Introduction to Programming Languages/Polymorphis

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What is Polymorphism?[edit]

Software reuse is one of the main driving forces behind the design of many programming languages. These languages use different strategies to make it easier for developers to reuse software modules. One of the most important strategies is polymorphism. Polymorphism is the capacity that a language has to use the same name to denote different entities. This capacity surfaces in several distinct ways in programming languages. Following Adam Weber, we will classify the different kinds of polymorphism into two categories: ad-hoc and universal. Ad-hoc polymorphism happens if the same name designates a finite number of programming constructs. This type of polymorphism is further divided into coercion and overloading. Universal polymorphism happens whenever a name can denote a virtually infinite number of entities. This category is also divided into two other groups: parametric polymorphism and subtyping polymorphism. In the rest of this chapter we will describe each kind of polymorphism in more details.

Examples of the four different types of polymorphism.

Ad Hoc Polymorphism