The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming, 2021, Vol. 5, Issue 2, Article 11
Submission date: 2020-02-06
Publication date: 2020-11-01
Full text: PDF
Context: An island parser reads an input text and builds the parse (or
abstract syntax) tree of only the programming constructs of interest in
the text. These constructs are called islands and the rest of the text
is called water, which the parser ignores and skips over. Since an
island parser does not have to parse all the details of the input, it is
often easy to develop but still useful enough for a number of software
engineering tools. When a parser generator is used, the developer can
implement an island parser by just describing a small number of grammar
rules, for example, in Parsing Expression Grammar (PEG).
Inquiry: In practice, however, the grammar rules are often complicated
since the developer must define the water inside the island; otherwise,
the island parsing will not reduce the total number of grammar
rules. When describing the grammar rules for such water, the developer
must consider other rules and enumerate a set of symbols, which we call
alternative symbols. Due to this difficulty, island parsing seems to be
not widely used today despite its usefulness in many applications.
Approach: This paper proposes the lake symbols for addressing this
difficulty in developing an island parser. It also presents an extension
to PEG for supporting the lake symbols. The lake symbols automate the
enumeration of the alternative symbols for the water inside an
island. The paper proposes an algorithm for translating the extended PEG
to the normal PEG, which can be given to an existing parser generator
based on PEG.
Knowledge: The user can use lake symbols to define water without
specifying each alternative symbol. Our algorithms can calculate all
alternative symbols for a lake symbol, based on where the lake symbol is
used in the grammar.
Grounding: We implemented a parser generator accepting our extended PEG
and implemented 36 island parsers for Java and 20 island parsers for
Python. Our experiments show that the lake symbols reduce 42 % of
grammar rules for Java and 89 % of rules for Python on average,
excluding the case where islands are expressions.
Importance: This work eases the use of island parsing. Lake symbols
enable the user to define the water inside the island simpler than
before. Defining water inside the island is essential to apply island
parsing for practical programming languages.