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2.1.2.1 Explanation of input

Consider the definition of input:

     input:
       %empty
     | input line
     ;

This definition reads as follows: “A complete input is either an empty string, or a complete input followed by an input line”. Notice that “complete input” is defined in terms of itself. This definition is said to be left recursive since input appears always as the leftmost symbol in the sequence. See Recursive Rules.

The first alternative is empty because there are no symbols between the colon and the first ‘|’; this means that input can match an empty string of input (no tokens). We write the rules this way because it is legitimate to type Ctrl-d right after you start the calculator. It's conventional to put an empty alternative first and to use the (optional) %empty directive, or to write the comment ‘/* empty */’ in it (see Empty Rules).

The second alternate rule (input line) handles all nontrivial input. It means, “After reading any number of lines, read one more line if possible.” The left recursion makes this rule into a loop. Since the first alternative matches empty input, the loop can be executed zero or more times.

The parser function yyparse continues to process input until a grammatical error is seen or the lexical analyzer says there are no more input tokens; we will arrange for the latter to happen at end-of-input.