[Python-ideas] Revised**6 PEP on yield-from

Ryan Freckleton ryan.freckleton at gmail.com
Sun Feb 22 03:04:04 CET 2009

I haven't been following the discussion too closely, but shouldn't it be

"return value" is semantically equivalent to raise
StopIteration(value) instead of "raise value"? in bullet 2 of formal

--Ryan E. Freckleton

On Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 3:43 PM, Greg Ewing <greg.ewing at canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:
> I've re-worded things yet again to nail the semantics
> down as per recent discussions. Briefly:
> * send(None) converted to next() upon delegation
> * send(not_None) raises exception if no send() method
> * throw() and close() ignore missing methods
> No longer describing semantics in terms of "direct
> communication".
> Fixed a bug in the expansion (return value of
> throw() was getting lost).
> Title: Syntax for Delegating to a Subgenerator
> Version: $Revision$
> Last-Modified: $Date$
> Author: Gregory Ewing <greg.ewing at canterbury.ac.nz>
> Status: Draft
> Type: Standards Track
> Content-Type: text/x-rst
> Created: 13-Feb-2009
> Python-Version: 2.7
> Post-History:
> Abstract
> ========
> A syntax is proposed for a generator to delegate part of its
> operations to another generator. This allows a section of code
> containing 'yield' to be factored out and placed in another
> generator. Additionally, the subgenerator is allowed to return with a
> value, and the value is made available to the delegating generator.
> The new syntax also opens up some opportunities for optimisation when
> one generator re-yields values produced by another.
> Proposal
> ========
> The following new expression syntax will be allowed in the body of a
> generator:
> ::
>    yield from <expr>
> where <expr> is an expression evaluating to an iterable, from which an
> iterator is extracted. The iterator is run to exhaustion, during which
> time it yields and receives values directly to or from the caller of
> the generator containing the ``yield from`` expression (the
> "delegating generator").
> When the iterator is another generator, the effect is the same as if
> the body of the subgenerator were inlined at the point of the ``yield
> from`` expression. Furthermore, the subgenerator is allowed to execute
> a ``return`` statement with a value, and that value becomes the value of
> the ``yield from`` expression.
> In general, the semantics can be understood in terms of the iterator
> protocol as follows:
>    * Any values that the iterator yields are passed directly to the
>      caller.
>    * Any values sent to the delegating generator using ``send()``
>      are passed directly to the iterator. If the sent value is None,
>      the iterator's ``next()`` method is called. If the sent value is
>      not None, the iterator's ``send()`` method is called if it has
>      one, otherwise an exception is raised in the delegating generator.
>    * Calls to the ``throw()`` method of the delegating generator are
>      forwarded to the iterator. If the iterator does not have a
>      ``throw()`` method, the thrown-in exception is raised in the
>      delegating generator.
>    * If the delegating generator's ``close()`` method is called, the
>      ``close() method of the iterator is called first if it has one,
>      then the delegating generator is finalised.
>    * The value of the ``yield from`` expression is the first argument
>      to the ``StopIteration`` exception raised by the iterator when it
>      terminates.
>    * ``return expr`` in a generator causes ``StopIteration(expr)`` to
>      be raised.
> For convenience, the ``StopIteration`` exception will be given a
> ``value`` attribute that holds its first argument, or None if there
> are no arguments.
> Formal Semantics
> ----------------
> 1. The statement
> ::
>    result = yield from expr
> is semantically equivalent to
> ::
>    _i = iter(expr)
>    try:
>        _u = _i.next()
>        while 1:
>            try:
>                _v = yield _u
>            except Exception, _e:
>                if hasattr(_i, 'throw'):
>                    _u = _i.throw(_e)
>                else:
>                    raise
>            else:
>                if _v is None:
>                    _u = _i.next()
>                else:
>                    _u = _i.send(_v)
>    except StopIteration, _e:
>        result = _e.value
>    finally:
>        if hasattr(_i, 'close'):
>            _i.close()
> 2. In a generator, the statement
> ::
>    raise value
> is semantically equivalent to
>    raise StopIteration(value)
> except that, as currently, the exception cannot be caught by 'except'
> clauses within the returning generator.
> 3. The StopIteration exception behaves as though defined thusly:
> ::
>   class StopIteration(Exception):
>       def __init__(self, *args):
>           if len(args) > 0:
>               self.value = args[0]
>           else:
>               self.value = None
>           Exception.__init__(self, *args)
> Rationale
> =========
> A Python generator is a form of coroutine, but has the limitation that
> it can only yield to its immediate caller.  This means that a piece of
> code containing a ``yield`` cannot be factored out and put into a
> separate function in the same way as other code.  Performing such a
> factoring causes the called function to itself become a generator, and
> it is necessary to explicitly iterate over this second generator and
> re-yield any values that it produces.
> If yielding of values is the only concern, this is not very arduous
> and can be performed with a loop such as
> ::
>    for v in g:
>        yield v
> However, if the subgenerator is to interact properly with the caller
> in the case of calls to ``send()``, ``throw()`` and ``close()``, things
> become considerably more complicated.  As the formal expansion presented
> above illustrates, the necessary code is very longwinded, and it is tricky
> to handle all the corner cases correctly.  In this situation, the advantages
> of a specialised syntax should be clear.
> Generators as Threads
> ---------------------
> A motivating use case for generators being able to return values
> concerns the use of generators to implement lightweight threads.  When
> using generators in that way, it is reasonable to want to spread the
> computation performed by the lightweight thread over many functions.
> One would like to be able to call a subgenerator as though it were
> an ordinary function, passing it parameters and receiving a returned
> value.
> Using the proposed syntax, a statement such as
> ::
>    y = f(x)
> where f is an ordinary function, can be transformed into a delegation
> call
> ::
>    y = yield from g(x)
> where g is a generator. One can reason about the behaviour of the
> resulting code by thinking of g as an ordinary function that can be
> suspended using a ``yield`` statement.
> When using generators as threads in this way, typically one is not
> interested in the values being passed in or out of the yields.
> However, there are use cases for this as well, where the thread is
> seen as a producer or consumer of items. The ``yield from``
> expression allows the logic of the thread to be spread over as
> many functions as desired, with the production or consumption of
> items occuring in any subfunction, and the items are automatically
> routed to or from their ultimate source or destination.
> Concerning ``throw()`` and ``close()``, it is reasonable to expect
> that if an exception is thrown into the thread from outside, it should
> first be raised in the innermost generator where the thread is suspended,
> and propagate outwards from there; and that if the thread is terminated
> from outside by calling ``close()``, the chain of active generators
> should be finalised from the innermost outwards.
> Syntax
> ------
> The particular syntax proposed has been chosen as suggestive of its
> meaning, while not introducing any new keywords and clearly standing
> out as being different from a plain ``yield``.
> Optimisations
> -------------
> Using a specialised syntax opens up possibilities for optimisation
> when there is a long chain of generators.  Such chains can arise, for
> instance, when recursively traversing a tree structure.  The overhead
> of passing ``next()`` calls and yielded values down and up the chain
> can cause what ought to be an O(n) operation to become O(n\*\*2).
> A possible strategy is to add a slot to generator objects to hold a
> generator being delegated to.  When a ``next()`` or ``send()`` call is
> made on the generator, this slot is checked first, and if it is
> nonempty, the generator that it references is resumed instead.  If it
> raises StopIteration, the slot is cleared and the main generator is
> resumed.
> This would reduce the delegation overhead to a chain of C function
> calls involving no Python code execution.  A possible enhancement would
> be to traverse the whole chain of generators in a loop and directly
> resume the one at the end, although the handling of StopIteration is
> more complicated then.
> Use of StopIteration to return values
> -------------------------------------
> There are a variety of ways that the return value from the generator
> could be passed back. Some alternatives include storing it as an
> attribute of the generator-iterator object, or returning it as the
> value of the ``close()`` call to the subgenerator. However, the proposed
> mechanism is attractive for a couple of reasons:
> * Using the StopIteration exception makes it easy for other kinds
>  of iterators to participate in the protocol without having to
>  grow extra attributes or a close() method.
> * It simplifies the implementation, because the point at which the
>  return value from the subgenerator becomes available is the same
>  point at which StopIteration is raised. Delaying until any later
>  time would require storing the return value somewhere.
> Criticisms
> ==========
> Under this proposal, the value of a ``yield from`` expression would
> be derived in a very different way from that of an ordinary ``yield``
> expression. This suggests that some other syntax not containing the
> word ``yield`` might be more appropriate, but no acceptable alternative
> has so far been proposed.
> It has been suggested that some mechanism other than ``return`` in
> the subgenerator should be used to establish the value returned by
> the ``yield from`` expression. However, this would interfere with
> the goal of being able to think of the subgenerator as a suspendable
> function, since it would not be able to return values in the same way
> as other functions.
> The use of an argument to StopIteration to pass the return value
> has been criticised as an "abuse of exceptions", without any
> concrete justification of this claim. In any case, this is only
> one suggested implementation; another mechanism could be used
> without losing any essential features of the proposal.
> It has been suggested that a different exception, such as
> GeneratorReturn, should be used instead of StopIteration to return a
> value. However, no convincing practical reason for this has been put
> forward, and the addition of a ``value`` attribute to StopIteration
> mitigates any difficulties in extracting a return value from a
> StopIteration exception that may or may not have one. Also, using a
> different exception would mean that, unlike ordinary functions,
> 'return' without a value in a generator would not be equivalent to
> 'return None'.
> Alternative Proposals
> =====================
> Proposals along similar lines have been made before, some using the
> syntax ``yield *`` instead of ``yield from``.  While ``yield *`` is
> more concise, it could be argued that it looks too similar to an
> ordinary ``yield`` and the difference might be overlooked when reading
> code.
> To the author's knowledge, previous proposals have focused only on
> yielding values, and thereby suffered from the criticism that the
> two-line for-loop they replace is not sufficiently tiresome to write
> to justify a new syntax.  By also dealing with calls to ``send()``,
> ``throw()`` and ``close()``, this proposal provides considerably more
> benefit.
> Copyright
> =========
> This document has been placed in the public domain.
> ..
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>   sentence-end-double-space: t
>   fill-column: 70
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>   End:
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