a library for building lexical analyzers
Standard ML Shell
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lexluthor is a library for building lexical analyzers, written in Standard ML and primarily designed to explore how lexer generators work "from the ground up", i.e. without using any existing tools (such as ML-Lex) or any existing regular expression matching engines (such as the one provided with SML/NJ).

a library, not a lexer generator

A front-end is not included, so there's no parser for regular expressions, although the one from SML/NJ's library can be used. Furthermore there is no code generation: regular expressions are translated to NFAs and then to DFAs in memory at start up. This greatly reduces the complexity of the code, but makes it inappropriate for real world use.

current status

The core functionality of the lexer is complete, albeit pretty rough. Some of the code (the NFA to DFA conversion code especially) is kind of bad, and I'd like to re-write it to make it more readable. It's also unbearably slow for anything interesting, due to the naive list-based implementation of NFAs (NFA to DFA conversion for a classic identifier regex like [a-z][a-z0-9]* takes ~23s with SML/NJ, ~6s with MLton)

Standard ML

It's written in Standard ML mostly because I wrote it while reading Andrew Appel's Modern Compiler Implementation in ML, but also because I think ML is nice, and I know SML better than OCaml. As of Jan 2013 it compiles under the latest releases of SML/NJ (110.75) and MLton (20100608), but I haven't tested it with any other SML compilers.


To build and test execute scripts/runTests.sh $compiler $test where $compiler is either smlnj or mlton, and $test is a path to a .cm or .mlb file (such as tests/all.cm).