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[ANNOUNCE] Alpha release of Menhir, an LR(1) parser generator for ocaml
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Date: 2005-12-15 (11:03)
From: skaller <skaller@u...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] [ANNOUNCE] Alpha release of Menhir, an LR(1) parser generator for ocaml
On Thu, 2005-12-15 at 09:46 +0100, Francois Pottier wrote:

> Doing this properly requires *not* reading the lookahead token. 

> As you point
> out, the problems that arise are similar to the way the end of stream is
> handled.
> > It would be really nice if I could write the
> > production as:
> > 
> > exprx: expr ~expr
> > 
> > where ~expr means 'any token which forces a reduction
> > of the whole expression' if you know what I mean.
> No, I don't know exactly what you mean :) I need to think more to understand
> if this construction makes sense. 

> It makes the grammar self-referential, in a
> way, so it at least has to be monotonic in order to make sense.
> Our plan regarding calls to external lexers or parsers was to be more rigid,
> that is, to require the current statement (or expression, or whatever) to be
> unambiguously terminated (for instance, by a semicolon) at the point where the
> external call is made. So what you do with statements would be accepted, but
> what you do with expressions might be impossible.

So, the idea is this: for an 1 token look ahead parser,
all productions terminate either with 0 lookahead or 1 lookahead.

Now, you're saying only to support recursion for 0 lookahead

So what if you have a 1 lookahead and you still want
to recurse??

One answer is: make a new augmented production with is 0 lookahead:

	prod': prod ~prod { $1, $2 }

where ~prod is the nonterminal

		| t1 { t1 $1 } 
		| t2 { t2 $1 }
		| t3 { t3 $1 }

where t1, t2, t3, .. are tokens that would not be shifted
by the parser, and therefore cause prod to be reduced.

The action then returns the result of prod, PLUS the 
lookahead token. Before recursing, we can simply
push the lookahead token back into the head of the
token stream.

Felix does precisely this -- it convents a 1 lookahead
production into a 0 lookahead production and therefore:

> what you do with expressions might be impossible.

seems possible by the above mechanism.
It is equivalent to adding a set of terminating tokens.

The *problem* is choosing terminating tokens that
are viable first tokens of any sequence of symbols
that can follow an expression elsewhere in the grammar.

For example consider:

	while expr do ..
	for i in expr to expr do

This grammar would be ambiguous, if, whilst parsing
an expression, a 'do' or 'to' token did not cause
expr to be reduced. So 'do' and 'to' are 'expression
termination tokens', that is, 'do' and 'to' are
members of the set '~expr'.

I forget the correct terminology about viable
prefixes and handles.. but I hope the idea is clear.

I think you did raise an important point though:
the meaning of ~x is dependent on the start symbol.
So the notation should probably be something like:


meaning 'all the tokens which can terminate an x whilst
parsing start'.

This algorithm 'works' for finding 'start~x':

"try every token. If it leads to a conflict it is not
in start~x, otherwise it is"

I am doing that by hand at the moment. Here are the relevant 
parts of Felix:

%type <Flx_ast.expr_t * token> exprx
%start exprx

  expr expr_terminator { $1,$2 }

  | SEMI { SEMI $1 }
  | VBAR { VBAR $1 }

@for n,t in flx_expr_terminator_keywords:
  tangle("  | "  + t + " { " + t + " $1 }",inhibit_sref=1)

The @ stuff is a Python script that uses a Python table
to generate code, elsewhere i have:

flx_expr_terminator_keywords = [
    ("all", "ALL"),
    ("assert", "ASSERT"),
    ("body", "BODY"),
    ("call", "CALL"),
    ("case", "CASE"),


    ("with", "WITH"),
    ("until", "UNTIL"),
    ("_", "UNDERSCORE"),
    ("_gc_pointer", "GC_POINTER"),
    ("_svc", "SVC"),

flx_other_keywords = [
    ("and", "AND"),
    ("as", "AS"),
    ("regmatch", "REGMATCH"),
    ("the", "THE"),
    ("typematch", "TYPEMATCH"),

flx_keywords = flx_expr_terminator_keywords + flx_other_keywords

I generated the partition by trial and error. When I modify
the grammar I could miss some cases. In fact,
I have no idea if the set of terminators is maximal.
The parser KNOWS .. if I add an wrong keyword
into the terminator set I get a conflict.

The technique I am using would be impossible to maintain
if there were 20-30 such productions at 'recursion points'.
[At the moment in Felix there are just two: statements
and expression]

I hope this makes sense: I think what I'm asking for
is quite general, since it enables any LR1 parser
to be used with an LL parser, provided one can
'push back' the offending lookahead token.
(that is, of course, always possible to implement
by buffering for mutable streams, and persistence
for functional ones).

John Skaller <skaller at users dot sf dot net>
Felix, successor to C++: http://felix.sf.net