Nameless parameters and unutterable specializations

Document number: P0736R1
Date: 2018-05-05
Project: ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 22/WG 21/C++
Audience subgroup: Evolution
Revises: P0736R0
Reply-to: Hubert S.K. Tong <>


Changes from R0


When an expression is part of a signature for a function template, whether expressions are equivalent for the purposes of resolving declarations of the same entity to each other is defined by []. This definition in turn relies on the form of the expression in the style of the one-definition rule ([basic.def.odr]).

Unfortunately, it is not specified what form an expression takes when template parameters are substituted with their corresponding arguments. Indeed, with the addition of requires-clauses, substitution might not occur in certain subexpressions. This frustrates the ability to form redeclarations in contexts where certain template parameters have no name, such as when an enclosing template is explicitly specialized. Redeclarations in such contexts also obfuscate the relationship between declarations expressed in terms of the primary template and declarations expressed with reference to specializations.

Current implementation behaviour

Even without the addition of Concepts, it is possible to encounter the problem of lacking a suitable way to form equivalent corresponding expressions in redeclarations.

For example, given:

template <unsigned N>
struct TA {
  template <unsigned M>
  void f(unsigned (*)[N + M]);

An attempt to produce an explicit specialization of f for TA<0> might yield:

template <>
template <unsigned M>
void TA<0>::f(unsigned (*)[0u + M]);

Indeed, it happens to work with both GCC and Clang. Unfortunately, not all literal types can necessarily have their values expressed as integer literals of the type (short comes to mind). In any case, it only happens to work and may stop working at any time. GCC (at least as late as version 7.2 from August 2017) would have accepted 0 in place of 0u despite the type mismatch (so the short conundrum was somewhat sidestepped), but no longer does so.

Now with the addition of Concepts, an additional complication appears.


template <typename T>
struct TB {
  template <typename U>
  void f() requires U::value || T::value;

A similar approach to forming the explicit specialization of f for TB<int> would create the unutterable int::value. No implementation of Concepts known to the author accepts the utterance of int::value.

Possible solutions

It is the hope of the author that either a solution is adopted to ease the formation of related declarations or the effective inability to produce truly equivalent expressions in said contexts is made clear through examples to be incorporated into the Standard.

In the pursuit of a solution, syntax to allow binding of a name for specialized template arguments of the primary template could be explored.

In the context of the above cases, such syntax might look like the following (with the name appearing as a label in a context from which the argument of the specialization can be deduced):

template <>
template <unsigned M>
void TA<N: 0>::f(unsigned (*)[N + M]);

template <>
template <typename U>
void TB<T: int>::f() requires U::value || T::value;

Notice that in the latter case, T would need to be treated as dependent.

Such a binding could also allow for partial specializations to have constraints expressed in terms of the parameters to the primary template. Below, in order to introduce the names before their use, the argument list for the specialization is introduced within the template-head; the simple-template-id then names the specialization using the bound names:

template <typename T, typename U>
struct A;

template <typename TT, typename UU> for <T: TT *, U: UU>
requires C<T, U>
struct A<T, U> { };

template <typename TT, typename UU> for <T: TT, U: UU *>
requires C<T, U> && C1<T>
struct A<T, U> { };

Without the binding, the intended subsumption of C<T, U> in the first specialization by the requires-clause of the second would be muddied; however, because partial ordering only considers constraints after deduction in both directions succeed, the subsumption does not come into play[1].

In any case, the syntax for introducing names could also be used for explicit specializations of members of partial specializations; the binding list then binds arguments for the parameters of the partial specialization:

template <unsigned N>
struct A<TA<N + 1>, TA<N> > {
  template <unsigned M, int (*)[N]>
  TA<N + M> *f(unsigned (*)[N + M]);

template <> for <N: 42>
template <unsigned M, int (*)[N]>
TA<N + M> *A<TA<N + 1>, TA<N> >::f(unsigned (*)[N + M]) { return 0; }

Consideration needs to be given to that fact that the type associated with the introduced name is not known until it is used in the corresponding component of the nested-name-specifier.

Thus we speak the unutterable and name the nameless.

Further possibilities

Generalizing the for <...> syntax

The for <...> syntax can be generalized under a model where specializations are declared like redeclarations of the primary template, with the new syntax providing both a proxy of the template parameter list (with or without names of the parameters) for the “redeclaration” and the arguments of the specialization.

template <unsigned N> for <TA<N + 1>, TA<N> > struct A;
template <unsigned N> struct A<TA<N + 1>, TA<N> >;  // redeclaration

Alternate placement of the requires-clause

The short syntax can be used for partial specialization with constraints by deferring the requires-clause until after the simple-template-id.

template <typename TT, typename UU>
struct A<T: TT *, U: UU> requires C<T, U>;

template <typename TT, typename UU>
struct A<T: TT, U: UU *> requires C<T, U> && C1<T>;

template <typename> int v;
template <typename U> int v<T: U *> requires C1<T> = 0;


The author thanks Richard Smith for his input at the Jacksonville meeting of 2018 and his further contribution (including that of the for <...> syntax) in the preparation of this paper. As usual, any remaining mistakes are the responsibility of the author.


  1. ^ This is necessary for partial ordering of function templates, since there is no established relationship in that case for constraints expressed in terms of the template parameters of one template to be matched with those expressed in terms of the template parameters of another template. The author believes that partial ordering of class template partial specializations can consider constraints without deduction succeeding in both directions when a mapping like the one proposed by this paper is present.