inner methods and recursion

Gabriel Genellina gagsl-py2 at
Tue Jan 19 03:07:11 CET 2010

En Mon, 18 Jan 2010 19:00:17 -0300, Steve Howell <showell30 at>  

> Hi, I have a style/design question relating to recursion and inner
> methods.
> I wrote some code recently that implements a recursive algorithm that
> takes several parameters from the original caller.  Once the algorithm
> starts running and recursing, those parameters remain the same, so I
> define an inner method called "recurse" that essentially curries those
> parameters.  In particular, the recurse method can get passed to a
> callback method that the caller supplies, so that the caller can wrap
> the recursive step with their own logic.

Python already have lexical scoping, you can take advantage of it. On any  
non-prehistoric version of Python you may write:

def indent_lines(lines,

     def _indent_lines(lines):
       output = []
       while lines:
         # ... the real work ...
         # recursive call:
         output += branch_method(prefix, block, _indent_lines)
       return output

     return _indent_lines(lines)

The real work happens inside _indent_lines, and it has access to the outer  
indent_lines scope, where all remaining parameters are defined.

> The only thing I don't like about the technique that I'm using is that
> it seems needlessly repetitive to define mostly the same parameter
> list in two different places.  The repetition seems mostly harmless,
> but it seems like some kind of a smell that I'm overlooking a simpler
> way to write the code.  I just can't put my finger on what it is.

Is the above technique what you were looking for?

> Does anybody have any inspiration here?  I vaguely recall a discussion
> some time back about having some kind of @recursive decorator, but I
> can't seem to find the thread.

The thread I remember was about making "true" recursive calls (normal  
recursive calls at global or method scope are not truly recursive: they  
actually perform a name lookup, which may or may not yield the original  
function). In the above case, that doesn't happen, the recursive call  
resolves the _indent_lines name directly using a cell "pointing" into its  
container local scope.

Gabriel Genellina

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