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Alternative N3 Parsers for CWM

From: Sean B. Palmer <sean@mysterylights.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002 01:17:11 +0100
Message-ID: <014c01c22614$d08b80c0$ba560150@localhost>
To: "Tim Berners-Lee" <timbl@w3.org>, "Dan Connolly" <connolly@w3.org>
Cc: <www-archive+n3bugs@w3.org>


I've been working on a clean substitute for notation3.py based on the
structure of notation3.py and rdfn3.g, but using a regexp tokenizer, and
including all of the bugfixes that I've been working on. It supports the
"?x" univar syntax, ":-" clause labelling, keywords (including "=>") as
subjects, and fixes the optional period in formulae bug that rdfn3.g had.

A very preliminary speed test on a file with 7K+ triples reveals the parser
to be nearly three times as fast as rdfn3.g, running in under 5 seconds as
compared to under 13 seconds for the 130KB file.

You asked whether or not the Yapps grammar should be hooked up to CWM; I
wasn't 100% that it would be fast or reliable enough which is why I wrote
this new parser, named "afon" in keeping with the naming scheme :-) I have
managed to hook it up to CWM such that CWM now uses afon.N3Parser instead
of notation3.SinkParser, and I was slightly surprised to find that it
parses and pretty prints the 7K+ triples file at the same speed as it does
with notation3.py (in just under 26 seconds) to within c.0.2 seconds. With
the repeated caveat that I've only performed speed tests on this single
(albeit large) file, it would seem to indicate that using the yapps grammar
may pose a small speed *dis*advantage, and using afon would provide neither
advantage nor disadvantage.

However, the benefits to using an updated parser are that the syntax is
hopefully a lot easier to follow (I took the guts of the system from the
yapps grammar, and documented each of the functions accordingly), and that
it is able to parse the => and ?x constructs, which will enable you to
start deprecating log:for(All|Some).

There are some other issues, too. CWM requires that formulae be identified
as formulae (RDFSink.FORMULA)--implicitly beliving them to be URI-refs, and
indeed requiring that they have a fragment. rdfn3.g produced bNodes for its
formulae, and did not label them as being formulae at all, so it would be
impossible to merge that without changes.

In afon, I recently migrated from using bNodes to using hack URI-refs for
the formulae. Since CWM provides a formulaURI to the parser (the things
with "#0_work" on them), I had little choice but to implement them as they
are. I think it would be a cleaner solution if CWM were to either use
bNodes (which may be technically impossible due to its architecture), or,
more integuingly, some other form of URI. At the moment, for each of the
formulae generated within the document, I'm using URI-refs such as:-


I had hoped to use $ or : instead of the fragment, but once again CWM
required that I put a fragment in there else it would not recognize them.
The middle section is just the baseURI encoded with base64 (so that you can
use the $ or : to separate at the end). Surprisingly, CWM recognizes the
formulae URI-refs, and gives appropriate output--viz. it works.

I've been very careful to ensure that afon registers all variable labels so
that there are no collisions. When a variable is created, it registers it
with the sink via. self._sink.quant(formula, variable). According to our
recent conversation on #rdfig, I made all _:x and ?x variables quantify
over their parent formulae (more on that at the bottom of this email).

Since I've used a different output structure for the sink, I've had to
write a buffer sink that can convert afon's output into something that CWM
can use. For example, when self._sink.quant is called, it puts a "formula
forSome/forAll variable" quad into the sink used by CWM. To turn this
option on, you just set afon.SWAPCOMPAT = 1. To integrate it with SWAP, I
replaced the "SinkParser" class in notation3.py with the following lines:-

import afon
SinkParser = afon.N3Parser

Also, whilst RDFSink.ANONYMOUS is used to type bNodes, the output that
notation3.SinkParser gives is devoid of any bNodes: they're converted to
URI-refs. At first I didn't bother to convert them to URI-refs in the afon
output, and CWM still recognized them to be URI-refs (i.e. it thinks "(3,
'x')" is in fact "(1, 'x')" and outputs "this log:forSome <x> . <x>
[etc.]"). However, now I output baseURI+'#'+varlabel, and CWM seems happier
for it.

The _:x and ?x constructs render log:forSome/log:forAll basically
redundant, but for the rare times when quantification over different levels
is required, perhaps a new directive and some sort of neutral variable
syntax would be in order. I wouldn't mind adding that functionality to afon
if it would mean that we could dispense with forAll/forSome once and for

The code for the latest version of afon is available from:-


I've run retest.sh, and 15/51 of the tests pass. Only /test/includes/t10.n3
gives a syntax error (warranted: a hyphen is used illegally as a name
character). The rest are diff failures; the genids that afon outputs are
different from notation3.py's, hence the differences. There may also be
some quantification errors, though: I noticed that CWM requires bNodes in
contexts to be quantified to *and* in that context. However, universals are
quantified to and in the parent context, and I'm not sure whence the

Kindest Regards,
Sean B. Palmer
@prefix : <http://purl.org/net/swn#> .
:Sean :homepage <http://purl.org/net/sbp/> .
Received on Sunday, 7 July 2002 20:17:22 UTC

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