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BNF Syntax

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  1. BNF Grammar Example design of a data structure

  2. Form of BNF rules • <BNF rule> ::= <nonterminal> "::=" <definitions> • <nonterminal> ::= "<" <words> ">" • <terminal> ::= <word> | <punctuation mark> | ' " ' <any chars> ' " ' • <words> ::= <word> | <words> <word> • <word> ::= <letter> | <word> <letter> | <word> <digit> • <definitions> ::= <definition> | <definitions> "|" <definition> • <definition> ::= <empty> | <term> | <definition> <term> • <empty> ::= • <term> ::= <terminal> | <nonterminal> • Not defined here (but you know what they are) :<letter>, <digit>, <punctuation mark>, <any chars> (any printable nonalphabetic character except double quote)

  3. Notes on terminology • A grammar typically has a “top level” element • A string is a “sentential form” if it satisfies the syntax of the top level element • A string is a “sentence” if it is a sentential form and is composed entirely of terminals • A string “belongs to” a grammar if it satisfies the rules of that grammar

  4. Uses of a grammar • A BNF grammar can be used in two ways: • To generate strings belonging to the grammar • To do this, start with a string containing a nonterminal;while there are still nonterminals in the string { replace a nonterminal with one of its definitions} • To recognize strings belonging to the grammar • This is the way programs are compiled--a program is a string belonging to the grammar that defines the language • Recognition is much harder than generation

  5. Generating sentences • I want to write a program that reads in a grammar, stores it in some appropriate data structure, then generates random sentences belonging to that grammar • I need to decide: • How to store the grammar • What operations to provide on the grammar • These decisions are intertwined! • How I store the grammar determines what operations are easy and efficient (and even possible!)

  6. Development approaches • Bad approach:Design a general representation for grammars and a complete set of operations on them • Actually, this is a good approach if you are writing a general-purpose package for general use--for example, for inclusion in the Java API • Otherwise, it just makes your program much more complex • Good approach:Decide the operations you need for this program, and design a representation for grammars that supports these operations • It’s a nice bonus if the design can later be extended for other purposes • Remember the Extreme Programming slogan YAGNI: “You ain’t gonna need it.”

  7. Requirements and constraints • We need to read the grammar in • But we don’t need to modify it later • Any tools for building the grammar structure can be private • We need to look up the definitions of nonterminals • We need this because we will need to replace each nonterminal with one of its definitions • We need to know the top level element of the grammar • But we can just assume that we know what it is • For example, we can insist that the top-level element be <sentence>

  8. First cut • public class Grammar implements Iterable • List<String> rule; // a single alternative for a nonterminal • List<List<String>> definition; // all the rules for one nonterminal • Map<String, List<List<String>>> grammar; // rules for all the nonterminals • public Grammar() { grammar = new TreeMap<String, List<String>>(); } • public void addRule(String rule) throws IllegalArgumentException • public List<List<String>> getDefinition(String nonterminal) • public List<String> getOneRule(String nonterminal) // random choice • public Iterator iterator() • public void print()

  9. First cut: Evaluation • Advantages • Small, easily learned interface • Just one class • Can be made to work • Disadvantages • As designed, <foo> ::= bar | baz is two rules, requiring two calls to addRule; hence requires caller to do some of the parsing, to separate out the left-hand side • Requires some fairly complicated use of generics • ArrayListimplementsList (hence is aList), but consider:List<List<String>> definition = makeList(); • This statement is legal if makeList() returns an ArrayList<List<String>> • It is not legal if makeList() returns an ArrayList<ArrayList<String>>

  10. Second cut: Overview • We can eliminate the compound generics by using more than one class • public class Grammar implements Iterable Map<String, Definition> grammar; // all the rules • public class Definition List<Rule> definition; • public class Rule String lhs; // the definiendum List<String> rhs; // the definiens

  11. Second cut: More detail • public class Grammar implements IterableMap<String, Definition> grammar; // rules for all the nonterminals public Grammar() { grammar = new TreeMap<String, Definition>(); } // constructor public void addRule(String rule) throws IllegalArgumentException public Definition getDefinition(String nonterminal) public Iterator iterator() public void print() • public class Definition List<Rule> definition; // all definitions for some unspecified nonterminal Definition() // constructor void addRule(Rule rule) Rule getOneRule() public String toString() • public class RuleString lhs; // the definiendum List<String> rhs; // the definiens Rule(String text) // constructor public String getLeftHandSide() public List<String> getRightHandSide() public String toString()

  12. Second cut: Evaluation • Advantages: • Simplifies use of generics • Disadvantages: • Many more methods • Definitions are “unattached” from nonterminal being defined • This makes it easier to parse definitions • Seems a bit unnatural • Need to pass the tokenizer around as an additional argument • Doesn’t help with the problem that the caller still has to separate out the definiendum from the definiens

  13. Third (very brief) cut • Definition and Rule are basically both just lists of strings • Why not just have them implement List? • Methods to implement: • public boolean add(Object o)public void add(int index, Object element)public boolean addAll(Collection c)public boolean addAll(int index, Collection c)public void clear() public boolean contains(Object o)public boolean containsAll(Collection c)public Object get(int index)public int indexOf(Object o)public boolean isEmpty()public Iterator iterator() public int lastIndexOf(Object o)public ListIterator listIterator()public ListIterator listIterator(int index)public boolean remove(Object o)public Object remove(int index)public boolean removeAll(Collection c)public boolean retainAll(Collection c)public Object set(int index, Object element)public int size() public List subList(int fromIndex, int toIndex)public Object[] toArray()public Object[] toArray(Object[] a)

  14. Fourth cut, not quite as brief • The class AbstractList“provides a skeletal implementation of the List interface...the programmer needs only to extend this class and provide implementations for the get(int index) and size() methods.” • I tried this, but... • If I don’t know how AbstractList is implemented, how can I write these methods? • No book or API class that I looked at provided any clues • I may be missing something, but it looks like the only thing to do is to look at the source code for some of Java’s classes (like ArrayList) to see how they do it • Doable, but too much work!

  15. Letting go of a constraint • It is good practice to use a more general class or interface if you don’t need the services of a more specific class • In this problem, I want to use lists, but I don’t care whether they are ArrayLists, or LinkedLists, or something else • Hence, I generally prefer declarations likeList<String> list = new ArrayList<String>(); • In this case, however, trying to do this just seems to be the cause of many of the problems • What happens if I just make all lists ArrayLists?

  16. Fifth (and final) cut • public class Grammar • Map<String, Definitions> grammar;// rules for all the nonterminals • public Grammar() { grammar = new TreeMap<String, Definitions>(); } • public void addRule(String rule) throws IllegalArgumentException • public Definitions getDefinitions(String nonterminal) • public void print() • private void addToGrammar(String lhs, SingleDefinition definition) • private static boolean isNonterminal(String s) { return s.startsWith("<"); } • public class Definitions extends ArrayList<SingleDefinition> • @Override public String toString() • public class SingleDefinition extends ArrayList<String> • @Override public String toString()

  17. Explanation I of final BNF API • Example:<unsigned integer> ::= <digit> | <unsigned integer> <digit> • The above is a rule • <unsigned integer> is the definiendum (the thing being defined) • <digit> is a single definition of <unsigned integer> • <unsigned integer> <digit> is another single definition of <unsigned integer> • So, • There is a SingleDefinition consisting of the ArrayList [ "<digit>" ] • Another SingleDefinition consists of the ArrayList[ "<unsigned integer>", "<digit>" ] • A Definitions object is a list of single definitions, in this case:[ [ "<digit>" ], [ "<unsigned integer>", "<digit>" ] ] • A Grammar maps nonterminals onto their definitions; thus, a grammar containing the above rule would include the mapping:"<unsigned integer>" [ [ "<digit>" ], [ "<unsigned integer>", "<digit>" ] ]

  18. Explanation II of final BNF API • A Grammar is a set of mappings from definienda (nonterminals) to definitions, along with some operations on that set of definitions • You can addRule(String rule) to a Grammar • The rule is parsed, and an entry made in the map • Definitions for a nonterminal may be together, as in the above example, or separate: • <unsigned integer> ::= <digit> • <unsigned integer> ::= <unsigned integer> <digit> • You can get a list of all the Definitions for a given nonterminal • You can print the complete Grammar

  19. Final version: Evaluation • Advantages: • Grammar has one constructor and three public methods • Definitions and SingleDefinition are just ArrayLists, so there are no new methods to learn • All rule parsing is consolidated into a single public method, addRule(String rule) • I was able to come up with more meaningful names for classes • Disadvantages: • User has to do a bit more list manipulation; in particular, choosing a random element from a list • This doesn’t seem like an appropriate thing to have in a grammar, anyway

  20. Morals • “Weeks of programming can save you hours of planning.” • The mistake most programmers make is to use the first design that comes to mind • This usually can be made to work, but it’s seldom optimal • Much as we would like to pretend otherwise, programming is an iterative process--we design, then try to implement, then change the design, then try to implement.... • TDD (Test-Driven Development) is a “lightweight” (low cost) way to try out a design • For example, in my first design, I discovered how difficult it was to write tests that used the complex generics • Consequently, I never even tried to implement this first design • Morals to take home: • Be flexible; try out more than one design • Do TDD

  21. Aside: Tokenizing the input grammar • I wrote a BnfTokenizer class that returns every token as a String • Nonterminals keep their angle brackets, and may be multi-word • Double-quoted strings are returned as a single token (minus the double quotes) • ::= and | are returned as single tokens • BnfTokenizer uses StreamTokenizer • It provides two constructors,BnfTokenizer() and BnfTokenizer(String text) • And two methods,void tokenize(text) and String nextToken()

  22. The End