Standard ML does not have a syntax for array literals or vector literals. The only way to write down an array is like

Array.fromList [w, x, y, z]

No SML compiler produces efficient code for the above expression. The generated code allocates a list and then converts it to an array. To alleviate this, one could write down the same array using Array.tabulate, or even using Array.array and Array.update, but that is syntactically unwieldy.

Fortunately, using Fold, it is possible to define constants A, and ` so that one can write down an array like:

A `w `x `y `z $

This is as syntactically concise as the fromList expression. Furthermore, MLton, at least, will generate the efficient code as if one had written down a use of Array.array followed by four uses of Array.update.

Along with A and `, one can define a constant V that makes it possible to define vector literals with the same syntax, e.g.,

V `w `x `y `z $

Note that the same element indicator, `, serves for both array and vector literals. Of course, the $ is the end-of-arguments marker always used with Fold. The only difference between an array literal and vector literal is the A or V at the beginning.

Here is the implementation of A, V, and `. We place them in a structure and use signature abstraction to hide the type of the accumulator. See Fold for more on this technique.

structure Literal:>
      type 'a z
      val A: ('a z, 'a z, 'a array, 'd) Fold.t
      val V: ('a z, 'a z, 'a vector, 'd) Fold.t
      val ` : ('a, 'a z, 'a z, 'b, 'c, 'd) Fold.step1
   end =
      type 'a z = int * 'a option * ('a array -> unit)

      val A =
         fn z =>
         ((0, NONE, ignore),
          fn (n, opt, fill) =>
          case opt of
             NONE =>
                Array.tabulate (0, fn _ => raise Fail "array0")
           | SOME x =>
                   val a = Array.array (n, x)
                   val () = fill a

      val V = fn z => (A, Array.vector) z

      val ` =
         fn z =>
         (fn (x, (i, opt, fill)) =>
          (i + 1,
           SOME x,
           fn a => (Array.update (a, i, x); fill a)))

The idea of the code is for the fold to accumulate a count of the number of elements, a sample element, and a function that fills in all the elements. When the fold is complete, the finishing function allocates the array, applies the fill function, and returns the array. The only difference between A and V is at the very end; A just returns the array, while V converts it to a vector using post-composition, which is further described on the Fold page.