Check out the new USENIX Web site.

Home About USENIX Events Membership Publications Students
Conference on Domain-Specific Languages, 1997

The Zephyr Abstract Syntax Description Language

Daniel C. Wang, Andrew W. Appel, Jeff L. Korn, and Christopher S. Serra
Princeton University


The Zephyr Abstract Syntax Description Language (ASDL) describes the abstract syntax of compiler intermediate representations (IRs) and other tree-like data structures. Just as the lexical and syntactic structures of programming languages are described with regular expressions and context free grammars, ASDL provides a concise notation for describing the abstract syntax of programming languages. Tools can convert ASDL descriptions into the appropriate data-structure definitions and functions to convert the data-structures to or from a standard flattened representation. This makes it easier to build compiler components that interoperate.

Although ASDL lacks subtyping and inheritance, it is able to describe the Stanford University Intermediate Format (SUIF) compiler IR, originally implemented in C++. We have built a tool that converts ASDL into C, C++, Java, and ML data-structure definitions and conversion functions. We have also built a graphical browser-editor of ASDL data structures. ASDL has shares features found in many network interface description languages (IDLs), algebraic data types, and languages such as ASN.1 and SGML. Compared to other alternatives ASDL is simple and powerful. This document describes ASDL in detail and presents an initial evaluation of ASDL.

  • View the full text of this paper in HTML form and PDF form.

  • If you need the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download it from Adobe's site.

  • To become a USENIX Member, please see our Membership Information.

?Need help? Use our Contacts page.

Last changed: 15 April 2002 aw
Technical Program
Conference Index