[R] Possible (ab)use of lexical scoping in R ?

Emmanuel Charpentier charpent at bacbuc.dyndns.org
Sat May 21 16:52:11 CEST 2005

Dear list,

I wish to define a set of functions *auxilliary* to another set of
"main" ones, and I wonder if there is some "clever" way do do this using
lexical scoping. Looking for that in the list's archives did not get me
easily understood answers. Perusing MASS (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th
editions!) and "Programming S" wasn't of much help either...

R easily allows to create functions local to *another* function, as in :

foo<-function(x,y,...) {
  bar<-function(a,...) {
  gee<-function(t,u,...) {

In this (pseudo-)example, bar() and gee() are known in foo() but unknown
in the main R environment, which is a Good Thing (TM) for my purposes ;
however, they are redefined in each call to foo(), which entails some
serious overhead. Furthermore, they cannot be used by any other function.

What I want to do is so create a set of (user-invisible) auxilliaries
used by another set of (user-visible) "main" functions. I might also
wish sometimes to create a such a set of data.

(Common) Lisp and Scheme allow this easily. For example, in Common Lisp,
I could use :

(flet ((bar (a)(...))(gee (t u)(...)))
  (defun foo(x y)( ...))
  (defun quux(m n ...)(...)))

Now (barring syntax errors I may have slipped in the above
pseudo-example (my Lisp is rusty)), foo and quux are known in the main
environment, can both call bar and gee, which are not visible. Lisp also
allows me to do a similar thing for "data" (with let()) and even macroes
(with macrolet()). Variants such as let*() allow, IIRC, to play tricks
with evaluation order (e. g. mutually calling "local" functions).

I am aware that one may achieve the same thing in R by creating a
package with its own namespace and exporting relevant items.However, in
my case, that would be trying to cut one's steak with a sawmill's ribbon

Are there way(s) to create a new environment, defining local functions
(or data) in this environment and the "main" functions in the parent
environment (or the global one) while still in the local environment ?

					Emmanuel Charpentier

PS : I'd appreciate Cc's to my address, since I am not on the list and
read it through the Web interface.

PPS : Shouldn't "S programming" be a bit overhauled ? at the time of its
writing, R 0.90 was current...

Emmanuel Charpentier			charpent at bacbuc.dyndns.org

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