I'm not sure if this has been answered, I've looked and haven't found anything that looks like what I'm trying to do.

I have a number of shell scripts that are capable of running against a ksh or bash shell, and they make use of arrays. I created a function named "setArray" that interrogates the running shell and determines what builtin to use to create the array - for ksh, set -A, for bash, typeset -a. However, I'm having some issues with the bash portion.

The function takes two arguments, the name of the array and the value to add. This then becomes ${ARRAY_NAME} and ${VARIABLE_VALUE}. Doing the following:

set -A $(eval echo \${ARRAY_NAME}) $(eval echo \${${ARRAY_NAME}[*]}) "${VARIABLE_VALUE}"

works perfectly in ksh. However,

typeset -a $(eval echo \${ARRAY_NAME})=( $(eval echo \${${ARRAY_NAME}[*]}) "${VARIABLE_VALUE}" )

does not. This provides

bash: syntax error near unexpected token '('

I know I can just make it a list of strings (e.g. MYARRAY="one two three") and just loop through it using the IFS, but I don't want to lose the ability to use an array either.

Any thoughts ?

2 Answers 2


(would also work in zsh or ksh93).

Your ksh88 one should be:

eval 'set -A '"$ARRAY_NAME"' "${'"$ARRAY_NAME"'[@]}" "${VARIABLE_VALUE}"'

I find that the following works in bash:

eval typeset -a $(eval echo \${ARRAY_NAME})=\( $(eval echo \${${ARRAY_NAME}[*]}) "${VARIABLE_VALUE}" \)

The changes I made are (1) prepending eval and (2) escaping the parentheses that delimit the array we construct.

However the same command run under ksh after replacing typeset -a with set -A fails. Would it be possible for you to either:

  • Get rid of typeset / set entirely (I think assigning an array to your variable implicitly sets its type), or

  • alter your code so that the two bits of shell-specific code are fully separated?

In both cases, the snippet posted here seems fragile; it may be better to just use the appending operator +=, which seems to be available in both bash and ksh.

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