parser — Access Python parse trees
parser module provides an interface to Python’s internal parser and
byte-code compiler. The primary purpose for this interface is to allow Python
code to edit the parse tree of a Python expression and create executable code
from this. This is better than trying to parse and modify an arbitrary Python
code fragment as a string because parsing is performed in a manner identical to
the code forming the application. It is also faster.
From Python 2.5 onward, it’s much more convenient to cut in at the Abstract
Syntax Tree (AST) generation and compilation stage, using the
parser module exports the names documented here also with “st”
replaced by “ast”; this is a legacy from the time when there was no other
AST and has nothing to do with the AST found in Python 2.5. This is also the
reason for the functions’ keyword arguments being called ast, not st.
The “ast” functions have been removed in Python 3.
There are a few things to note about this module which are important to making
use of the data structures created. This is not a tutorial on editing the parse
trees for Python code, but some examples of using the
parser module are
Most importantly, a good understanding of the Python grammar processed by the
internal parser is required. For full information on the language syntax, refer
to The Python Language Reference. The parser
itself is created from a grammar specification defined in the file
Grammar/Grammar in the standard Python distribution. The parse trees
stored in the ST objects created by this module are the actual output from the
internal parser when created by the
described below. The ST objects created by
simulate those structures. Be aware that the values of the sequences which are
considered “correct” will vary from one version of Python to another as the
formal grammar for the language is revised. However, transporting code from one
Python version to another as source text will always allow correct parse trees
to be created in the target version, with the only restriction being that
migrating to an older version of the interpreter will not support more recent
language constructs. The parse trees are not typically compatible from one
version to another, whereas source code has always been forward-compatible.
Each element of the sequences returned by
has a simple form. Sequences representing non-terminal elements in the grammar
always have a length greater than one. The first element is an integer which
identifies a production in the grammar. These integers are given symbolic names
in the C header file
Include/graminit.h and the Python module
symbol. Each additional element of the sequence represents a component
of the production as recognized in the input string: these are always sequences
which have the same form as the parent. An important aspect of this structure
which should be noted is that keywords used to identify the parent node type,
such as the keyword
if in an
if_stmt, are included in the
node tree without any special treatment. For example, the
is represented by the tuple
(1, 'if'), where
1 is the numeric value
associated with all
NAME tokens, including variable and function names
defined by the user. In an alternate form returned when line number information
is requested, the same token might be represented as
(1, 'if', 12), where
12 represents the line number at which the terminal symbol was found.
Terminal elements are represented in much the same way, but without any child
elements and the addition of the source text which was identified. The example
if keyword above is representative. The various types of
terminal symbols are defined in the C header file
the Python module
The ST objects are not required to support the functionality of this module, but are provided for three purposes: to allow an application to amortize the cost of processing complex parse trees, to provide a parse tree representation which conserves memory space when compared to the Python list or tuple representation, and to ease the creation of additional modules in C which manipulate parse trees. A simple “wrapper” class may be created in Python to hide the use of ST objects.
parser module defines functions for a few distinct purposes. The
most important purposes are to create ST objects and to convert ST objects to
other representations such as parse trees and compiled code objects, but there
are also functions which serve to query the type of parse tree represented by an
32.1.1. Creating ST Objects
ST objects may be created from source code or from a parse tree. When creating
an ST object from source, different functions are used to create the
expr()function parses the parameter source as if it were an input to
compile(source, 'file.py', 'eval'). If the parse succeeds, an ST object is created to hold the internal parse tree representation, otherwise an appropriate exception is raised.
suite()function parses the parameter source as if it were an input to
compile(source, 'file.py', 'exec'). If the parse succeeds, an ST object is created to hold the internal parse tree representation, otherwise an appropriate exception is raised.
This function accepts a parse tree represented as a sequence and builds an internal representation if possible. If it can validate that the tree conforms to the Python grammar and all nodes are valid node types in the host version of Python, an ST object is created from the internal representation and returned to the called. If there is a problem creating the internal representation, or if the tree cannot be validated, a
ParserErrorexception is raised. An ST object created this way should not be assumed to compile correctly; normal exceptions raised by compilation may still be initiated when the ST object is passed to
compilest(). This may indicate problems not related to syntax (such as a
MemoryErrorexception), but may also be due to constructs such as the result of parsing
del f(0), which escapes the Python parser but is checked by the bytecode compiler.
Sequences representing terminal tokens may be represented as either two-element lists of the form
(1, 'name')or as three-element lists of the form
(1, 'name', 56). If the third element is present, it is assumed to be a valid line number. The line number may be specified for any subset of the terminal symbols in the input tree.
This is the same function as
sequence2st(). This entry point is maintained for backward compatibility.
32.1.2. Converting ST Objects
ST objects, regardless of the input used to create them, may be converted to parse trees represented as list- or tuple- trees, or may be compiled into executable code objects. Parse trees may be extracted with or without line numbering information.
This function accepts an ST object from the caller in ast and returns a Python list representing the equivalent parse tree. The resulting list representation can be used for inspection or the creation of a new parse tree in list form. This function does not fail so long as memory is available to build the list representation. If the parse tree will only be used for inspection,
st2tuple()should be used instead to reduce memory consumption and fragmentation. When the list representation is required, this function is significantly faster than retrieving a tuple representation and converting that to nested lists.
If line_info is true, line number information will be included for all terminal tokens as a third element of the list representing the token. Note that the line number provided specifies the line on which the token ends. This information is omitted if the flag is false or omitted.
This function accepts an ST object from the caller in ast and returns a Python tuple representing the equivalent parse tree. Other than returning a tuple instead of a list, this function is identical to
If line_info is true, line number information will be included for all terminal tokens as a third element of the list representing the token. This information is omitted if the flag is false or omitted.
The Python byte compiler can be invoked on an ST object to produce code objects which can be used as part of an
execstatement or a call to the built-in
eval()function. This function provides the interface to the compiler, passing the internal parse tree from ast to the parser, using the source file name specified by the filename parameter. The default value supplied for filename indicates that the source was an ST object.
Compiling an ST object may result in exceptions related to compilation; an example would be a
SyntaxErrorcaused by the parse tree for
del f(0): this statement is considered legal within the formal grammar for Python but is not a legal language construct. The
SyntaxErrorraised for this condition is actually generated by the Python byte-compiler normally, which is why it can be raised at this point by the
parsermodule. Most causes of compilation failure can be diagnosed programmatically by inspection of the parse tree.
32.1.3. Queries on ST Objects
Two functions are provided which allow an application to determine if an ST was
created as an expression or a suite. Neither of these functions can be used to
determine if an ST was created from source code via
suite() or from a parse tree via
When ast represents an
'eval'form, this function returns true, otherwise it returns false. This is useful, since code objects normally cannot be queried for this information using existing built-in functions. Note that the code objects created by
compilest()cannot be queried like this either, and are identical to those created by the built-in
This function mirrors
isexpr()in that it reports whether an ST object represents an
'exec'form, commonly known as a “suite.” It is not safe to assume that this function is equivalent to
not isexpr(ast), as additional syntactic fragments may be supported in the future.
32.1.4. Exceptions and Error Handling
The parser module defines a single exception, but may also pass other built-in exceptions from other portions of the Python runtime environment. See each function for information about the exceptions it can raise.
Exception raised when a failure occurs within the parser module. This is generally produced for validation failures rather than the built-in
SyntaxErrorraised during normal parsing. The exception argument is either a string describing the reason of the failure or a tuple containing a sequence causing the failure from a parse tree passed to
sequence2st()and an explanatory string. Calls to
sequence2st()need to be able to handle either type of exception, while calls to other functions in the module will only need to be aware of the simple string values.
Note that the functions
raise exceptions which are normally raised by the parsing and compilation
process. These include the built in exceptions
SystemError. In these
cases, these exceptions carry all the meaning normally associated with them.
Refer to the descriptions of each function for detailed information.
32.1.5. ST Objects
Ordered and equality comparisons are supported between ST objects. Pickling of
ST objects (using the
pickle module) is also supported.
ST objects have the following methods:
32.1.6. Example: Emulation of
While many useful operations may take place between parsing and bytecode
generation, the simplest operation is to do nothing. For this purpose, using
parser module to produce an intermediate data structure is equivalent
to the code
>>> code = compile('a + 5', 'file.py', 'eval') >>> a = 5 >>> eval(code) 10
The equivalent operation using the
parser module is somewhat longer, and
allows the intermediate internal parse tree to be retained as an ST object:
>>> import parser >>> st = parser.expr('a + 5') >>> code = st.compile('file.py') >>> a = 5 >>> eval(code) 10
An application which needs both ST and code objects can package this code into readily available functions:
import parser def load_suite(source_string): st = parser.suite(source_string) return st, st.compile() def load_expression(source_string): st = parser.expr(source_string) return st, st.compile()