Research and Advances

What can we do about the unnecessary diversity of notation for syntactic definitions?


The population of programming languages is steadily growing, and there is no end of this growth in sight. Many language definitions appear in journals, many are found in technical reports, and perhaps an even greater number remains confined to proprietory circles. After frequent exposure to these definitions, one cannot fail to notice the lack of “common denominators.” The only widely accepted fact is that the language structure is defined by a syntax. But even notation for syntactic description eludes any commonly agreed standard form, although the underlying ancestor is invariably the Backus-Naur Form of the Algol 60 report. As variations are often only slight, they become annoying for their very lack of an apparent motivation.

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