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Man Pages


Manual Reference Pages  -  MARPA::MARPA (3)

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NAME

Marpa - Parse any Language You Can Describe in BNF

CONTENTS

SYNOPSIS



    use Marpa;

    my $grammar = Marpa::Grammar->new(
        {   start   => Expression,
            actions => My_Actions,
            default_action => first_arg,
            rules   => [
                { lhs => Expression, rhs => [qw/Term/] },
                { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Factor/] },
                { lhs => Factor, rhs => [qw/Number/] },
                { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Term Add Term/], action => do_add },
                {   lhs    => Factor,
                    rhs    => [qw/Factor Multiply Factor/],
                    action => do_multiply
                },
            ],
        }
    );

    $grammar->precompute();

    my $recce = Marpa::Recognizer->new( { grammar => $grammar } );

    my @tokens = (
        [ Number, 42 ],
        [ Multiply, ],
        [ Number, 1 ],
        [ Add, ],
        [ Number, 7 ],
    );

    $recce->tokens( \@tokens );

    sub My_Actions::do_add {
        my ( undef, $t1, undef, $t2 ) = @_;
        return $t1 + $t2;
    }

    sub My_Actions::do_multiply {
        my ( undef, $t1, undef, $t2 ) = @_;
        return $t1 * $t2;
    }

    sub My_Actions::first_arg { shift; return shift; }

    my $value_ref = $recce->value;
    my $value = $value_ref ? ${$value_ref} : No Parse;



DESCRIPTION

    This release is OBSOLETE

This release is obsolete. Please use the more up-to-date versions of Marpa instead. As of this writing, I recommend Marpa::XS, which is beta, and whose interface I expect to keep stable. For those without a C compiler, Marpa::PP is a Pure Perl alternative.

This is <B>alphaB> software. There may be bugs. Please be careful. Do not rely on it for anything mission-critical.

    Overview

Marpa parses any language whose grammar can be written in BNF. That includes recursive grammars, ambiguous grammars, infinitely ambiguous grammars and grammars with useless or empty productions.

This document contains a top-level overview of the API for the Marpa parse engine. The two examples in this document show the typical flows of Marpa method calls. This document will use these examples to describe the basic features of Marpa in semi-tutorial fashion. Marpa’s advanced features, and full reference details of all features, can be found in the other Marpa API documents.

    The Three Phases

A parser needs to:
o Accept a grammar.
o Read input.
o Return values from the parses, according to a semantics.
In Marpa these three tasks are, for the most part, distinct phases. Grammars are Marpa::Grammar objects. The reading of input and the evaluation of the parse according to the semantics is performed by Marpa::Recognizer objects.

EXAMPLE 1: A SIMPLE CALCULATOR

The synopsis shows the code for a very simple calculator. It handles only addition and multiplication of integers. This section explains, line by line, how it works.

    Marpa::Grammar::new



    my $grammar = Marpa::Grammar->new(
        {   start   => Expression,
            actions => My_Actions,
            default_action => first_arg,
            rules   => [
                { lhs => Expression, rhs => [qw/Term/] },
                { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Factor/] },
                { lhs => Factor, rhs => [qw/Number/] },
                { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Term Add Term/], action => do_add },
                {   lhs    => Factor,
                    rhs    => [qw/Factor Multiply Factor/],
                    action => do_multiply
                },
            ],
        }
    );



Marpa grammars are Marpa::Grammar objects. They are created with the Marpa::Grammar::new constructor. The arguments to Marpa::Grammar::new are references to hashes of named arguments. In the key/value pairs of these hashes, the hash key is the name of the argument, and the hash value is the value of the named argument.

The start Named Argument



    start => Expression,



The start named argument is required. Its value is a string containing the name of the grammar’s start symbol.

Named Arguments for the Semantics



            actions => My_Actions,
            default_action => first_arg,



The actions and default_action named arguments specify semantics. Their argument values are strings, which acquire their semantics during evaluation.

Evaluation will be described later. Peeking ahead, the default_action named argument will be interpreted as an <B>action nameB>. This action name will resolve to a Perl closure that implements the semantics for rules without a per-rule semantics. actions will be the name of a Perl package where Marpa looks for the <B>semantic Perl closuresB>.

The rules Named Argument



    rules => [
        { lhs => Expression, rhs => [qw/Term/] },
        { lhs => Term,       rhs => [qw/Factor/] },
        { lhs => Factor,     rhs => [qw/Number/] },
        { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Term Add Term/], action => do_add },
        {   lhs    => Factor,
            rhs    => [qw/Factor Multiply Factor/],
            action => do_multiply
        },
    ],



The value of the rules named argument is a reference to an array of <B>rule descriptorsB>. In this example, all the rule descriptors are in the long form — they are references to hashes of <B>rule propertiesB>. In each key/value pair of a rule descriptor hash, the key is the name of a rule property, and the hash value is the value of that rule property.

The lhs Property

The value of the lhs rule property must be a string containing the name of the rule’s left hand side symbol. Every Marpa rule must have a left hand side symbol.

The rhs Property

The value of the rhs property is a reference to an array of strings containing names of the rule’s right hand symbols, in order. This array may be zero length, in which case this is an <B>empty ruleB> — a rule with no symbols on the right hand side. There are no empty rules in this example.

The action Property

The value of the action rule property is a string. Peeking ahead, each action property string will be interpreted as an action name. This action name will be resolved to a Perl closure that implements the rule’s semantics.

    Marpa::Grammar::precompute



    $grammar->precompute();



Before a Marpa grammar object can be used by a Marpa recognizer, it must be <B>precomputedB>. Precomputation compiles data structures that the recognizer will need.

    Marpa::Recognizer::new



    my $recce = Marpa::Recognizer->new( { grammar => $grammar } );



Marpa::Recognizer::new creates a new recognizer. Its arguments are references to hashes of named arguments. In this example the only named argument is the required argument: "grammar". The value of the grammar named argument must be a precomputed Marpa grammar for the recognizer to use in building its tables.

    Marpa::Recognizer::tokens



    my @tokens = (
        [ Number, 42 ],
        [ Multiply, ],
        [ Number, 1 ],
        [ Add, ],
        [ Number, 7 ],
    );

    $recce->tokens( \@tokens );



Marpa::Recognizer::tokens reads the input to be recognized. Its first (and in our example, only) argument is a reference to an array of <B>token descriptorsB>. Each token descriptor is an array reference.

The first element of a token descriptor is a string containing the <B>token nameB>. The token name must be the name of a valid terminal symbol in the grammar. By default all symbols are valid as terminal symbols, unless a grammar contains empty rules.

The grammars in our examples do not contain empty rules, and therefore we are free to use any symbol in the grammar as a token name. For more on terminals, including how to explicitly mark terminal symbols when the grammar contains empty rules, see Terminals in Marpa::Grammar.

The second element of a token descriptor is the <B>token valueB>. A token value must be a Perl scalar, but otherwise its form and semantics are entirely up to the application. If the token value is omitted, it is a Perl undef. In the calculator example, the values of the "Add and Multiply" tokens are never used, so they are allowed to default to undef.

    Marpa::Recognizer::value



    my $value_ref = $recce->value;
    my $value = $value_ref ? ${$value_ref} : No Parse;



The Marpa::Recognizer::value method returns a reference to the parse result’s value, if there was a parse result. If there was no parse result, Marpa::Recognizer::value returns undef.

    Resolving the Semantics

The first thing Marpa::Recognizer::value needs to do is to resolve the semantics. <B>Resolving the semanticsB> means mapping the action names into semantic Perl closures. <B>Semantic Perl closuresB> are Perl closures which directly implement semantics. In this example, the actions named argument is interpreted as a Perl package name. Marpa will look for its semantic Perl closures in that package.



    actions => My_Actions,





    { lhs => Factor, rhs => [qw/Factor Multiply Factor/], action => do_multiply },



For example, the action property for the above rule is "do_multiply" and the actions named argument to the grammar was "My_Actions". So Marpa looks for a closure whose fully qualified name is My_Actions::do_multiply, which it finds:



    sub My_Actions::do_multiply {
        my ( undef, $t1, undef, $t2 ) = @_;
        return $t1 * $t2;
    }



Rules do not always have action properties. That is the case with these rules in this example:



    { lhs => Expression, rhs => [qw/Term/] },
    { lhs => Term, rhs => [qw/Factor/] },
    { lhs => Factor, rhs => [qw/Number/] },



Where there is no action rule property, Marpa tries to use the lhs property as an action name. When Marpa cannot resolve the lhs property as an action name, it will fall back to using the default action for the grammar.

For example, in the first rule in the above display, Marpa will look for a Perl closure with the fully qualified name "My_Actions::Expression". When Marpa does not find a closure by that name, Marpa will fall back to trying to find a semantic Perl closure using the default action.

The other two rules in the above display work similarly. Marpa will look for Perl closures named "My_Actions::Term and My_Actions::Factor". It will not find them and will fall back to trying to use the default action, as described next.



    default_action => first_arg,



The default_action named argument is resolved in the same way as are the action properties of the rules. In this example, default_action is specified as "first_arg" and resolves to My_Actions::first_arg.

    Semantic Perl Closures



    sub My_Actions::first_arg { shift; return shift; }





    sub My_Actions::do_add {
        my ( undef, $t1, undef, $t2 ) = @_;
        return $t1 + $t2;
    }



The semantic Perl closures are callbacks, called when each node in a parse tree is evaluated. The callbacks receive one or more arguments. The first argument to a semantic Perl closure is always a per-parse-result object, which the callbacks can use as a scratchpad. In these examples, the per-parse-result object is not used.

For a non-empty rule, the second and any subsequent arguments to the callback are the values, in lexical order, of the symbols on the right hand side of the rule. If the semantic Perl closure is for an empty rule, the per-parse-result object will be its only argument.

Every semantic Perl closure is expected to return a value. With one exception, this value is passed up to a parent node as an argument. The exception is the value for the start rule. The return value for the start rule becomes the value of the parse result.

Rules with no action specified for them take their semantics from the default_action named argument. If there is no default action for a grammar, rules without no action specified for them return a Perl undef.

EXAMPLE 2: AN AMBIGUOUS PARSE

This is the same calculator as before, rewritten to be ambiguous. Rather than give multiplication precedence over addition, the rewritten calculator allows any order of operations. In this example, the semantic Perl closures (My_Actions::do_add, etc.) and the @tokens array remain the same as before.

Eliminating precedence makes the grammar shorter, but it also means there can be multiple parse results, and the different parse results can have different values. In this application we decide, for each input, to return the value for every one of the parse results.



    use Marpa;

    my $ambiguous_grammar = Marpa::Grammar->new(
        {   start   => E,
            actions => My_Actions,
            rules   => [
                [ E, [qw/E Add E/],      do_add ],
                [ E, [qw/E Multiply E/], do_multiply ],
                [ E, [qw/Number/],       ],
            ],
            default_action => first_arg,
        }
    );

    $ambiguous_grammar->precompute();

    my $ambiguous_recce =
        Marpa::Recognizer->new( { grammar => $ambiguous_grammar } );

    $ambiguous_recce->tokens( \@tokens );

    my @values = ();
    while ( defined( my $ambiguous_value_ref = $ambiguous_recce->value() ) ) {
        push @values, ${$ambiguous_value_ref};
    }



    Short Form Rule Descriptors



    rules => [
        [ E, [qw/E Add E/],      do_add ],
        [ E, [qw/E Multiply E/], do_multiply ],
        [ E, [qw/Number/], ],
    ],



The rule descriptors in the ambiguous example demonstrate the short or array form of rule descriptors. Array form rule descriptors are references to arrays. Here the elements are, in order, the lhs property, the rhs property, and the action property.

    Marpa::Recognizer::value



    my @values = ();
    while ( defined( my $ambiguous_value_ref = $ambiguous_recce->value() ) ) {
        push @values, ${$ambiguous_value_ref};
    }



When called more than once, the Marpa::Recognizer::value method iterates through the parse results. For each call, it returns a reference to the value of a parse result. At the end of the iteration, after all parse results have been returned, Marpa::Recognizer::value returns undef. If there were no parse results, Marpa::Recognizer::value returns undef the first time that it is called.

ERRORS AND EXCEPTIONS

Methods in the Marpa API do not return errors. When there are errors, Marpa API methods throw an exception.

INHERITANCE

Classes in the Marpa API are not designed to be inherited.

OTHER DOCUMENTS

    Basic Documents

This document gives a semi-tutorial overview of the entire Marpa API. For full details on Marpa’s grammar objects and their methods, see the Marpa::Grammar document. For full details on Marpa’s recognizer objects and their methods, see the Marpa::Recognizer document.

Marpa::Parse_Terms is intended as a quick refresher in parsing terminology. Marpa’s standard semantics are fully described in the Marpa::Semantics document. Techniques for tracing and for debugging your Marpa grammars are described in the Marpa::Tracing document and the Marpa::Debug document.

    Advanced Documents

The Marpa::Advanced::Implementation describes Marpa’s internals. The Marpa::Advanced::Models document (yet to be written) will provide details about alternative models of the input for Marpa.

    Academic Documents

For those with a theoretical bent, my sources, and other useful references, are described in Marpa::Advanced::Bibliography. Marpa::Advanced::Algorithm describes the Marpa algorithm itself.

AUTHOR

Jeffrey Kegler

    Why is it Called ‘‘Marpa’’?

Marpa is the name of the greatest of the Tibetan translators. In his time (the 11th century AD) Indian Buddhism was at its height. A generation of scholars was devoting itself to producing Tibetan versions of Buddhism’s Sanskrit scriptures. Marpa became the greatest of them, and today is known as Marpa Lotsawa: Marpa the Translator.

    Blatant Plug

Marpa is a character in my novel, <B>The God ProofB>. <B>The God ProofB> centers around Kurt Goedel’s proof of God’s existence. Yes, that Kurt Goedel, and yes, he really did work out a God Proof (it’s in his Collected Works, Vol. 3, pp. 403-404). <B>The God ProofB> is available as a free download (<http://www.lulu.com/content/933192>). It can be purchased in print form at Amazon.com: <http://www.amazon.com/God-Proof-Jeffrey-Kegler/dp/1434807355>.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Marpa is directly derived from two other parsers. The first was discovered by John Aycock and R. Nigel Horspool and is described in their Aycock and Horspool 2002. The second was described by Joop Leo and is described in Leo 1991. Aycock, Horspool, and Leo, in turn, based their algorithms on the algorithm discovered by Jay Earley. I combined the Aycock-Horspool algorithm with the Leo algorithm, and added significant changes of my own. More details on the algorithm itself are in another document.

I’m grateful to Randal Schwartz for his support over the years that I’ve been working on Marpa. My chats with Larry Wall have been few and brief, but his openness to new ideas has been a major encouragement and his insight into the relationship between natural language and computer language has been a major influence. More recently, Allison Randal and Patrick Michaud have been generous with their very valuable time. They might have preferred that I volunteered as a Parrot cage-cleaner, but if so, they were too polite to say.

Many at perlmonks.org answered questions for me. I used answers from chromatic, Corion, dragonchild, jdporter, samtregar and Juerd, among others, in writing this module. I’m just as grateful to those whose answers I didn’t use. My inquiries were made while I was thinking out the code and it wasn’t always 100% clear what I was after. If the butt is moved after the round, it shouldn’t count against the archer.

In writing the Pure Perl version of Marpa, I benefited from studying the work of Francois Desarmenien (Parse::Yapp), Damian Conway (Parse::RecDescent) and Graham Barr (Scalar::Util). Adam Kennedy patiently instructed me in module writing, both on the finer points and on issues about which I really should have know better.

SUPPORT

Marpa comes without warranty. Support is provided on a volunteer basis through the standard mechanisms for CPAN modules. The Support document has details.

LICENSE AND COPYRIGHT

Copyright 2007-2010 Jeffrey Kegler, all rights reserved. Marpa is free software under the Perl license. For details see the LICENSE file in the Marpa distribution.
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