Compiler Construction bio photo

Compiler Construction

Twitter Github

Edit on GitHub

Homework Assignments Week 1.2: Syntax Definition

Submit your answers in WebLab (Assignment Week 1.2).

Java Syntactic Categories

Consider the following Java program (from the MiniJava Project). What are the elements (building blocks) of the program and how are they called? What are the syntactic categories of Java programs?

package syntaxtree;
import visitor.Visitor;
import visitor.TypeVisitor;

public class Plus extends Exp {
  public Exp e1,e2;

  public Plus(Exp ae1, Exp ae2) {
    e1=ae1; e2=ae2;

  public void accept(Visitor v) {

  public Type accept(TypeVisitor v) {
    return v.visit(this);

Syntax trees

Answer the following questions:

  • Why do we need syntax trees when constructing compilers?
  • What are the fundamental differences between parse trees and abstract syntax trees?
  • How can we represent trees as terms? Illustrate your explanation with an example.

Testing Syntax Definitions

Read the paper Integrated language definition testing: enabling test-driven language development. and answer the following questions:

  • Why does testing a syntax definition require more than a collection of example programs?
  • What is the use of a domain-specific testing language for syntax definition (e.g. compared to a programmatic unit testing framework)?
  • What does it mean that SPT is language parametric?
  • How does SPT support interactive language design?

Create a Spoofax project with a small syntax definition for arithmetic expressions (e.g. starting with the productions from Lecture 2) and write a small test suite for the language. Can you confirm the ideas presented in the paper? (See also the SPT documentation)

Abstract Syntax from Concrete Syntax

Given the following syntax definition, define the algebraic signature defining its abstract syntax.

module json

imports Common

context-free start-symbols Value

lexical syntax

  String = "\"" StrChar "\""

  StrChar = ~[\"\\]*
  StrChar = "\\" [\"\\\/bfnrt]
  StrChar = "\\u" [0-9A-F] [0-9A-F]
	                [0-9A-F] [0-9A-F]

  Number = "-"? ("0" | [1-9][0-9]*)
	         ("." [0-9]*)?
					 ([eE] [\+\-]? [0-9]+)?

context-free syntax

  Value.String = String
  Value.Number = Number
  Value.Object = "{" {NameValue ","}* "}"
  Value.Array  = "[" {Value ","}* "]"
  Value.True   = "true"
  Value.False  = "false"
  Value.null   = "null"

  NameValue.NV = String ":" Value

What is the abstract syntax term for the following program in this language:

  "x" : 42,
  "y" : 0,
  "name" : "point",
  "color" : [3.4, 5.6, null],
  "visible" : false

Create a Spoofax project and create the signature and AST automatically.

Concrete Syntax from Abstract Syntax

Consider the following algebraic signature defining the abstract syntax of a language. Create a Spoofax project and define a syntax definition that (a) has the algebraic signature as its underlying abstract syntax, and (b) provides a concrete notation for the language. Is the syntax definition unambiguous? Write tests to check that concrete and abstract syntax correspond.

  sorts RE
          : String -> CC
    Wld   : RE
    Str   : STRING -> RE
    CC    : CC -> RE
    EOL   : RE
    Seq   : RE * RE -> RE
    Alt   : RE * RE -> RE
    Plus  : RE -> RE
    Star  : RE -> RE
    Opt   : RE -> RE

Fill in the concrete syntax in the tests below such that parsing succeeds and produces the expected abstract syntax terms.

module re

language re

start symbol RE

test cc [[
]] parse to CC("[a]")

test alt [[
]] parse to Alt(CC("[a]"),CC("[b]"))

test identifier [[
]] parse to Seq(CC("[a-z]"),Star(CC("[a-zA-Z]")))

test real [[
]] parse to
      Seq(Plus(CC("[0-9]")), CC("[.]"))
    , Star(CC("[0-9]"))
  , Seq(CC("[.]"), Plus(CC("[0-9]")))
, Opt(Seq(CC("[e]"), Plus(CC("[0-9]"))))

test comment [[
]] parse to Seq(Seq(Str("\"//\""),Star(CCN("[\n]"))),EOL())

Syntax from Examples

Consider the following examples in a language that may look familiar; let’s call it XML. Design an abstract syntax (algebraic signature) to represent the structure of documents in this language. For the same language, define a concrete syntax definition. Develop tests to check that concrete and abstract syntax definition align. Create a Spoofax project with concrete syntax and tests. Submit signature, SDF3, and tests.

Example document

    <purpose>Syntax Definition</purpose>

Another example document

  <title>Modern Compiler Implementation in ML</title>
  <author>Andrew Appel</author>
  <title>Parsing Schemata</title>
  <author>Klaas Sikkel</author>

Syntax of Signatures

Define the syntax of algebraic signatures as defined in Lecture 2.

Syntax of Grammars

Define the syntax of context-free grammars as defined in Lecture 2.


Consider SDF3 template productions as discussed in Lecture 3.

  • Enumerate the syntactic differences between pure context-free grammar productions and SDF3 template productions
  • Discuss the purpose of these features

Syntactic Completion

Read the paper “Principled syntactic code completion using placeholders” and summarize its approach to syntactic code completion.

  • What mechanisms are used to realize code completion?
  • What properties are guaranteed by the approach?
  • How does this compare to code completion in IDEs such as Eclipse?
  • What features does and does it not support?