Appendix A. XPath 2.0 Syntax Summary

This appendix summarizes the entire XPath 2.0 grammar. The tables in this appendix also act as an index: they identify the page where each construct is defined.

The way that the XPath grammar is presented in the W3C specification is influenced by the need to support the much richer grammar of XQuery. In this book, I have tried to avoid these complications.

The grammar is presented here for the benefit of users, not for implementors writing a parser (the W3C spec adopted the same approach in its final drafts). So there is no attempt to write the syntax rules in such a way that expressions can be parsed without lookahead or backtracking.

An interesting feature of the XPath grammar is that there are no reserved words. Words that have a special meaning in the language, because they are used as keywords («if», «for»), as operators («and», «except»), or as function names («not», «count») can also be used as the name of an element in a path expression. This means that the interpretation of a name depends on its context. The language uses several techniques to distinguish different roles for the same name:

  • Operators such as «and» are distinguished from names used as element names or function names in a path expression by virtue of the token that precedes the name. In essence, if a word follows a token that marks the end of an expression, then the word must be an operator; otherwise, it must be some other kind of name.

  • As an exception to the first rule, if ...

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