JTC (Juan's Toy Compiler)
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JTC (Juan's Toy Compiler)

Years ago I wrote an interpreter for my own programming language, using Flex and Bison, and it was a fun and rewarding experience. Unfortunately it was the DOS era and I lost almost everything I wrote back then.

So I've done it again, just for fun. I'm using Python this time and the amazing PLY (Python Lex-Yacc) to generate the lexer and the parser. Instead of yet another interpreter I wrote a compiler that generates C code.

I don't think this is the best way of doing things, no optimizations whatsoever, I don't care too much, etc; but here you are!

How does the language look like? This is how you calculate the 10th Fibonacci number using jt:

def main() {
  def fib(n) {
    if(n <= 1) {
      return n;
    return fib(n-1) + fib(n-2);

Take a look to the examples directory for more programs.


The compiler requires:

  • Python 3 (3.3.2 used; but Python 2.7 should work).
  • PLY (3.4 used).
  • uthash (included in the package).
  • A C compiler (by default gcc, you can specify a different one with the CC env variable).
  • The Boehm-Demers-Weiser conservative garbage collector (optional but recommended, disable it with --no-gc flag, 7.2d used).

You can use test the compiler with:

./compiler.py examples/fib.jt

It should print 55.

About the language (jt)

It's a toy language and I don't think it's useful for anything.

The program entry point is a function, defined with def:

def main() {
  return 0;

Any function name can be used, although main (as in main function) sounds OK. The main function can't have parameters (no CLI interface, sorry).

Other functions can be defined inside any function and any variable identifier will be local to that function. For example:

def main() {
  a := 1;
  b := "world";
  c := "whatever",

  def say_hello(a) {
      b := "hello ";

      # c doesn't exist!
      return b + a;


This program will print "hello world".

Dynamic typing is used, with these valid types: integer (signed 64-bit), float, string and dictionary. typeof can be used to inspect the type of a variable:

def types() {
  a := 1;
  println(a, " is ", typeof(a));
  a := 1.0;
  println(a, " is ", typeof(a));
  a := "foo";
  println(a, " is ", typeof(a));
  a := {};
  println(a, " is ", typeof(a));
# will print:
# 1 is <integer>
# 1.000000 is <float>
# foo is <string>
# {} is <dictionary>

Although some checks are performed at compilation time, the run-time will report any problem in execution time (specially related to the dynamic types). For example:

def main() {
  a := "foo";

  # this operation is unsupported and will raise an error
  return a * a;
# RT_ERROR: line 6: unsuppored type for '*'

Errors can't be caught, remember this is a toy language!

Supported statements in the language are:

return expression:Exit the function and return the expression to the caller. In the main function a numeric value is expected.
if (expression) { statements } [else { statements }]:
 If the expression evaluates to true (anything different from zero), the block of statements delimited by the curly braces is executed. If the else part is present, the second block is executed when the expression evaluates to false (zero).
loop (expression) { statements }:The statements delimited by the curly braces are executed repeatedly while the expression evaluates to true.
println(expression[, expression]):Display on standard output the comma separated list of expressions, followed by an end of line.
typeof(identifier):Returns a string with the type of the variable. It can be "<integer>" for integers, "<float>" for floats, "<string>" for strings and "<dictionary>" for dictionaries.
clone(identifier):Returns a copy of the contents of the variable (jt uses references).


The language supports the following operators:

  • Assignation :=
  • Arithmetic operators +, -, *, /, mod
  • Logic operators =, <>, >, <, >=, <=, 'and', 'or', 'not'

Some type conversions are supported depending on the first operand:

def main() {
  a := "foo";

  println(a + 10);
  println(a + 10 + a);
  println(10 + a + 10 + a);
# foo10
# foo10foo
# RT_ERROR: line 7: unsuported conversion

So basically you can convert between integer and float, and to strings.


The language supports dictionaries. A dictionary can be created with {}. For example:

def main() {
  a := {};
# a contains an empty dictionary

Any expression but dictionaries can be used as key (internally all the keys are converted to strings):

def main() {
  # create a dictionary
  a := {};

  # set items
  a{1} := 1;
  a{"one"} := "one";
  a{1.0} := 1.0;

The operator {expr}? can be used to check if expr key exists in the dictionary:

def main() {
  a := {};
  if(not a{"key"}?) {
    println("\"key\" doesn't exist");

Dictionaries can contain other dictionaries but a reference variable is required as only one level can be accessed with the {expr} operator. For example:

def main() {
  a := {};
  a{"foo"} := {};
  foo := a{"foo"};
  foo{"bar"} := "second level";

# { foo: { bar: second level } }
# { bar: second level }

Beware: the references are not checked for loops! As in any other type, clone can be used to make a copy of a dictionary.

Take a look to examples/dict-fun.jt for a complete example using dictionaries.


Copyright (C) 2014 Juan J. Martinez <jjm@usebox.net>. All rights reserved.

This is free software under the terms of the MIT license (check LICENSE file for further details).