Compilers - Am I writing one?

Jacob Fugal lukfugl at
Mon Jun 30 10:12:22 MDT 2008

On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:58 AM, Michael Torrie <torriem at> wrote:
> Hans Fugal wrote:
>> In which way? They take ascii art as input? I had no trouble with the
>> syntax diagrams in 431, but I found them hard to work with. I couldn't
>> send one by email easily. I had to have a PDF viewer and scan through
>> dozens of pages of diagrams (we know how much fun that can be) or lug
>> the large book (which I printed out at Kinkos) around. I decided to
>> write my own parser generator, and so I had to enter all those diagrams
>> into BNF format (which seemed like a reasonable machine-readable
>> choice), and while tedious I don't remember it being difficult. In fact,
>> I seem to remember very quickly finding a few patterns, and converting
>> to BNF was primarily a rote exercise.
> Good point.  I presume from a casual googling that ANTLR must have some
> notation that allows one to easily define a syntax diagram using some
> notation.  I would guess (and that's all it is) that the syntax would be
> similar to how PyParsing defines a grammar.  Easy ways to say "one or
> more" or "zero or more," for example.  Given that format it is just as
> clear and easy to run through a parser generator as BNF.

>From my understanding, this is one of the major differences between
BNF and EBNF. EBNF allows specifying right repetition ala:

  expr -> term { addop term }
  addop -> "+" | "-"

and optionality ala:

  if-stmt -> "if" expr "then" stmt-block [ "else" stmt-block ]

These constructions covert really easily into both a syntax diagram
and a recursive descent implementation. Maybe I'm misremembering,

Jacob Fugal

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