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Versions: 00 01                                                         
Network Working Group                         D. Crocker (editor)
Internet-Draft:  DRAFT-DRUMS-ABNF-         Brandenburg Consulting
     09.txt                                          Paul Overell
Expiration <4/99>                              Demon Internet Ltd





          Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF




STATUS OF THIS MEMO

This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its
areas, and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also
distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six
months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other
documents at any time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-
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in progress.''

To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check
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Coast), or ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast).


TABLE OF CONTENTS



1. INTRODUCTION

2. RULE DEFINITION
2.1  RULE NAMING
2.2  RULE FORM
2.3  TERMINAL VALUES
2.4  EXTERNAL ENCODINGS

3. OPERATORS
3.1  CONCATENATION   RULE1 RULE2
3.2  ALTERNATIVES RULE1 / RULE2
3.3  INCREMENTAL ALTERNATIVES RULE1 =/ RULE2
3.4  VALUE RANGE ALTERNATIVES %C##-##
3.5  SEQUENCE GROUP (RULE1 RULE2)
3.6  VARIABLE REPETITION *RULE
3.7  SPECIFIC REPETITION NRULE
3.8  OPTIONAL SEQUENCE [RULE]
3.9  ; COMMENT
3.10  OPERATOR PRECEDENCE

4. ABNF DEFINITION OF ABNF

5. SECURITY CONSIDERATIONS

6. APPENDIX A - CORE
6.1  CORE RULES
6.2  COMMON ENCODING

7. APPENDIX B - ENHANCEMENTS
7.1  CONCATENATED TERMINAL VALUES
7.2  BINARY LITERAL VALUES

8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

9. REFERENCES
10. CONTACT



1.   INTRODUCTION

Internet technical specifications often need to define a format
syntax and are free to employ whatever notation their authors
deem useful.  Over the years, a modified version of Backus-Naur
Form (BNF), called Augmented BNF (ABNF), has been popular among
many Internet specifications.  It balances compactness and
simplicity, with reasonable representational power.  In the early
days of the Arpanet, each specification contained its own
definition of ABNF.  This included the email specifications,
RFC733 and then RFC822 which have come to be the common citations
for defining ABNF.  The current document separates out that
definition, to permit selective reference.  Predictably, it also
provides some modifications and enhancements.

The differences between standard BNF and ABNF involve naming
rules, repetition, alternatives, order-independence, and value
ranges.  Appendix A (Core) supplies rule definitions and encoding
for a core lexical analyzer of the type common to several
Internet specifications.  It is provided as a convenience and is
otherwise separate from the meta language defined in the body of
this document, and separate from its formal status.



2.   RULE DEFINITION

2.1  Rule Naming

The name of a rule is simply the name itself; that is, a sequence
of characters, beginning with  an alphabetic character, and
followed by a combination of alphabetics, digits and hyphens
(dashes).

     NOTE:     Rule names are case-insensitive

The names <rulename>, <Rulename>, <RULENAME> and <rUlENamE> all
refer to the same rule.

Unlike original BNF, angle brackets ("<", ">") are not  required.
However, angle brackets may be used around a rule name whenever
their presence will facilitate discerning the use of  a rule
name.  This is typically restricted to rule name references in
free-form prose, or to distinguish partial rules that combine
into a string not separated by white space, such as shown in the
discussion about repetition, below.

2.2  Rule Form

A rule is defined by the following sequence:

     name =  elements crlf

where <name> is the name of the rule, <elements> is one or more
rule names or terminal specifications and <crlf> is the end-of-
line indicator, carriage return followed by line feed.  The equal
sign separates the name from the definition of the rule.  The
elements form a sequence of one or more rule names and/or value
definitions, combined according to the various operators, defined
in this document, such as alternative and repetition.

For visual ease, rule definitions are left aligned.  When a rule
requires multiple lines, the continuation lines are indented.
The left alignment and indentation are relative to the first
lines of the ABNF rules and need not match the left margin of the
document.

2.3  Terminal Values

Rules resolve into a string of terminal values, sometimes called
characters.  In ABNF a character is merely a non-negative
integer.  In certain contexts a specific mapping (encoding) of
values into a character set (such as ASCII) will be specified.

Terminals are specified by one or more numeric characters with
the base interpretation of those characters indicated explicitly.
The following bases are currently defined:

     d           =  decimal

     x           =  hexadecimal

Hence:

     CR          =  %d13

     CR          =  %x0D

respectively specify the decimal and hexadecimal representation
of [US-ASCII] for carriage return.

ABNF permits specifying literal text string directly, enclosed in
quotation-marks.  Hence:

     command     =  "command string"

Literal text strings are interpreted as a concatenated set of
printable characters.

     NOTE:     ABNF strings are case-insensitive and
               the character set for these strings is
               us-ascii.

Hence:

     rulename = "abc"

and:

     rulename = "aBc"

will match "abc", "Abc", "aBc", "abC", "ABc", "aBC", "AbC" and
"ABC".

           To specify a rule which IS case SENSITIVE,
              specify the characters individually.

For example:

     rulename    =  %d97 %d98 %d99

will match only the string which comprises only lowercased
characters, abc.

2.4  External Encodings

External representations of terminal value characters will vary
according to constraints in the storage or transmission
environment.  Hence, the same ABNF-based grammar may have
multiple external encodings, such as one for a 7-bit US-ASCII
environment, another for a binary octet environment and still a
different one when 16-bit Unicode is used.  Encoding details are
beyond the scope of ABNF, although Appendix A (Core) provides
definitions for a 7-bit US-ASCII environment as has been common
to much of the Internet.

By separating external encoding from the syntax, it is intended
that alternate encoding environments can be used for the same
syntax.



3.   OPERATORS

3.1  Concatenation                                  Rule1 Rule2

A rule can define a simple, ordered string of values -- that is,,
a concatenation of contiguous characters -- by listing a sequence
of rule names.  For example:

     foo         =  %x61           ; a

     bar         =  %x62           ; b

     mumble      =  foo bar foo

So that the rule <mumble> matches the lowercase string "aba".

LINEAR WHITE SPACE:  Concatenation is at the core of the ABNF
parsing model.  A string of contiguous characters (values) is
parsed according to the rules defined in ABNF.  For Internet
specifications, there is some history of permitting linear white
space (space and horizontal tab) to be freely--and implicitly--
interspersed around major constructs, such as delimiting special
characters or atomic strings.

     NOTE:     This specification for ABNF does not
               provide for implicit specification of
               linear white space.

Any grammar which wishes to permit linear white space around
delimiters or string segments must specify it explicitly.  It is
often useful to provide for such white space in "core" rules that
are then used variously among higher-level rules.  The "core"
rules might be formed into a lexical analyzer or simply be part
of the main ruleset.

3.2  Alternatives                               Rule1 / Rule2

Elements separated by forward slash ("/") are alternatives.
Therefore,

     foo / bar

will accept <foo> or <bar>.

     NOTE:     A quoted string containing alphabetic
               characters is special form for
               specifying alternative characters and is
               interpreted as a non-terminal
               representing the set of combinatorial
               strings with the contained characters,
               in the specified order but with any
               mixture of upper and lower case.

3.3  Incremental Alternatives                    Rule1 =/ Rule2

It is sometimes convenient to specify a list of alternatives in
fragments.  That is, an initial rule may match one or more
alternatives, with later rule definitions adding to the set of
alternatives.  This is particularly useful for otherwise-
independent specifications which derive from the same parent rule
set, such as often occurs with parameter lists.  ABNF permits
this incremental definition through the construct:

     oldrule     =/ additional-alternatives

So that the rule set

     ruleset     =  alt1 / alt2

     ruleset     =/ alt3

     ruleset     =/ alt4 / alt5

is the same as specifying

     ruleset     =  alt1 / alt2 / alt3 / alt4 / alt5

3.4  Value Range Alternatives                           %c##-##

A range of alternative numeric values can be specified compactly,
using dash ("-") to indicate the range of alternative values.
Hence:

     DIGIT       =  %x30-39

is equivalent to:

     DIGIT       =  "0" / "1" / "2" / "3" / "4" / "5" / "6" /

                    "7" / "8" / "9"

Concatenated numeric values and numeric value ranges can not be
specified in the same string.  A numeric value may use the dotted
notation for concatenation or it may use the dash notation to
specify one value range.  Hence, to specify one printable
character, between end of line sequences, the specification could
be:

     onechar-line = %x0D.0A %x20-7E %x0D.0A

3.5  Sequence Group                             (Rule1 Rule2)

Elements enclosed in parentheses are treated as a single element,
whose contents are STRICTLY ORDERED.   Thus,

     elem (foo / bar) blat

which matches (elem foo blat) or (elem bar blat).

     elem foo / bar blat

matches (elem foo) or (bar blat).

     NOTE:     It is strongly advised to use grouping
               notation, rather than to rely on proper
               reading of "bare" alternations, when
               alternatives consist of multiple rule
               names or literals.

Hence it is recommended that instead of the above form, the form:

     (elem foo) / (bar blat)

be used.  It will avoid misinterpretation by casual readers.

The sequence group notation is also used within free text to set
off an element sequence from the prose.

3.6  Variable Repetition                                *Rule

The operator "*" preceding an element indicates repetition. The
full form is:

     <a>*<b>element

where <a> and <b> are optional decimal values, indicating at
least <a> and at most <b> occurrences of element.

Default values are 0 and infinity so that *<element> allows any
number, including zero; 1*<element> requires at  least  one;
3*3<element> allows exactly 3 and 1*2<element> allows one or two.

3.7  Specific Repetition                                  nRule

A rule of the form:

     <n>element

is equivalent to

     <n>*<n>element

That is, exactly  <N>  occurrences  of <element>. Thus 2DIGIT is
a 2-digit number, and 3ALPHA is a string of three alphabetic
characters.

3.8  Optional Sequence                                   [RULE]

Square brackets enclose an optional element sequence:

     [foo bar]

is equivalent to

     *1(foo bar).

3.9  ; Comment

A semi-colon starts a comment that continues to the end of line.
This is a simple way of including useful notes in parallel with
the specifications.

3.10 Operator Precedence

The various mechanisms described above have the following
precedence, from highest (binding tightest) at the top, to lowest
and loosest at the bottom:

     Strings, Names formation
     Comment
     Value range
     Repetition
     Grouping, Optional
     Concatenation
     Alternative

Use of the alternative operator, freely mixed with concatenations
can be confusing.

     Again, it is recommended that the grouping
     operator be used to make explicit concatenation
     groups.



4.   ABNF DEFINITION OF ABNF

This syntax uses the rules provided in Appendix A (Core).

     rulelist       =  1*( rule / (*c-wsp c-nl) )

     rule           =  rulename defined-as elements c-nl
                            ; continues if next line starts
                            ;  with white space

     rulename       =  ALPHA *(ALPHA / DIGIT / "-")

     defined-as     =  *c-wsp ("=" / "=/") *c-wsp
                            ; basic rules definition and
                            ;  incremental alternatives

     elements       =  alternation *c-wsp

     c-wsp          =  WSP / (c-nl WSP)

     c-nl           =  comment / CRLF
                            ; comment or newline

     comment        =  ";" *(WSP / VCHAR) CRLF

     alternation    =  concatenation
                       *(*c-wsp "/" *c-wsp concatenation)

     concatenation  =  repetition *(1*c-wsp repetition)

     repetition     =  [repeat] element

     repeat         =  1*DIGIT / (*DIGIT "*" *DIGIT)

     element        =  rulename / group / option /
                       char-val / num-val / prose-val

     group          =  "(" *c-wsp alternation *c-wsp ")"

     option         =  "[" *c-wsp alternation *c-wsp "]"

     char-val       =  DQUOTE *(%x20-21 / %x23-7E) DQUOTE
                            ; quoted string of SP and VCHAR
                               without DQUOTE

     num-val        =  "%" (bin-val / dec-val / hex-val)

     bin-val        =  "b" 1*BIT [ "-" 1*BIT ]
                            ; series of concatenated bit values
                            ; or single ONEOF range

     dec-val        =  "d" 1*DIGIT [ "-" 1*DIGIT ]

     hex-val        =  "x" 1*HEXDIG [ "-" 1*HEXDIG ]

     prose-val      =  "<" *(%x20-3D / %x3F-7E) ">"
                            ; bracketed string of SP and VCHAR
                               without angles
                            ; prose description, to be used as
                               last resort



5.   SECURITY CONSIDERATIONS

Security is truly believed to be irrelevant to this document.



6.   APPENDIX A - CORE

This Appendix is provided as a convenient core for specific
grammars.  The definitions may be used as a core set of rules.

6.1  Core Rules

Certain  basic  rules  are  in uppercase, such as SP, HTAB, CRLF,
DIGIT, ALPHA, etc.

     ALPHA          =  %x41-5A / %x61-7A   ; A-Z / a-z

     BIT            =  "0" / "1"

     CHAR           =  %x01-7F
                            ; any 7-bit US-ASCII character,
                               excluding NUL

     CR             =  %x0D
                            ; carriage return

     CRLF           =  CR LF
                            ; Internet standard newline

     CTL            =  %x00-1F / %x7F
                            ; controls

     DIGIT          =  %x30-39
                            ; 0-9

     DQUOTE         =  %x22
                            ; " (Double Quote)

     HEXDIG         =  DIGIT / "A" / "B" / "C" / "D" / "E" / "F"

     HTAB           =  %x09
                            ; horizontal tab

     LF             =  %x0A
                            ; linefeed

     LWSP           =  *(WSP / CRLF WSP)
                            ; linear white space (past newline)

     OCTET          =  %x00-FF
                            ; 8 bits of data

     SP             =  %x20
                            ; space

     VCHAR          =  %x21-7E
                            ; visible (printing) characters

     WSP            =  SP / HTAB
                            ; white space

6.2  Common Encoding

Externally, data are represented as "network virtual ASCII",
namely 7-bit US-ASCII in an 8-bit field, with the high (8th) bit
set to zero.  A string of values is in "network byte order" with
the higher-valued bytes represented on the left-hand side and
being sent over the network first.



7.   APPENDIX B - ENHANCEMENTS

This section provides some additional features for ABNF that are
not part of the official specification.  The features contained
here are expected to be have benefit, eventually, but did not
gain immediate use.  Writers of specifications wishing to use
these features may cite the relevant sub-sections to this
appendix.

7.1  Concatenated Terminal Values

A concatenated string of such values is specified compactly,
using a period (".") to indicate separation of characters within
that value.  Hence:

     CRLF        =  %d13.10

Therefore,

     rulename    =  %d97.98.99

will match only the string which comprises only lowercased
characters, abc.

If a grammar uses concatenated terminal values, then the "ABNF
Definition of ABNF" will modify two  rules to be:

     dec-val        =  "d" 1*DIGIT
                       [ 1*("." 1*DIGIT) / ("-" 1*DIGIT) ]

     hex-val        =  "x" 1*HEXDIG
                       [ 1*("." 1*HEXDIG) / ("-" 1*HEXDIG) ]

7.2  Binary Literal Values

Terminals are specified by one or more numeric characters with
the base interpretation of those characters indicated explicitly.
The following, additional base is defined:

     b           =  binary

If binary literal values are used with the concatenation
mechanism defined above, then the "ABNF Definition of ABNF"
modifies the relevant rule to be:

     bin-val        =  "b" 1*BIT
                       [ 1*("." 1*BIT) / ("-" 1*BIT) ]
                            ; series of concatenated bit values
                            ; or single ONEOF range



8.   ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The syntax for ABNF was originally specified in RFC #733.  Ken L.
Harrenstien, of SRI International, was responsible for re-coding
the BNF into an augmented BNF that makes the representation
smaller and easier to understand.

This recent project began as a simple effort to cull out the
portion of RFC 822, which has been repeatedly cited by non-email
specification writers, namely the description of augmented BNF.
Rather than simply and blindly converting the existing text into
a separate document, the working group chose to give careful
consideration to the deficiencies, as well as benefits, of the
existing specification and related specifications available over
the last 15 years and therefore to pursue enhancement.  This
turned the project into something rather more ambitious than
first intended.  Interestingly the result is not massively
different from that original, although decisions such as removing
the list notation came as a surprise.

The current round of specification was part of the DRUMS working
group, with significant contributions from Jerome Abela , Harald
Alvestrand, Robert Elz, Roger Fajman, Aviva Garrett, Tom Harsch,
Dan Kohn, Bill McQuillan, Keith Moore, Chris Newman , Pete
Resnick and Henning Schulzrinne.


9.   REFERENCES

[US-ASCII]     Coded Character Set--7-Bit American Standard Code
for Information Interchange, ANSI X3.4-1986.

[RFC733]  Crocker,  D.H., Vittal,  J.J., Pogran,  K.T.,
Henderson,  D.A. "Standard  for  the  Format  of  ARPA  Network
Text Message," RFC  733, November 1977.

[RFC822]  Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet
Text Messages", RFC 822, August, 1982.


10.  CONTACT

David H. Crocker                 Paul Overell

Brandenburg Consulting           Demon Internet Ltd
675 Spruce Dr.                   Dorking Business Park
Sunnyvale, CA 94086 USA          Dorking
                                 Surrey, RH4 1HN
<dcrocker@brandenburg.com>       UK

Phone:         +1 408 246 8253   <paulo@turnpike.com>
Fax:      +1 408 249 6205