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One of the main reasons for developing attributed grammars like those discussed in the last chapter is to be able to use them as input to compiler generator tools, and so construct complete programs. It is the aim of this chapter and the next to illustrate how this process is achieved with Coco/R, and to discuss the Cocol specification language in greater detail than before. Our discussion will, as usual, focus mainly on C++ applications, but a study of the documentation and examples on the diskette should allow Modula-2, Pascal and "traditional C" readers to develop in those languages just as easily.

12.1 Installing and running Coco/R

On the diskette that accompanies this book can be found three implementations of Coco/R that can generate applications in C/C++, Modula-2, or Turbo Pascal. These have been configured for easy use on MS-DOS based systems. Versions of Coco/R are also available for use with many other compilers and operating systems. These can be obtained from several sites on the Internet; a list of some of these appears in Appendix A.

The installation and execution of Coco/R is rather system-specific, and readers will be obliged to make use of the documentation that is provided on the diskette. Nevertheless, a brief overview of the process can usefully be given here.

12.1.1 Installation

The MS-DOS versions of Coco/R are supplied as compressed, self-extracting executable files, and for these the installation process requires a user to

12.1.2 Input file preparation

For each application, the user has to prepare a text file to contain the attributed grammar. Points to be aware of are that

Besides the grammar, Coco/R needs to be able to read frame files. These contain outlines of the scanner, parser, and driver files, to which will be added statements derived from an analysis of the attributed grammar. Frame files for the scanner and parser are of a highly standard form; the ones supplied with the distribution are suitable for use in many applications without the need for any customization. However, a complete compiler consists of more than just a scanner and parser - in particular it requires a driver program to call the parser. A basic driver frame file (COMPILER.FRM) comes with the kit. This will allow simple applications to be generated immediately, but it is usually necessary to copy this basic file to the project directory, and then to edit it to suit the application. The resulting file should be given the same primary name as the grammar file, and a FRM extension, for example CALC.FRM.

12.1.3 Execution

Once the input files have been prepared, generation of the application is started with a command like

            COCOR CALC.ATG

A number of compiler options may be specified in a way that is probably familiar, for example

            COCOR -L -C CALC.ATG

The options depend on the particular version of Coco/R in use. A summary of those available may be obtained by issuing the COCOR command with no parameters at all, or with only a -H parameter. Compiler options may also be selected by pragmas embedded in the attributed grammar itself, and this is probably the preferred approach for serious applications. Examples of such pragmas can be found in the case studies later in this chapter.

12.1.4 Output from Coco/R

Assuming that the attributed grammar appears to be satisfactory, and depending on the compiler switches specified, execution of Coco/R will typically result in the production of header and implementation files (with names derived from the goal symbol name) for

12.1.5 Assembling the generated system

After they have been generated, the various parts of an application can be compiled and linked with one another, and with any other components that they need. The way in which this is done depends very much on the host compiler. For a very simple MS-DOS application using the Borland C++ system, one might be able to use commands like


but for larger applications the use of a makefile is probably to be preferred. Examples of makefiles are found on the distribution diskette.

12.2 Case study - a simple adding machine

Preparation of completely attributed grammars suitable as input to Coco/R requires an in-depth understanding of the Cocol specification language, including many features that we have not yet encountered. Sections 12.3 and 12.4 discuss these aspects in some detail, and owe much to the original description by Mössenböck (1990a).

The discussion will be clarified by reference to a simple example, chosen to illustrate as many features as possible (as a result, it may appear rather contrived). Suppose we wish to construct an adding machine that can add numbers arranged in various groups into subtotals, and then either add these subtotals to a running grand total, or reject them. Our numbers can have fractional parts; just to be perverse we shall allow a shorthand notation for handling ranges of numbers. Typical input is exemplified by

   clear                       // start the machine
   10 + 20 + 3 .. 7 accept     // one subtotal 10+20+3+4+5+6+7, accepted
   3.4 + 6.875..50 cancel      // another one, but rejected
   3 + 4 + 6 accept            // and a third, this time accepted
   total                       // display grand total and then stop

Correct input of this form can be described by a simple LL(1) grammar that we might try initially to specify in Cocol on the lines of the following:


       digit    = "0123456789" .

       number   = digit { digit } [ "." digit { digit } ] .

       Calc     = "clear" { Subtotal } "total" .
       Subtotal = Range { "+" Range } ( "accept" | "cancel" ) .
       Range    = Amount [ ".." Amount ] .
       Amount   = number .

   END Calc.

In general a grammar like this can itself be described in EBNF by

   Cocol =   "COMPILER" GoalIdentifier
             "END" GoalIdentifier "." .

We note immediately that the identifier after the keyword COMPILER gives the grammar name, and must match the name after the keyword END. The grammar name must also match the name chosen for the non-terminal that defines the goal symbol of the phrase structure grammar.

Each of the productions leads to the generation of a corresponding parsing routine. It should not take much imagination to see that the routines in our case study will also need to perform operations like

These mechanisms are all incorporated into the grammar by attributing it with extra information, as discussed in the next sections. As an immediate example of this, arbitrary text may follow the GoalIdentifier, preceding the ScannerSpecification. This is not checked by Coco/R, but is simply incorporated directly in the generated parser. This offers the facility of providing code for IMPORT clauses in Modula-2, USES clauses in Turbo Pascal, or #include directives in C++, and for the declaration of global objects (constants, types, variables or functions) that may be needed by later semantic actions.

12.3 Scanner specification

A scanner has to read source text, skip meaningless characters, and recognize tokens that can be handled by the parser. Clearly there has to be some way for the parser to retrieve information about these tokens. The most fundamental information can be returned in the form of a simple integer, unique to the type of token recognized. While a moment's thought will confirm that the members of such an enumeration will allow a parser to perform syntactic analysis, semantic properties (such as the numeric value of the number that appears in our example grammar) may require a token to be analysed in more detail. To this end, the generated scanner allows the parser to retrieve the lexeme or textual representation of a token.

Tokens may be classified either as literals or as token classes. As we have already seen, literals (like "END" and "!=") may be introduced directly into productions as strings, and do not need to be named. Token classes (such as identifiers or numbers) must be named, and have structures that are specified by regular expressions, defined in EBNF.

In Cocol, a scanner specification consists of six optional parts, that may, in fact, be introduced in arbitrary order.

   ScannerSpecification =  {  CharacterSets
                             | Ignorable
                             | Comments
                             | Tokens
                             | Pragmas
                             | UserNames
                            } .

12.3.1 Character sets

The CharacterSets component allows for the declaration of names for character sets like letters or digits, and defines the characters that may occur as members of these sets. These names may then be used in the other sections of the scanner specification (but not, it should be noted, in the parser specification).

   CharacterSets   =  "CHARACTERS" { NamedCharSet } .
   NamedCharSet    =  SetIdent "=" CharacterSet "." .
   CharacterSet    =  SimpleSet { ( "+" | "-" ) SimpleSet } .
   SimpleSet       =  SetIdent  |  string | SingleChar [ ".." SingleChar ] | "ANY" .
   SingleChar      =  "CHR" "(" number ")" .
   SetIdent        =  identifier .

Simple character sets are denoted by one of

SetIdent            a previously declared character set with that name
String              a set consisting of all characters in the string
CHR(i)             a set of one character with ordinal value i
CHR(i) .. CHR(j)   a set consisting of all characters whose ordinal
                   values are in the range i ... j.
ANY                the set of all characters acceptable to the implementation

Simple sets may then be combined by the union (+) and difference operators (-).

As examples we might have

  digit     = "0123456789" .      /* The set of all digits */
  hexdigit  = digit + "ABCDEF" .  /* The set of all hexadecimal digits */
  eol       = CHR(10) .           /* Line feed character */
  noDigit   = ANY - digit .       /* Any character that is not a digit */
  ctrlChars = CHR(1) .. CHR(31) . /* The ASCII control characters */
  InString  = ANY - '"' - eol .   /* Strings may not cross line boundaries */

12.3.2 Comments and ignorable characters

Usually spaces within the source text of a program are irrelevant, and in scanning for the start of a token, a Coco/R generated scanner will simply ignore them. Other separators like tabs, line ends, and form feeds may also be declared irrelevant, and some applications may prefer to ignore the distinction between upper and lower case input.

Comments are difficult to specify with the regular expressions used to denote tokens - indeed, nested comments may not be specified at all in this way. Since comments are usually discarded by a parsing process, and may typically appear in arbitrary places in source code, it makes sense to have a special construct to express their structure.

Ignorable aspects of the scanning process are defined in Cocol by

   Comments  = "COMMENTS" "FROM" TokenExpr "TO" TokenExpr [ "NESTED" ] .
   Ignorable = "IGNORE" ( "CASE" | CharacterSet ) .

where the optional keyword NESTED should have an obvious meaning. A practical restriction is that comment brackets must not be longer than 2 characters. It is possible to declare several kinds of comments within a single grammar, for example, for C++:

      COMMENTS FROM "/*" TO "*/"
      COMMENTS FROM "//" TO eol
      IGNORE CHR(9) .. CHR(13)

The set of ignorable characters in this example is that which includes the standard white space separators in ASCII files. The null character CHR(0) should not be included in any ignorable set. It is used internally by Coco/R to mark the end of the input file.

12.3.3 Tokens

A very important part of the scanner specification declares the form of terminal tokens:

   Tokens       =  "TOKENS" { Token } .
   Token        =  TokenSymbol [ "=" TokenExpr "." ] .
   TokenExpr    =  TokenTerm { "|" TokenTerm } .
   TokenTerm    =  TokenFactor { TokenFactor } [ "CONTEXT" "(" TokenExpr ")" ] .
   TokenFactor  =  SetIdent | string
                     | "(" TokenExpr ")"
                     | "[" TokenExpr "]"
                     | "{" TokenExpr "}" .
   TokenSymbol  =  TokenIdent | string .
   TokenIdent   =  identifier .

Tokens may be declared in any order. A token declaration defines a TokenSymbol together with its structure. Usually the symbol on the left-hand side of the declaration is an identifier, which is then used in other parts of the grammar to denote the structure described on the right-hand side of the declaration by a regular expression (expressed in EBNF). This expression may contain literals denoting themselves (for example "END"), or the names of character sets (for example letter), denoting an arbitrary character from such sets. The restriction to regular expressions means that it may not contain the names of any other tokens.

While token specification is usually straightforward, there are a number of subtleties that may need emphasizing:

12.3.4 Pragmas

A pragma, like a comment, is a token that may occur anywhere in the input stream, but, unlike a comment, it cannot be ignored. Pragmas are often used to allow programmers to select compiler switches dynamically. Since it becomes impractical to modify the phrase structure grammar to handle this, a special mechanism is provided for the recognition and treatment of pragmas. In Cocol they are declared like tokens, but may have an associated semantic action that is executed whenever they are recognized by the scanner.

   Pragmas     =  "PRAGMAS" { Pragma } .
   Pragma      =  Token [ Action ] .
   Action      =  "(." arbitraryText ".)" .

As an example, we might add to our case study

        page = "page" .  (. printf("\f"); .)

to allow the word page to appear anywhere in the input data; each appearance would have the effect of moving to a new page on the output.

12.3.5 User names

The scanner and parser produced by Coco/R use small integer values to distinguish tokens. This makes their code harder to understand by a human reader (some would argue that humans should never need to read such code anyway). When used with appropriate options, Coco/R can generate code that uses names for the tokens. By default these names have a rather stereotyped form (for example "..." would be named "pointpointpointSym"). The UserNames section may be used to prefer user-defined names, or to help resolve name clashes (for example, between the default names that would be chosen for "point" and ".").

   UserNames  = "NAMES" { UserName } .
   UserName   = TokenIdent  "=" ( identifier | string ) "." .

As examples we might have

        period   = "." .
        ellipsis = "..." .

12.3.6 The scanner interface

The scanner generated by Coco/R declares various procedures and functions that may be called from the parser whenever it needs to obtain a new token, or to analyse one that has already been recognized. As it happens, a user rarely has to make direct use of this interface, as the generated parser incorporates all the necessary calls to the scanner routines automatically, and also provides facilities for retrieving lexemes.

The form of the interface depends on the host system. For example, for the C++ version, the interface is effectively that shown below, although there is actually an underlying class hierarchy, so that the declarations are not exactly the same as those shown. The reader should take note that there are various ways in which source text may be retrieved from the scanner (to understand these in full it will be necessary to study the class hierarchy, but easier interfaces are provided for the parser; see section 12.4.6).

  class grammarScanner
  { public:
      grammarScanner(int SourceFile, int ignoreCase);
      // Constructs scanner for grammar and associates this with a
      // previously opened SourceFile.  Specifies whether to IGNORE CASE

      int Get();
      // Retrieves next token from source

      void GetString(Token *Sym, char *Buffer, int Max);
      // Retrieves at most Max characters from Sym into Buffer

      void GetName(Token *Sym, char *Buffer, int Max);
      // Retrieves at most Max characters from Sym into Buffer
      // Buffer is capitalized if IGNORE CASE was specified

      long GetLine(long Pos, char *Line, int Max);
      // Retrieves at most Max characters (or until next line break)
      // from position Pos in source file into Line


12.4 Parser specification

The parser specification is the main part of the input to Coco/R. It contains the productions of an attributed grammar specifying the syntax of the language to be recognized, as well as the action to be taken as each phrase or token is recognized.

12.4.1 Productions

The form of the parser specification may itself be described in EBNF as follows. For the Modula-2 and Pascal versions we have:

   ParserSpecification =  "PRODUCTIONS" { Production } .
   Production          =  NonTerminal [ FormalAttributes ]
                            [ LocalDeclarations ]        (* Modula-2 and Pascal *)
                            "=" Expression "." .
   FormalAttributes    =  "<"  arbitraryText ">" | "<."  arbitraryText ".>" .
   LocalDeclarations   =  "(." arbitraryText ".)" .
   NonTerminal         =  identifier .

For the C and C++ versions the LocalDeclarations follow the "=" instead:

   Production          =  NonTerminal [ FormalAttributes ]
                            "=" [ LocalDeclarations ]  /* C and C++ */
                            Expression "." .

Any identifier appearing in a production that was not previously declared as a terminal token is considered to be the name of a NonTerminal, and there must be exactly one production for each NonTerminal that is used in the specification (this may, of course, specify a list of alternative right sides).

A production may be considered as a specification for creating a routine that parses the NonTerminal. This routine will constitute its own scope for parameters and other local components like variables and constants. The left-hand side of a Production specifies the name of the NonTerminal as well as its FormalAttributes (which effectively specify the formal parameters of the routine). In the Modula-2 and Pascal versions the optional LocalDeclarations allow the declaration of local components to precede the block of statements that follow. The C and C++ versions define their local components within this statement block, as required by the host language.

As in the case of tokens, some subtleties in the specification of productions should be emphasized:

The Expression on the right-hand-side of each Production defines the context-free structure of some part of the source language, together with the attributes and semantic actions that specify how the parser must react to the recognition of each component. The syntax of an Expression may itself be described in EBNF (albeit not in LL(1) form) as

   Expression   =  Term { "|" Term } .
   Term         =  Factor { Factor }  .
   Factor       =     [ "WEAK" ] TokenSymbol
                   |  NonTerminal [ Attributes ]
                   |  Action
                   |  "ANY"
                   |  "SYNC"
                   |  "(" Expression ")"
                   |  "[" Expression "]"
                   |  "{" Expression "}" .
   Attributes   =  "<"  arbitraryText ">" |  "<."  arbitraryText ".>" .
   Action       =  "(." arbitraryText ".)" .

The Attributes enclosed in angle brackets that may follow a NonTerminal effectively denote the actual parameters that will be used in calling the corresponding routine. If a NonTerminal is defined on the left-hand side of a Production to have FormalAttributes, then every occurrence of that NonTerminal in a right-hand side Expression must have a list of actual attributes that correspond to the FormalAttributes according to the parameter compatibility rules of the host language. However, the conformance is only checked when the generated parser is itself compiled.

An Action is an arbitrary sequence of host language statements enclosed in "(." and ".)". These are simply incorporated into the generated parser in situ; once again, no syntax is checked at that stage.

These points may be made clearer by considering a development of part of our case study, which hopefully needs little further explanation:

    Calc                                                        /* goal */
    =                 (. double total = 0.0, sub; .)            /* locals */
      { Subtotal<sub> (. total += sub; .)                       /* add to total */
      "total"         (. printf("   total: %5.2f\n", total); .) /* display */

    Subtotal<double &s>                                         /* ref param */
    =                 (. double r; .)                           /* local */
      { "+" Range<r>  (. s += r; .)                             /* add to s */
      (   "accept"    (. printf("subtotal: %5.2f\n", s); .)     /* display */
        | "cancel"    (. s = 0.0; .)                            /* nullify */
      ) .

Although the input to Coco/R is free-format, it is suggested that the regular EBNF appear on the left, with the actions on the right, as in the example above.

Many aspects of parser specification are straightforward, but there are some subtleties that call for comment:

12.4.2 Syntax error recovery

Compiler generators vary tremendously in the way in which they provide for recovery from syntactic errors, a subject that was discussed in section 10.3.

The technique described there, although systematically applicable, slows down error-free parsing, inflates the parser code, and is relatively difficult to automate. Coco/R uses a simpler technique, as suggested by Wirth (1986), since this has proved to be almost as effective, and is very easily understood. Recovery takes place only at a rather small number of synchronization points in the grammar. Errors at other points are reported, but cause no recovery - parsing simply continues up to the next synchronization point. One consequence of this simplification is that many spurious errors are then likely to be detected for as long as the parser and the input remain out of step. An effective technique for handling this is to arrange that errors are simply not reported if they follow too closely upon one another (that is, a minimum amount of text must be correctly parsed after one error is detected before the next can be reported).

In the simplest approach to using this technique, the designer of the grammar is required to specify synchronization points explicitly. As it happens, this does not usually turn out to be a difficult task: the usual heuristic is to choose locations in the grammar where especially safe terminals are expected that are hardly ever missing or mistyped, or appear so often in source code that they are bound to be encountered again at some stage. In most Pascal-like languages, for example, good candidates for synchronization points are the beginning of a statement (where keywords like IF and WHILE are expected), the beginning of a declaration sequence (where keywords like CONST and VAR are expected), or the beginning of a type definition (where keywords like RECORD and ARRAY are expected).

In Cocol, a synchronization point is specified by the keyword SYNC, and the effect is to generate code for a loop that is prepared simply to consume source tokens until one is found that would be acceptable at that point. The sets of such terminals can be precomputed at parser generation time. They are always extended to include the end-of-file symbol (denoted by the keyword EOF), thus guaranteeing that if all else fails, synchronization will succeed at the end of the source text.

For our case study we might choose the end of the routine for handling a subtotal as such a point:

    Subtotal = Range { "+" Range } SYNC ( "accept" | "cancel" ) .

This would have the effect of generating code on the following lines:

   PROCEDURE Subtotal;
       WHILE Sym = plus DO GetSym; Range END;
       WHILE Sym  { accept, cancel, EOF } DO GetSym END;
       IF Sym  { accept, cancel } THEN GetSym END;

The union of all the synchronization sets (which we shall denote by AllSyncs) is also computed by Coco/R, and is used in further refinements on this idea. A terminal can be designated to be weak in a certain context by preceding its appearance in the phrase structure grammar with the keyword WEAK. A weak terminal is one that might often be mistyped or omitted, such as the semicolon between statements. When the parser expects (but does not find) such a terminal, it adopts the strategy of consuming source tokens until it recognizes either a legal successor of the weak terminal, or one of the members of AllSyncs - since terminals expected at synchronization points are considered to be very "strong", it makes sense that they never be skipped in any error recovery process.

As an example of how this could be used, consider altering our case study grammar to read:

   Calc     = WEAK "clear" Subtotal { Subtotal } WEAK "total" .
   Subtotal = Range { "+" Range } SYNC ( "accept" | "cancel" ) .
   Range    = Amount [ ".." Amount ] .
   Amount   = number .

This would give rise to code on the lines of

       ExpectWeak(clear, FIRST(Subtotal)); (* ie { number } *)
       Subtotal; WHILE Sym = number DO Subtotal END;
       ExpectWeak(total, { EOF })

The ExpectWeak routine would be internal to the parser, implemented on the lines of:

   PROCEDURE ExpectWeak (Expected : TERMINAL; WeakFollowers : SYMSET);
       IF Sym = Expected
         THEN GetSym
           WHILE sym  (WeakFollowers + AllSyncs) DO GetSym END

Weak terminals give the parser another chance to synchronize in case of an error. The WeakFollower sets can be precomputed at parser generation time, and the technique causes no run-time overhead if the input is error-free.

Frequently iterations start with a weak terminal, in situations described by EBNF of the form

     Sequence =  FirstPart { "WEAK" ExpectedTerminal  IteratedPart } LastPart .

Such terminals will be called weak separators and can be handled in a special way: if the ExpectedTerminal cannot be recognized, source tokens are consumed until a terminal is found that is contained in one of the following three sets:

FOLLOW(ExpectedTerminal) (that is, FIRST(IteratedPart))

As an example of this, suppose we were to modify our case study grammar to read

     Subtotal = Range { WEAK "+" Range } ( "accept" | "cancel" ) .

The generated code would then be on the lines of

   PROCEDURE Subtotal;
       WHILE WeakSeparator(plus, { number }, { accept, cancel } ) DO
       IF Sym  {accept, cancel } THEN GetSym END;

The WeakSeparator routine would be implemented internally to the parser on the lines of

   BOOLEAN FUNCTION WeakSeparator (Expected : TERMINAL;
                                   WeakFollowers, IterationFollowers : SYMSET);
       IF Sym = Expected THEN GetSym; RETURN TRUE
         ELSIF Sym  IterationFollowers THEN RETURN FALSE
           WHILE Sym  (WeakFollowers + IterationFollowers + AllSyncs) DO
           RETURN Sym  WeakFollowers

Once again, all the necessary sets can be precomputed at generation time. Occasionally, in highly embedded grammars, the inclusion of AllSyncs (which tends to be "large") may detract from the efficacy of the technique, but with careful choice of the placing of WEAK and SYNC keywords it can work remarkably well.

12.4.3 Grammar checks

Coco/R performs several tests to check that the grammar submitted to it is well-formed. In particular it checks that

If any of these tests fail, no code generation takes place. In other respects the system is more lenient. Coco/R issues warnings if analysis of the grammar reveals that

If Coco/R reports an LL(1) error for a construct that involves alternatives or iterations, the user should be aware that the generated parser is highly likely to misbehave. As simple examples, productions like the following

      P = "a" A | "a" B .
      Q = [ "c" B ] "c"  .
      R = { "d" C } "d" .

result in generation of code that can be described algorithmically as

      IF Sym = "a" THEN Accept("a"); A ELSIF Sym = "a" THEN Accept("a"); B END;
      IF Sym = "c" THEN Accept("c"); B END; Accept("c");
      WHILE Sym = "d" DO Accept("d"); C END; Accept("d");

Of these, only the second can possibly ever have any meaning (as it does in the case of the "dangling else"). If these situations arise it may often be necessary to redesign the grammar.

12.4.4 Semantic errors

The parsers generated by Coco/R handle the reporting of syntax errors automatically. The default driver programs can summarize these errors at the end of compilation, along with source code line and column references, or produce source code listings with the errors clearly marked with explanatory messages (an example of such a listing appears in section 12.4.7). Pure syntax analysis cannot reveal static semantic errors, but Coco/R supports a mechanism whereby the grammar designer can arrange for such errors to be reported in the same style as is used for syntactic errors. The parser class has routines that can be called from within the semantic actions, with an error number parameter that can be associated with a matching user-defined message.

In the grammar of our case study, for example, it might make sense to introduce a semantic check into the actions for the non-terminal Range. The grammar allows for a range of values to be summed; clearly this will be awkward if the "upper" limit is supplied as a lower value than the "lower" limit. The code below shows how this could be detected, resulting in the reporting of the semantic error 200.

    Range<double &r>
    =                        (. double low, high; .)
      Amount<low>            (. r = low; .)
      [ ".." Amount<high>    (. if (low > high) SemError(200);
                                else while (low < high) { low++; r += low; } .)
      ] .

(Alternatively, we could also arrange for the system to run the loop in the appropriate direction, and not regard this as an error at all.) Numbers chosen for semantic error reporting must start at some fairly large number to avoid conflict with the low numbers chosen internally by Coco/R to report syntax errors.

12.4.5 Interfacing to support modules

It will not have escaped the reader's attention that the code specified in the actions of the attributed grammar will frequently need to make use of routines that are not defined by the grammar itself. Two typical situations are exemplified in our case study.

Firstly, it has seen fit to make use of the printf routine from the stdio library found in all standard C and C++ implementations. To make use of such routines - or ones defined in other support libraries that the application may need - it is necessary simply to incorporate the appropriate #define, IMPORT or USES clauses into the grammar before the scanner specification, as discussed in section 12.2.

Secondly, the need arises in routines like Amount to be able to convert a string, recognized by the scanner as a number, into a numerical value that can be passed back via a formal parameter to the calling routine (Range). This situation arises so frequently that the parser interface defines several routines to simplify the extraction of this string. The production for Amount, when fully attributed, might take the form

    Amount<double &a>
    = number                 (. char str[100];
                                LexString(str, 100);
                                a = atof(str); .) .

The LexString routine (defined in the parser interface) retrieves the string into the local string str, whence it is converted to the double value a by a call to the atof function that is defined in the stdlib library. If the functionality of routines like LexString and LexName is inadequate, the user can incorporate calls to the even lower level routines defined in the scanner interface, such as were mentioned in section 12.3.6.

12.4.6 The parser interface

The parser generated by Coco/R defines various routines that may be called from an application. As for the scanner, the form of the interface depends on the host system. For the C++ version, it effectively takes the form below. (As before, there is actually an underlying class hierarchy, and the declarations are really slightly different from those presented here).

The functionality provides for the parser to

  class grammarParser
  { public:
      grammarParser(AbsScanner *S, CRError *E);
      // Constructs parser associated with scanner S and error reporter E

      void Parse();
      // Parses the source

      int Successful();
      // Returns 1 if no errors have been recorded while parsing

      void LexString(char *lex, int size);
      // Retrieves at most size characters from the most recently parsed
      // token into lex

      void LexName(char *lex, int size);
      // Retrieves at most size characters from the most recently parsed
      // token into lex, converted to upper case if IGNORE CASE was specified

      void LookAheadString(char *lex, int size);
      // Retrieves at most size characters from the lookahead token into lex

      void LookAheadName(char *lex, int size);
      // Retrieves at most size characters from the lookahead token into lex,
      // converted to upper case if IGNORE CASE was specified

      void SynError(int errorcode);
      // Reports syntax error denoted by errorcode

      void SemError(int errorcode);
      // Reports semantic error denoted by errorcode

      // ... Prototypes of functions for parsing each non-terminal in grammar

12.4.7 A complete example

To place all of the ideas of the last sections in context, we present a complete version of the attributed grammar for our case study:

  $CX     /* pragmas - generate compiler, and use C++ classes */

    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>

      digit =  "0123456789" .

    IGNORE CHR(9) .. CHR(13)

      number =   digit { digit } [ "." digit { digit } ]
               | digit { digit } CONTEXT ( ".." ) .

      page   = "page" .        (. printf("\f"); .)

      =                        (. double total = 0.0, sub; .)
        WEAK "clear"
        { Subtotal<sub>        (. total += sub; .)
        } SYNC "total"         (. printf("   total: %5.2f\n", total); .)

      Subtotal<double &s>
      =                        (. double r; .)
        { WEAK "+" Range<r>    (. s += r; .)
        } SYNC
        (   "accept"           (. printf("subtotal: %5.2f\n", s); .)
          | "cancel"           (. s = 0.0; .)
        ) .

      Range<double &r>
      =                        (. double low, high; .)
        Amount<low>            (. r = low; .)
        [ ".." Amount<high>    (. if (low > high) SemError(200);
                                  else while (low < high)
                                  { low++; r += low; } .)
        ] .

      Amount<double &a>
      = number                 (. char str[100];
                                  LexString(str, 100);
                                  a = atof(str); .) .

  END Calc.

To show how errors are reported, we show the output from applying the generated system to input that is fairly obviously incorrect.

        1  clr
    ***** ^  clear  expected (E2)
        2  1 + 2 + 3 .. 4 + 4..5 accep
    *****                        ^  +  expected (E4)
        3  3.4 5 cancel
    *****      ^  +  expected (E4)
        4  3 + 4 .. 2 + 6 accept
    *****           ^ High < Low (E200)
        5  TOTAL
    *****  ^ unexpected symbol in Calc (E10)

12.5 The driver program

The most important tasks that Coco/R has to perform are the construction of the scanner and parser. However, these always have to be incorporated into a complete program before they become useful.

12.5.1 Essentials of the driver program

Any main routine for a driver program must be a refinement of ideas that can be summarized:

    IF Okay THEN
      IF Successful() THEN ApplicationSpecificAction END

Much of this can be automated, of course, and Coco/R can generate such a program, consistent with its other components. To do so requires the use of an appropriate frame file. A generic version of this is supplied with the distribution. Although it may be suitable for constructing simple prototypes, it acts best as a model from which an application-specific frame file can easily be derived.

12.5.2 Customizing the driver frame file

A customized driver frame file generally requires at least three simple additions:


12.1 Study the code produced by Coco/R from the grammar used in this case study. How closely does it correspond to what you might have written by hand?

12.2 Experiment with the grammar suggested in the case study. What happens if the CONTEXT clause is omitted in the scanner specification? What happens if the placement of the WEAK and SYNC keywords is changed?

12.3 Extend the system in various ways. For example, direct output to a file other than stdout, use the iostreams library rather than the stdio library, develop the actions so that they conform to "traditional" C (rather than using reference parameters), or arrange that ranges can be correctly interpreted in either order.

Further reading

The text by Rechenberg and Mössenböck (1989) describes the original Coco system in great detail. This system did not have an integrated scanner generator, but made use of one known as Alex (Mössenböck, 1986). Dobler and Pirklbauer (1990) and Dobler (1991) discuss Coco-2, a variant of Coco that incorporated automatic and sophisticated error recovery into table-driven LL(1) parsers. Literature on the inner workings of Coco/R is harder to come by, but the reader is referred to the papers by Mössenböck (1990a, 1990b).

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