7.5 Limited Types
[A limited type is (a view of) a type for which copying
(such as for an assignment_statement) the
is not allowed. A nonlimited type is a (view
of a) type for which copying the
Discussion: The concept of the value
of a limited type is difficult to define, since the abstract value of
a limited type often extends beyond its physical representation. In some
sense, values of a limited type cannot be divorced from their object.
The value is the object.
In Ada 83, in the two places where limited types were defined by the
language, namely tasks and files, an implicit level of indirection was
implied by the semantics to avoid the separation of the value from an
associated object. In Ada 95, most limited types are passed by reference,
and even return-ed by reference. In Ada 2005, most
limited types are built-in-place upon return, rather than returned by
reference. Thus the object “identity” is part of the logical
value of most limited types.
To be honest:
For a limited partial view whose full view is nonlimited, copying assignment
is possible on parameter passing and function return. To prevent any
copying whatsoever, one should make both the partial and
A limited type is (a
a type for which copying (such
as in an assignment_statement) the
is not allowed. A nonlimited type is a (view
type for which copying the
If a tagged record type has any limited components, then the reserved
shall appear in its record_type_definition
. [If the reserved word limited appears in the definition of a derived_type_definition,
its parent type and any progenitor interfaces shall be limited.]
The rule about the parent type being required to
be limited can be found in 3.4. Rules about
progenitor interfaces can be found in 3.9.4,
specifically, a nonlimited interface can appear only on a nonlimited
type. We repeat these rules here to gather these scattered rules in one
prevents tagged limited types from becoming nonlimited. Otherwise, the
following could happen:
package P is
type T is limited private;
type R is tagged
record -- Illegal!
-- This should say “limited record”.
X : T;
type T is new Integer; -- R becomes nonlimited here.
package Q is
type R2(Access_Discrim : access ...) is new R with
Y : Some_Task_Type;
If the above were legal, then assignment would be defined for R'Class
in the body of P, which is bad news, given the
access discriminant and
of these contexts normally require copying; by restricting the uses as
above, we can require the new object to be built-in-place.
Ramification: Note that there is always
a “definition,” conceptually, even if there is no syntactic
category called “..._definition”.
This includes interfaces of the above kinds, derived
types with the reserved word limited, as well as task and protected
a class-wide type whose specific type is limited; This
paragraph was deleted. a
task or protected type;
a derived type whose parent is limited and is not
Limitedness is not inherited from interfaces; it
must be explicitly specified when the parent is an interface.
To be honest:
A derived type can become nonlimited if limited
does not appear and the derivation takes place in the visible part of
a child package, and the parent type is nonlimited as viewed from the
private part or body of the child package.
We considered a rule where limitedness was always
inherited from the parent for derived types, but in the case of a type
whose parent is an interface, this meant that the first interface is
treated differently than other interfaces. It also would have forced
users to declare dummy nonlimited interfaces just to get the limitedness
right. We also considered a syntax like not limited to specify
nonlimitedness when the parent was limited, but that was unsavory. The
rule given is more uniform and simpler to understand.
The rules for interfaces are asymmetrical, but
the language is not: if the parent interface is limited, the presence
of the word limited determines the limitedness, and nonlimited
progenitors are illegal by the rules in 3.9.4
if limited is present. If the parent interface is nonlimited,
the word limited is illegal by the rules in 3.4.
The net effect is that the order of the interfaces doesn't matter.
Otherwise, the type is nonlimited.
[There are no predefined equality operators for a
A type is immutably limited if it is one
of the following:
An explicitly limited record
A record extension with the reserved word limited;
A nonformal limited private
type that is tagged or has at least one access discriminant with a default_expression;
Reason: The full
type in both of these cases must necessarily be immutably limited. We
need to include private types as much as possible so that we aren't unintentionally
discouraging the use of private types.
A task type, a protected
type, or a synchronized interface;
A type derived from an immutably
immutably limited type is a type that cannot become nonlimited subsequently
in a private part or in a child unit. If a view of the type makes it
immutably limited, then no copying (assignment) operations are ever available
for objects of the type. This allows other properties; for instance,
it is safe for such objects to have access discriminants that have defaults
or designate other limited objects.
nonsynchronized limited interface type is not immutably limited; a type
derived from it can be nonlimited.
A descendant of a generic formal limited private
type is presumed to be immutably limited except within the body of a
generic unit or a body declared within the declarative region of a generic
unit, if the formal type is declared within the formal part of the generic
an instance, a type is descended from the actual type corresponding to
the formal, and all rules are rechecked in the specification. Bodies
are excepted so that we assume the worst there; the complex wording is
required to handle children of generics and unrelated bodies properly.
of a limited type used to initialize an object as allowed above, the
implementation shall not create a separate anonymous object for the aggregate.
For a function_call
of a type with a part that is of a task, protected, or explicitly limited
record type that is used to initialize an object as allowed above, the
implementation shall not create a separate return object (see 6.5) for
shall be constructed directly in the new object.
we only require build-in-place for a limited
type that would have been a return-by-reference type in Ada 95. We do
this because we want to minimize disruption to Ada 95 implementations
To be honest: This
isn't quite true if the type can become nonlimited (see below); function_calls
only are required to be build-in-place for “really” limited
10 through 15 were deleted.
An initialized allocator is not allowed if the
designated type is limited.
A generic formal parameter of mode in must
not be of a limited type.
are not available for a limited composite type. Concatenation is not
available for a limited array type.
The rules do not exclude a default_expression
for a formal parameter of a limited type; they do not exclude a deferred
constant of a limited type if the full declaration of the constant is
of a nonlimited type.
illustrated in 7.3.1
, an untagged limited
type can become nonlimited under certain circumstances.
Ramification: Limited private types do
not become nonlimited; instead, their full view can be nonlimited, which
has a similar effect.
It is important to remember that a single nonprivate
type can be both limited and nonlimited in different parts of its scope.
In other words, “limited” is a property that depends on where
you are in the scope of the type. We don't call this a “view property”
because there is no particular declaration to declare the nonlimited
Tagged types never become nonlimited.
Example of a package
with a limited type:
package IO_Package is
type File_Name is limited private;
procedure Open (F : in out File_Name);
procedure Close(F : in out File_Name);
procedure Read (F : in File_Name; Item : out Integer);
procedure Write(F : in File_Name; Item : in Integer);
type File_Name is
Internal_Name : Integer := 0;
package body IO_Package is
Limit : constant := 200;
type File_Descriptor is record ... end record;
Directory : array (1 .. Limit) of File_Descriptor;
procedure Open (F : in out File_Name) is ... end;
procedure Close(F : in out File_Name) is ... end;
procedure Read (F : in File_Name; Item : out Integer) is ... end;
procedure Write(F : in File_Name; Item : in Integer) is ... end;
19 Notes on the example: In the
example above, an outside subprogram making use of IO_Package may obtain
a file name by calling Open and later use it in calls to Read and Write.
Thus, outside the package, a file name obtained from Open acts as a kind
of password; its internal properties (such as containing a numeric value)
are not known and no other operations (such as addition or comparison
of internal names) can be performed on a file name. Most importantly,
clients of the package cannot make copies of objects of type File_Name.
This example is characteristic of any case where complete
control over the operations of a type is desired. Such packages serve
a dual purpose. They prevent a user from making use of the internal structure
of the type. They also implement the notion of an encapsulated data type
where the only operations on the type are those given in the package
The fact that the full view of File_Name is explicitly declared limited
means that parameter passing and function return
will always be by reference and function
results will always be built directly in the result object
Extensions to Ada 83
The restrictions in RM83-7.4.4(4),
which disallowed out
parameters of limited types in certain cases,
Wording Changes from Ada 83
Extensions to Ada 95
Wording Changes from Ada 95
Rewrote the definition of limited to ensure that
interfaces are covered, but that limitedness is not inherited from interfaces.
Derived types that explicitly include limited are now also covered.
Wording Changes from Ada 2005
Correction: Added a definition for immutably
limited types, so that the fairly complex definition does not need to
be repeated in rules elsewhere in the Standard.
Correction: The built-in-place rules are
consolidated in 7.6, and thus they are removed
from this subclause.
Correction: Fixed an oversight: class-wide
types were never defined to be limited, even if their associated specific
type is. It is thought that this oversight was never implemented incorrectly
by any compiler, thus we have not classified it as an incompatibility.
Added wording so that expression functions can
return limited entities.
Correction: Added incomplete views to the
list of reasons for a view of a type to be limited. This is not a change
as the definition already was in 3.10.1.
But it is much better to have all of the reasons for limitedness together.
Ada 2005 and 2012 Editions sponsored in part by Ada-Europe