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New to this topic? Learn more about how Abstract Syntax Tree works 👇
Abstract syntax trees are graphical visualizations of source code. One of their uses, as we will discuss later, is in compilers that transform a high-level language into a low-level language.
Let's take a closer look at what the visualization looks like. A simple function a * b would be visually represented using an AST as follows:
We used a specific example above, so you may be wondering why the word "Abstract" has a place in the formal name, right?
As Wikipedia puts it, “the syntax is abstract in the sense that it does not represent every detail appearing in the real syntax, but rather just the structural or content-related details. For instance, grouping parentheses are implicit in the tree structure, so these do not have to be represented as separate nodes. Likewise, a syntactic construct like an if-condition-then statement may be denoted by means of a single node with three branches.”
Although abstract syntax trees are of great importance for programming languages, there is ongoing research into their use in other areas.