Polymorphic Syntax Definition

Eelco Visser. Polymorphic Syntax Definition. Theoretical Computer Science, 199(1-2):57-86, 1998. [doi]


Context-free grammars are used in several algebraic specification formalisms instead of first-order signatures for the definition of the structure of algebras, because grammars provide better notation than signatures. The rigidity of these first-order structures enforces a choice between strongly typed structures with little genericity or generic operations over untyped structures. In two-level signatures level 1 defines the algebra of types used at level 0 providing the possibility to define polymorphic abstract data types. Two-level grammars are the grammatical counterpart of two-level signatures. This paper discusses the correspondence between context-free grammars and first-order signatures, the extension of this correspondence to two-level grammars and signatures, examples of the usage of two-level grammars for polymorphic syntax definition, a restriction of the class of two-level grammars for which the parsing problem is decidable, a parsing algorithm that yields a minimal and finite set of most general parse trees for this class of grammars, and a proof of its correctness.