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Issue READER-ERROR Writeup

Forum:		Cleanup


References: Chapter 3, "Syntax"

Section 2.2, "Types"


Edit History: V1, 23 Oct 1989, Sandra Loosemore

V2, 02 Nov 1989, Sandra Loosemore

(change supertypes, update discussion)

V3, 10 Jul 1990, David Moon (include amendment from meeting)

Problem Description:

Chapter 3 of the current draft is not consistent about the types of

errors that must be signalled by the reader. In most places where it

specifies that an error is to be signalled, it does not indicate a

particular type of error, but in at least one situation it requires

the error to be of type PROGRAM-ERROR, and in other cases it requires

the error to be of type ERROR.

None of the ERROR subtypes described in section 2.2 really seem

appropriate for syntactic errors detected by the reader. In

particular, the description of PROGRAM-ERROR implies that its purpose

is for errors relating to program syntax which are detectable during

evaluation or compilation rather than read-time errors. It seems

especially inappropriate to use PROGRAM-ERROR for this purpose since

the reader can be used to read things other than programs. Likewise,

STREAM-ERROR appears to have been intended to be used for errors

relating to character-level transactions on the stream rather than

lexical analysis or parsing.


Add a new type specifier, PARSE-ERROR. This is a subtype of the


type PARSE-ERROR consists of serious conditions that relate to

lexical analysis (the building and interpretation of tokens) and

parsing (errors in reader macro syntax) by the Lisp reader.

Since PARSE-ERROR is a subtype of STREAM-ERROR, objects of this type

inherit a STREAM slot, which can be accessed using the function


Change the discussion in chapter 3 to specify that the type of errors

signalled by the reader is PARSE-ERROR. There are numerous places

that would be affected.


The general policy that has been followed in other areas of the

language where errors must, should, or might be signalled is to

specify a particular subtype of ERROR which covers that class of

errors. Doing the same for reader errors would be consistent with the

overall policy, but none of the existing error types seem appropriate

for reader-related errors.

Current Practice:

LispWorks (from Harlequin) reportedly already uses such a condition.

Cost to implementors:


Cost to users:

Probably no user programs rely on the reader signalling any particular

type of error yet.


Increased consistency in the language design.

Ability to set up handlers specifically for reader errors.


Pitman says:

Our later comments will show that i would like this condition to be

called PARSE-ERROR so that it doesn't seem to be useful only for

READ-related problems but can in fact be used for other parser-style

applications (e.g., a FORTRAN parser, a user-written English-language

interface, etc.).

The initial version of this proposal specified that PARSE-ERROR was

disjoint from (rather than a subtype of) STREAM-ERROR. This was

changed because there was a suggestion that some conditions should be

both a PARSE-ERROR and a STREAM-ERROR. Making it a subtype also allows

it to inherit the STREAM slot and the STREAM-ERROR-STREAM accessor.

Prior to version 3 the condition PARSE-ERROR was named READER-ERROR.

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