrayLength ']' } ElementType.
ArrayLength = Expression.
ElementType = Type.
The notation
array [n][m] T
is a syntactic shortcut for
array [n] array [m] T.
(the shortcut may be applied recursively).
array uint8
array [64] struct { x, y: int32; }
array [1000][1000] float64
Channel types
ChannelType = 'channel' '(' Type '<-' Type ')' .
channel(int <- float)
- incomplete
Pointer types
- TODO: Need some intro here.
Two pointer types are the same if they are pointing to variables of
the same type.
PointerType = '*' Type.
- We do not allow pointer arithmetic of any kind.
Interface types
- TBD: This needs to be much more precise. For now we understand what it means.
An interface type specifies a set of methods, the "method interface"
of structs. No two methods in one interface can have the same name.
Two interfaces are the same if their set of functions is the same,
i.e., if all methods exist in both interfaces and if the function
names and signatures are the same. The order of declaration of
methods in an interface is irrelevant.
A set of interface types implicitly creates an unconnected, ordered
lattice of types. An interface type T1 is said to be smaller than or
equalt to an interface type T2 (T1 <= T2) if the entire interface of
T1 "is part" of T2. Thus, two interface types T1, T2 are the same if
T1 <= T2, and T2 <= T1, and thus we can write T1 == T2.
InterfaceType = 'interface' '{' { MethodDecl } '}' .
MethodDecl = identifier Signature ';',
// An empty interface.
interface {};
// A basic file interface.
interface {
Read(Buffer) bool;
Write(Buffer) bool;
Interface pointers can be implemented as "fat pointers"; namely a pair
(ptr, tdesc) where ptr is simply the pointer to a struct instance
implementing the interface, and tdesc is the structs type descriptor.
Only when crossing the boundary from statically typed structs to
interfaces and vice versa, does the type descriptor come into play.
In those places, the compiler statically knows the value of the type
Function types
FunctionType = 'func' Signature .
Signature = [ Receiver '.' ] Parameters [ Result ] .
Receiver = '(' identifier Type ')' .
Parameters = '(' [ ParameterList ] ')' .
ParameterList = ParameterSection { ',' ParameterSection } .
ParameterSection = [ IdentifierList ] Type .
Result = [ Type ] | '(' ParameterList ')' .
// Function types
func ()
func (a, b int, z float) bool
func (a, b int, z float) (success bool)
func (a, b int, z float) (success bool, result float)
// Method types
func (p *T) . ()
func (p *T) . (a, b int, z float) bool
func (p *T) . (a, b int, z float) (success bool)
func (p *T) . (a, b int, z float) (success bool, result float)
Map types
MapType = 'map' '(' Type <- Type ')'.
map(int <- string)
- incomplete
Struct types
Struct types are similar to C structs.
NEED TO DEFINE STRUCT EQUIVALENCE Two struct types are the same if and
only if they are declared by the same struct type; i.e., struct types
are compared via equivalence, and *not* structurally. For that
reason, struct types are usually given a type name so that it is
possible to refer to the same struct in different places in a program.
What about equivalence of structs w/ respect to methods? What if
methods can be added in another package? TBD.
Each field of a struct represents a variable within the data
structure. In particular, a function field represents a function
variable, not a method.
StructType = 'struct' '{' { FieldDecl } '}' .
FieldDecl = IdentifierList Type ';' .
// An empty struct.
struct {}
// A struct with 5 fields.
struct {
x, y int;
u float;
a []int;
f func();
Note that a program which never uses interface types can be fully
statically typed. That is, the "usual" implementation of structs (or
classes as they are called in other languages) having an extra type
descriptor prepended in front of every single struct is not required.
Only when a pointer to a struct is assigned to an interface variable,
the type descriptor comes into play, and at that point it is
statically known at compile-time!
Package specifiers
Every source file is an element of a package, and defines which
package by the first element of every source file, which must be a
package specifier:
PackageSpecifier = 'package' PackageName .
package Math
Package import declarations
A program can access exported items from another package. It does so
by in effect declaring a local name providing access to the package,
and then using the local name as a namespace with which to address the
elements of the package.
ImportDecl = 'import' PackageName FileName .
FileName = DoubleQuotedString .
DoubleQuotedString = '"' TEXT '"' .
(DoubleQuotedString should be replaced by the correct string literal production!)
Package import declarations must be the first statements in a file
after the package specifier.
A package import associates an identifier with a package, named by a
file. In effect, it is a declaration:
import Math "lib/Math";
import library "my/library";
After such an import, one can use the Math (e.g) identifier to access
elements within it
x float = Math.sin(y);
Note that this process derives nothing explicit about the type of the
`imported' function (here Math.sin()). The import must execute to
provide this information to the compiler (or the programmer, for that
An angled-string refers to official stuff in a public place, in effect
the run-time library. A double-quoted-string refers to arbitrary
code; it is probably a local file name that needs to be discovered
using rules outside the scope of the language spec.
The file name in a package must be complete except for a suffix.
Moreover, the package name must correspond to the (basename of) the
source file name. For instance, the implementation of package Bar
must be in file Bar.go, and if it lives in directory foo we write
import Bar "foo/bar";
to import it.
[This is a little redundant but if we allow multiple files per package
it will seem less so, and in any case the redundancy is useful and
We assume Unix syntax for file names: / separators, no suffix for
directories. If the language is ported to other systems, the
environment must simulate these properties to avoid changing the
source code.
- This needs to be expanded.
- We need to think about enums (or some alternative mechanism).
Declaration = (ConstDecl | VarDecl | TypeDecl | FunctionDecl |
ForwardDecl | AliasDecl) .
Const declarations
ConstDecl = 'const' ( ConstSpec | '(' ConstSpecList [ ';' ] ')' ).
ConstSpec = identifier [ Type ] '=' Expression .
ConstSpecList = ConstSpec { ';' ConstSpec }.
const pi float = 3.14159265
const e = 2.718281828
const (
one int = 1;
two = 3
Variable declarations
VarDecl = 'var' ( VarSpec | '(' VarSpecList [ ';' ] ')' ) | ShortVarDecl .
VarSpec = IdentifierList ( Type [ '=' ExpressionList ] | '=' ExpressionList ) .
VarSpecList = VarSpec { ';' VarSpec } .
ShortVarDecl = identifier ':=' Expression .
var i int
var u, v, w float
var k = 0
var x, y float = -1.0, -2.0
var (
i int;
u, v = 2.0, 3.0
If the expression list is present, it must have the same number of elements
as there are variables in the variable specification.
[ TODO: why is x := 0 not legal at the global level? ]
Type declarations
TypeDecl = 'type' ( TypeSpec | '(' TypeSpecList [ ';' ] ')' ).
TypeSpec = identifier Type .
TypeSpecList = TypeSpec { ';' TypeSpec }.
type IntArray [16] int
type (
Point struct { x, y float };
Polar Point
Function and method declarations
FunctionDecl = 'func' [ Receiver ] identifier Parameters [ Result ] ( ';' | Block ) .
Block = '{' { Statement } '}' .
func min(x int, y int) int {
if x < y {
return x;
return y;
func foo (a, b int, z float) bool {
return a*b < int(z);
A method is a function that also declares a receiver. The receiver is
a struct with which the function is associated. The receiver type
must denote a pointer to a struct.
func (p *T) foo (a, b int, z float) bool {
return a*b < int(z) + p.x;
func (p *Point) Length() float {
return Math.sqrt(p.x * p.x + p.y * p.y);
func (p *Point) Scale(factor float) {
p.x = p.x * factor;
p.y = p.y * factor;
The last two examples are methods of struct type Point. The variable p is
the receiver; within the body of the method it represents the value of
the receiving struct.
Note that methods are declared outside the body of the corresponding
Functions and methods can be forward declared by omitting the body:
func foo (a, b int, z float) bool;
func (p *T) foo (a, b int, z float) bool;
Statement = EmptyStat | Assignment | CompoundStat | Declaration |
ExpressionStat | IncDecStat | IfStat | WhileStat | ReturnStat .
Empty statements
EmptyStat = ';' .
Assignment = Designator '=' Expression .
- no automatic conversions
- values can be assigned to variables if they are of the same type, or
if they satisfy the interface type (much more precision needed here!)
Compound statements
CompoundStat = '{' { Statement } '}' .
Expression statements
ExpressionStat = Expression .
IncDec statements
IncDecStat = Expression ( '++' | '--' ) .
If statements
IfStat = 'if' ( [ Expression ] '{' { IfCaseList } '}' ) |
( Expression '{' { Statement } '}' [ 'else' { Statement } ] ).
IfCaseList = ( 'case' ExpressionList | 'default' ) ':' { Statement } .
if x < y {
return x;
} else {
return y;
if tag {
case 0, 1: s1();
case 2: s2();
default: ;
if {
case x < y: f1();
case x < z: f2();
While statements
WhileStat = 'while' ( [ Expression ] '{' { WhileCaseList } '}' ) |
( Expression '{' { Statement } '}' ).
WhileCaseList = 'case' ExpressionList ':' { Statement } .
while {
case i < n: f1();
case i < m: f2();
Return statements
ReturnStat = 'return' [ ExpressionList ] .
There are two ways to return values from a function. The first is to
explicitly list the return value or values in the return statement:
func simple_f () int {
return 2;
func complex_f1() (re float, im float) {
return -7.0, -4.0;
The second is to provide names for the return values and assign them
explicitly in the function; the return statement will then provide no
func complex_f2() (re float, im float) {
re = 7.0;
im = 4.0;
It is legal to name the return values in the declaration even if the
first form of return statement is used:
func complex_f2() (re float, im float) {
return 7.0, 4.0;
Expression = Conjunction { '||' Conjunction }.
Conjunction = Comparison { '&&' Comparison }.
Comparison = SimpleExpr [ relation SimpleExpr ].
relation = '==' | '!=' | '<' | '<=' | '>' | '>='.
SimpleExpr = Term { add_op Term }.
add_op = '+' | '-' | '|' | '^'.
Term = Factor { mul_op Factor }.
mul_op = '*' | '/' | '%' | '<<' | '>>' | '&'.
The corresponding precedence hierarchy is as follows: (5 levels of
precedence is about the maximum people can keep comfortably in their
heads. The experience with C and C++ shows that more then that
usually requires explicit manual consultation...). [gri: I still
think we should consider 0 levels of binary precedence: All operators
are on the same level, but parentheses are required when different
operators are mixed. That would make it really easy, and really
clear. It would also open the door for straight-forward introduction
of user-defined operators, which would be rather useful.]
Precedence Operator
1 ||
2 &&
3 == != < <= > >=
4 + - | ^
5 * / % << >> &
For integer values, / and % satisfy the following relationship:
(a / b) * b + a % b == a
(a / b) is "truncated towards zero".
The shift operators implement arithmetic shifts for signed integers,
and logical shifts for unsigned integers. TBD: is there any range
checking on s in x >> s, or x << s ?
[gri: We decided on a couple of issues here that we need to write down
more nicely]
- There are no implicit type conversions except for
constants/literals. In particular, unsigned and signed integers
cannot be mixed in an expression w/o explicit casting.
- Unary '^' corresponds to C '~' (bitwise negate).
- Arrays can be subscripted (a[i]) or sliced (a[i : j]). A slice a[i
: j] is a new array of length (j - i), and consisting of the elements
a[i], a[i + 1], ... a[j - 1]. [gri/r: Is the slice array bounds
check hard (leading to an error), or soft (truncating) ?].
Furthermore: Array slicing is very tricky! Do we get a copy (a new
array) or a new array descriptor? This is open at this point. There
is a simple way out of the mess: Structured types are always passed by
reference, and there is no value assignment for structured types. It
gets very complicated very quickly.
[gri: Syntax below is incomplete - what about method invocation?]
Factor = Literal | Designator | '!' Expression | '-' Expression |
'^' Expression | '&' Expression | '(' Expression ')' | Call.
Designator = QualifiedIdent { Selector }.
Selector = '.' identifier | '[' Expression [ ':' Expression ] ']'.
Call = Factor '(' ExpressionList ')'.
[gri: We need a precise definition of a constant expression]
Compilation units
The unit of compilation is a single file. A compilation unit consists
of a package specifier followed by a list of import declarations
followed by a list of global declarations.
CompilationUnit = { ImportDecl } { GlobalDeclaration }.
GlobalDeclaration = Declaration.
Globally declared identifiers may be exported, thus making the
exported identifer visible outside the package. Another package may
then import the identifier to use it.
Export directives must only appear at the global level of a
compilation unit (at least for now). That is, one can export
compilation-unit global identifiers but not, for example, local
variables or structure fields.
Exporting an identifier makes the identifier visible externally to the
package. If the identifier represents a type, the type structure is
exported as well. The exported identifiers may appear later in the
source than the export directive itself, but it is an error to specify
an identifier not declared anywhere in the source file containing the
export directive.
ExportDirective = 'export' ExportIdentifier { ',' ExportIdentifier } .
ExportIdentifier = identifier .
export sin, cos;
One may export variables and types, but (at least for now), not
aliases. [r: what is needed to make aliases exportable? issue is
Exporting a variable does not automatically export the type of the
variable. For illustration, consider the program fragment:
package P;
export v1, v2, p;
struct S { a int; b int; }
var v1 S;
var v2 S;
var p *S;
Notice that S is not exported. Another source file may contain:
import P;
alias v1 P.v1;
alias v2 P.v2;
alias p P.p;
This program can use v and p but not access the fields (a and b) of
structure type S explicitly. For instance, it could legally contain
if p == nil { }
if v1 == v2 { }
but not
if v.a == 0 { }