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3.4 Shell Parameters

A parameter is an entity that stores values. It can be a name, a number, or one of the special characters listed below. A variable is a parameter denoted by a name. A variable has a value and zero or more attributes. Attributes are assigned using the declare builtin command (see the description of the declare builtin in Bash Builtins).

A parameter is set if it has been assigned a value. The null string is a valid value. Once a variable is set, it may be unset only by using the unset builtin command.

A variable may be assigned to by a statement of the form

name=[value]

If value is not given, the variable is assigned the null string. All values undergo tilde expansion, parameter and variable expansion, command substitution, arithmetic expansion, and quote removal (detailed below). If the variable has its integer attribute set, then value is evaluated as an arithmetic expression even if the $((…)) expansion is not used (see Arithmetic Expansion). Word splitting is not performed, with the exception of "$@" as explained below. Filename expansion is not performed. Assignment statements may also appear as arguments to the alias, declare, typeset, export, readonly, and local builtin commands.

In the context where an assignment statement is assigning a value to a shell variable or array index (see Arrays), the ‘+=’ operator can be used to append to or add to the variable’s previous value. When ‘+=’ is applied to a variable for which the integer attribute has been set, value is evaluated as an arithmetic expression and added to the variable’s current value, which is also evaluated. When ‘+=’ is applied to an array variable using compound assignment (see Arrays), the variable’s value is not unset (as it is when using ‘=’), and new values are appended to the array beginning at one greater than the array’s maximum index (for indexed arrays), or added as additional key-value pairs in an associative array. When applied to a string-valued variable, value is expanded and appended to the variable’s value.


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