Alberto Simões 🐪


CWB::CEQL::Parser - Deterministic Perl parser for simplified query languages


  ##### DPP grammar in separate module #####
  package MyGrammar;
  use base 'CWB::CEQL::Parser';

  sub my_rule {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    ## body of grammar rule "my_rule" goes here, transforming $input => $output
    return $output;

  sub default {
    ## default rule will be called if parser is applied to string
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    return $self->Call("my_rule", $input);        # recursively call other grammar rules


  ##### main program #####
  use MyGrammar;
  our $grammar = new MyGrammar;

  $result = $grammar->Parse($string);             # applies 'default' rule
  $result = $grammar->Parse($string, "my_rule");  # parse as given constituent


CWB::CEQL::Parser implements a heuristic-driven, deterministic, top-down parser for extended context-free grammars written in Perl, called a Deterministic Perl Parser (DPP). This parsing algorithm was designed specifically for automatic translation of simplified, user-friendly query and scripting languages (such as the Common Elementary Query Language provided by CWB::CEQL) into low-level code (e.g. CQP syntax).

The DPP architecture was motivated by the observation that simplified queries are often very similar in structure to the corresponding low-level queries, and that many authors use cascaded regular expression substitutions to transform one into the other. While such cascades are very easy to write in Perl and perform efficiently, there are two important limitations: it would often be useful (i) to validate and transform recursive structures, and (ii) to restrict a particular transformation to a certain scope. Because of these limitations, incorrect user input -- and sometimes even correct input -- leads to malformed low-level queries. Without an intimate knowledge of the implementation, it is often impossible to guess the true location of the problem from the cryptic error messages generated by the backend processor. Moreover, simplified query languages based on regular expression substitution typically have rather limited expressiveness and flexibility (because the substitutions are applied unconditionally, so symbols cannot have different meanings in different contexts).

CWB::CEQL::Parser aims to overcome these limitations by combining regexp-based matching and substitution with a simple top-down parser for context-free grammars, as well as a shift-reduce-style parser for nested bracketing. Parsing complexity is limited by enforcing a fully deterministic parsing algorithm: a DPP rule (= constituent type, corresponding to the LHS of a traditional CFG rule) may have multiple expansions, but the Perl code implementing the rule has to employ heuristics to choose a single expansion for a given input. If the selected expansion does not match the input string, the entire parsing process fails. Again, this decision was motivated by the observation that, in the case of simplified query languages, it is often very easy to make such deterministic decisions with a regular expression and/or a few lines of Perl code.

Each DPP rule is implemented as a Perl subroutine (or, more precisely, method). It is invoked by the parser with an input string that is expected to be a constituent of the respective type, and returns its analysis of this constituent. In the typical application of DPP grammars, the return value is a string representing (part of) a low-level query expression, but grammar authors may also decide to return arbitrary data structures. In the rule body, other grammar rules can be applied to the full input string, a substring, or an arbitrarily transformed substring using the Call method. It is also possible to invoke the shift-reduce-type parser with the Apply method. Both methods return an analysis of the given substring, which can then be integrated with the analyses of other substrings and the parsing performed by the rule body itself.

The section on "WRITING GRAMMARS" below explains in detail how to write new DPP grammars from scratch; "GRAMMAR RULES" presents some typical design patterns for grammar rules and lists the methods available to grammar writers; "EXTENDING GRAMMARS" shows how to extend and modify existing grammars (such as the standard CEQL implementation provided by the CWB::CEQL module); "USER-VISIBLE METHODS" documents methods aimed at grammar users; "METHODS USED BY GRAMMAR AUTHORS" documents methods for grammar writers; and "INTERNAL METHODS" contains short descriptions of methods used internally by the parser.


Technically, a DPP grammar is a subclass of CWB::CEQL::Parser, which defines DPP rules in the form of Perl methods, and inherits parsing and housekeeping methods from the base class. Instantiating such a grammar class yields an independent parser object.

By convention, the names of rule methods are written in lowercase with underscores (e.g., word_and_pos), methods for users and grammar writers are written in mixed case (e.g., Parse or SetParam), and internal methods are written in mixed case starting with a lowercase letter (e.g., formatHtmlString). If you need to define helper subroutines in your grammar class, their names should begin with an underscore (e.g., _escape_regexp) to avoid confusion with grammar rules. The default rule has to be implemented by all grammars and will be applied to an input string if no constituent type is specified. The basic skeleton of a DPP grammar therefore looks like this:

  package MyGrammar;
  use base 'CWB::CEQL::Parser';

  sub some_rule {
    ## body of grammar rule "some_rule" goes here

  sub default {
    ## default rule will be called if parser is applied to string

  1; # usually, a grammar is implemented as a separate module file

The user instantiates a parser for this grammar as an object of type MyGrammar, then calls the Parse method to analyse an input string (optionally specifying the expected constituent type if it is different from default). Parse returns an analysis of the input string in the form chosen by the grammar author. In most cases, including the standard CWB::CEQL grammar, this will simply be a string containing a low-level query expression. Additional information can be returned by using objects of class CWB::CEQL::String, which behave like strings in most contexts (through operator overloading) but can also be assigned a user-specified type (see the CWB::CEQL::String manpage for details). Alternatively, an arbitrary data structure or object can be returned instead of a string. We will assume in the following that DPP rules always return plain strings.

  use MyGrammar;
  our $grammar = new MyGrammar;

  $result = $grammar->Parse($string);              # applies 'default' rule
  $result = $grammar->Parse($string, "some_rule"); # parse as given constituent type

If parsing fails, the Parse method returns undef. A full description of the error and where it occurred can then be obtained with the ErrorMessage and HtmlErrorMessage methods:

  @lines_of_text = $grammar->ErrorMessage;
  $html_code = $grammar->HtmlErrorMessage;

The latter takes care of encoding special characters as HTML entities where necessary and has been included to simplify the integration of DPP grammars into Web interfaces.

Internally, Parse will invoke appropriate grammar rules. In the first example above, the default method would be called with argument $string; in the second example, some_rule would be called. A typical DPP rule performs the following operations:

  1. examine the input string to decide whether it appears to be a suitable constituent, and to determine its internal structure

  2. if the test in Step 1 fails, die with a meaningful error message; the Parse method will catch this exception and report it to the user together with a stack trace of where the error occured

  3. make a deterministic choice of further processing steps, i.e. the rule commits to a specific analysis of the input string and cannot go back on this decision later on

  4. apply other grammar rules to substrings of the input using the Call method, or split the input into a sequence of tokens passed to the Apply method (which invokes a shift-reduce-type parser); note that the rule has to make sure that these substrings are constituents of the specified type

  5. collect the parsing results for subconstituents returned in Step 4, optionally add further parts of the input string, and apply necessary transformations; the resulting string is returned as the rule's transformation of the input (alternatively, an arbitrary data structure can be returned as an analysis of the input string)

Note that DPP rules always return an analysis or transformation of their input; they are not allowed to return undef in order to show that the input string failed to parse. This is a consequence of the deterministic nature of the DPP approach: the caller guarantees that the input is a constituent of the specified type -- anything else is an error condition and causes the rule to die. The two main adavantages of the DPP approach are that (i) the parser does not have to perform any backtracking and (ii) grammar rules do not need to check the return values of subrules invoked with Call or Apply.

Sometimes, it may be unavoidable to try different analyses of an input string in sequence. In such exceptional cases, grammar writers can use the Try method to perform a simple type of backtracking. Try works exactly like Call, but will catch any exception raised due to a parse failure and return undef in this case. Grammar writers are strongly advised to avoid backtracking whenever possible, though: the deterministic nature of DPP is essential for efficient parsing, and repeated backtracking will greatly increase its computational complexity.

DPP grammars can be customised in two ways. One possibility is to override existing rules by subclassing the grammar, as described in the section on "EXTENDING GRAMMARS". This offers an extremely flexible way of changing grammar behaviour, but requires a detailed knowledge of the CWB::CEQL::Parser module and the internal design of the grammar.

A much easier customisation strategy is for grammar writers to define named parameters, which can then be set by end users in order to control certain features of the grammar. Typical applications of parameters include the following:

  • customisation of corpus attribute names (e.g., a parameter pos_attribute might specify the appropriate positional attribute for part-of-speech tags, such as pos or tag)

  • activating or deactivating certain grammar rules (e.g., a parameter has_lemma might indicate whether a corpus includes lemmatisation information or not; if it is FALSE, then input strings including lemma constraints will raise parse errors in the respective grammar rules)

  • definition of lookup tables for simplified part-of-speech tags (which have to be adapted to the tagset used by a particular corpus)

Named parameters have to be defined in the constructor (i.e. the new method) of a grammar by calling the NewParam method, which also sets a default value for the new parameter. They can then be modified or read out at any time using the SetParam and GetParam methods. It is an error to set or read the value of a parameter that hasn't previously been defined.

A typical skeletion of a DPP grammar with parameters looks as follows:

  package MyGrammar;
  use base 'CWB::CEQL::Parser';

  sub new {
    my $class = shift;
    my $self = new CWB::CEQL::Parser;
    $self->NewParam("pos_attribute", "pos");
    return bless($self, $class);

  sub pos_tag {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    my $pos_att = $self->GetParam("pos_attribute");
    die "'$input' does not appear to be a valid POS tag\n"
      unless $input =~ /^[A-Z0-9]+$/;
    return "$pos_att = '$input'"; # CQP constraint for POS tag

  # ... other grammar rules, including "default" ...


If your grammar does not define its own parameters, it is not necessary to provide an explicit implementation of the new method (unless some other initialisation has to be performed).

A user can now apply MyGrammar to a corpus that stores POS tags in a p-attribute named tag:

  use MyGrammar;

  our $grammar = new MyGrammar;
  $grammar->SetParam("pos_attribute", "tag");

  $cqp_query = $grammar->Parse($simple_query);

The following section presents some typical design patterns for DPP rules and explains the use of Call, Apply and Try. Complete function references are found in the sections "USER-VISIBLE METHODS" and "METHODS USED BY GRAMMAR AUTHORS". If you want to see an example of a complete DPP grammar, it is a good idea to take a look at the implementation of the standard CEQL grammar in the CWB::CEQL module. Knowledge of this grammar implementation is essential if you want to build your own custom CEQL extensions.


Stand-alone rules

The simplest DPP rules are stand-alone rules that transform their input string directly without invoking any subrules. These rules typically make use of regular expression substitutions and correspond to one part of the substitution cascade in a traditional implementation of simple query languages. In contrast to such cascades, DPP rules apply only to relevant parts of the input string and cannot accidentally modify other parts of the simple query. The example below transforms a search term with shell-style wildcards (? and *) into a regular expression. Note how the input string is first checked to make sure it does not contain any other metacharacters that might have a special meaning in the generated regular expression, and dies with an informative error message otherwise.

  sub wildcard_expression {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    die "the wildcard expression ''$input'' contains invalid characters\n"
      unless $input =~ /^[A-Za-z0-9?*-]+$/;
    my $regexp = $input;
    $regexp =~ s/\?/./g;
    $regexp =~ s/\*/.*/g;
    return $regexp;

Alternatively, the rule could escape all regular expression metacharacters in the input string so they are matched literally by the regular expression. This version of the grammar might use an internal subroutine for translating strings with wildcards safely into regular expressions:

  sub wildcard_expression {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    return _wildcard_to_regexp($input);

  # note leading underscore for internal subroutine (this is not a method!)
  sub _wildcard_to_regexp {
    my $s = quotemeta(shift);
    $s =~ s/\\[?]/./g;  # wildcards will also have been escaped with a backslash
    $s =~ s/\\([*+])/.$1/g;  # works for wildcards * and +
    return $s;

Handling parse errors

DPP rules should always carry out strict checks to ensure that their input is a well-formed constituent of the required type, and die with a clear and informative error message otherwise. This helps users to locate and correct syntax errors in their input. If errors are caught too late, i.e. in deeply nested subrules, it may be difficult to recognise the true cause of the problem.

The error message passed to die should be limited to a single line of text if possible. Always append a newline character (\n) in order to suppress the automatic Perl stack trace, which provides no useful information for grammar users and is likely to be confusing. CWB::CEQL::Parser will add its own stack trace of subrule invocations so that users can pinpoint the precise location of the syntax error. In order to make this stack trace readable and informative, DPP rules should always be given descriptive names: use wildcard_expression or part_of_speech rather than rule1723a.

The HtmlErrorMessage method will automatically convert HTML metacharacters and non-ASCII characters to entities, so it is safe to include the returned HTML code directly in a Web page. Error messages may use basic wiki-style formatting: ''...'' for typewriter font, //...// for italics and **...** for bold font. Note that such markup is non-recursive and nested formatting will be ignored. User input should always be enclosed in ''...'' in error messages so that // and ** sequences in the input are not mistaken as formatting instructions.

Calling subrules

Most DPP rules divide the input string into one or more subconstituents, similar to the rules of a standard context-free grammar. The main difference is that a DPP rule has to settle on the specific positions and categories of the subconstituents, rather than just listing possible category sequences. Many DPP rules will also remove syntactic operators and delimiters, so that only complex subconstituents are passed to other rules for parsing with the Call method.

The following example allows users to search for a word form using either a wildcard pattern or a regular expression enclosed in /.../. The return value is a CQP query. As an additional optimisation, wildcard patterns that do not contain any wildcards are matched literally (which is faster than a regular expression and avoids possible conflicts with regexp metacharacters).

  sub wordform_pattern {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    die "the wordform pattern ''$input'' must not contain whitespace or double quotes\n"
      if $input =~ /\s|\"/;
    if ($input =~ /^\/(.+)\/$/) {
      my $regexp = $1; # regular expression query: simply wrap in double quotes
      return "\"$regexp\"";
    else {
      if ($input =~ /[?*+]/) {
        my $regexp = $self->Call("wildcard_expression", $input); # call subrule
        return "\"$regexp\"";
      else {
        return "\"$input\"\%l";

It would probably be a good idea to signal an error if the wordform pattern starts or ends with a slash (/) but is not enclosed in /.../ as a regular expression query. This is likely to be a typing mistake and the user will be confused if the input is silently interpreted as a wildcard expression.

Parsing sequences

If the input string consists of a variable number of subconstituents of the same type, the Apply method provides a convenient alternative to repeated subrule calls. It parses all specified subconstituents, collects the parse results and returns them as a list. The following example processes queries that consist of a sequence wordform patterns separated by blanks (each pattern is either a wildcard expression or regular expression, according to the DPP rules defined above), and returns an equivalent CQP query.

  sub wordform_sequence {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    my @items = split " ", $input;
    my @cqp_patterns = $self->Apply("wordform_pattern", @items);
    return "@cqp_patterns";

Recall that the list returned by Apply does not have to be validated: if any error occurs, the respective subrule will die and abort the complete parse.

The shift-reduce parser for nested bracketing

The Apply method is more than a convenient shorthand for parsing lists of constituents. Its main purpose is to parse nested bracketing structures, which are very common in the syntax of formal languages (examples include arithmetical formulae, regular expressions and most computer programming languages). When parsing the constituents of a list with nested bracketing, two special methods, BeginGroup and EndGroup, are called to mark opening and closing delimiters. Proper nesting will then automatically be verified by the DPP parser. If the syntax allows different types of groups to be mixed, optional names can be passed to the BeginGroup and EndGroup calls in order to ensure that the different group types match properly.

The output generated by the items of a bracketing group is collected separately and returned when EndGroup is called. From this list, the rule processing the closing delimiter has to construct a single expression for the entire group. Note that the return value of the DPP rule calling BeginGroup becomes part of the bracketing group output. If this is not desired, the rule must return an empty string (""). Rules can also check whether they are in a nested group with the help of the NestingLevel method (which returns 0 at the top level).

The example below extends our simple query language with regexp-style parenthesised groups, quantifiers (?, *, +) and alternatives (|). In order to simplify the implementation, metacharacters must be separated from wordform patterns and from other metacharacters by blanks; and quantifiers must be attached directly to a closing parenthesis (otherwise, the question mark in ) ? would be ambiguous between a quantifier and a wildcard pattern matching a single character). Note that the simple_query rule is practically identical to wordform_sequence above, but has been renamed to reflect its new semantics.

  sub simple_query {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    my @items = split " ", $input;
    my @cqp_tokens = $self->Apply("simple_query_item", @items);
    return "@cqp_tokens";

  # need to define single rule to parse all items of a list with nested bracketing
  sub simple_query_item {
    my ($self, $item) = @_;
    # opening delimiter: (
    if ($item eq "(") {
      return "";  # opening delimiter should not become part of group output
    # alternatives separator: | (only within nested group)
    elsif ($item eq "|") {
      die "a group of alternatives (|) must be enclosed in parentheses\n"
        unless $self->NestingLevel > 0; # | metacharacter is not allowed at top level
      return "|";
    # closing delimiter: ) with optional quantifier
    elsif ($item =~ /^\)([?*+]?)$/) {
      my $quantifier = $1;
      my @cqp_tokens = $self->EndGroup();
      die "empty groups '( )' are not allowed\n"
        unless @cqp_tokens > 0;
      return "(@cqp_tokens)$quantifier";
    # all other tokens should be wordform patterns
    else {
      return $self->Call("wordform_pattern", $item);

For a complete grammar implementation, don't forget to specify the default rule!

  sub default {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    $self->Call("simple_query", $input);

Structural transformations with the shift-reduce parser

The Apply mechanism does not implement a full-fledged shift-reduce parser. It is well suited for nested bracketing, where structures have explicit start and end markers, but it cannot automatically handle structural transformations that are needed e.g. to parse infix operators. The running example in this subsection will be a grammar for simple arithmetic expressions, consisting of numbers, + and - operators, and parentheses for grouping. For instance, the expression 42 - (9 - 6) should be transformed into nested function calls sub(42, sub(9, 6)).

One strategy for parsing such expressions is simply to collect all elements within a group, and then perform necessary transformations on the list returned by the EndGroup method when a closing delimiter is encountered. This approach is facilitated by the CWB::CEQL::String module, which allows strings returned by grammar rules to be annotated with type information (technically, CWB::CEQL::String objects are complex data structures which can be interpolated like ordinary strings). In our example, strings are either operators (type Op) or terms (numbers or parenthesised subexpressions, type Term). A flat sequence of terms and operators is translated into nested function calls by the internal function _shift_reduce, which repeatedly collapses a sequence Term Op Term into a single Term. Note that _shift_reduce has to be called in two places in the grammar: (1) at the end of each bracketing group and (2) for the top-level sequence returned by the Apply method.

  package Arithmetic;
  use base 'CWB::CEQL::Parser';
  use CWB::CEQL::String;

  sub default {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    return $self->Call("arithmetic_expression", $input);

  sub arithmetic_expression {
    my ($self, $input) = @_;
    $input =~ s/([()+-])/ $1 /g;            # insert whitespace around metacharacters
    $input =~ s/^\s+//; $input =~ s/\s+$//; # strip leading/trailing whitespace
    my @items = split " ", $input;          # split on whitespace into items (numbers, operators, parentheses)
    my @terms_ops = $self->Apply("arithmetic_item", @items); # returns list of Term's and Op's
    return $self->_shift_reduce(@terms_ops);

  sub arithmetic_item {
    my ($self, $item) = @_;
    if ($item eq "+")    { return new CWB::CEQL::String "add", "Op" }
    elsif ($item eq "-") { return new CWB::CEQL::String "sub", "Op" }
    elsif ($item eq "(") { $self->BeginGroup("subexpression"); return "" }
    elsif ($item eq ")") {
      my @terms_ops = $self->EndGroup("subexpression");
      return $self->_shift_reduce(@terms_ops);
    elsif ($item =~ /^[0-9]+$/) { return new CWB::CEQL::String $item, "Term" }
    else { die "invalid element '' $item '' in arithmetic expression\n" }

  sub _shift_reduce {
    my ($self, @terms_ops) = @_;
    while (@terms_ops >= 3) {
      # reduce first three items (which must be Term Op Term) to single Term
      my @types = map {$_->type} @terms_ops;
      die "syntax error in arithmetic expression\n"
        unless "@types" =~ /^Term Op Term/; # wrong sequence of terms and operators
      my $t1 = shift @terms_ops;
      my $op = shift @terms_ops;
      my $t2 = shift @terms_ops;
      my $new_term = new CWB::CEQL::String "$op($t1, $t2)", "Term";
      unshift @terms_ops, $new_term;
    die "syntax error in arithmetic expression\n"
      unless @terms_ops == 1;     # wrong number of items
    return shift @terms_ops;

The obvious drawback of this approach is the difficulty of signaling the precise location of a syntax error to the user (in the example grammar above, the parser will simply print syntax error if there is any problem in a sequence of terms and operators). By the time the error is detected, all items in the active group have already been pre-processed and subexpressions have been collapsed. Printing the current list of terms and operators would only add to the user's confusion.

In order to signal errors immediately where they occur, each item should be validated before it is added to the result list (e.g. an operator may not be pushed as first item on a result list), and the reduce operation (Term Op Term => Term) should be applied as soon as possible. The rule arithmetic_item needs direct access to the currently active result list for this purpose: (1) to check how many items have already been pushed when validating a new item, and (2) to reduce a sequence Term Op Term to a single Term in the result list.

A pointer to the currently active result list is obtained with the internal currentGroup method, allowing a grammar rule to manipulate the result list. The proximity queries in the CWB::CEQL grammar illustrate this advanced form of shift-reduce parsing.

Backtracking with Try()

** TODO **


** TODO **


Methods that are called by the "end users" of a grammar.

$grammar = new MyGrammar;

Create parser object $grammar for the specified grammar (which must be a class derived from CWB::CEQL::Parser). Note that the parser itself is not reentrant, but multiple parsers for the same grammar can be run in parallel. The return value $grammar is an object of class MyGrammar.

$result = $grammar->Parse($string [, $rule]);

Parse input string $string as a constituent of type $rule (if unspecified, the default rule will be used). The return value $result is typically a string containing the transformed query, but may also be an arbitrary data structure or object (such as a parse tree for $input). Consult the relevant grammar documentation for details. If parsing fails, undef is returned.

@lines_of_text = $grammar->ErrorMessage;

If the last parse failed, returns a detailed error message and backtrace of the callstack as a list of text lines (without newlines). Otherwise, returns empty list.

$html_code = $grammar->HtmlErrorMessage;

If the last parse failed, returns HTML-formatted error message and backtrace of the callstack. The string $html_code is valid HTML and can directly be included in a generated Web page. In particular, unsafe and non-ASCII characters have been encoded as HTML entities. Simple, non-recursive wiki-style markup in an error message is interpreted in the following way:

  **<text>**    <text> is shown in bold font (<b> ... </b>)
  //<text>//    <text> is displayed in italics (<i> ... </i>)
  ''<text>''    <text> is shown in typewriter font (<code> ... </code>)

Lines starting with - (note the two blanks) are converted into list items.

$grammar->SetParam($name, $value);
$value = $grammar->GetParam($name);

Set the value of parameter $name (SetParam), or read its current value (GetParam). The parameter $name must have been defined by the grammar class (which $grammar is an instance of) and should be described in the grammar's documentation.


Methods for grammar authors. Since these methods are intended for use in the rules of a DPP grammar, they are typically applied to the object $self.

$self->NewParam($name, $default_value);

Define new parameter $name with default value $default_value. This method is normally called in the constructor (method new) of a parameterized grammar. If it is used in a rule body, the new parameter will be created in the working copy of the parameter set and will only be available during the current parse.

$result = $self->Call($rule, $input);

Apply rule $rule to input string $input. The return value $result depends on the grammar rule, but is usually a string containing a translated version of $input. Grammar rules may also annotate this string with attributes or by blessing it into a custom class, or return a complex data structure such as a parse tree for $input. The caller has to be aware what kind of value $rule returns.

Note that Call never returns undef. In case of an error, the entire parse is aborted.

$result = $self->Try($rule, $input);

Tentatively apply rule $rule to the input string. If $input is parsed successfully, Try returns the translated version $result (or an arbitrary data structure such as a parse tree for $input) just as Call would. If parsing fails, Try does not abort but simply returns undef, ignoring any error messages generated during the attempt. In addition, the call stack is restored and all parameters are reset to their previous values, so that parsing can continue as if nothing had happened (note, however, that this is based on flat backup copies, so complex data structures may have been altered destructively).

@results = $self->Apply($rule, @items);

Apply rule $rule to each input string in the list @items. The return values are collected and returned as a list @results, which has to be further processed by the caller. Note that empty strings ("") are automatically removed from the list of return values.


Marks the start of a nested group, when an opening delimiter is encountered. BeginGroup may only be called while the shift-reduce parser is active during an Apply operation. The optional parameter $name can be used to ensure proper nesting of different types of groups; the default group name is *. After calling BeginGroup, a DPP rule will often return "" since the opening determiner has a purely syntactic function and is not generate output directly.

@group_results = $self->EndGroup([$name]);

Marks the end of a nested group, when a closing delimiter is encountered. The optional parameter $name (or the default name *) must be identical to the group name of the matching opening delimiter. EndGroup returns a list containing the result values collected from this nested group.

$n = $self->NestingLevel;

Returns the nesting depth $n of the current group during an Apply operation. A nesting depth of 0 corresponds to the top level. NestingLevel may only be called while the shift-reduce parser is active and will die otherwise.


Internal methods of CWB::CEQL::Parser.

$array_ref = $self->currentGroup;

Returns a pointer to the currently active result list during an Apply operation (either the top-level result list, or the local result list in a nested group). This pointer can be used to access previously collected return values (before EndGroup is called), and to manipulate the result list (e.g. to perform advanced shift-reduce parsing).

It is an error to call this method while the shift-reduce parser is not active.

$html_code = $grammar->formatHtmlText(@lines_of_text);

Format one or more text lines with simple wiki-style markup as HTML. The string $html_code is valid HTML and can directly be included in a generated Web page. In particular, unsafe and non-ASCII characters are automatically encoded as HTML entities. The following typographic markup is supported:

  • **<text>** - <text> is displayed in bold face (<b> ... </b>)

  • //<text>// - <text> is displayed in italics (<i> ... </i>)

  • ''<text>'' - <text> is shown in typewriter font (<code> ... </code>)

  • lines starting with - (note the two blanks before and after the hyphen) are converted into list items

  • all other lines are formatted as separate paragraphs (<p> ... </p>)

The wiki markup is non-recursive, i.e. no substitutions will be applied to the text wrapped in ''...'' etc. This behaviour is intentional, so that e.g. ** in a query expression will not be mistaken for a bold face marker, (as long as the query is displayed in typewriter font, i.e. as ''<query''>).

$html = $grammar->encodeEntities($string);

Replacement for encode_entities function from HTML::Entities, to avoid dependency on this package (which is not part of the standard library). Transforms unsafe characters <, >, & and " into HTML entities, normalises whitespace and removes other control characters.

If $string is a Unicode string, all non-ASCII characters are replaced by numerical entities (otherwise, an unknown 8-bit character set is assumed, so no substitutions can be made).

Internal structure of CWB::CEQL::Parser objects

A DPP parser object (i.e. an object that belongs to CWB::CEQL::Parser or one of its subclasses) is a data structure (hashref) with the following variables:


A hashref containing the global values of grammar parameters, i.e. values set by the main program for this parser object or the default values defined by the grammar class.


Working copy of the grammar parameters, which is used while parsing and may be modified by grammar rules without affecting the global values. During a parse, the NewParam, SetParam and GetParam methods operate on this working copy.

The PARAM variable is re-initialised before each parse with a flat copy of the PARAM_DEFAULTS hashref. Therefore, care has to be taken when modifying complex parameter values within grammar rules, as the changes will affect the global values in PARAM_DEFAULTS. If complex values need to be changed internally, the grammar rule should always update the parameter with SetParam and a deep copy of the previous parameter value.


The current input string passed to the Parse method. This variable is mostly used to indicate whether the parser is currently active or not (e.g. in order to avoid nested Parse calls).


Error message generated by the last parse, or undef if the parse was successful. This error message is returned by ErrorMessage and HtmlErrorMessage together with a backtrace of the parser's call stack.


The CALLSTACK variable is an arrayref with information about the nested calls of grammar rules and their input strings. Each array element corresponds to a nested rule invocation and is a hashref with the following fields:


Name of the grammar rule (i.e. Perl method) invoked. When the shift-reduce parser is called with Apply, a special rule named APPLY is pushed on the stack.


Input string for the grammar rule (which should be a constituent of the respective type).

APPLY_ITEMS (optional, "APPLY" rule only)

List (arrayref) of items passed to Apply for processing by the shift-reduce parser. This field is only present in the call stack entry for the special APPLY rule. Items are shifted from this list to APPLY_DONE as they are processed by the shift-reduce parser.

APPLY_DONE (optiona, "APPLY" rule only)

Items from the list passed to Apply that have already been handled by the shift-reduce parser. The main purpose of APPLY_ITEMS and APPLY_DONE is to narrow down the location of parse errors in a nested bracketing structure.


List (arrayref) of arrayrefs collecting parse results for nested bracketing groups. The first element of this list corresponds to the currently active bracketing group. The GROUPS variable is only defined while the shift-reduce parser is active.


Stack (arrayref) of nested bracketing groups. Each stack element corresponds to one level of nesting and is a string giving the type of the respective group. If no type has been specified by the user, the default value * is used. The length of this array can be used to determine the current nesting depth.


Copyright (C) 1999-2010 Stefan Evert [http::/]

This software is provided AS IS and the author makes no warranty as to its use and performance. You may use the software, redistribute and modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.