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Just a note for anyone reading the Crenshaw book, in chapter 9 he notes:

    The C language is quite another matter, as you'll see.   Texts on
    C  rarely  include  a BNF definition of  the  language.  Probably
    that's because the language is quite hard to write BNF for.
There is now an excellent reference that includes a full BNF Grammar for C(C99): http://www.amazon.com/Reference-Manual-Samuel-P-Harbison/dp/...

(This book didn't exist when the tutorial was written)




IIRC C was not context free, a requirement for BNF. The problem was in variable declarations, probably structures, but I dont remember the details. (It may have been fixed by C99.) It is often possible to transform a grammar from context sensitive to context free by trickery in the lexer. Because of this I dont recommend C as a first compiler language, although it makes an excellent target language.


The issue, as I understand it, is that you need to know whether an identifier in certain contexts is a type name or not. C99 increases the number of contexts. Consider:

    x * y;
If x is a type, this declares y as a pointer to elements of that type, if you're at the beginning of a block or in C99. If x is a variable, this is a multiplication in void context, unless you're at the top level of the translation unit. A somewhat more interesting example is

    x *f();
which may declare f or call it, depending on what x is. Of course, lacking the ability to overload the multiplication operator, there's no reason you'd ever do a multiplication in void context, but it is legal.

If your lexer can distinguish type names from other identifiers, the problem is solved, and you can use BNF from there.




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