Functions in Marco

1 minute read

In this post I’ll describe the basics of functions in Marco. They behave mostly like Racket functions, except without any syntactic sugar or variadic functions for now.

Definition and Application

In Marco, there is only one way to define functions: using the macro function. This macro takes two parameters, the list of formal arguments and the function body:

(def inc (function (x) (+ x 1)))

This binds the defined function to the symbol inc. Note how the function is anonymous. I could change its “name” by binding it to another symbol:

(def add1 inc)

Calling functions, also called “application” consists of evaluating a list which has the function in its head and the arguments in its tail (like common lisp):

(inc 1) // returns 2


Functions have lexical scope, which means that they have access to the environment where they are defined, even during the application.

(def x 10)
(def addx (function (y) (+ y x)))

(addx 5) // returns 15

What about later bindings? What should happen in this case?

(def getx (function () x))
(var x 3)
(set! x 9)


It returns 9. Access to to the environment is not restricted by order (much like letrec in Racket). This is one of the mechanisms that allow recursion.

Higher order functions

Functions are first class values. Referencing a symbol just returns the function, which can be passed to other functions:

(def perform (function (f x) (f x)))
(perform inc 4)

Perform takes a function f and a value x and calls f with x.

Or they can returned from functions:

(def g (function (x) (function (y) (+ x y))))
((g 1) 2) // returns 3

Which looks a lot like how one could implement currying.


Functions parameters are immutable, so this is an error (unlike in Racket):

(def f (function (x) (set! x 1)))
(f 1)
Cannot mutate symbol: x

Let me know what you think so far!