3.4.1 Primitives

An expression can be replaced with a primitive:

Expression ::$\Rightarrow$ PrimitiveExpression

As with natural languages, primitives are the smallest units of meaning. Hence, the value of a primitive is its pre-defined meaning.

Scheme provides many different primitives. Three useful types of primitives are described next: numbers, Booleans, and primitive procedures.

Numbers. Numbers represent numerical values. Scheme provides all the kinds of numbers you are familiar with including whole numbers, negative numbers, decimals, and rational numbers.

Example numbers include:

150 0 -12
3.14159 3/4 999999999999999999999

Numbers evaluate to their value. For example, the value of the primitive expression 1120 is 1120.

Booleans. Booleans represent truth values. There are two primitives for representing true and false:

PrimitiveExpression ::$\Rightarrow$ true | false

The meaning of |true| is true, and the meaning of |false| is false. In the DrRacket interpreter, \#t and \#f are used to represent the primitive truth values. So, the value |true| appears as \#t in the interactions window.

Symbol Description Inputs Output
+ add zero or more numbers sum of the input numbers (0 if there are no inputs)
* multiply zero or more numbers product of the input numbers (1 if there are no inputs)
- subtract two numbers the value of the first number minus the value the second number
/ divide two numbers the value of the first number divided by the value of the second number
zero? is zero? one number true if the input value is 0, otherwise false
= is equal to? two numbers true if the input values have the same value, otherwise false
< is less than? two numbers true if the first input value has lesser value than the second input value, otherwise false
> is greater than? two numbers true if the first input value has greater value than the second input value, otherwise false
< = is less than or equal to? two numbers true if the first input value is not greater than the second input value, otherwise false
> = is greater than or equal to? two numbers true if the first input value is not less than the second input value, otherwise false

Table 3.1: Selected Scheme Primitive Procedures.

All of these primitive procedures operate on numbers. The first four are the basic arithmetic operators; the rest are comparison procedures. Some of these procedures are defined for more inputs than just the ones shown here (e.g., the subtract procedure also works on one number, producing its negation).

Primitive Procedures. Scheme provides primitive procedures corresponding to many common functions. Mathematically, a function is a mapping from inputs to outputs. For each valid input to the function, there is exactly one associated output. For example, + is a procedure that takes zero or more inputs, each of which must be a number. Its output is the sum of the values of the inputs. Table 3.1 describes some primitive procedures for performing arithmetic and comparisons on numbers.