The Language Reference & Guide
- Welcome to Emojicode
- The Basics
- Variables and Assignment
- Control Flow
- Classes & Value Types
- Inheritance and Overriding
- Types and Namespaces
- Types as Values
- Safe and Unsafe Code
- Memory Management
- Appendix: The Emojicode Compiler
The return of a method is normally immutable (which, of course, only concerns value types). However, the following code does work and it is very desirable that it do so:
🏁🍇 🍿🍿 🔤A🔤 🍆🍆 ➡️ 🖍🆕 array 🐻🐽array 0❗️ 🔤B🔤❗️ 😀 🐽🐽array 0❗️1❗️❗️ 🍉
We can observe that is possible to mutate the content of
array by mutating the return of a method, which is, as we established before, not allowed in general.
The above code works because 🍨’s 🐽 does not really return an
Element but a
❗️ 🐽 index 🔢 ➡️ ✴️Element
✴️Element is a reference. A reference is like a pointer to a value type and allows you to mutate a value type in another object. Reference types can only be declared as return types. A returned reference is only mutable if the callee is mutable and mutating the reference indicates to the compiler that the callee whose method returned the reference was mutated.
References cannot be copied. Assigning a reference to a variable immediately causes the reference to be dereferenced and a copy to be stored into the variable. The following program will therefore panic:
🏁🍇 🍿🍿 🔤A🔤 🍆🍆 ➡️ 🖍🆕 array 🐽array 0❗️➡️ 🖍🆕 subarray 🐻subarray 🔤B🔤❗️ 😀 🐽🐽array 0❗️1❗️❗️ 🍉
Because references to value types could be an origin of severe memory bugs, Emojicode emposes strict rules that make their use very safe.
Obtaining a Reference
The only way to obtain a reference to a value type is by using the return statement inside a method whose return type is a reference. You can only safely return a reference to an instance variable, like in the example below:
🕊 🥓 🍇 🍉 🕊 🐭 🍇 🖍🆕 bacon 🥓 ⬅️ 🆕🥓❗️ 🆕🍇🍉 ❗️ 🍳 ➡️ ✴️🥓 🍇 ↩️ bacon 🍉 🍉
You cannot return a reference to value type in a local variable or to a temporary object, which clearly contradicts the purpose of references.
Sometimes it is necessary to return a reference, that was returned from another function.
This cannot be considered a safe operation, though. Consider the following example that would lead to undefined behavior if allowed:
🕊 🐭 🍇 🖍🆕 bacon 🥓 ⬅️ 🆕🥓❗️ 🆕🍇🍉 ❗️ 🍳 ➡️ ✴️🥓 🍇 ↩️ bacon 🍉 🐇❗️ 🍄 ➡️ ✴️🥓 🍇 ↩️ 🍳🆕🐭❗️❗️ 🍉 🍉 🏁 🍇 🍄🕊🐭❗️ 🍉
But there are cases where this can be done safely. In such a case you can wrap the return statement into an unsafe block, which allows the forwarding of mutable references. The example below is from the 🍨 implementation.
❗️ 🐽 index 🔢 ➡️ ✴️Element 🍇 💭 ... ☣️ 🍇 ↩️ 🐽 🧠data❗️🐚Element🍆 index✖️⚖️Element❗️ 🍉 🍉
🧠’s 🐽 returns a reference too.¹ Since we can be sure that the underlying storage of a list (returned by
🧠data❗️) will not be released until the list itself is released, the above method is really safe.
¹ Although 🧠 is a value type, 🧠🐽 always returns a mutable reference, even if the callee is not mutable. All references returned by primitive value types are always mutable.