The purpose of a definition is to give a value to one or more variables.
There  are  two kinds of definition, `scalar' and `conformal'.  A scalar
definition gives a value to a single variable, and consists  of  one  or
more consecutive equations of the form
        fnform = rhs

where  a `fnform' consists of the name being defined followed by zero or
more formal parameters.  Here are three examples of scalar  definitions,
of `answer', `sqdiff' and `equal' respectively
        answer = 42

        sqdiff a b = a^2 - b^2

        equal a a = True
        equal a b = False

When a scalar definition consists of more than one equation,  the  order
of the equations can be significant, as the last example shows.  (Notice
that `equals' as defined here is a function of two  arguments  with  the
same action as the built in `=' operator of boolean expressions.)

A conformal definition gives values to several variables  simultaneously
and is an equation of the form
        pattern = rhs

An example of this kind of definition is
        (x,y,z) = ploggle

For this to make sense, the value of  `ploggle'  must  of  course  be  a
3-tuple.    More  information  about  the  pattern  matching  aspect  of
definitions is given in the manual section of that name.

Both fnform and pattern equations share a common notion of  `right  hand

Right hand sides

The simplest form of rhs is just an expression (as in all the  equations
above).   It  is  also possible to give several alternative expressions,
distinguished by guards.  A guard consists of the word `if' followed  by
a  boolean  expression.   An  example  of a right hand side with several
alternatives is given by the following definition of the greatest common
divisor function, using Euclid's algorithm
        gcd a b = gcd (a-b) b,  if a>b
                = gcd a (b-a),  if a<b
                = a,            if a=b

Note that the guards are written on the right, following a  comma.   The
layout  is  significant (because the offside rule is used to resolve any
ambiguities in the parse).

The last guard can be written `otherwise', to indicate that this is  the
case  which  applies if all the other guards are false.  For example the
correct rule for recognising a leap year can be written:
        leap y = y div 400 = 0,    if y mod 100 = 0
               = y div 4 = 0,      otherwise

The otherwise may here be regarded as standing for if y mod  100  ~=  0.
In  the  general  case it abbreviates the conjunction of the negation of
all the previous guards, and may be used to avoid  writing  out  a  long
boolean expression.

Although it is better style to write guards that are mutually exclusive,
this is not something the compiler can enforce - in the general case the
alternative selected is the first (in the order they are written)  whose
guard evaluates to True.

[In older versions of Miranda the presence of the keyword `if' after the
guard comma was optional.]

Block structure

A right hand side can be qualified by a where clause.  This  is  written
after the last alternative.  The bindings introduced by the where govern
the whole rhs, including the guards.  Example
        foo x = p + q, if p<q
              = p - q, if p>=q
                p = x^2 + 1
                q = 3*x^3 - 5

Notice that the whole where clause must be indented, to show that it  is
part  of  the  rhs.  Following a where can be any number of definitions,
and the syntax of such local definitions is exactly the same as that for
top level definitions (including therefore, recursively, the possibility
that they may contain nested where's).

It is not  permitted  to  have  locally  defined  types,  however.   New
typenames can be introduced only at top level.