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7.6.2 Introduction to Methods

Methods define the class-specific or identity-specific behavior and operations of a generic function.

A method object is associated with code that implements the method's behavior, a sequence of parameter specializers that specify when the given method is applicable, a lambda list, and a sequence of qualifiers that are used by the method combination facility to distinguish among methods.

A method object is not a function and cannot be invoked as a function. Various mechanisms in the object system take a method object and invoke its method function, as is the case when a generic function is invoked. When this occurs it is said that the method is invoked or called.

A method-defining form contains the code that is to be run when the arguments to the generic function cause the method that it defines to be invoked. When a method-defining form is evaluated, a method object is created and one of four actions is taken:

* If a generic function of the given name already exists and if a method object already exists that agrees with the new one on parameter specializers and qualifiers, the new method object replaces the old one. For a definition of one method agreeing with another on parameter specializers and qualifiers, see Section 7.6.3 (Agreement on Parameter Specializers and Qualifiers).

* If a generic function of the given name already exists and if there is no method object that agrees with the new one on parameter specializers and qualifiers, the existing generic function object is modified to contain the new method object.

* If the given name names an ordinary function, a macro, or a special operator, an error is signaled.

* Otherwise a generic function is created with the method specified by the method-defining form.

If the lambda list of a new method is not congruent with the lambda list of the generic function, an error is signaled. If a method-defining operator that cannot specify generic function options creates a new generic function, a lambda list for that generic function is derived from the lambda list of the method in the method-defining form in such a way as to be congruent with it. For a discussion of congruence, see Section 7.6.4 (Congruent Lambda-lists for all Methods of a Generic Function).

Each method has a specialized lambda list, which determines when that method can be applied. A specialized lambda list is like an ordinary lambda list except that a specialized parameter may occur instead of the name of a required parameter. A specialized parameter is a list (variable-name parameter-specializer-name), where parameter-specializer-name is one of the following:

a symbol

denotes a parameter specializer which is the class named by that symbol.

a class

denotes a parameter specializer which is the class itself.

(eql form)

denotes a parameter specializer which satisfies the type specifier (eql object), where object is the result of evaluating form. The form form is evaluated in the lexical environment in which the method-defining form is evaluated. Note that form is evaluated only once, at the time the method is defined, not each time the generic function is called.

Parameter specializer names are used in macros intended as the user-level interface (defmethod), while parameter specializers are used in the functional interface.

Only required parameters may be specialized, and there must be a parameter specializer for each required parameter. For notational simplicity, if some required parameter in a specialized lambda list in a method-defining form is simply a variable name, its parameter specializer defaults to the class t.

Given a generic function and a set of arguments, an applicable method is a method for that generic function whose parameter specializers are satisfied by their corresponding arguments. The following definition specifies what it means for a method to be applicable and for an argument to satisfy a parameter specializer.

Let <A1, ..., An> be the required arguments to a generic function in order. Let <P1, ..., Pn> be the parameter specializers corresponding to the required parameters of the method M in order. The method M is applicable when each Ai is of the type specified by the type specifier Pi. Because every valid parameter specializer is also a valid type specifier, the function typep can be used during method selection to determine whether an argument satisfies a parameter specializer.

A method all of whose parameter specializers are the class t is called a default method; it is always applicable but may be shadowed by a more specific method.

Methods can have qualifiers, which give the method combination procedure a way to distinguish among methods. A method that has one or more qualifiers is called a qualified method. A method with no qualifiers is called an unqualified method. A qualifier is any non-list. The qualifiers defined by the standardized method combination types are symbols.

In this specification, the terms ``primary method'' and ``auxiliary method'' are used to partition methods within a method combination type according to their intended use. In standard method combination, primary methods are unqualified methods and auxiliary methods are methods with a single qualifier that is one of :around, :before, or :after. Methods with these qualifiers are called around methods, before methods, and after methods, respectively. When a method combination type is defined using the short form of define-method-combination, primary methods are methods qualified with the name of the type of method combination, and auxiliary methods have the qualifier :around. Thus the terms ``primary method'' and ``auxiliary method'' have only a relative definition within a given method combination type.

The following X3J13 cleanup issue, not part of the specification, applies to this section:

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