[SAOC] "D backend for Bison" thread

Adela Vais adela.vais99 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 9 19:59:45 UTC 2020

Hello all!

My name is Adela Vais, and I am a 4th-year student at the 
"Politehnica" University of Bucharest, where I study Computer 
I love learning new programming languages and during the Formal 
Languages and Automata course I took at university I became 
interested in LR theory.
Eduard Stăniloiu and Răzvan Nițu made my introduction to D, at a 
workshop that took place during the “Ideas and Projects Workshop” 
Summer School 2019, and I found the language interesting because 
of its high expressiveness and its fast memory safety feature.
This is why I decided to do this summer an internship at my 
university, learning and making contributions to Dlang and GNU 
Bison. I consider SAoC a great way to get involved in the D 

The project I will pursue during SAoC aims to complete the D 
backend for Bison, by creating the GLR Parser for the D language.
Currently, Bison supports only the LALR1 Parser for D. While 
simple and fast, this parser has its limitations: it cannot 
handle non-deterministic or ambiguous grammars. A GLR Parser 
would be able to handle such a grammar, without the constraint of 
only one token lookahead.
Combining my love for D, for learning programming languages, and 
for LR theory, this project is a tremendous learning opportunity 
for me.

What I intend to do during SAoC, for each milestone, is:

Milestone 1 - Understand the already existing code

- Analyze the LALR1 D language parser and the C and C++ GLR 
- Understand M4 (the language I will partly write the parser in) 
by working in the GNU Bison repository, doing smaller tasks 
(adding functionalities like lookahead correction, and starting 
working at a push parser, which will further my understanding of 
the LALR1 D parser).
- Creating (at least) 4 small programs that will make me 
understand the differences between the C and C++’s LALR1 and GLR 
parsers, using ambiguous and non-ambiguous grammars.

Milestone 2 - Write the GLR support for the D language

- Create the glr.d file. Similar to the C++ code, this parser 
will be a class that wraps around the C GLR parser (for easier 
- Provide the same interface to that of the LALR1 parser. The 
user should not be able to feel any difference on their end. Add 
support so that the user is able to provide input from both stdin 
and files, and create the Lexer interface that allows the user to 
create a class implementing a lexer method, an error reporting 
method, and location tracking.

Milestone 3 - Write the GLR support for the D language

- Continue working on the interface. Add the declarations 
currently supported by the LALR1 parser: %error-verbose, 
%parse-param, %union, %code, %locations, %initial-action.
- Merge the glr.d and lalr1.d files. The two files will likely 
end up duplicating a lot of code, so a merge will be needed.

Milestone 4 – Test and write documentation

- Pass all unit tests, fix any bug that appears.
- If the time allows, I plan to integrate this parser in a 
project made by a third party, to further test the correctness.
- Write the documentation.

I will post weekly (or biweekly) updates with my progress.

I already made some changes to the existing D language support 
and I will continue to do so beyond SAoC, too. I intend to pursue 
this project for my undergraduate thesis topic and continue as an 
ambassador on behalf of the D community after that.


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