Recursive descent parsing and Predictive Parser

Recursive Descent Parsing

Recursive descent is a top-down parsing technique that constructs the parse tree from the top and the input is read from left to right. It uses procedures for every terminal and non-terminal entity. This parsing technique recursively parses the input to make a parse tree, which may or may not require back-tracking. But the grammar associated with it (if not left factored) cannot avoid back-tracking. A form of recursive-descent parsing that does not require any back-tracking is known as predictive parsing.

This parsing technique is regarded recursive as it uses context-free grammar which is recursive in nature.

Predictive Parser

Predictive parser is a recursive descent parser, which has the capability to predict which production is to be used to replace the input string. The predictive parser does not suffer from backtracking.

To accomplish its tasks, the predictive parser uses a look-ahead pointer, which points to the next input symbols. To make the parser back-tracking free, the predictive parser puts some constraints on the grammar and accepts only a class of grammar known as LL(k) grammar.

Predictive Parser

Predictive parsing uses a stack and a parsing table to parse the input and generate a parse tree. Both the stack and the input contains an end symbol $to denote that the stack is empty and the input is consumed. The parser refers to the parsing table to take any decision on the input and stack element combination.

Top-Down Parser Construction

In recursive descent parsing, the parser may have more than one production to choose from for a single instance of input, whereas in predictive parser, each step has at most one production to choose. There might be instances where there is no production matching the input string, making the parsing procedure to fail.


NEXT – Bottom Up or Shift Reduce Parser

Author: Deepak Chahar

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