Any identifier that is not a syntactic keyword (see section Identifiers) may be used as a variable. A variable may name a location where a value can be stored. A variable that does so is said to be bound to the location. The set of all visible bindings in effect at some point in a program is known as the environment in effect at that point. The value stored in the location to which a variable is bound is called the variable's value. By abuse of terminology, the variable is sometimes said to name the value or to be bound to the value. This is not quite accurate, but confusion rarely results from this practice.
Certain expression types are used to create new locations and to bind
variables to those locations. The most fundamental of these
is the lambda expression, because all other binding constructs can be
explained in terms of lambda expressions. The other binding constructs
(see section Lambda expressions, section Binding constructs, and
Like Algol and Pascal, and unlike most other dialects of Lisp except for Common Lisp, Scheme is a statically scoped language with block structure. To each place where a variable is bound in a program there corresponds a region of the program text within which the binding is effective. The region is determined by the particular binding construct that establishes the binding; if the binding is established by a lambda expression, for example, then its region is the entire lambda expression. Every reference to or assignment of a variable refers to the binding of the variable that established the innermost of the regions containing the use. If there is no binding of the variable whose region contains the use, then the use refers to the binding for the variable in the top level environment, if any (section section Standard procedures); if there is no binding for the identifier, it is said to be unbound.
Any Scheme value can be used as a boolean value for the purpose of a
conditional test. As explained in section Booleans, all
values count as true in such a test except for
This report uses the word "true" to refer to any
Scheme value that counts as true, and the word "false" to refer to
Note: In some implementations the empty list also counts as false instead of true.
An important concept in Scheme (and Lisp) is that of the external
representation of an object as a sequence of characters. For example,
an external representation of the integer 28 is the sequence of
28", and an external representation of a list consisting
of the integers 8 and 13 is the sequence of characters "
The external representation of an object is not necessarily unique. The
integer 28 also has representations "
#x1c", and the list in the previous paragraph also has the
( 08 13 )" and "
(8 . (13 . ()))"
(see section Pairs and lists).
Many objects have standard external representations, but some, such as procedures, do not have standard representations (although particular implementations may define representations for them).
An external representation may be written in a program to obtain the
corresponding object (see
quote, section Literal expressions).
External representations can also be used for input and output. The
read (section Input) parses external
representations, and the procedure
Output (section Output)
generates them. Together, they provide an elegant and powerful
Note that the sequence of characters "
(+ 2 6)" is not an
external representation of the integer 8, even though it is an
expression evaluating to the integer 8; rather, it is an external
representation of a three-element list, the elements of which are the symbol
+ and the integers 2 and 6. Scheme's syntax has the property that
any sequence of characters that is an expression is also the external
representation of some object. This can lead to confusion, since it may
not be obvious out of context whether a given sequence of characters is
intended to denote data or program, but it is also a source of power,
since it facilitates writing programs such as interpreters and
compilers that treat programs as data (or vice versa).
The syntax of external representations of various kinds of objects accompanies the description of the primitives for manipulating the objects in the appropriate sections of section Standard procedures.
No object satisfies more than one of the following predicates:
boolean? pair? symbol? number? char? string? vector? procedure?
These predicates define the types boolean, pair, symbol, number, char (or character), string, vector, and procedure.
Variables and objects such as pairs, vectors, and strings implicitly
or sequences of locations. A string, for
example, denotes as many locations as there are characters in the string.
(These locations need not correspond to a full machine word.) A new value may be
stored into one of these locations using the
string-set! procedure, but
the string continues to denote the same locations as before.
An object fetched from a location, by a variable reference or by
a procedure such as
equivalent in the sense of
section Equivalence predicates)
to the object last stored in the location before the fetch.
Every location is marked to show whether it is in use. No variable or object ever refers to a location that is not in use. Whenever this report speaks of storage being allocated for a variable or object, what is meant is that an appropriate number of locations are chosen from the set of locations that are not in use, and the chosen locations are marked to indicate that they are now in use before the variable or object is made to denote them.
In many systems it is desirable for constants
(i.e. the values of
literal expressions) to reside in read-only-memory. To express this, it is
convenient to imagine that every object that denotes locations is associated
with a flag telling whether that object is mutable
The constants and the strings returned by
then the immutable objects, while all objects created by the other
procedures listed in this report are mutable. It is an error to attempt
to store a new value into a location that is denoted by an immutable