Writing a parser: introduction to ADL

This post will introduce ADL (Acronymic Demonstrational Language), a language I designed to demonstrate how to write a parser.


ADL has 5 different types of statements:

  • if-statement
  • while-loop
  • for-loop
  • assignment
  • function call

An if-statement looks like this:

if expression then
end if

An if-statement can also have an else-clause:

if expression then
end if

A while-loop looks like this:

while expression do
end while

A for-loop looks like this:

for variable := expression to expression do
end for

A for-loop can also have a by-clause that defines the number to add to the variable on each iteration:

for variable := expression to expression by expression do
end for

An assignment looks like this:

variable := expression

A function call looks like this:


It can also have one or more arguments separated by commas:

function(expression, expression, expression)


Expressions in ADL consist of variables, constants, function calls, unary expressions, binary expressions and groups.

Variable names start with a letter, followed by zero or more letters or numbers.

ADL has 2 types of constants: strings and integer numbers. A string is a sequence of characters, enclosed between 2 quotes. An integer is a sequence of 1 or more digits.

Unary expressions are expressions with an operator that has only 1 operand:

  • positive operator: +expression
  • negative operator: -expression
  • logical NOT-operator: not expression

Binary expressions are expressions with an operator that has 2 operands:

  • logical AND-operator: expression and expression
  • logical OR-operator: expression or expression
  • comparison: expression comparator expression (comparator is one of the following: ==, <>, <, >, <=, >=)
  • addition: expression + expression
  • subtraction: expression - expression
  • multiplication: expression * expression
  • division: expression / expression

A group is an expression between parentheses: ( expression )


When an expression is built from multiple operators, the expression is evaluated in the following order:

  • Grouping: ( )
  • Unary expression: + - not
  • Multiplicative expression: * /
  • Additive expression: + -
  • Comparison: == <> < > <= >=
  • Logical OR: or
  • Logical AND: and