- publishing free software manuals
The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 478 pages
ISBN 9781906966065
RRP £14.95 ($19.95)

Sales of this book support the PostgreSQL project! Get a printed copy>>>

5.2.5 Polymorphic Types

Four pseudo-types of special interest are anyelement, anyarray, anynonarray, and anyenum, which are collectively called polymorphic types. Any function declared using these types is said to be a polymorphic function. A polymorphic function can operate on many different data types, with the specific data type(s) being determined by the data types actually passed to it in a particular call.

Polymorphic arguments and results are tied to each other and are resolved to a specific data type when a query calling a polymorphic function is parsed. Each position (either argument or return value) declared as anyelement is allowed to have any specific actual data type, but in any given call they must all be the same actual type. Each position declared as anyarray can have any array data type, but similarly they must all be the same type. If there are positions declared anyarray and others declared anyelement, the actual array type in the anyarray positions must be an array whose elements are the same type appearing in the anyelement positions. anynonarray is treated exactly the same as anyelement, but adds the additional constraint that the actual type must not be an array type. anyenum is treated exactly the same as anyelement, but adds the additional constraint that the actual type must be an enum type.

Thus, when more than one argument position is declared with a polymorphic type, the net effect is that only certain combinations of actual argument types are allowed. For example, a function declared as equal(anyelement, anyelement) will take any two input values, so long as they are of the same data type.

When the return value of a function is declared as a polymorphic type, there must be at least one argument position that is also polymorphic, and the actual data type supplied as the argument determines the actual result type for that call. For example, if there were not already an array subscripting mechanism, one could define a function that implements subscripting as subscript(anyarray, integer) returns anyelement. This declaration constrains the actual first argument to be an array type, and allows the parser to infer the correct result type from the actual first argument's type. Another example is that a function declared as f(anyarray) returns anyenum will only accept arrays of enum types.

Note that anynonarray and anyenum do not represent separate type variables; they are the same type as anyelement, just with an additional constraint. For example, declaring a function as f(anyelement, anyenum) is equivalent to declaring it as f(anyenum, anyenum): both actual arguments have to be the same enum type.

A variadic function (one taking a variable number of arguments, as in section 5.4.5 SQL Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments) can be polymorphic: this is accomplished by declaring its last parameter as VARIADIC anyarray. For purposes of argument matching and determining the actual result type, such a function behaves the same as if you had written the appropriate number of anynonarray parameters.

ISBN 9781906966065The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming GuideSee the print edition