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Practical Foundations for Programming Languages by Robert Harper

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1 Syntactic Objects

Programming languages are languages, a means of expressing computations in a form comprehensible to both people and machines. The syntax of a language specifies the means by which various sorts of phrases (expressions, commands, declarations, and so forth) may be combined to form programs. But what sort of thing are these phrases? What is a program made of?

The informal concept of syntax may be seen to involve several distinct concepts. The surface, or concrete, syntax is concerned with how phrases are entered and displayed on a computer. The surface syntax is usually thought of as given by strings of characters from some alphabet (say, ASCII or Unicode). The structural, or abstract, syntax is concerned with the structure ...

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