CSE 40243/60243 - Parser Assignment


The objectives of this assignment are:
  • To design a grammar for a non-trivial language.
  • To solve grammar ambiguities through re-writing.
  • To learn how to use Bison and Flex together.
  • To gain experience in incremental software engineering.
  • Overview

    The second step in building a compiler is to construct a parser. You will build upon the code from the scanner assignment, using the Bison Parser Generator to create a parser for B-Minor. It is up to you to carefully read this document and decide what all of the relevant elements of B-Minor are. Make sure that you include declarations, definitions, statements, expressions, and any other program elements. If you think that the specification is not clear, be sure to ask for a clarification.


    Your program must be written in plain C (not C++) using GCC (not G++) and use bison to generate the parser and flex to generate the scanner. You must have a Makefile such that when you type make, all the pieces are compiled and result in a binary program called bminor. make clean should also delete all temporary files, so that the program can be made again from scratch. Your code must work on the ND Linux student machines. Use the scanner code from the prior assignment as your starting point, being sure to fix any outstanding problems.

    If your program is invoked like this:

    ./bminor -parse sourcefile.bminor
    Then it should behave as follows:
  • If the input does not scan correctly, then bminor must emit scan error: followed by a reasonable error message and exit with status 1.
  • If the input does not parse correctly, then bminor must emit parse error: followed by a reasonable error message and exit with status 1.
  • If the input has valid B-minor syntax, then bminor must emit parse successful and exit with status 0.
  • If your program is invoked like this:
    ./bminor -scan sourcefile.bminor
    Then it should continue to operate as in the previous assignment; this will facilitate debugging.


    We recommend that you construct your grammar in stages and begin by testing it on small examples, then proceeding to larger structures. For example, start off by creating just arithmetic expressions, like this:
    expr : expr TOKEN_ADD expr
         | expr TOKEN_SUB expr
    Then, verify that your grammar has no shift-reduce or reduce-reduce conflicts. If it does, look at the detailed output of Bison and re-write your grammar rules to address them. Once you have basic expressions working, then start adding control-flow structures, and then declarations, until you have constructed the complete grammar.

    Note that Bison will tell you if your grammar has errors. In particular, your grammar must not have any shift-reduce or reduce-reduce conflicts. To eliminate them, you may only re-write the production rules, you may not apply disambiguating rules, operator precedence specifiers, or apply other "tricks" found in Bison. (The purpose of this rule is to force you to fully understand the key ideas in LR parsing.)


    A compiler has many odd corner cases that you must carefully handle. You must test your program extensively by designing and testing a large number of test cases. To encourage you to test thoroughly, we will also require you to turn in twenty test cases. Ten should be named good[0-9].bminor and should contain valid B-minor programs. Ten should be named bad[0-9].bminor and should contain at least one parse error. Be thorough, and take the time to write a new set of tests, distinct from your scanning tests.

    The starter code provides some example tests to give you the idea, but they are not comprehensive, so write your own thorough tests.

    The exit status of bminor is very important because it indicates to the user whether the program succeeded or not. The Unix convention is that the result of main (or the call to exit) should be zero to indicate success and non-zero to indicate failure. We will use the program exit status to determine the correctness of your submissions and your test, using a script like this:

    for testfile in good*.bminor
    	if bminor -parse $testfile > $testfile.out
    		echo "$testfile success (as expected)"
    		echo "$testfile failure (INCORRECT)"
    for testfile in bad*.bminor
    	if bminor -parse $testfile > $testfile.out
    		echo "$testfile success (INCORRECT)"
    		echo "$testfile failure (as expected)"


    Please review the General Instructions for Turning In.

    Your submission will be tested on the ND student Linux machines, so make sure that your code works there. If you develop on your laptop or another computer, leave plenty of time before final submission to debug any differences between your computer and ours.

    For this assignment, your grade will be based upon the following:

  • (20 points) General correctness of the code.
  • (30 points) Correctness of the grammar, including elimination of shift-reduce and reduce-reduce conflicts by the re-writing of production rules.
  • (20 points) Correctness of your submitted test cases.
  • (20 points) Correctness on the instructors' hidden test cases.
  • (10 points) Good programming style. Each of the program components (main, scanner, parser) should be cleanly separated into multiple source files, complex or repetitive tasks should be broken into multiple functions, identifiers should be sensibly chosen, and the code generally commented and readable.
  • This assignment is due on Friday, October 11th at 5PM.,Monday, October 14th, at 5PM. Late assignments are not accepted.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Is print; a valid statement?
    A: Yes, it means to print out nothing.

    Q: Is return; a valid statement?
    A: Yes, it indicates a return with no value in a void function.

    Q: Does B-minor permit this syntax?

    for(i=0;i<10,j<10;i++) { ... }
    A: No, commas may only be used in print statements, function calls, function prototypes, and array expressions.

    Q: Can a single statement (without braces) be used after a for-loop or an if-statement?
    A: Yes, the following are valid statements, just as in C and C++:

    for(i=0;i<10;i++) print i;
    if(a) x=y; else z=w;

    Q: Is a single semicolon a valid statement?
    A: No.

    Q: Can an array be zero length?
    A: No - An array must be declared with a positive length.

    Q: Can an array initializer by empty?
    A: No - An initializer must either match the length of the array, or be omitted. It cannot be empty. (It also avoids the case of an empty initializer {} begin confused with an empty statement block {}.