Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Production systems: or can we do better than BNF

Since the development of BNF, the definition of the syntax of programming languages has been almost universally associated with context-free requirements. Yet numerous interesting and difficult issues in syntax stem from the context-sensitive requirements, notably the compatibility between the declaration of an identifier and its uses, the correspondence between actual and formal parameters, and issues arising from block structure. This paper explores the use of a formal notation called Production Systems in providing a readable and complete formal definition of syntax. As a practical illustration, a small but significant subset of PL/I is considered. A more detailed presentation, as well as the application to define abstract syntax and translations between languages, is given in a previous paper by the author.

The full text of this article is premium content


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.