Abstract syntax


Abstract syntax

The abstract syntax of data is its structure described as a data type (possibly, but not necessarily, an abstract data type), independent of any particular representation or encoding.

To be implemented either for computation or communications, a mapping from the abstract syntax to specific machine representations and encodings must be defined; these may be called the "concrete syntax" (in language implementation) or the "transfer syntax" (in communications).

A compiler's internal representation of a program will typically be specified by an abstract syntax in terms of categories such as "statement", "expression" and "identifier". This is independent of the source syntax (concrete syntax) of the language being compiled (though it will often be very similar). A parse tree is similar to an abstract syntax tree but it will typically also contain features such as parentheses which are syntactically significant but which are implicit in the structure of the abstract syntax tree.

Algebraic data types are particularly well-suited to the implementation of abstract syntax.

See also

References

This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.


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