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EMAZEP ETHER KES TEAM TSIBLEY

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2 non-PAUSE users.

Paul Evans

NAME

Parser::MGC::Tutorial

INTRODUCTION

Parser::MGC is an abstract base class that provides useful features to assist writing a parser.

A parser written using this module will be a subclass of Parser::MGC, which provides a parse method. For example, the following trivial parser accepts only input content matching the given regexp.

 package ExampleParser;
 use base qw( Parser::MGC );

 sub parse
 {
    my $self = shift;

    $self->expect( qr/hello world/i );

    return 1;
 }

A program using this parser constructs an instance of it, and uses this instance to parse content. Content is passed either as string value to the from_string method, or from a named file or filehandle to the from_file method.

 use feature qw( say );
 use ExampleParser;

 my $parser = ExampleParser->new;

 say $parser->from_string( "Hello World" );

When run, this program outputs the return value of the from_string method, which itself is the value returned by the parse method.

 $ perl tut01.pl
 1

Content can also be provided by from_file instead:

 use feature qw( say );
 use ExampleParser;

 my $parser = ExampleParser->new;

 say $parser->from_file( \*STDIN );

Returning Values

Of course, a parser that simply returns 1 to say it matches may not be all that useful. Almost always when a parser is being used to match some input, it is because some values or structure are needed from this input, which should be returned to the caller.

The expect method attempts to match the next part of the input string with the given regexp, and returns the matching substring. A subsequent expect call will continue parsing where the previous one finished. Parser::MGC will automatically skip over whitespace between these calls, so most grammars that are whitespace-insensitive should not need to worry about this explicitly.

By using two expect calls, a parser can first examine that some given literal is present, and then return a matched substring from the input.

 sub parse
 {
    my $self = shift;

    $self->expect( qr/hello/i );
    my $name = $self->expect( qr/\w+/ );

    return $name;
 }

 say $parser->from_string( "Hello World" );

 $ perl tut02.pl
 World

Token methods make this easier by providing convenient shortcuts to commonly-used matching patterns.

 sub parse
 {
    my $self = shift;

    $self->expect( qr/hello/i );
    return $self->token_ident;
 }

If instead we pass in a value that does not match the regexp, an exception is thrown, including details of how the parse failed.

 say $parser->from_string( "Hello, world!" );

 $ perl tut03.pl
 Expected (?i-xsm:hello world) on line 1 at:
 Hello, world!
 ^

A typical use of a parser is to form an Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) from a given input. In this case it is likely that the return value from the parse method will be some object the application can use to inspect the syntax.

 sub parse
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $num = $self->token_number;
    return MyGrammar::Expression::Number->new( $num );
 }

Indicating Failure

While the basic methods such as expect and the varions token methods will indicate a failure automatically, there may be cases in the grammar that more logic is required by the parser. If this logic wishes to indicate a failure in the input and cause back-tracking to occur, it can use the fail method.

 sub parse
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $num = $self->token_number;
    $num >= 0 or $self->fail( "Expected a non-negative number" );

    return $num;
 }

STRUCTURE

So far we've managed to parse simple patterns that could have been specified with a simple regular expression. Any parser for a nontrivial grammar will need other abilities as well; it will need to be able to choose from a list of alternatives, to be able to repeat patterns, and to form nested scopes to match other content within.

Parser::MGC provides a set of methods that take one or more CODE references that perform some parsing step, and form a higher-level construction out of them. These can be used to build more complex parsers out of simple ones. It is this recursive structure that gives Parser::MGC its main power over simple one-shot regexp matching.

Any nontrivial grammar is likely to be formed from multiple named rules. It is natural therefore to split the parser for such a grammar into methods whose names reflect the structure of the grammar to be parsed. Each of the structure-forming methods which takes CODE references invokes each by passing in the parser object itself as the first argument. This makes it simple to invoke sub-rules by passing references to method subs themselves, because the parser object will already be passed as the invocant.

The following examples will build together into a parser for a simple C-like expression language.

Optional Rules

The simplest of the structure-forming methods, maybe, attempts to run the parser step it is given and if it succeeds, returns the value returned by that step. If it fails by throwing an exception, then the maybe call simply returns undef and resets the current parse position back to where it was before it started. This allows writing a grammar that includes an optional element, similar to the ? quantifier in a regular expression.

 sub parse_type
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $storage = $self->maybe( sub {
       $self->token_kw(qw( static auto typedef ));
    } );

    return MyGrammar::Type->new( $self->parse_ident, $storage );
 }

Repeated Rules

The next structure-forming method, sequence_of, attempts to run the parser step it is given multiple times until it fails, and returns an ARRAY reference collecting up all the return values from each iteration that succeeded. By itself, sequence_of can never fail; if the body never matches then it just yields an empty array and consumes nothing from the input. This allows writing a grammar that includes a repeating element, similar to the * quantifier in a regular expression.

 sub parse_statements
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $statements = $self->sequence_of( sub {
       $self->parse_statement;
    } );

    return MyGrammar::Statements->new( $statements );
 }

Often it is the case that the grammar requires at least one item to be present, and should not accept an empty parse of zero elements. This can be achieved in code by testing the size of the returned array, and using the fail method. This could be considered similar to the + quantifier in a regular expression.

 sub parse_statements
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $statements = $self->sequence_of( sub {
       $self->parse_statement;
    } );

    @$statements > 0 or $self->fail( "Expected at least one statement" );

    return MyGrammar::Statements->new( $statements );
 }

Another case that often happens it that the grammar requires some simple separation pattern between each parsed item, such as a comma. The list_of method helps here because it automatically handles those separating patterns between the items, returning a reference to an array containing only the actual parsed items without the separators.

 sub parse_expression_list
 {
    my $self = shift;

    my $exprs = $self->list_of( ",", sub {
       $self->parse_expression;
    } );

    return MyGrammar::ExpressionList->new( $exprs );
 }

Alternate Rules

To handle a choice of multiple different alternatives in the grammar, the any_of method takes an ordered list of parser steps, and attempts to invoke each in turn. It yields as its result the result of the first one of these that didn't fail. This allows writing a grammar that allows a choice of multiple different rules at some point, similar to the | alternation in a regular expression.

 sub parse_statement
 {
    my $self = shift;

    $self->any_of(
       sub { $self->parse_declaration },
       sub { $self->parse_expression; $self->expect( ';' ); },
       sub { $self->parse_block_statement },
    );
 }

Scoping Rules

The final structure-forming method has no direct analogy to a regular expression, though usually similar structures can be found. To handle the case where some nested structure has to be handled between opening and closing markers, the scope_of method can be used. It takes three arguments, being the opening marker, a parser step to handle the contents of the body, and the closing marker. It expects to find each of these in sequence, and returns the value that the inner parsing step returned.

However, what makes it more intersting is that during execution of the inner parsing step, the basic token functions all take into account the closing marker. No token function will return a result if the stream now looks like the scope closing marker. Instead, they'll all fail claiming to be at the end of the scope. This makes it much simpler to parse, for example, lists of values surrounded by braces.

 sub parse_array_initialiser
 {
    my $self = shift;

    $self->scope_of( "{", sub { $self->parse_expression_list }, "}" );
 }

During execution of the inner call to parse_expression_list, any occurance in the stream of the } marker will appear to be the end of the stream, causing the inner call to stop at hopefully the right place (barring other syntax errors), and terminating correctly.