Programmer in SF, currently working on the Pinecone programming language, among other projects Mar 30, I wrote a programming language. And yet, I still made a completely new language.
So I must be doing something right. Compiled vs Interpreted There are two major types of languages: Technically any language could be compiled or interpreted, but one or the other usually makes more sense for a specific language.
Generally, interpreting tends to be more flexible, while compiling tends to have higher performance. But this is only scratching the surface of a very complex topic. I highly value performance, and I saw a lack of programming languages that are both high performance and simplicity-oriented, so I went with compiled for Pinecone.
This was an important decision to make early on, because a lot of language design decisions are affected by it for example, static typing is a big benefit to compiled languages, but not so much for interpreted ones.
That is, it has several stages. Each stage has data formatted in a specific, well defined way. It also has functions to transform data from each stage to the next. The first stage is a string containing the entire input source file. The final stage is something that can be run. This will all become clear as we go through the Pinecone pipeline step by step.
Lexing The first step in most programming languages is lexing, or tokenizing. Tokens A token is a small unit of a language. A token might be a variable or function name AKA an identifieran operator or a number. Future stages of the pipeline will not refer back to the original source code, so the lexer must produce all the information needed by them.
The reason for this relatively strict pipeline format is that the lexer may do tasks such as removing comments or detecting if something is a number or identifier. Flex The day I started the language, the first thing I wrote was a simple lexer. Soon after, I started learning about tools that would supposedly make lexing simpler, and less buggy.
The predominant such tool is Flex, a program that generates lexers. From that it generates a C program which lexes a string and produces the desired output. My Decision I opted to keep the lexer I wrote for the time being. My lexer is only a few hundred lines long, and rarely gives me any trouble.
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Rolling my own lexer also gives me more flexibility, such as the ability to add an operator to the language without editing multiple files. Parsing The second stage of the pipeline is the parser.
The parser turns a list of tokens into a tree of nodes. At least in Pinecone, the AST does not have any info about types or which identifiers are which. It is simply structured tokens. Parser Duties The parser adds structure to to the ordered list of tokens the lexer produces.
To stop ambiguities, the parser must take into account parenthesis and the order of operations. Bison Again, there was a decision to make involving a third party library.
The predominant parsing library is Bison. Bison works a lot like Flex. You write a file in a custom format that stores the grammar information, then Bison uses that to generate a C program that will do your parsing. I did not choose to use Bison. The major ones are as follows: Minimize context switching in workflow: This can be automated but it becomes a pain when switching between build systems.
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