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Lexical analysis

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Lexical Analysis and Components
– Rule-based programs perform lexical tokenization.
– Lexical analysis involves the use of lexers and parsers in compilers.
– Lexing consists of scanning and evaluating stages.
– Lexers can be generated by a lexer generator or written by hand.
– The scanner is the first stage of lexical analysis and is based on a finite-state machine.
– Lexical tokenization converts raw text into meaningful lexical tokens.
– Lexical tokenization is a sub-task of parsing input.
– Lexical token consists of a token name and an optional token value.
– Examples of common tokens include identifier, keyword, separator/punctuator, operator, and literal.
– The lexical grammar defines the lexical syntax of a programming language.
– Lexical syntax is usually a regular language defined using regular expressions.
– The lexer handles different types of tokens, and lexemes are sequences of characters within tokens.

Lexical Analysis and Lexeme Disambiguation
– The concept of lexeme in rule-based natural language processing is different from linguistics.
– Lexeme in rule-based natural language processing is similar to a word in linguistics.
– Lexeme can be similar to a morpheme in rule-based natural language processing.
– Lexeme in rule-based natural language processing is equal to the linguistic equivalent in analytic languages.
– Lexeme in rule-based natural language processing is not equal to the linguistic equivalent in highly synthetic languages.

Challenges and Techniques in Lexical Analysis
– Tokenization often occurs at the word level, but defining what constitutes a word can be challenging.
– Simple heuristics are often used in tokenization, such as including punctuation and whitespace in tokens.
– Edge cases like contractions, hyphenated words, and URIs can complicate tokenization.
– Languages without word boundaries or with agglutinative structures pose additional challenges.
– Addressing difficult tokenization problems may require complex heuristics, special-case tables, or language models.
– Lexer generators like lex and flex offer fast development and advanced features for generating lexers.
– Hand-written lexers may be used, but modern lexer generators often produce faster lexers.

Advanced Concepts in Lexical Analysis
– Lexical analysis primarily segments the input stream into tokens, but lexers may omit or insert tokens.
– Line continuation is a feature in some languages where a newline is a statement terminator.
– Semicolon insertion is a feature that automatically inserts semicolons in certain contexts.
– Semicolon insertion is mainly done at the lexer level and is a feature of BCPL, Go, and JavaScript.
– The off-side rule can be implemented in the lexer, as seen in Python, where indenting affects token emission.
– Context-sensitive lexing is required in some cases, such as semicolon insertion in Go or concatenation of string literals in Python.

Additional Resources and References
– Lexicalization and lexical semantics are related concepts to lexical analysis.
– There is a list of parser generators that can be referenced.
– The off-side rule is further explained in the Off-side rule topic.
– Additional resources on lexical analysis include books like ‘Anatomy of a Compiler and The Tokenizer’ and ‘Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs’.
– References such as ‘Compilers Principles, Techniques, & Tools’ and ‘RE2C: A more versatile scanner generator’ provide further information on tokens and lexemes.

Lexical analysis (Wikipedia)

Lexical tokenization is conversion of a text into (semantically or syntactically) meaningful lexical tokens belonging to categories defined by a "lexer" program. In case of a natural language, those categories include nouns, verbs, adjectives, punctuations etc. In case of a programming language, the categories include identifiers, operators, grouping symbols and data types. Lexical tokenization is not the same process as the probabilistic tokenization, used for a large language model's data preprocessing, that encodes text into numerical tokens, using byte pair encoding.

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