what does it need to automatically resolve names

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A big part of a programming language’s (and thats true for all textual languages defined with on context-free grammar) static semantics deals with the resolution of names. Best example: you declare a variable, giving it a name; you later use that variable by referencing the declaration, using that name. How can one describe this part of a language’s static semantics so that automatically generated editors/compilers can resolve names automatically?

The identity of an element is a value that uniquely identifies this element within a program. The language defines a function (1) that assigns each element of a language instance an identity. Example identities can be the element itself, the name of the element, or more complex constructs like full qualified names. An identifier is a value used to identify a model element based on the element’s identity. In simple languages, identifier can often be used directly to identify elements: if an identifier and the identity of a element are the same, this identifier identifies this element. The many languages, however, require more complex identification, including name spaces, name hiding, imports, etc. In those cases, an identifier depends on the context it is used in. The language must define a function (2) that assigns a set of possible global identifiers to an identifier and its context. These global identifiers are then used to find a element with an identity that matches on of those global identifiers.

When we describe a language with meta-modeling, all model elements are objects of given meta-classes. Identification for a specific language can easily be programmed by implementing a simple interface (here based on EMF):

  1. public Object getIdentitiy(EObject object);
  2. public Object[] getGlobalIdentities(Object identifier, EObject context);

With this interface, and language engineers implementing it for their languages, our Textual Editing Framework TEF can simply customize name resolution and aspects of code-completion for languages with specific identification mechanisms.

We will try in the future to use this interface to implement an identification scheme for a language with a complex name-space based identification mechanism. See, if it really is enough to describe identification sufficiently.

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