Course details

Formal Languages and Compilers

IFJ Acad. year 2022/2023 Winter semester 5 credits

Current academic year

This course discusses formal languages and their models. Based on these models, it explains the construction of compilers. The lectures are organized as follows: (I) Basic notions: formal languages and their models, grammars, automata; compilers. (II) Regular languages and lexical analysis: regular languages and expressions, finite automata and transducers, lexical analyzer; Lex; symbol table. (III) Context-free languages and syntax analysis: context-free grammars, pushdown automata and transducers, deterministic top-down syntax analysis (recursive descent), the essence of deterministic bottom-up syntax analysis; Yacc. (IV) Semantic analysis and code generation: semantic checks, intermediate code generation, optimization, code generation.


Course coordinator

Language of instruction

Czech, English


Credit+Examination (written)

Time span

  • 39 hrs lectures
  • 13 hrs projects

Assessment points

  • 55 pts final exam (written part)
  • 20 pts mid-term test (written part)
  • 25 pts projects




Course Web Pages

Subject specific learning outcomes and competences

Fundamental familiarity with the theory of formal languages. The ability of a compiler construction.

Learning objectives

Familiarity with formal languages and their models. Grasp of compiler construction.

Why is the course taught

The IFJ class gives a clear, comprehensive introduction to formal language theory and its applications in computer science for undergraduate students. It covers all rudimental topics concerning formal languages and their models, especially grammars and automata, and sketches the basic ideas underlying the theory of computation, including computability and decidability. Emphasizing the relationship between theory and application, the class describes many real-world applications, including computer science engineering techniques for language processing and their implementation.

    More specifically, IFJ

  • Covers the theory of formal languages and their models, including all essential concepts and properties
  • Explains how language models underlie compilers
  • Pays a special attention to programming language analyzers, such as scanners and parsers, based on four language models-regular expressions, finite automata, context-free grammars, and pushdown automata
  • Discusses the mathematical notion of a Turing machine as a universally accepted formalization of the intuitive notion of a procedure
  • Covers the general theory of computation, particularly computability and decidability

In short, this class represents a theoretically oriented treatment of formal languages and their models with a focus on their applications. It introduces all formalisms concerning them with enough rigor to make all results quite clear and valid. Every complicated mathematical passage is preceded by its intuitive explanation so that even the most complex parts of the class are easy to grasp. After taking this class, students should be able to understand the fundamental theory of formal languages and computation, write compilers, and confidently follow the most advanced books on the subject.

Recommended prerequisites

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Knowledge of discrete mathematics.

Study literature

  • Copy of lectures (electronic and paper)
  • Meduna, A.: Automata and Languages. London, Springer, 2000.
  • Meduna, A.: Elements of Compiler Design. New York, US, Tailor & Francis, 2008.
  • Meduna, A.: Formal Languages and Computation. New York, Taylor & Francis, 2014.
  • Parsons, T. W.: Introduction to Compiler Construction. Freeman, New York, 1992.

Syllabus of lectures

  1. Formal languages.
  2. Translation of languages and the structure of a compiler.
  3. Regular languages and their models: regular expressions and finite automata.
  4. Lexical analysis: lexical analyzer; Lex; symbol table.
  5. Context-free languages and their models: context-free grammars and pushdown automata.
  6. Syntax analysis: deterministic syntax analysis, FIRST and FOLLOW, LL grammars.
  7. Deterministic top-down syntax analysis: recursive descent.
  8. Deterministic bottom-up syntax analysis: simple precedence analysis; Yacc.
  9. Semantic analysis and intermediate form generation.
  10. Optimization.
  11. Code generation.
  12. Chomsky hierarchy and the corresponding models.
  13. Remarks and summary. Preliminary discussion of the VYPe contents.

Syllabus - others, projects and individual work of students

Students in teams (3 through 4 students per a team) implement a compiler of a simple programming language (including a documentation).

Progress assessment

There is a midterm test for 20 points without a spare or correction term. Students solve one team project during the semester (25 points) that is handed over before given deadline. Exam prerequisites: To be allowed to take the final written exam, the student has to obtain 20 points during the semester; out of these 20 points, at least four points have to be obtained for the programming part of the project.

Controlled instruction

In case of a serious obstacle (e.g. illness), the student should inform the faculty about that andsubsequently provide the evidence of such an obstacle. 

  • The midterm test takes place approximately in the middle of the semester without a spare or correction term (20 points).  If student cannot attend the midterm test, (s)he can ask to derive points from the evaluation of his/her first attempt of the final exam. To enter the final exam in this case, at least 12 points from project are required.
  • To apply theoretical knowledge, students work on a team project (25 points). Continuously, the team leader checks the team's progress. In case of illness of the most team members, the team can ask the responsible teacher to extend the time for the project.
  • Finally, there is a final exam with two correction terms (55 points).

Exam prerequisites

To be allowed to take the final written exam, the student has to obtain 20 points during the semester; out of these 20 points, at least 4 points have to be obtained for the programming part of the project.

Course inclusion in study plans

  • Programme BIT, 2nd year of study, Compulsory
  • Programme BIT (in English), 2nd year of study, Compulsory
  • Programme IT-BC-3, field BIT, 2nd year of study, Compulsory
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