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537. Definition of “signature”

Section: Clause 3  [intro.defs]     Status: CD1     Submitter: Daveed Vandevoorde     Date: 12 October 2005

[Voted into WP at April, 2007 meeting.]

The standard defines “signature” in two places: Clause 3 [intro.defs] and [] paragraphs 3-4. The former seems to be meant as a formal definition (I think it's the only place covering the nontemplate case), yet it lacks some bits mentioned in the latter (specifically, the notion of a “signature of a function template,” which is part of every signature of the associated function template specializations).

Also, I think the Clause 3 [intro.defs] words “the information about a function that participates in overload resolution” isn't quite right either. Perhaps, “the information about a function that distinguishes it in a set of overloaded functions?”

Eric Gufford:

In Clause 3 [intro.defs] the definition states that “Function signatures do not include return type, because that does not participate in overload resolution,” while [] paragraph 4 states “The signature of a function template consists of its function signature, its return type and its template parameter list.” This seems inconsistent and potentially confusing. It also seems to imply that two identical function templates with different return types are distinct signatures, which is in direct violation of 12.2 [over.match]. [] paragraph 4 should be amended to include verbiage relating to overload resolution.

Either return types are included in function signatures, or they're not, across the board. IMHO, they should be included as they are an integral part of the function declaration/definition irrespective of overloads. Then verbiage should be added about overload resolution to distinguish between signatures and overload rules. This would help clarify things, as it is commonly understood that overload resolution is based on function signature.

In short, the term “function signature” should be made consistent, and removed from its (implicit, explicit or otherwise) linkage to overload resolution as it is commonly understood.

James Widman:

The problem is that (a) if you say the return type is part of the signature of a non-template function, then you have overloading but not overload resolution on return types (i.e., what we have now with function templates). I don't think anyone wants to make the language uglier in that way. And (b) if you say that the return type is not part of the signature of a function template, you will break code. Given those alternatives, it's probably best to maintain the status quo (which the implementors appear to have rendered faithfully).

Proposed resolution (September, 2006):

This issue is resolved by the resolution of issue 357.