1. LShift
  2. Untitled project
  3. java-multimethods



Multiple Dynamic Dispatch for Java

This implements multiple dynamic dispatch for Java. It's not a new programming language, rather it constructs proxies, and then dispatches methods to the most specific method in an implementing class. It aims to do what the java compiler would do when choosing from several overloaded methods, only at run time.

For more information see my blog post:


And go to Github for current development, bugs etc:




To build from source

This is a maven 2 project. See http://maven.apache.org/

Quick start


  • Define an interface for the methods you want to dynamically dispatch.

  • Write a class which implements those methods for each type signature you want to support.

  • Get dynamic dispatch to create a dispatcher

For example:

import net.lshift.java.dispatch.DynamicDispatch;

// define an interface

public interface NumberPredicate {
    public boolean evaluate(Number n);

// implement it for some argument types

public class Exact {
    public boolean evaluate(Float f) {
        return false;

    public boolean evaluate(Double f) {
        return false;

    public boolean evaluate(Number n) {
        return true;

// create a dynamic dispatcher

NumberPredicate exact = (NumberPredicate)DynamicDispatch.proxy(NumberPredicate.class, new Exact());


A maven artifact is published to central. Include it in your dependencies:

<dependencies> <dependency> <groupId>net.lshift</groupId> <artifactId>jamume</artifactId> <version>3.0</version> </dependency> ... </dependencies>

C3 and Java

I use the C3 linearization to determine the most specific method.

see http://www.webcom.com/haahr/dylan/linearization-oopsla96.html. JavaC3.java is a translation of the dylan example at the end of this paper, although its pretty hard to recognise, since it doesn't translate readily into an imperative language.

To use the algorithm, everything must be a type - classes, interfaces, and primitive types are all types. We need to generate a list of super-types for all types in the system.

In dylan, you list your superclasses, and its this order that the linearization uses. In java, you list the interfaces you implement, and my linearization uses this order, but should you put the super class at the beginning, or the end of the list?

In java interface is assignable to Object. So for C3 to make sense, all interfaces which have no super-types have Object as a super-type.

If Object is in the super-type list of a type, it must be the last thing - otherwise linearization will always be impossible. So the most obvious thing to do is to include the super-class last in the list of super-types.

The disadvantage of this is pointed out by collections in java.util:

The various abstract collections implement the corresponding interface, but the actual implementations don't directly implement the corresponding interface. eg. AbstractSet implements Set, HashSet extends AbstractSet, but does not implement Set directly. This is going to be a common pattern.

If you put the super-class at the end of the list of super-types, this results in an inconsistent linearization for all of java's built in collections.

So I ended up doing the following by default:

For any super-class other than Object, the super-class goes first in the list of super-types. If the super-class is Object, it gets pushed to the end. This works in an intuitive way in lots of cases.

Supertypes for arrays and primitive types

Arrays work exactly as assignability would suggest they do.

Supertypes for primitive types correspond to Java's notion of a widening conversion.