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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)

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5.4.5 SQL Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments

SQL functions can be declared to accept variable numbers of arguments, so long as all the “optional” arguments are of the same data type. The optional arguments will be passed to the function as an array. The function is declared by marking the last parameter as VARIADIC; this parameter must be declared as being of an array type. For example:

CREATE FUNCTION mleast(VARIADIC arr numeric[]) RETURNS 
  numeric AS $$
    SELECT min($1[i]) FROM generate_subscripts($1, 1) g(i);
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT mleast(10, -1, 5, 4.4);
 mleast
--------
     -1
(1 row)

Effectively, all the actual arguments at or beyond the VARIADIC position are gathered up into a one-dimensional array, as if you had written

SELECT mleast(ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);    -- doesn't work

You can't actually write that, though--or at least, it will not match this function definition. A parameter marked VARIADIC matches one or more occurrences of its element type, not of its own type.

Sometimes it is useful to be able to pass an already-constructed array to a variadic function; this is particularly handy when one variadic function wants to pass on its array parameter to another one. You can do that by specifying VARIADIC in the call:

SELECT mleast(VARIADIC ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);

This prevents expansion of the function's variadic parameter into its element type, thereby allowing the array argument value to match normally. VARIADIC can only be attached to the last actual argument of a function call.

The array element parameters generated from a variadic parameter are treated as not having any names of their own. This means it is not possible to call a variadic function using named arguments ( Volume 1A: 2.3 Calling Functions), except when you specify VARIADIC. For example, this will work:

SELECT mleast(VARIADIC arr := ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);

but not these:

SELECT mleast(arr := 10);
SELECT mleast(arr := ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);
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