A parameterized definition is used by providing actual types for each of its parameters; we call this an instantiation. The result of instantiation is a type; it has the constructors and methods listed in the definition, with signatures obtained from those in the definition by replacing occurrences of formal parameters with the corresponding actuals. We also use the term ``instantiation'' to refer to this type. Instantiations may be used wherever an ordinary type may be used.
When processing an instantiation, the compiler ensures that each actual
parameter type satisfies the where clause for the associated
parameter. This means that it has all the named methods and constructors, with
compatible signatures. For example, the compiler rejects an instantiation
SortedList[SortedList[int]], since the
SortedList[int] does not have an
SortedList[int] is a valid instantiation, assuming that
we can use existing primitive types such as
char as actual type parameters even though these types do not have methods.
We solve this problem in a simple and straightforward way:
the various operations supported by these types are considered to
be methods for the purpose of matching where clauses. For example, the
== operator corresponds to the
equals method, and
lt corresponds to
lt method. (See Section 4.1 for further discussion of primitive
The information in the where clause serves to isolate the implementation
of a parameterized definition from its uses (i.e., instantiations).
Thus, the correctness of an instantiation
SortedList can be checked without having access to a class that
SortedList; in fact, there could be many such
classes. Within such a class, the only operations of the parameter type
that may be used are the methods and constructors listed in the where
clause for that parameter.
Furthermore, it must use the routines in accordance with the
signature information given in the where clause.
The compiler enforces these restrictions when it compiles the class;
the checking is done just once, no matter how many times the
class is instantiated.
A legal instantiation sets up a binding between a method or constructor of the actual type, and the corresponding where-routine, the code actually called at runtime. Since an instantiation is legal only if it provides the needed routines, we can be sure they will be available to the code when it runs. Thus, the where clauses permit separate compilation of parameterized implementations and their uses, which is impossible in C++ and Modula 3.