Contents:

- Introduction
- Recursive Definitions
- Self-application
- Partially explicit recursion
- A nested recursion combinator

This note was prompted by Nick Forde's version of a Joy operator
which computes the Ackermann function
which is one of the few well-known functions that use nested recursion.
He was trying to avoid explicit recursion in the definition,
but found that none of the recursion combinators of
Joy *at the time* were up to the task.
His finding prompted the inclusion of a new Joy combinator
*condnestrec* into the language.

This note gives definitions of (the common simplification of) Ackermann's function, of McCarthy's 91-function, of a function producing a Hamiltonian path over a hypercube, of a function producing Gray sequences, and of the Hanoi problem. All involve nested recursion. Several possible definition methods are used.

The definitions and the output of the examples in this note were obtained by running the file jp-nestrec.joy. Only the descriptive text in this note was added later.

The following is the more or less standard definition of the factorial
function:

fact(n) = IF n = 0 THEN 1 ELSE n * fact(n-1)Here is the corresponding recursive definition in Joy:

DEFINE r-fact == [ null ] [ pop 1] [ dup pred r-fact *] ifte.The following tests this definition - redundantly, of course. Note that the response from Joy is indented to the left. The same style will be used in all later tests.

[ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 ] [r-fact] map. [1 1 2 6 24 120 720]

The next definition is of a not so familiar function originally due to McCarthy, his intriguing "91 function":

mcc91(i) = IF i > 100 THEN i - 10 ELSE mcc91(mcc91(i + 11))Note one very important feature not shared with the factorial function: In the ELSE-part the recursive call to itself relies on the result of another recursive call to itself. There are very few function definitions in which this pattern appears. The following is the corresponding definition in Joy, note the double recursive call in the second last line:

DEFINE r-mcc91 == [ 100 > ] [ 10 - ] [ 11 + r-mcc91 r-mcc91 ] ifte.Here is a simple test for some representative values:

[ -7 42 99 100 101 102 345 ] [r-mcc91] map. [91 91 91 91 91 92 335]

The Ackermann function widely quoted in the literature is actually a simplification of the function originally defined by Ackermann to show that there are terminating recursive functions that are not primitive recursive. Both the original and the descendent due to Peters grow at an extraordinary rate. Here is the now common definition:

ack(m, n) = IF m = 0 THEN n + 1 ELSEIF n = 0 THEN ack(m - 1, 1) ELSE ack(m - 1, ack(m, n - 1))and its counterpart in Joy:

DEFINE r-ack == # stack putln [ [ [pop null] popd succ ] [ [null] pop pred 1 r-ack ] [ [dup pred swap] dip pred r-ack r-ack ] ] cond.The line that has been commented out with the hash character is useful if one wants to see a trce of what is sitting on the stack. The following tests are complete from (0,0) up to (3,5), and give some indication of the behaviour. The final line only gives the value for (4,0) because computation for (4,1) crashes the Joy stack (and also, it seems, calculations in other languages).

[ [0 0] [0 1] [0 2] [0 3] [0 4] [0 5] ] [i r-ack] map putln [ [1 0] [1 1] [1 2] [1 3] [1 4] [1 5] ] [i r-ack] map putln [ [2 0] [2 1] [2 2] [2 3] [2 4] [2 5] ] [i r-ack] map putln [ [3 0] [3 1] [3 2] [3 3] [3 4] [3 5] ] [i r-ack] map putln [ [4 0] ] [i r-ack] map. [1 2 3 4 5 6] [2 3 4 5 6 7] [3 5 7 9 11 13] [5 13 29 61 125 253] [13]

In the Towers of Hanoi puzzle the disks have to be moved in a particular order. Ignoring what the target peg is, for three disks the order is 1 2 1 3 1 2 1. In general for n disks it is a sequence of (2^n)-1 steps. In the usual implementation of the Hanoi program the disks that have to be moved are not mentioned at all. The sequence of steps is also one that performs a Hamiltonian path on an n-dimensional hypercube. The following is the Joy program:

DEFINE r-hamilhyp == # [] n => [...] [ null ] [ pop ] [ dup rollup pred r-hamilhyp dupd cons swap pred r-hamilhyp ] ifte.Note that unlike the program for the 91-function and the Ackermann function, the two recursive calls are not consecutive. Since the sequences are less known than the Hanoi program, here are several test outputs:

[] 3 r-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1] [] 4 r-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1] [] 5 r-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 5 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1]

One way to get by without recursive definitions is by using Curry's "paradoxical" Y combinator which can also be defined in Joy. Another way would use what is known as "self-application", giving a function a parameter which is also a function - e.g. itself. In Joy there is an inbuilt combinator to this effect, but it might have been defined by

DEFINE x == dup i.Using this combinator a non-recursive definition of the factorial function is this:

DEFINE x-fact == [ [ pop null ] [ pop pop 1] [ [dup pred] dip x *] ifte ] x.Here is a test, and keep in mind that because the definition of

[ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 ] [x-fact] map. [1 1 2 6 24 120 720]

In the recursive definition of the 91-function the recursive branch used a double recursion. For a non-recursive version it is necessary to have a double self-call with the x-combinator. Such a double call is useful elsewhere, so here we have a definition:

DEFINE twice-x == dup [x] dip x.Below is a non-recursive definition of the 91-function and the same test set as before:

DEFINE x-mcc91 == [ [ pop 100 > ] [ pop 10 - ] [ [11 +] dip twice-x ] ifte ] x. [ -7 42 99 100 101 102 345 ] [x-mcc91] map. [91 91 91 91 91 92 335]

Exactly the same technique can be used to give a non-recursive definition of the Ackermann function using th x-combinator. Only one row of the test matrix is used here:

DEFINE x-ack == [ [ [ [pop pop null] pop popd succ ] [ [pop null] [pop pred 1] dip x ] [ [[dup pred swap] dip pred] dip twice-x ] ] cond ] x. [ [3 0] [3 1] [3 2] [3 3] [3 4] [3 5] ] [i x-ack] map. [5 13 29 61 125 253]Whatever may be achieved with the x-combinator can also be achieved with the less efficient but more familiar y-combinator, which needs to be defined first:

DEFINE y == [dup cons] swoncat dup cons i; twice-i == dup [i] dip i. DEFINE y-ack == [ [ [ [pop pop null] pop popd succ ] [ [pop null] [pop pred 1] dip i ] [ [[dup pred swap] dip pred] dip twice-i ] ] cond ] y. [ [3 0] [3 1] [3 2] [3 3] [3 4] [3 5] ] [i y-ack] map. [5 13 29 61 125 253]

Here is the non-recursive definition, using the x-combinator,
of the function that generates the
hamiltonian path sequence on a hypercube,
together with one of the tests:

DEFINE x-hamilhyp == [ [ pop null ] [ pop pop ] [ dup [ [dup rollup pred] dip x ] dip [dupd cons] dip [swap pred] dip x ] ifte ] x. [] 5 x-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 5 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1]

Nick Forde suggested writing the Ackermann function by using
the linrec combinator to achieve one recursion, and to use
explicit recursion for the other. For reasons that do not concern
us here, his version computes the *converse* of the text book
definition. For that reason, in the tests below the call is to
`swap ack`:

DEFINE ack == (* I:n I:m -> I:a *) [ [ [0 =] [pop 1 +] ] [ [swap 0 =] [popd 1 - 1 swap] [] ] [ [dup rollup [1 -] dip] [swap 1 - ack] ] ] condlinrec. [ [0 0] [0 1] [0 2] [0 3] [0 4] [0 5] ] [i swap ack] map putln [ [1 0] [1 1] [1 2] [1 3] [1 4] [1 5] ] [i swap ack] map putln [ [2 0] [2 1] [2 2] [2 3] [2 4] [2 5] ] [i swap ack] map putln [ [3 0] [3 1] [3 2] [3 3] [3 4] [3 5] ] [i swap ack] map putln [ [4 0] ] [i swap ack] map. [1 2 3 4 5 6] [2 3 4 5 6 7] [3 5 7 9 11 13] [5 13 29 61 125 253] [13]

In the same style we may define the 91-function
using only a partially recursive definition:

DEFINE l-mcc91 == [ 100 > ] [ 10 - ] [ 11 + ] [ l-mcc91 ] linrec. [ -7 42 99 100 101 102 345 ] [l-mcc91] map. [91 91 91 91 91 92 335]

The following partially recursive definition of the Ackermann function also uses just the explicitly recursive call in the quotation for the double recursion:

DEFINE clr-ack == [ [ [pop null] [popd succ] ] [ [null] [pop pred 1] [] ] [ [[dup pred swap] dip pred] [clr-ack] ] ] condlinrec. [ [3 0] [3 1] [3 2] [3 3] [3 4] [3 5] ] [i clr-ack] map. [5 13 29 61 125 253]

In the same style here is the partially recursive definition of the function for the Hamiltonian path on a hypercube. But since there is only a two way branching, the linrec combinator is used rather than the slightly more complex (and hence more flexible) condlinrec combinator. Remember that the implicit recursion occures between the third and fourth quotation.

DEFINE lr-hamilhyp == [ null ] [ pop ] [ dup rollup pred ] [ dupd cons swap pred lr-hamilhyp ] linrec. [] 5 lr-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 5 1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1]

Using almost the same definition with only a small change
we obtain a definition for something seemingly quite different.
In the following only the commented line has been inserted.
The definition generates Gray sequences of subsets of
small numbers. Each subset is generated from its predecessor
by having just one number added or removed.
This step is here done by an operation called *toggle*,
which takes a set of small numbers and another small number as
parameters and returns a set. If the number was in the original set
then it is removed, if the number was not in the original set
then it is added.
Here is the definition and some examples:

DEFINE toggle == # {..} i -> {..] [has] [[not] dip swons not] [swons] ifte. {} 4 toggle. {4} {1 2 7} 2 toggle. {1 7}Here is the function which constructs Gray sequences, and three examples:

DEFINE lr-grayseq == [ null ] [ pop ] [ dup rollup pred ] [ dupd dup [first swap toggle] dip # inserted line cons swap pred lr-grayseq ] linrec. [{}] 3 lr-grayseq. [{3} {1 3} {1 2 3} {2 3} {2} {1 2} {1} {}] [{3}] 3 lr-grayseq. [{} {1} {1 2} {2} {2 3} {1 2 3} {1 3} {3}] [{1 2 3}] 3 lr-grayseq. [{1 2} {2} {} {1} {1 3} {3} {2 3} {1 2 3}]

Nested recursion occurs not only in contrived functions like
the Ackermann function and the 91-function, but also in some others.
Since one of the aims of Joy is to emphasise common patterns,
a new recursion combinator called `condnestrec`
was added to Joy.
It resembles the `condlinrec` combinator
in that it takes just one parameter which is a list of cases.
Each case is a list, all but the last have a quoted test
predicate as their first element. All other elements in a
case list are again quotations. But whereas `condlinrec`
allows at most two other quotations, `condnestrec`
allows any number. For both combinators an implicit recursion
occurs between any consecutive other quotations.

Here is the example for the Hamiltonian path on a hypercube. Note that the parameter to the combinator is a list of just two cases. The first case consists of a test quotation and another quotation, so there is no recursion here. The second case is also the last, so it is the default, and it has no test quotation. There are three quotations, so the implicit recursion occurs between them, so it occurs twice.

DEFINE cnr-hamilhyp == [ [ [null] [pop] ] [ [dup rollup pred] [dupd cons swap pred] [] ] ] condnestrec. [] 4 cnr-hamilhyp. [1 2 1 3 1 2 1 4 1 2 1 3 1 2 1]

In the following definition of the Ackermann function implicit recursion occurs once in the second case, and twice in the third, default case. In each of the three places the quotation following the implicit recursion is actually empty.

DEFINE cnr-ack == [ [ [pop null] [popd succ] ] [ [null] [pop pred 1] [] ] [ [[dup pred swap] dip pred] [] [] ] ] condnestrec. 3 4 cnr-ack. 125

The program for Gray sequences is again obtained from the one for the Hamiltonian path on a hypercube by inserting one line as indicated:

DEFINE cnr-grayseq == [ [ [null] [pop] ] [ [dup rollup pred] [dupd dup [first swap toggle] dip # inserted cons swap pred] [] ] ] condnestrec. [{}] 3 cnr-grayseq. [{3} {1 3} {1 2 3} {2 3} {2} {1 2} {1} {}]

Since the Hamiltonian path sequence is also the sequence of the disk numbers in the Hanoi problem, it is perhaps not too surprising that the solution to the Hamoi problem is so similar. The solution of course has to specify the pegs: each move has to specify from which peg the top disk is to be removed and to which peg it is to be moved. However, the number of the disk is not normally mentioned. In the following program the number of the disk directs the recursion just as in the Hamiltonian problem, but the number of the disk does not appear in the output.

In this particular version of the program the user specifies a list of the names of the three pegs, and the number of disks on the first peg. The disks on the first peg are to be moved to the peg whose name is the second on the list, and the peg whose name is the third item can be used as a temporary. The user chose to call the pegs "source" "destination" and "temp" in the first example, and "S" "D" and "T" in the second example.

DEFINE cnr-hanoi == [[rolldown] infra] dip [ [ [null] [pop pop] ] [ [dup2 [[rotate] infra] dip pred] [ [dup rest put] dip [[swap] infra] dip pred ] [] ] ] condnestrec. [source destination temp] 2 cnr-hanoi. [source temp] [source destination] [temp destination] [S D T] 5 cnr-hanoi. [S D] [S T] [D T] [S D] [T S] [T D] [S D] [S T] [D T] [D S] [T S] [D T] [S D] [S T] [D T] [S D] [T S] [T D] [S D] [T S] [D T] [D S] [T S] [T D] [S D] [S T] [D T] [S D] [T S] [T D] [S D]It is interesting to note that although the Gray sequence program and the Hanoi program are based on the same program, the Hamiltonian path program, the Gray sequence produced consists of 2^n members and the Hanoi move sequence consists of (2^n)-1 members.

Since this note started with the recursive definitions
of the factorial function and the 91-function,
This section would not be complete without
the corresponding definitions using the *condnestrec*
combinator:

DEFINE cnr-fact == [ [ [null] [pop 1] ] [ [dup pred] [*] ] ] condnestrec; cnr-mcc91 == [ [ [100 >] [10 -] ] [ [11 +] [] [] ] ] condnestrec. [ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 ] [cnr-fact] map. [1 1 2 6 24 120 720] [ -7 42 99 100 101 102 345 ] [cnr-mcc91] map. [91 91 91 91 91 92 335]

In fact, `condnestrec` is
a veritable swiss army knife combinator.
In the following definitions of the `even` predicate
and the `abs` (absolute value) operator,
`condlinrec` is used just for conditionals without
making use of the possibility of recursion.
For the `abs` operator the default is actually empty.

DEFINE cnr-even == [ [ [2 rem null] [pop true] ] [ [pop false] ] ] condnestrec; cnr-abs == [ [ [0 <] [0 swap -] ] [ [] ] ] condnestrec. 3 cnr-even. false 4 cnr-even. true -5 cnr-abs. 5 6 cnr-abs. 6

The use of nested recursion in Joy has not yet been explored beyond these examples. All the examples took a numeric parameter to guide the recursion, and one obvious alternative to investigate is the use of lists.

MYNOTE: Bauer and Woessner, functions ble and morris. Manna, Ackermann for strings.