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In Statix, data is represented using terms. This data can be a program, a typing annotation, or anything else that the specification defines. Terms are built from atoms and composites, such as constructors, tuples and lists. Additionally, Statix allows to inline several constraint results in terms.

In this section, we explain the various types of terms that Statix supports, and, when appropriate, how their types should be declared.

Terminology: Sort vs. Type

Throughout this reference manual, we use the term 'sort' for syntactic categories, and 'type' for all other types (such as lists, tuples, scopes, etc.). However, in practice, these terms are both used in both meanings.


Numeric literals are literals of the form [0-9]+. Negative literals are not supported directly. All integer literals have the built-in type int.


String literals are arbitrary, single-line sequences of characters enclosed in double quotes. String literals may not contain unescaped backslashes, double quotes, or tabs. Double quotes and backslashes can be used in a string literal by prefixing them with another backslashes (\" and \\, respectively), while tabs, newlines and carriage returns can be encoded using respectively \t, \n and \r. Otherwise, no escaping is required. String literals have the built-in type string.


Variables are identifiers of values of the following form: [a-zA-Z] [a-zA-Z0-9\_]* [\']*.

With respect to type-checking, variables can be handled in two ways. When a variable occurs in the head of a rule, it is implicitly brought into scope with the type inferred from the rule type. Otherwise, it is required that the variable is introduced earlier, with the correct type. Apart from introduction in rule heads, variables can be introduced by existential constraints. In that case, the type of the variable is derived from its usage. Rule patterns may be non-linear (containing multiple occurrences of a variable), variables in an existential must be unique. That is, the constraint {x x} ... will give a type error. Shadowing variables is allowed, but discouraged by a warning.

Substitution and Unification

Although the Statix language does not distinguish between variables in rule heads and existentials, the solver treats those quite differently. On rule application, occurrences of variables from rule heads in the body of the rule are substituted by the actual arguments. For example, in a specification containing the rule rule(x) :- x == ()., simplifying the constraint rule(()) will result in the residual constraint () == (), which trivially holds. However, when simplifying the constraint {x} x == (), simplifying will generate a fresh unification variable (say ?x-1), and substitute that in the constraint, yielding ?x-1 == (). Solving that will create a new mapping ?x-1 |-> () in the unifier of the solver result. ```


Wildcards are represented as _, and denote variables without identity. Every occurrence of a wildcard is interpreted as a new variable. Because wildcards cannot reference each other, it is not required that the types of multiple wildcard occurrences coincide.

Composite terms

Composite terms can be build using constructor applications:

$ConsId({$Term ","}*)

Here a term with constructor $ConsId and some term arguments is built.

Composite terms must adhere to a signature. A signature describes which term compositions are valid, and must be declared in a signature section:

  sorts $SortID*

    $ConsId : {$Type "*"}+ -> $SortID
    $ConsId : $SortID

First, the syntactic categories (which closely correspond to type identifiers in other languages) must be declared in a sorts subsection. Then, the constructor symbols can be declared in a constructors section. For each constructor, the types of the arguments and its sort should be provided. For nullary constructors (constructors without arguments), the arrow preceding the sort should be omitted.

When a composite term is built, it is validated that all arguments match the type declaration from the signature. The type of the whole composite term is equal to the sort of the constructor.


A built-in composite data construction is tuples:

({$Term ","}*)

Tuples have a statically fixed length, but the types of the arguments may differ. The type of the tuple expression is just the product of its arguments.

The arity of a tuple may be anything except one, because unary tuples cause syntactic ambiguities with bracketed expressions.


Another built-in composite data construction is lists:

[{$Term ","}*]

Lists are created by comma-separating terms, enclosing them in square brackets. All terms should have the same type. Given that the type of the terms is T, the type of the list expression will be list(T).

Alternatively, lists can have a variable tail:

[{$Term ","}* | $Term]

In this syntax, the tail of the list is another term. This term should have type list(T), where T is again the type of the first terms.

Name Ascription

It is possible to assign names to terms by prefixing the term with a variable name:


Note that this does not introduce a new variable with name $Var (except in a rule head, where all variables are introduced implicitly), but rather requires that a variable with corresponding name and type is already introduced.

Ascribe and Equality

In terms of equality constraints, the ascribe is equal to $Var == $Term. It is used to prevent the duplication of $Term.

Type Ascription

Statix allows to add inline type annotations to terms as follows:

$Term : $Type

The type-checker will validate that the term actually has the specified type, but the runtime behavior in not influenced by these ascriptions.

Complete Inference

In general, the Statix type-checker should be able to infer all types. However, in case of a type error being reported at an incorrect position, these type ascriptions can help tracing the cause of the error.

Arithmetic operations

Arithmetic expressions can be inserted in terms as follows:

#( $ArithExp )

Here, the type of the expression is int. For more information on arithmetic expressions, see Arithmetic Constraints


In terms of existential constraints, inline arithmetic expressions have behavior equal to {v} v #= $ArithExp, where v is used at the position of the arithmetic expression. So, for example, {T} T == CONS(#(21 * 2)) is equal to {T v} v #= 21 * 2, T == CONS(v).

AST Identifier

In Spoofax, all terms in an AST are assigned a unique identifier (the term index) before analysis. This term identifier can be isolated as follows:


Here, the type of $Term can be anything, and the type of the whole term will be astId. AST Identifiers are used to assign properties.


Statix allows inline creation of scopes:


Statically, the new term has type scope. At runtime, this creates a fresh scope, and inserts that at the position of the new term.


In terms of existential constraints, the inline new operator has behavior equal to {s} new s, where s is used at the position of the new term. So, for example, {T} T == CLASS(new) is equal to {T s} new s, T == CLASS(s).


Part of a query result is the path from the resolved datum back to the scope where the query started. In order to represent paths, Statix has two built-in constructors:

  • _PathEmpty: Unary constructor that carries a single scope. This constructor has type scope -> path.
  • _PathStep: Ternary constructor that represents a traversed edge in a path. This constructor has type path * label * scope -> path.

Label Constraints

Although the labels in a _PathStep can be bound to a variable, and hence be compared with and included in other terms, no inspection, matching or comparison with label definitions is supported.



Since Spoofax 2.5.15, namespaces and occurrences are deprecated.

Statix has built-in support for namespaces. A term embedded in a particular namespace is called an occurrence. Occurrences can be written as follows:

$NamespaceId{ $SpaceTerms }
$NamespaceId{ $SpaceTerms @$OccurrenceId }

In this structure template, $SpaceTerms means a list of terms, separated by spaces. The occurrence identifier can be any term. In case the term has an AST identifier, that value will be used as the identity of the occurrence.

Alternatively, the occurrence identifier can be left out:

$NamespaceId{ $SpaceTerms }

The default occurrence identifier is -, which means that the occurrence has no identifier. The type of an occurrence literal is occurrence. For more information about namespaces, see the Queries section.

Declaration Match

Statix allows to query the current scope for declarations of a particular form:

?$RelationId[{$Term ","}] in $Scope

When using this expression, a functional relation $RelationId must be declared. The terms arguments must correspond to the argument of the relation, and the type of the term is the output type of the relation.

For more information on querying the scope graph, see the Queries section.

Declaration Match as Query

In terms of regular queries, the declaration match is equal to a query with filter e, expecting a single output. E.g. T == ?var["x"] in s is equal to query var filter e and { x' :- x' == "x" } in s |-> [(_, (_, T))].

Last update: 2021-11-15
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