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The basic building block of syntax sections is the production. The left-hand side of a regular production rule can be either just a symbol or a symbol followed by . and a constructor name. The right-hand side consists of zero or more symbols. Both sides are separated by =:

$Symbol              = $Symbol*
$Symbol.$Constructor = $Symbol*

A production is read as the definition. The symbol on the left-hand side is defined by the right-hand side of the production.

Productions are used to describe lexical, context-free, and kernel syntax. Productions may also occur in priority sections, but might also be referred to by its $Symbol.$Constructor. All productions with the same symbol together define the alternatives for that symbol.


The definition of productions may be followed by attributes that define additional (syntactic or semantic) properties of that production. The attributes are written between curly brackets after the right-hand side of a production. If a production has more than one attribute they are separated by commas. Attributes have thus the following form:

$Sort              = $Symbol* { $Attribute1, $Attribute2, ...}
$Sort.$Constructor = $Symbol* { $Attribute1, $Attribute2, ...}

The following syntax-related attributes exist:

  • bracket is an important attribute in combination with priorities. The parenthesizer tool uses the bracket attribute to find productions to add to a parse tree before pretty printing (when the tree violates priority constraints). Note that most of these tools demand the production with a bracket attribute to have the shape: X = "(" X ")" {bracket} with any kind of bracket syntax but the X being the same symbol on the left-hand side and the right-hand side. The connection with priorities and associativity is that when a non-terminal is disambiguated using either of them, a production rule with the bracket attribute is probably also needed.
  • reject is a disambiguation construct that implements language difference. It is used for keyword reservation. See Disambiguation#Rejections.
  • left, right, non-assoc, assoc are disambiguation constructs used to define the associativity of productions. See Disambiguation#Associativity.
  • prefer and avoid are deprecated disambiguation constructs to define preference of one derivation over others. See Disambiguation#Preferences.

Last update: May 31, 2024
Created: May 31, 2024