Compilers - Am I writing one?

Daniel C. dcrookston at
Sun Jun 29 19:09:20 MDT 2008

I started off on a project to write a simple little program (ha!) that
would turn files written in a LaTeX-like (but much, much simpler)
language (called Raskal) into a fully-formed web site.  All of the
"hard" stuff - i.e. the actual HTML, CSS, document structures, etc.
will be defined in files elsewhere, and then glued together (and
filled in with content) according to what's in a bunch of files
written in Raskal.  All I really have to do is read the Raskal files
and then parse them and turn them into data trees and hand them off to
another program (already written) which will take care of turning the
data tree into actual HTML and putting it where it goes on the server.

Someone said that I'm writing a compiler and therefore need to learn
all about context-free grammars, LALR(1) parsers, deterministic finite
state automata, and all sorts of other sexy-sounding but ultimately
painful stuff.  Are they right or did they just want to give me

I am aware that things like YACC exist but I'm wary of using such
magic without understanding it first.

Thanks, and (since no-one else is going to say it) welcome back to me.

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