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An operator is a special symbol that, combined with one or more operands, performs an operation using those operands and, generally, produces a value.

Lasso supports the standard arithmetic operators and logical operators as well as numerous other useful operations. Operators can be unary, taking only one operand, binary requiring two operands, or ternary, in the case of the condition operator, requiring up to three operands.

Lasso permits the behavior of some operators to be controlled by the operand objects themselves. This is accomplished in an object by having it implement a method whose name matches the symbol for that operator. For example, a type that needed to support addition would implement a method named "+" which accepts one parameter and returns the resulting value.

  • Assignment how data moves around

  • Arithmetic the various arithmetic operators available in Lasso

  • Boolean & Logical the boolean logic operators and the condition operator

  • Grouping how parentheses are applied to sub-expressions

  • Invoke describes how parentheses are applied to "invoke" any object

  • Target and Re-target the -> and & operators, including the . and .. shortcuts

  • Escape Method how methods can be searched for

  • Additional Syntax elements described in later sections


Assignment places the result of an expression into a destination location. The destination must be a local or thread variable, or it must be an appropriately named method call. Lasso supports two types of assignment, one that produces the assigned value and one that does not.

  dest = expression  "dest" assigned value of expression
  dest := expression  "dest" assigned value of expression, "dest" produced

The second assignment type, which produces the left-hand operand, is right-associative so that multiple assignments can be lined up. The following assigns the value of 1 to dst1, dst2 and dst3.

  dst1 := dst2 := dst3 := 1

Locals and vars can be assigned using the access syntax for either variable type.

  #l = expression  local "l" assigned expression
  local(l) = expression  local "l" assigned expression

  $v = expression  var "v" assigned expression
  var(v) = expression  var "v" assigned expression

Variables and data members are the only elements to which values can truly be assigned, but Lasso permits methods to be created which mimic the act of assignment. This is done by naming the method with a "=" character at the end. For example, a method that wanted to accept assignment for "foo" would be named "foo=". Such a method must accept at least one parameter and must return the assigned value as if it were being called in the role of ":=". Methods which permit such assignment are useful as "setters" and let an object control how the assignment is ultimately made.


Arithmetic usually refers to operations of mathematics using integers or decimal numbers. An arithmetic operator can be applied to any object which supports that operation.

Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Modulo

These operators are all binary, requiring two operands. All of these operators can be implemented by a type containing the properly named method. Only the left-hand operand's method is called. None of these operators should modify either operand. All of these operators must return a new object.

  op1 + op2  op1 plus op2
  op1 - op2  op1 minus op2
  op1 * op2  op1 multiplied by op2
  op1 / op2  op1 divided by op2
  op1 % op2  the remainder of op1 divided by op2

Assignment Variants

While the standard arithmetic operators use their operands to produce a new value, Lasso supports the syntax for applying the arithmetic operator to one of the operands. The following operators perform their operation and assign the result to the left-hand side operand. Only the left-hand operand can be assigned to and not every expression is capable of being assigned to, as described in Assignment above. These assignment expressions do not produce a value.

  op1 += op2  op1 = op1 + op2
  op1 -= op2  op1 = op1 - op2
  op1 *= op2  op1 = op1 * op2
  op1 /= op2  op1 = op1 / op2
  op1 %= op2  op1 = op1 % op2

During parsing, these operators are expanded to their regular arithmetic operations, so a type does not need to do anything to support them aside from implementing the appropriate arithmetic operator method.

Pre & Post Increment & Decrement

There is a common need to increment or "advance" an object in a bi-directional manner. Usually this is done with integers being used as counters, though the concept can be applied elsewhere. Lasso supports the increment and decrement operators ++ and -- in both pre and post modes.

Pre-incrementing and pre-decrementing an object will add or subtract 1 from the object and then produce that object as a result. Post-incrementing and post-decrementing an object first copies that object, then adds or subtracts 1 from the original operand, then produces the copy object as a result.

  ++op  pre-increment op
  --op  pre-decrement op
  op++  post-increment op
  op--  post-decrement op

These increment/decrement operators are translated into regular arithmetic method calls with 1 as the method parameter. This means that if a type intends to be used with the ++ and -- operators, it should not implement a method with a name such as "++", but instead should implement "+" and "-" where it will be called with 1 as a parameter.

Positive & Negative

Lasso supports the unary operators usually intended to change the sign of an integer or decimal number. These operators can be applied to any object which supports them. When applied, these operators will produce a new object, leaving the single operand unchanged.

  +op1  positive op1
  -op1  negative op1

Types can implement this operator by defining a method named "+" or "-" which accepts zero parameters. When unary + or - is applied to integer or decimal literals, no method call is generated. Instead, the positive or negative number is created from the beginning.

Boolean & Logical

Boolean describes the values true and false. Lasso supports several operators which either treat their operands as boolean values and/or produce boolean values. These operators are broken down into several categories.

Logical Operators

There are three logical operators. The first is the unary operator not. This operator treats its single operand as a boolean value and produces the opposite of that value. Not turns a true into a false and a false into a true. Most objects will be treated as true, but the following objects and values will be treated as false: the integer 0, the decimal 0.0 and the types null and void. All other objects are assumed to be true. Though the operand can be of any type, this operator always produces a true or false value.

  !op1  not op1

The other two logical operators are logical and and logical or. These binary operators treat their first operand as a boolean value and perform their operation based on that value.

Logical and inspects its first operand, and if it is true, produces its second operand. If the first operand is false, logical and will produce the value false.

Logical or inspects its first operand, and if it is true, produces that first operand. If the first operand is false, logical or will produce the second operand.

  op1 && op2  op1 and op2
  op1 || op2  op1 or op2

The behavior of the logical operators can not be modified by the operand objects. These operators perform short-cut evaluation, meaning that if the result of the operation is determined before the second operand is evaluated, then the second operand will not be evaluated.

Equality Operators

Equality operators are used to determine if one object is logically equivalent to another. These operators are split into positive and negative equality tests as well as strict and non-strict equality tests. A positive equality test checks if an object is equal to another object, while a negative equality test checks if an object is not equal to another. Strict equality testing further tests the types of the operand objects. If the right-hand operand is not an instance of the type of the left-hand operand, then the equality test fails. These operators all produce either a true or false value.

  op1 == op2  op1 is equal to op2
  op1 != op2  op1 is not equal to op2
  op1 === op2  op1 is strictly equal to op2
  op1 !== op2  op1 is not strictly equal to op2

If a type is to be equality tested against another, it must implement the method named "onCompare". onCompare is automatically called at run-time to perform equality checks. onCompare is only called on the left-hand operand and this method must accept one parameter, which is the right-hand operand. onCompare indicates whether the left-hand operand is less-than, equal to, or greater than the right-hand operand by returning either integer zero, less then zero or greater then zero, respectively. The act of checking the object types in the case of strict equality testing is automatically performed by the runtime, so a type need not bother with that scenario in its own implementation of onCompare.

Relative Equality Operators

Relative equality indicates if an object is less than or greater than, and possibly equal to another object. These operators all produce either a true or false value.

  op1 < op2  op1 less than op2
  op1 > op2  op1 greater than op2
  op1 <= op2  op1 less than or equal to op2
  op1 >= op2  op1 greater than or equal to op2

Types can control how equality checks behave by implementing the onCompare method as described above in Equality Operators. Because onCompare is required to return an integer value (either zero, less than zero, or greater than zero), that single method can handle all of the possible types of equality tests.

Containment Operators

There are two operators used to test if an object "contains" another object. One checks for positive containment and the other for negative containment. Both are binary operators and both produce either a true or false value.

  op1 >> op2  op1 contains op2
  op1 !>> op2  op1 does not contain op2

In order to support contains testing, a type must implement a method named "contains". This method must accept one parameter, which is the right-hand operand. Only the left-hand operand will have its contains method called. The contains method must return a boolean true or false.

Contains testing only logically applies to certain types of objects. For example, it makes no sense to ask what an integer object contains, because it is scalar, consisting of only one value. Contains testing is primarily done on objects such as arrays or maps. Those object can contain any number of other arbitrary objects, so it makes sense to at times need to query them for their contents.

Conditional Operator

The conditional operator allows the construction of an if/then/else scenario in which an expression is tested and depending on its boolean value either the "then" or the "else" expressions will be executed and their values produced as the result of the operator. The "then" and "else" can consist of only one expression. The "else" portion of a conditional operator may be omitted. In such a case, if the condition is false, a void object will be produced.

The conditional operator uses the two characters  ?  and |. The ? follows the test condition and the | delim its the "then" and "else" expressions. A conditional operator with no "else" will have no delimiting | character.

    | expression2  if tst is true expression1, else expression2

   expression  if tst is true expression, else void


Sub-expressions can be grouped together by surrounding them with parentheses. This can be used to alter the normal precedence of some operations. All sub-expressions in parentheses are evaluated before the expressions surrounding them. The first example below shows how multiplication normally occurs before addition. The second example applies parentheses to alter the outcome.

  2 * 5 + 7  17

  2 * (5 + 7)  24


Parentheses can be applied to some expressions in order to invoke the value. Invoking can have different results for different objects. By default, most objects return a copy of themselves when they are invoked. Methods, when invoked, execute the method, returning its value.

Invoking an object by applying parentheses is always equivalent to directly calling the method named "invoke". The following examples invoke a local variable and a thread variable with no parameters.

  #lv()  local variable "lv" invoked
  $tv()  thread variable "tv" invoked

Parameters may be given in an invoke. The following invokes #lv with three parameters.

  #lv(1, 'two', 3)  local "lv" invoked with parameters

The concept behind invoke is somewhat abstract, but it permits objects and methods to operate as "function objects". This is an object that can be called upon to do "a thing" with zero or more parameters and produce a value. For example, a sorting routine might employ such an object to handle the actual comparisons between two objects, invoking the object each time it is required, while the routine handles only the shifting of the objects during the sort.

This technique would permit the sorting routine to be customized for a wide variety of object types as well as ascending and descending directions by just switching out the objects designated to handle each permutation while keeping the internal operations identical.

Target and Re-target

To target means to access a particular member method or data member from an object. The target operator is a binary operator accepting the target object as the left-hand operand and the method name as the right-hand operand. The target operator uses the characters "->". Targeting a member method always executes that method, passing along any given parameters.

  #lv->meth()  call method "meth" from object #lv, no parameters
  #lv->meth  same as above, no parameters, no parentheses

  #lv->meth(40)  call method "meth" from object #lv, 1 parameter
  #lv->meth(40, 'sample')  call method "meth" from object #lv, 2 parameters

Accessing a data member is accomplished through a similar syntax but by surrounding the name in single quotes. A data member can only be accessed from within the type in which the data member is defined. When accessing a data member, it is an error to have any value except for self as the left-hand operand, and the right-hand operand must be quoted.

  self->'dMem'  access data member "dMem"

As it is very common to access data and methods using the current self, Lasso provides a shortcut syntax for accessing self or inherited members. Using a period "." before the member name will target the current self. Using two periods ".." before the member name will target inherited members, skipping the current self and searching for the member starting from the parent of the type which defined the currently executing member method. Two periods ".." can only be used for methods, as only self can access data members.

  .'dMem'  same as self->'dMem'
  .meth(1, 2)  same as self->meth(1, 2)

  ..meth(3, 4)  same as inherited->meth(3, 4)


The re-target operator "&" allows the same target object to be used for multiple method calls. The "&" symbol is placed in-between the individual method calls. Re-target is only ever used in the context of a member method call using the target operator "->". The target object of the last "->" is used as the self for the re-targetted member call. For each method call, the "&" is placed following the method name, parameters and givenBlock (if present).

The re-target operator can be used to string two or more methods together. The return value of the final method will be produced by this type of re-target.

  'astrng'->meth & meth2  execute meth, execute meth2 return its value
  'bstrng'->meth(1, 2) & meth2()  execute meth, execute meth2 return its value

Re-target can also be used to change the result value of a method call expression to be that of the target object. This is done by having a trailing "&" at the end of a method call.

  targetObject->meth(1, 2) &  execute meth, return targetObject

Formatting Re-target

When stringing several method calls together, formatting over multiple lines can help with readability. It is important to keep the "&" on the same line as the next method call. This holds only for cases that have a next method and method call expressions which are not ultimately parenthesized.

The following example illustrates this formatting principle.

  targetObject->meth(5, 7)
  & meth2()
  & meth3(90) &  execute meth, meth2, meth3, return targetObject

Escape Method

Escaping a method allows a method to be searched for by name and returned to the caller. The caller can later use that method, executing it by applying parentheses as described in Invoke. This makes it easy for methods to be treated as regular values and to be used as callbacks. It is an error if the method that is being escaped is not defined.

Both member methods and unbound methods can be escaped. There are two escape method operators, one for member methods and one for unbound methods. Escaping a member method uses a binary operator "->\". Escaping an unbound method uses unary "\".

  #lv->\meth  finds the method "meth" in local "lv"
  \meth  finds the unbound method "meth"

When a member method is escaped, the resulting value is bound to that target object. This insures that when the resulting value/method is invoked, that the current self will be the object from which the method was escaped. Additionally, if there is more than one method defined under the given name, all of the methods are retrieved. This permits multiple-dispatch to be used with an escaped method.

The right-hand method name operand can come from the result of any expression. When using such a dynamic method name, the expression can be surrounded in parentheses, to disambiguate.

  #lv->\(meth + 'name')  finds method named accordingly

Though the escape operators are used to find methods by name, the object produced by the operators is a memberstream. This object manages the finding of the desired method, the potential bundling of the target object (in the case of "->\"), and the execution of the method when the memberstream is invoked. See the section Built-in Data Types for more information.

Additional Syntax

There are several other operator-like syntax elements that will be described in detail in later sections of this document. Many of them apply in limited situations or special contexts and so are beyond the scope of this chapter, but the following gives pointers to the appropriate sections, where more information can be found.

Association Operator => See Defining Methods, Defining Types

return, yield, etc. See Defining Methods

Captures/Codeblocks {} {^^} See Captures, Defining Methods

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