17. Text Processing III

This module covers text parsing. It may be considered optional and skipped if you are speedrunning Hoon School.

We need to build a tool to accept a tape containing some characters, then turn it into something else, something computational.

For instance, a calculator could accept an input like 3+4 and return 7. A command-line interface may look for a program to evaluate (like Bash and ls). A search bar may apply logic to the query (like Google and - for NOT).

The basic problem all parsers face is this:

  1. You need to accept a character string.
  2. You need to ingest one or more characters and decide what they “mean”, including storing the result of this meaning.
  3. You need to loop back to #1 again and again until you are out of characters.

The Hoon Parser

We could build a simple parser out of a trap and ++snag, but it would be brittle and difficult to extend. The Hoon parser is very sophisticated, since it has to take a file of ASCII characters (and some UTF-8 strings) and turn it via an AST into Nock code. What makes parsing challenging is that we have to wade directly into a sea of new types and processes. To wit:

  • A tape is the string to be parsed.
  • A hair is the position in the text the parser is at, as a cell of column & line, [p=@ud q=@ud].
  • A nail is parser input, a cell of hair and tape.
  • An edge is parser output, a cell of hair and a unit of hair and nail. (There are some subtleties around failure-to-parse here that we'll defer a moment.)
  • A rule is a parser, a gate which applies a nail to yield an edge.

Basically, one uses a rule on [hair tape] to yield an edge.

A substantial swath of the standard library is built around parsing for various scenarios, and there's a lot to know to effectively use these tools. If you can parse arbitrary input using Hoon after this lesson, you're in fantastic shape for building things later. It's worth spending extra effort to understand how these programs work.

There is a full guide on parsing which goes into more detail than this quick overview.

Scanning Through a tape

++scan parses a tape or crashes, simple enough. It will be our workhorse. All we really need to know in order to use it is how to build a rule.

Here we will preview using ++shim to match characters with in a given range, here lower-case. If you change the character range, e.g. putting ' ' in the ++shim will span from ASCII 32, ' ' to ASCII 122, 'z'.

> `(list)`(scan "after" (star (shim 'a' 'z')))
~[97 102 116 101 114]
> `(list)`(scan "after the" (star (shim 'a' 'z')))
{1 6}
syntax error
dojo: hoon expression failed

rule Building

The rule-building system is vast and often requires various components together to achieve the desired effect.

rules to parse fixed strings

  • ++just takes in a single char and produces a rule that attempts to match that char to the first character in the tape of the input nail.

    > ((just 'a') [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ [p='a' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]
  • ++jest matches a cord. It takes an input cord and produces a rule that attempts to match that cord against the beginning of the input.

    > ((jest 'abc') [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=4] q=[~ [p='abc' q=[p=[p=1 q=4] q=""]]]]
    > ((jest 'abc') [[1 1] "abcabc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=4] q=[~ [p='abc' q=[p=[p=1 q=4] q="abc"]]]]
    > ((jest 'abc') [[1 1] "abcdef"])
    [p=[p=1 q=4] q=[~ [p='abc' q=[p=[p=1 q=4] q="def"]]]]

    (Keep an eye on the structure of the return edge there.)

  • ++shim parses characters within a given range. It takes in two atoms and returns a rule.

    > ((shim 'a' 'z') [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ [p='a' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]
  • ++next is a simple rule that takes in the next character and returns it as the parsing result.

    > (next [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ [p='a' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]

rules to parse flexible strings

So far we can only parse one character at a time, which isn't much better than just using ++snag in a trap.

> (scan "a" (shim 'a' 'z'))
> (scan "ab" (shim 'a' 'z'))
{1 2}
syntax error
dojo: hoon expression failed

How do we parse multiple characters in order to break things up sensibly?

  • ++star will match a multi-character list of values.

    > (scan "a" (just 'a'))
    > (scan "aaaaa" (just 'a'))
    ! {1 2}
    ! 'syntax-error'
    ! exit
    > (scan "aaaaa" (star (just 'a')))
  • ++plug takes the nail in the edge produced by one rule and passes it to the next rule, forming a cell of the results as it proceeds.

    > (scan "starship" ;~(plug (jest 'star') (jest 'ship')))
    ['star' 'ship']
  • ++pose tries each rule you hand it successively until it finds one that works.

    > (scan "a" ;~(pose (just 'a') (just 'b')))
    > (scan "b" ;~(pose (just 'a') (just 'b')))
    > (;~(pose (just 'a') (just 'b')) [1 1] "ab")
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p='a' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q=[i='b' t=""]]]]]
  • ++glue parses a delimiter (a rule) in between each rule and forms a cell of the results of each non-delimiter rule. Delimiters representing each symbol used in Hoon are named according to their aural ASCII pronunciation. Sets of characters can also be used as delimiters, such as prn for printable characters (more here).

    > (scan "a b" ;~((glue ace) (just 'a') (just 'b')))
    ['a' 'b']
    > (scan "a,b" ;~((glue com) (just 'a') (just 'b')))
    ['a' 'b']
    > (scan "a,b,a" ;~((glue com) (just 'a') (just 'b')))
    {1 4}
    syntax error
    > (scan "a,b,a" ;~((glue com) (just 'a') (just 'b') (just 'a')))
    ['a' 'b' 'a']
  • The ;~ micsig will create ;~(combinator (list rule)) to use multiple rules.

    > (scan "after the" ;~((glue ace) (star (shim 'a' 'z')) (star (shim 'a' 'z'))))
    [[i='a' t=<|f t e r|>] [i='t' t=<|h e|>]
    > (;~(pose (just 'a') (just 'b')) [1 1] "ab")
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p='a' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q=[i='b' t=""]]]]]

At this point we have two problems: we are just getting raw @t atoms back, and we can't iteratively process arbitrarily long strings. ++cook will help us with the first of these:

  • ++cook will take a rule and a gate to apply to the successful parse.

    > ((cook ,@ud (just 'a')) [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p=97 q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]
    > ((cook ,@tas (just 'a')) [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p=%a q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]
    > ((cook |=(a=@ +(a)) (just 'a')) [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p=98 q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]
    > ((cook |=(a=@ `@t`+(a)) (just 'a')) [[1 1] "abc"])
    [p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p='b' q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="bc"]]]]

However, to parse iteratively, we need to use the ++knee function, which takes a noun as the bunt of the type the rule produces, and produces a rule that recurses properly. (You'll probably want to treat this as a recipe for now and just copy it when necessary.)

|-(;~(plug prn ;~(pose (knee *tape |.(^$)) (easy ~))))

There is an example of a calculator in the parsing guide that's worth a read at this point. It uses ++knee to scan in a set of numbers at a time.

Example: Parse a String of Numbers

A simple ++shim-based parser:

> (scan "1234567890" (star (shim '0' '9')))
[i='1' t=<|2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0|>]

A refined ++cook/++cury/++jest parser:

> ((cook (cury slaw %ud) (jest '1')) [[1 1] "123"])
[p=[p=1 q=2] q=[~ u=[p=[~ 1] q=[p=[p=1 q=2] q="23"]]]]
> ((cook (cury slaw %ud) (jest '12')) [[1 1] "123"])
[p=[p=1 q=3] q=[~ u=[p=[~ 12] q=[p=[p=1 q=3] q="3"]]]]

Example: Hoon Workbook

More examples demonstrating parser usage are available in the Hoon Workbook, such as the Roman Numeral tutorial.