Posts Tagged ‘recursion’

Introduciton to Erlang : Recursion (2/2)

This entry is part 10 of 16 in the series Introduction to Erlang


In several cases, as with the mlists:length/1 example, the non-tail recursive function can be easily turned to a tail recursive one by using the notion of accumulator. An accumulator is an extra argument introduced to a function in order to aggregate the partial results of the function. It turns the “bottom-up” collection of the final result to “top-down”.

In order to add and initialize the accumulator argument one has to introduce an extra function definition.

tlr(...) ->
    tlr(..., Accumulator_initial_value).
% the clause that "breaks" the recursion and
% returns the result
tlr(..., Accumulator) -> 
tlr(..., Accumulator) ->
    Accumulator_new_value = ...,
    trl(..., Accumulator_new_value).

Notice that typically you would only export the tlr/1 function and the tlr/2 would remain for inner-module use and not visible to the module’s users.
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Introduction to Erlang : Recursion (1/2)

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Introduction to Erlang


The definition of the word recursion is “(mathematics) an expression such that each term is generated by repeating a particular mathematical operation”, according to the WordNet. Recursion is one of the most powerful “tools” in a functional programming language and so it is for Erlang. Recursion can be used to apply divide and conquer techniques to problem solving, where a problem is broken to smaller subproblems, the subproblems are solved, and the results are “merged” to generate the final result.

Recursion happens when a function’s body definition includes a call to the function itself.

functionA(...) ->
    Body_before_recursion, % optional
    Body_after_recursion. % optional

Recursion is used instead of the conventional loop statements of other programming languages, such as while and for in C.
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