My Programming Escapades
Andraz Bajt
Making a programming language Part 2 - something that kinda works

Table of contents, Whole project on github, relevant version on github

In the Part 1 I posted a working repl(read-eval-print-loop) for simple math expressions but I kinda cheated and only explained how I built the AST.

AST elements

Just scala case classes

sealed trait Expression
case class Number(n: Double) extends Expression
case class Add(left: Expression, right: Expression) extends Expression
case class Subtract(left: Expression, right: Expression) extends Expression
case class Multiply(left: Expression, right: Expression) extends Expression
case class Divide(left: Expression, right: Expression) extends Expression

Parser combinators revisited

I use power of scala library to cheat a bit and do lexing and parsing in one step.Basic parser combinators from scala api documentation, everything you need to define productions in your grammar.

p1 ~ p2 // sequencing: must match p1 followed by p2
p1 | p2 // alternation: must match either p1 or p2, with preference given to p1
p1.?    // optionality: may match p1 or not
p1.*    // repetition: matches any number of repetitions of p1

However, to transform the matched string to an AST you need something more

private def number: Parser[Expression] = """\d+\.?\d*""".r ^^ {
  s => Number(s.toDouble)

Firstly, in the RegexParser class is an implicit conversion from Regex to Parser. So I could write

private def number: Parser[String] = """\d+\.?\d*""".r

Notice the type annotation. Inferred type would be Regex, since this function is private I can still have implicit conversion, but I rather have all parsers be of type Parser[_].The ^^ part is an action combinator - a map function. But as ^^ is only available on Parser instances my regex has already been implicitly converted. So in my lambda I already know(scala can infer) the type of s to be String. One last example

private def term: Parser[Expression] = factor ~ rep(("*" | "/") ~ factor) ^^ {
  case head ~ tail =>
    var tree: Expression = head
    tail.foreach {
        case "*" ~ e => tree = Multiply(tree, e)
        case "/" ~ e => tree = Divide(tree, e)

Function rep is also from Parsers class matches any number of repetitions(including 0). Here's the type signature

def rep[T](p:  Parser[T]): Parser[List[T]]

The catch here is that ~ returns a single parser that matches both sides, but fortunately it can be pattern matched to extract both sides. And I can even use meaningful names since I am in fact matching a head with an optional tail. Inside the case statement I used more imperative style to build a tree, nothing fancy here. Folding was a bit awkward in this case for me(maybe I'm just incompetent) so I went with a for each loop.Apply the same pattern to +/- part and you have yourself a tree.Oh, yeah…and the top parser function. A bit changed from last time, to yield useful error messages

def apply(s: String): List[Expression] = parseAll(expr, s) match {
  case Success(tree, _) => Right(tree)
  case NoSuccess(msg, _) => Left(msg)


Now what I promised in previous post - evaluation. At first I planned on compiling the code for JVM but I just wanted to see some results first so I decided to do a simple interpreter, no compiling whatsoever - for now. My first approach was to modify the Expression

sealed trait Expression{
  def eval(): Double

and implement this on all case classes hardcoding the double type and coupling AST representation and evaluation together. Yikes. Granted, it worked, but what an ugly way to do it. So I did a hard reset(always use git folks! or something similar) and went about doing a standalone evaluator. Since scala's pattern matching skills are awesome and I'm already using case classes why not just do that.

object Evaluator {
  import Tokens._
  def apply(e: Expression): Double = e match {
    case Number(n) => n
    case Add(l, r) => apply(l) + apply(r)
    case Subtract(l, r) => apply(l) - apply(r)
    case Multiply(l, r) => apply(l) * apply(r)
    case Divide(l, r) => apply(l) / apply(r)

This is all the code. Just pattern matching and recursion. But yes, still hardcoded double as the data-type. Looking back, not a great decision…but hey I got something working and this is fun.

next time: Adding features(contants, exponents, function calls)

Last modified on 2012-08-30