A grammar

Unlike most languages, a compilation unit in Silver is not tied to a file, but instead to a directory. A grammar (“module”) consists of the declarations and definitions found in all files with a “.sv” or “” suffix in the directory identifying the grammar.

For example, a:module:name corresponds to a/modules/name/*.sv and a/modules/name/* in the first matching directory in the grammar search path given to the Silver compiler.

Files ending in .sv are processed as described below; for more information on how files are processed, see the Literate Silver docs.

The Silver files in a grammar optionally specify their grammar name as the first declaration of the file. This practice is recommended, to avoid any potential problems with grammar search paths.

grammar a:module:name;


All declarations in a grammar have a name. This name is sequence of alpha-numeric characters or underscores beginning with a letter. This name is called the short name of the construct.

The full name of such a construct is formed by prepending the name of the grammar in which it is defined and an additional colon.


 nonterminal Expr;

in the grammar a:module:name will have short name Expr and full name a:module:name:Expr.

Grammar-wide module statements

Importing other grammars

Other grammars can be imported to every file in a grammar using the imports statement:

imports another:module:name;

All symbols in that grammar are imported, including any symbols in grammars that grammars exported by the imported grammar.

See the later section on import modifiers.

Exporting other grammars

Other grammars can be exported by a grammar using the exports statement:

exports more:modules;

No modifiers are possible on an exports statement. There is no equivalent export statement.

Conditional exports

Although not a part of Silver’s focus on extensibility, Silver supports a notion of conditional exports to facilitate modularity. This allows, for example, code specific to supporting a feature to be factored out, to allow for builds that do not include that feature. (This is unnecessary for extensions because they should forward to the host language. But modular specifications of a host language will likely take advantage of this feature, as they often cannot forward to the kernel “host” language.)

exports a:grammar:to:export with if:this:grammar;

This causes any grammar that imports the grammar this statement appear in to also import if:this:grammar but ONLY if that grammar also imports a:grammar:to:export. Either directly, by importing that grammar, or indirectly, by importing something that exports that grammar. (But importing something that merely imports that grammar will not cause this to trigger!)

Although this sounds as if it could cause problems, the feature is typically only used to resolve the “intersection problem,” where glue code is necessary to fit two features together, and the above semantics “just work.” (Again, a reminder that this is for modular specifications of the host language. True extensions require no glue code to compose, as forwarding takes care of the issue.)

For parsers, only those grammars included in the parser are used to trigger conditional exports. So if the grammar includes a trigger, it won’t necessarily trigger for the parser, unless that grammar is also included in the parser’s list of grammars.

File specific module statements

Importing a grammar

The simple form of an import statement is

import <grammar-name> ;

and has the effect of making all exported names from the named grammar visible in the current file. Note that both the full and short names are made visible in the importing grammar. Typically this includes all the nonterminals, terminals, attributes, and productions that are declared in the grammar.

Import modifiers

Both import and imports support different ways to control the short names imported. Note that full names are always imported.

Only including some names

The import can be limited to including only a few short names with a only clause. For example:

imports silver:langutil only ast;
import core only Maybe, just, nothing;

Excluding some names

The import can exclude some short names with a hiding clause:

imports silver:langutil hiding pp, unparse;
import core hiding implode;

Renaming some short names

The import can rename some short names using a with clause. Note that full names are again left unaffected.

imports silver:langutil:pp with implode as ppimplode;
import core with append as listappend, List as BuiltinList;

Renaming is also supported in conjunction with only and hiding:

import core only Maybe, orElse with orElse as maybeOrElse;
import core hiding List with Maybe as BuiltinMaybe;

Qualified imports

The short name assigned to each imported symbol can be qualified using the as clause:

import silver:langutil:pp as pp;

This will result in all the the short names imported to be prefixed with pp:. For example, the implode symbol will now be pp:implode. Of course, full names are unaffected, as always.