IndependentTypeSpecification-class: Class "TypeSpecification" and derived class

Description Constructors Slots Extends Methods Author(s) See Also Examples


The classes in this collection are used to represent type information about a function in different ways. TypeSpecification is the virtual base class and provides the common slot to describe the type for the return value of the function.

The ReturnTypeSpecification-class is used when there is no information about the parameters of the function (either because there are no parameters or because we have no constraints on them).

The classes IndependentTypeSpecification-class and SimultaneousTypeSpecification-class are used to describe constraints on the arguments to the function. Both are lists, but behave very differently in the type checking. The difference is more difficult to describe succinctly than it is conceptually.

SimultaneousTypeSpecification-class is used when we want to specify information about the types of several arguments in a call taken as a group and imposing a constraint on that group of values. This corresponds to a call signature in the method dispatching. It says match each argument in turn with the given types and confirm the match over all of these tests. For example, we might have a function that accepts either (a) two numbers, or (b) two matrices. In that case, we need to specify the acceptable argument types as pairs: c("numeric", "numeric") and c("matrix", "matrix"). The key idea here is that the constraints on the types are AND-ed together across the different arguments. In our example, we impose the constraint is.numeric(arg1) && is.numeric(arg2).

The IndependentTypeSpecification-class is used when we want to specify something about the types of different parameters but do not want the types to be AND-ed together. If we had a function that accepts a matrix or a number for its first parameter, and a matrix or string for its second parameter or any combination of those, then we would use the IndependentTypeSpecification-class. The term 'independent' is intended to suggest that the type checking is done for each parameter separately or independently of the others and then the check succeeds if all arguments pass. The phrase simultaneous means that we test the types of the arguments as a unit or simultaneously. The names can be easily changed to something more suggestive. It is the concept that is important.

A description of a quite different nature may also help and also provide information about the contents of these different list classes. For IndependentTypeSpecification-class, one can think of the list as having an element for each parameter for which we want to specify type information. This element is, at its simplest, a character vector giving the names of the acceptable classes. (We can have more complex elements such as expressions.) I think of this as being a collection of column vectors hanging from the parameters.

For SimultaneousTypeSpecification-class, we have rows or tuples of type information. These are call signatures. So we have

IndependentTypeSpecification corresponds to the SimultaneousTypeSpecification in the following computational manner. We can take the cartesian product (e.g. via expand.grid) of the inputs for IndependentTypeSpecification to form all possible combinations of types for the parameters and then we have the tuples for the corresponding SimultaneousTypeSpecification.


One can create objects of the three non-virtual classes using the corresponding constructor functions in the package. These are ReturnTypeSpecification, IndependentTypeSpecification, SimultaneousTypeSpecification.



each of the non-virtual classes is really a list. They inherit the list properties and all the relevant methods. This slot is implementation specific and should not be used.


Object of class ClassNameOrExpression-class. This describes the return type for the function. In SimultaneousTypeDescription objects, we can also specify return type information corresponding to each signature, i.e. in the TypedSignature-class.


Class "list", from data part. Class "TypeSpecification", directly. Class "vector", by class "list".


Available methods are computed in the example below; see the corresponding help page for details.


Duncan Temple Lang <[email protected]>

See Also

IndependentTypeSpecification SimultaneousTypeSpecification ReturnTypeSpecification typeInfo, typeInfo<- checkArgs, checkReturnValue



Bioconductor-mirror/TypeInfo documentation built on June 1, 2017, 3:25 a.m.