What is parsing?

Parsing usually applies to text – the act of reading text and converting it into a more useful in-memory format, “understanding” what it means to some extent. So for example, an XML parser will take the sequence of characters (or bytes) and convert them into elements, attributes etc.

In some cases (particularly compilers) there’s a separation between lexical analysis and syntactic analysis, so the real “understanding” part of the parser works on a sequence of tokens (identifiers, operators etc) rather than on the raw characters.

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