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1.5 The Lisp Interpreter

Based on what we have seen, we can now start to figure out what the Lisp interpreter does when we command it to evaluate a list. First, it looks to see whether there is a quote before the list; if there is, the interpreter just gives us the list. On the other hand, if there is no quote, the interpreter looks at the first element in the list and sees whether it has a function definition. If it does, the interpreter carries out the instructions in the function definition. Otherwise, the interpreter prints an error message.

This is how Lisp works. Simple. There are added complications which we will get to in a minute, but these are the fundamentals. Of course, to write Lisp programs, you need to know how to write function definitions and attach them to names, and how to do this without confusing either yourself or the computer.