This article is dedicated to the memory of John McCarthy (1927–2011) We are constantly on a quest for the elegant combination of simplicity and expressiveness in computer languages—what Alan Kay calls the “Maxwell’s Equations of Software“. An important early milestone was John McCarthy’s LISP [1] (The evolution of these ideas and the thinking behind them […]

## Fexpr the Ultimate Lambda

## Parsing Expression Grammars, part 4

This article could probably be called “Left Recursion Considered Harmful“. PEG parsers are unambiguous and relatively easy to reason about. A little reasoning about left-recursive PEGs shows that they don’t make sense. The motivation to use left recursion seems to be driven by the desire to build left-associative parse-trees for arithmetic operators. However, parse-tree generation […]

## Parsing Expression Grammars, part 3

We build on the parsers from part 2 of this series to enhance and extend their capability. In particular, we extend the concept of modular grammars to construct chains of parsers which define a multi-stage transformation pipeline. The parsers forming these chain are enhanced to match and transform tree-structures, rather than being limited to simple […]

## Parsing Expression Grammars, part 2

It’s usually not enough to simply recognize patterns in an input stream. Soon we will want to take action based on what we recognize. In order to facilitate this, we will begin creating semantic values from the input tokens and trigger semantic actions when certain patterns are recognized. In part 1 of this series we […]

## Parsing Expression Grammars, part 1

Parsing Expression Grammars (PEGs) define a powerful class of matchers for recognizing strings of a formal language [1]. They’re well suited to parsing the syntax of computer languages. PEG-based tools like OMeta [2] have been successfully applied to a wide variety of transformation problems [3] [4]. The fundamental elements of PEGs can be described compactly […]

## Evaluating Expressions, part 5 – Recursion

Some language environments provide an interactive interface called a Read-Eval-Print-Loop (abbreviated REPL). One key characteristic of a REPL is the ability to incrementally define, extend and re-define your environment. This is particularly challenging in a pure-functional context, such as the evaluator we have developed so far. Modularity and incremental development seems to imply the need […]

## Evaluating Expressions, part 4 – Pattern Equations

In part 4 of our series implementing programming language constructs with actors, we extend our pattern matching behaviors to support pattern equations. These are true equations that express relationships between patterns. They form the basis for introducing LET and IF expressions. The grammar for our extended language is shown below. Changes from part 3 are […]

## Evaluating Expressions, part 3 – Pairs and Parallelism

In part 3 of our series implementing programming language constructs with actors, we explore parallel evaluation of sub-expressions and introduce pairs. Pairs allow the construction of tuples, generalizing structured multi-part patterns and values. In order to support pair expressions and patterns, we’ve refactored the grammar from part 2 to separate out literal constants expressions and […]

## Evaluating Expressions, part 2 – Conditional Special Form

We continue exploring actor implementation of programming language constructs by adding a special form for conditional expressions. This will not increase the expressive power of the language. In part 1 we implemented a Turing-complete pure untyped lambda calculus. Now we add direct efficient support for conditional expressions and introduce basic pattern matching. Changes from the […]