CodeIgniter 源码里面关于config_item函数不理解的地方

if ( ! function_exists('get_config'))
{
    /**
     * Loads the main config.php file
     *
     * This function lets us grab the config file even if the Config class
     * hasn't been instantiated yet
     *
     * @param    array
     * @return    array
     */
    function &get_config(Array $replace = array())
    {
        static $config;

        if (empty($config))
        {
            $file_path = APPPATH.'config/config.php';
            $found = FALSE;
            if (file_exists($file_path))
            {
                $found = TRUE;
                require($file_path);
            }

            // Is the config file in the environment folder?
            if (file_exists($file_path = APPPATH.'config/'.ENVIRONMENT.'/config.php'))
            {
                require($file_path);
            }
            elseif ( ! $found)
            {
                set_status_header(503);
                echo 'The configuration file does not exist.';
                exit(3); // EXIT_CONFIG
            }

            // Does the $config array exist in the file?
            if ( ! isset($config) OR ! is_array($config))
            {
                set_status_header(503);
                echo 'Your config file does not appear to be formatted correctly.';
                exit(3); // EXIT_CONFIG
            }
        }

        // Are any values being dynamically added or replaced?
        foreach ($replace as $key => $val)
        {
            $config[$key] = $val;
        }

        return $config;
    }
}

// ------------------------------------------------------------------------

if ( ! function_exists('config_item'))
{
    /**
     * Returns the specified config item
     *
     * @param    string
     * @return    mixed
     */
    function config_item($item)
    {
        static $_config;

        if (empty($_config))
        {
            // references cannot be directly assigned to static variables, so we use an array
            $_config[0] =& get_config();
        }

        return isset($_config[0][$item]) ? $_config[0][$item] : NULL;
    }
}

$_config[0] =& get_config();function &get_config(Array $replace = array())里面&符号的作用不太理解= =这里使用&符号有什么特别的作用么= =求解答~

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