Skip to content


Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with
Download ZIP
Simple Scheme interpreter in Python
Branch: master

Fixed issue with buildout and Distribute.

Using $ python -d
caused the following error.
  Getting distribution for 'distribute'.
Error: Picked: distribute = 0.6.15

Looks like it is an interaction of buildout's
allow-picked-versions=false option and the fact that
Distribute impersonates setuptools.
Pin Distribute explicitly in versions.cfg
latest commit a06e886c26
@rspivak authored
Failed to load latest commit information.
versions.cfg Fixed issue with buildout and Distribute.

Serval - Simple Scheme interpreter in Python


Serval is a high-level Scheme interpreter written in Python. It implements a subset of R5RS. The code closely follows Scheme meta-circular evaluator implementation from Ch.4 of the SICP book.

The goal of the project

  1. Self-education (I've been always fascinated by language design and implementation, it was about time I started learning about interpreters and compilers by actually writing something).

  2. To serve as a potential example for other people interested in interpreter implementation, particularly Scheme interpreter.

  3. Not a goal per se, but I wanted the Serval to be able to run all examples from "The Little Schemer" book (that was my test target). The project has a test module which runs simple meta-circular evaluator from Ch.10 of the book.

This is a current high-level overview of the interpreter:

      |    Scheme      |
      |  source code   |
      |                |
      |  High-Level    |
      |  Interpreter   |
      |                |


Session examples (REPL)

  1. Defining simple function

    serval> (define add1 (lambda (x) (+ x 1)))
    serval> (add1 9)
  2. Loading representation from a file

    serval> (load "/home/alienoid/scheme/the_little_schemer/")
    serval> (value '((lambda (x) (cons x x)) 5))
    (5 . 5)


  1. Using buildout (useful for local development and testing)

    $ cd serval
    $ python
    $ bin/buildout
    Run the interpreter's REPL
    $ bin/serval
  2. Using pip or easy_install (no need for sudo if using virtualenv)

    $ sudo pip install serval
    (or run alternatively easy_install: `$ sudo easy_install serval`)
    Run the interpreter's REPL
    $ serval

Technical details

Serval has a lexer which uses regular expressions to get a next token and a recursive-descent parser implementation.

Some code parts are not idiomatic Python because I tried to follow SICP implementation as close as possible for this interpeter.

There is no multiline editing support for the moment. If you need one, you'd be better off by saving the code into a file and loading it with load builtin function provided by REPL.


Install 'enscript' utility (optional). If you are on Ubuntu::

$ sudo apt-get install enscript

Boostrap the buildout and run it:

$ cd serval
$ python
$ bin/buildout

Run tests, test coverage and produce coverage reports::

$ bin/test
$ bin/coverage-test
$ bin/coveragereport

Check ./var/report/serval.html out for coverage results.

Run pep8 and pylint to check code style and search for potential bugs:

$ bin/pep8
$ bin/pylint


  1. Scheme translator to high-level assembly language
  2. Bytecode assembler
  3. Register based bytecode interpretator (VM)
Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.