This is an RFC to introduce the concept of dynamically sized arrays in Mun. These are arrays where the length of the array is not yet known at compile time. This is different from statically sized arrays, where the size of the array is known at compile time.


Reasons for having dynamically allocated arrays.

  • Having only statically sized arrays limits the use of Mun to only use types which have a known size.

  • Dynamically sized arrays pose more flexibility than statically sized arrays. See C# and Swift as an example where statically sized arrays are rarely used.

  • Tuples can already be used for statically sized arrays (although not very ergonomically).

    struct(value) ArrayOfFiveFloats(f32,f32,f32,f32,f32)
  • Dynamically sized arrays are easily understandable from a user perspective

Detailed design

This RFC proposes to add the language construct of a dynamically sized array as well as several additions to the language which are required as supporting features.

The type of a dynamically sized arrays is introduced as a new language construct indicated as [T]. This is similar to Rusts array syntax as well as Swifts shortened array form.

let an_array: [f32] = construct_array()
fn construct_array() -> [f32] {
    // ... code

Arrays are reference types and can contain both reference and values types.

let x: [Foo] = // ...
let y: [f32] = // ...

Constructing arrays

Arrays can be constructed using array literals: a comma-separated list of values. Without any other information, Mun creates an array that includes the specified values, automatically inferring the array's element type. For example:

// An array of integers.
let odd_numbers = [1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15]

Since Mun doesn't allow uninitialized values, arrays cannot be preallocated with default values and then initialized in a second operation. To accommodate for this common behavior arrays can be dynamically resized.

let i = 0;
let array: [i32] = []
while i < count {
    i += 1;

This behavior is equivalent in Swift and is similar to a Vec<T> in a Rust.

Every array reserves a specific amount of memory to hold its contents. When you add elements to an array and that array begins to exceed its reserved capacity, the array allocates a larger region of memory and copies its elements into the new storage.

TODO: In the future it would be nice if you can create an array with an initially allocated size. This will reduce the number of reallocations required when constructing a large array. To copy Swift:

let array = [i32]::with_capacity(some_initial_size);

TODO: In the future it would be nice if you can create an array by replicating a certain expression.

// constructs an array of `count` elements all initialized to 0.0
let array = [0.0; count] 

// constructs an array of `count` elements all initialized to `Foo {}`
let array = [Foo{}; count]

// constructs an array of `count` elements all initialized to `value`
let array = [value; count]

Accessing Array Values

Array's can be indexed with the index operator. Array indexes are 0 based.

let an_array: [f32] = construct_array()
let first_element = an_array[0]
an_array[1] = 5.0

For now, accessing elements out of bounds results in undefined behavior. When we have support for exceptions/panics/error handling this should be resolved.

To get number of elements in an array you can use the len() member function. To add a new element you can use the push(element: T) function.


Arrays are the first generic feature in Mun so this has to be added in the backend (HIR and IR). The goal of this RFC is not to implement generics so full parser support is not required. Implementing access, len(), and push(element: T) can be implemented by hardcoding this in HIR.

Features to be implemented

This is a high-level list of required features to be implemented to support arrays in Mun.

ABI support for array types

Similar to structs, arrays are complex types that reference another type. We can probably implement this by adding something along the lines of:

enum TypeInfoData {
    // ...
    Array(element: TypeInfo const*)

Syntax support for arrays

  • Parsing of array types: [T].
  • Parsing of array literals: [1,2,3]
  • Indexing expressions: a[x]

HIR support for arrays

  • Add a Ty for arrays.
  • Support for parsing array literals.
  • Support for array element inferencing. e.g
    let a = [1,2,3,4]
    // what is the type of a? [i32]? [i8]? [usize]?

Code generation support for arrays

  • Construction operations. Probably requires a new intrinsic.
  • Indexing operations
  • Path-expression indexing operations

Garbage collection support

The garbage collector has to be able construct and traverse array elements.

Runtime support

Similar to StructRef and RootedStruct we will need ArrayRef and RootedArray.

Optionally, it would be nice if you could create an empty array from Rust or C#. This will require implementing TypeInfo and TypeRef to be able to construct an array of a certain type.