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> The least one should do, is document the fact that exponentiation
> only works for a non-negative base argument.
> [...]
> The Lua documentation already says "Exponentiation uses the
> ISO C function pow". That is clean an unambiguous.

Just to clarify, that upper statement was not meant as an offense. It is just that "similar cases" for other functions are documented more explicitly (for Lua). But I agree that just referring to C here is okay (also w.r.t. what others have answered).

If anyone is interested, I use the following now
if x >= 0 then
	return x^(1/3)
	return -( (-x)^(1/3) )
(I was mainly interested in a function symmetric to the origin and this also works e.g. for exponent 1/2)