Terminal declarations

Quick examples:

terminal Identifier /[A-Za-z_][A-Za-z0-9_]*/;

terminal BlockComment / \/\* ([^\*]|\*+[^\*\/])* \*+\/ /;


Terminals are declared using the keyword terminal followed by a name, and a regular expression inside forward slashes (/).

terminal Name /regex/ terminal modifiers...;

The terminal name, like all type names in Silver, must start with a capital letter. Only standard DFA-style regular expressions are supported (e.g. no back references, lookahead, etc.)

Character classes are not currently supported, but are in the works.

Whitespace inside the regex is allowed and whitespace is presently ignored. If whitespace is desired in the regular expression it should be escaped ('\ ').

Easy terminal extension

An extension allows a terminal declaration to use single-quoted string literals (non-regexes). For example:

terminal Boolean  'bool';
terminal Multiply '*';

Terminal “attributes”

From a value of a terminal type, you can access two pseudo-attributes. The lexeme gives the string that matched the regex, and location gives the location information of where the terminal was found in the parsed file.

Note that for location information, line starts at 1, and column starts at 0. Different editors use different conventions… unfortunately.

Terminal Modifiers

Ignore terminals

Ignored layout terminals can be specified for an entire grammar prefixing the terminal declaration with the ignore keyword:

ignore terminal WhiteSpace /[\n\t\ ]+/;

The layout of nonterminals by default includes all ignore terminals exported by the grammar in which the nonterminal is declared.

Terminal precedence

Operator terminals can be given a parsing precedence:

terminal Plus  '+' precedence = 11;
terminal Times '*' precedence = 12;

The numbers are arbitrary, relative to each other. A higher number means “binds more tightly.”

Terminal association

The association for a terminal can also be given:

terminal Plus  '+' precedence = 11, association = left;
terminal Times '*' precedence = 12, association = left;

‘left’ and ‘right’ are valid. Absent a declaration, terminals are assumed to be non-associative.

Copper-specific modifiers

Lexer classes

Terminals can be assigned multiple lexer classes:

terminal Global 'global' lexer classes {KEYWORD};
terminal Length 'length' lexer classes {KEYWORD, BUILTIN};


Terminals can have dominates and submits lists:

terminal Identifier /[a-z]+/ submits to {KEYWORD};
terminal Redundant 'keyword' dominates {Identifier};

Each element of the list should refer either to a lexer class, or a terminal.

It’s generally preferred to do dominates/submits on the lexer class declarations than on the terminals themselves, however.

Semantic action code

Terminals can provide code to be executed when that terminal is shifted by the parser (or ignored, in the case of layout terminals.)

terminal Magic 'more magic'
action { 
  print "how does " ++ lexeme ++ " work, but magic not?";

Inside this action block, a couple of variables are available:

Variable Type Contents
lexeme String The string matched by the regular expression
filename String The filename given to the parser, when it was invoked. (Unless otherwise changed!)
line Integer The starting line of this terminal (begins with 1)
column Integer The starting column of this terminal (begins with 0)

In addition, the filename, line, and column variables can be assigned to in the action block, but this updates the position the next terminal will believe it starts at, not the current terminal. (This is often used to deal with CPP directives in the parser.)