This lecture lays the theoretic foundations for declarative syntax formalisms and syntax-based language processors, which we will discuss later in the course. We introduce the notions of formal languages, formal grammars, and syntax trees, starting from Chomsky's work on formal grammars as generative devices.
We start with a formal model of languages and investigate formal grammars and their derivation relations as finite models of infinite productivity. We further discuss several classes of formal grammars and their corresponding classes of formal languages. In a second step, we introduce the word problem, analyse its decidability and complexity for different classes of formal languages, and discuss consequences of this analysis on language processing. We conclude the lecture with a discussion about parse tree construction, abstract syntax trees, and ambiguities.
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