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Introduction of Lexical Analysis

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  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 04 Jan, 2023
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Lexical Analysis is the first phase of the compiler also known as a scanner. It converts the High level input program into a sequence of Tokens.

  • Lexical Analysis can be implemented with the Deterministic finite Automata.
  • The output is a sequence of tokens that is sent to the parser for syntax analysis

What is a token? A lexical token is a sequence of characters that can be treated as a unit in the grammar of the programming languages. Example of tokens:

  • Type token (id, number, real, . . . )
  • Punctuation tokens (IF, void, return, . . . )
  • Alphabetic tokens (keywords)
Keywords; Examples-for, while, if etc.
Identifier; Examples-Variable name, function name, etc.
Operators; Examples '+', '++', '-' etc.
Separators; Examples ',' ';' etc

Example of Non-Tokens:

  • Comments, preprocessor directive, macros, blanks, tabs, newline, etc.

Lexeme: The sequence of characters matched by a pattern to form the corresponding token or a sequence of input characters that comprises a single token is called a lexeme. eg- “float”, “abs_zero_Kelvin”, “=”, “-”, “273”, “;” . 

How Lexical Analyzer works-

  1. Input preprocessing: This stage involves cleaning up the input text and preparing it for lexical analysis. This may include removing comments, whitespace, and other non-essential characters from the input text.
  2. Tokenization: This is the process of breaking the input text into a sequence of tokens. This is usually done by matching the characters in the input text against a set of patterns or regular expressions that define the different types of tokens.
  3. Token classification: In this stage, the lexer determines the type of each token. For example, in a programming language, the lexer might classify keywords, identifiers, operators, and punctuation symbols as separate token types.
  4. Token validation: In this stage, the lexer checks that each token is valid according to the rules of the programming language. For example, it might check that a variable name is a valid identifier, or that an operator has the correct syntax.
  5. Output generation: In this final stage, the lexer generates the output of the lexical analysis process, which is typically a list of tokens. This list of tokens can then be passed to the next stage of compilation or
  • The lexical analyzer identifies the error with the help of the automation machine and the grammar of the given language on which it is based like C, C++, and gives row number and column number of the error.

Suppose we pass a statement through lexical analyzer – a = b + c ;                It will generate token sequence like this: id=id+id;                 Where each id refers to it’s variable in the symbol table referencing all details For example, consider the program

int main()
  // 2 variables
  int a, b;
  a = 10;
 return 0;

All the valid tokens are:

'int'  'main'  '('  ')'  '{'  'int'  'a' ','  'b'  ';'
 'a'  '='  '10'  ';' 'return'  '0'  ';'  '}'

Above are the valid tokens. You can observe that we have omitted comments. As another example, consider below printf statement. token There are 5 valid token in this printf statement. Exercise 1: Count number of tokens :

int main()
  int a = 10, b = 20;
  printf("sum is :%d",a+b);
  return 0;
Answer: Total number of token: 27.

Exercise 2: Count number of tokens : int max(int i);

  • Lexical analyzer first read int and finds it to be valid and accepts as token
  • max is read by it and found to be a valid function name after reading (
  • int  is also a token , then again i as another token and finally ;
 Answer:  Total number of tokens 7:     
int, max, ( ,int, i, ), ;

Below are previous year GATE question on Lexical analysis. Please write comments if you find anything incorrect, or you want to share more information about the topic discussed above

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