What is a reference? A reference is special kind of IR vertex that points to another piece of information somewhere. This 'pointer' may or may not be concrete, i.e. a reference can be in multiple states: not resolved yet, unresolved, and resolved.

Different types of references

Full reference

A reference that is 'full' contains a known namespace and a known name part. This basically means that such a reference is context-free.

Full references are either specified with an explicit namespace (<namespace>:<path>), or an implicit namespace (:<name>). The value of the implicit namespace is equivalent to the namespace of the file in which such a reference is declared. A reference with an implicit part can be considered full, since the implicit namespace is already known at parse time.

Examples: minecraft:tick, :a\b.

Partial reference

References that are not context-free, i.e. non-full references, will depend on the context in which they are declared in order to be resolved unambiguously.

An example of a partial reference is a reference to a local variable. Consider this piece of MotorScript code:

func example -> Int
    var a = 1
    return ++a

The expression ++a references the local variable a. There is simply only one character, namely a that indicates the reference. Since any identifier will be transformed into a reference, simply a non-keyword word is also a reference. The point here is that there is no namespace associated with the reference (there is no colon nor text preceding a colon) in this identifier. This is thus processed as a partial reference. The only known thing is that the concrete reference ends with 'a'. Variables, and especially local variables, can't really be expressed as a full reference anyways, as we'll see later. However, at this point it is still a partial reference and the piece 'a' can still refer to anything, since it's not immediately known that this 'a' is meant to point to the local variable from the third line.

To give another example that involves invocation of a function, consider the following piece of MotorScript code:

use text\tellraw
user func hello
    tellraw(@s, "Hello!")

This piece of code actually has two references in it, namely text\tellraw (line 1) and tellraw (line 4). Both references are processed in a different way (we'll get to that), but in the end they are both just plain partial references.

The first reference exists of two path elements, text followed by tellraw. This means that it's referring to the tellraw item that is a direct child of an item with the name text. By the rules for resolving import references, this will be resolved to minecraft:text\tellraw (assuming no local override exist).

The second reference is just referring to something ending in the name tellraw. This is obviously pointing to the item that was imported with the use-statement in line 1, but if that were not there, it might also just refer to a function declared in the same file that happens to be called tellraw.

Reference sources

There are quite a lot of place in which a reference can be declared. The following sub-sections cover all possible places in which a reference is declared.

Top-level declarations

Top-level declarations is one of the most obvious sources of reference declaration. It's simply all the functions and containers that are declared at the top-level of a file. Something is at 'top-level' in a file when there exists no wrapping scope for the item. Generally this just means that, if properly formatted, there is no indentation in front of such an item.

From inside any function body, all top-level items in the same file are accessible. This is what one would expect. The possibility to refer from inside a top-level expression to other top-level containers is limited. From such an expression only top-level containers that were declared 'above' are reachable. Cycles can be created if this were not the case. This is also why non-builtin functions are not available in top-level expressions.

Reachability of a top-level item from other places depends on its access level. See (TODO) for more information about access levels and more about modifiers in general.

One important modifier that's relevant to here is the default modifier. This modifier can be given to at most one top-level item. This top-level item should be identified by the same name as the file in which it resides minus the .mos extension. The item with this modifier will be exported under the full reference of the current file (whereas all other non-private top-level items would be exported as a sub-item under the full reference of the file in which it is declared).

Local declarations

Any scope can have local declarations. These are (currently) limited to containers only. Such containers can, as one would expect, only be reached after their initial declaration.

A locally declared container is available in all remaining statements in the scope, and it's available in sub-scopes.

Standard library

There's not much to say about the standard library. It simply provides some references, depending on the targeted platform and version of that platform. Items from the standard library are available in all places, they do still need to be imported though.


Practically identical to the standard library, since the standard library is also just a dependency (albeit an implied one if not specified explicitly).

Build configuration

NOTE: This is a planned feature.

The build configuration may contain a section that declares certain tags and resources.

Reference meta data

As seen above, references pop up in a lot of places. But as described, not all references are reachable from all places. This section tries to make clear how this differentiation is dealt with internally. It's a step up to the section about resolving partial references.

During IR construction, a certain "reference context" is being kept track of. For more in-depth details about the IR construction and different contexes, see the documentation about the "front" compiler step.

Now, there are certain constrains for different types of references. This is mostly where the reference differentiation comes from. This is a list of these constraints:

These three different kinds reference are internally recogized by (TODO).

TODO: text\tellraw(@s, "Hello") zou moeten werken, ook al heb je niet expliciet dat geïmporteerd

Resolving of partial references

Only partial references need resolving at all. However, the thing is that in practice most references are actually partial. Since we now know that not all partial references are the same, different variations require different treatment. However, the general idea behind this resolving is common to all of them.

From within a use statement

References from within use statements are an exception. As stated earlier, they have their own rules. This may not be that surprising, because in the end these references in turn will decide to what other references in the file may refer to.

The set of possible items such a reference can refer to, consists of all public items from all dependencies (so, that also includes the standard library), but also all public and internal items from the current project.

The list of internal items is constructed after the IR has been generated. After successfull IR generation, it is known which items will be made available, but they're all still missing type information. This type information will be inferred and known later on.

Now, since we're talking about partial references, one of the tasks is to figure out which namespace is going to be used in the concrete reference. And that really depend on what the user points to. Consider the following statement:

use text\say

Now, from experience you might conclude that this is meant to point to minecraft:text\tellraw. But you wouldn't be sure about that without taking information about the context into consideration. Because, what happens when there is an item in the current project that is relative to the file in which this statement was written, that happens to have the same name? Will that make a clash, or will that make the resolving impossible, or is that behavior not defined? Well, (TODO).

Other variations


TODO: from imports: prelude, minecraft, <src file ns>. maar, boven deze namespace-prioriteiten is de relatieve import belangrijker. daarom kun je dus bijvoorbeeld use text\tellraw overriden als je relatief t.o.v. het bronbestand een item in de namespace hebt dat eindigt met text\tellraw.