May 24-26 rough meeting notes

Brendan Eich brendan at mozilla.com
Tue May 31 14:55:02 PDT 2011


On May 31, 2011, at 2:30 PM, Waldemar Horwat wrote:

> I would not want to use anything like a PEG to standardize a grammar.  Here's why:
> 
> PEG being unambiguous by construction simply means that it resolves all ambiguities by picking the earliest rule.  This turns all rules following the first one into negative rules:  X matches Z only if it DOESN'T match a Y or a Q or a B or ....  You could pick the same strategy to disambiguate an LR(1) grammar, and it would be equally bad.
> 
> Negative rules are the bane of grammars and behind the majority of the problems with the C++ grammar, including the examples I listed earlier.  They make a grammar non-understandable because the order of the rules is subtly significant and makes it hard to reason about when an X matches a Z; a language extension might expand the definition of Y to make an X no longer match a Q, and you wouldn't know it just by looking at a grammar with negative rules.  In a positive-rule-only grammar you'd discover the problem right away because the grammar wouldn't compile.

Thanks -- you've made this point before and I've agreed with it. It helps to restate and amplify it, I think, because my impression is that not many people "get it".

PEG users may be happy with their JS parsers at any given point in the language's standard version-space, of course.

It still could be that we use LL(1) or another positive-rule-only grammar, of course, but we can hash that out separately.


> Negative rules also interact badly with both semicolon insertion and division-vs-regexp lexer disambiguation.  One might naively think that semicolon insertion would be an ideal match for negative rules:  You first try to parse
> 
>  tokens-on-line1
>  tokens-on-line2

Heh; this doesn't pass the first rule of ASI fight-club: there's no insertion is there is no error.

/be


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