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> Could you elaborate on the "all sorts of reasons" for not allowing
> if-then-else as an expression rather than just a statement?

The sort of thing that's been discussed before: it might be nice, but it
would have compatibility implications (especially because of Lua's optional
statement terminators), efficiency implications; it would complicate the
language &c. This argument has already been had (with me as a proponent of a
more functional Lua!) on the list a few times.

> is allowed. I find it quite useful for handling default values for
> uninitialized variables

You can use the "a = f(x) or d" trick for this

> Note that an alternative approach would be to implement a special
> expression version of if-then-else such as Java's <cond> ? <exp1> :
> <exp2> form.

I'd prefer a more functional Lua rather than a special case.

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