The first line says that a name is an lc_letter followed by
a sequence of zero or more lc_letters and underscores. An
lc_letter in turn is any of the single characters "a"
through "z". (This rule is actually adhered to for the
names defined in lexical and grammar rules in this document.)
Each rule begins with a name (which is the name defined by the rule)
and a colon. A vertical bar (|) is used to separate
alternatives; it is the least binding operator in this notation. A
star (*) means zero or more repetitions of the preceding item;
likewise, a plus (+) means one or more repetitions, and a
phrase enclosed in square brackets ([ ]) means zero or one
occurrences (in other words, the enclosed phrase is optional). The
* and + operators bind as tightly as possible;
parentheses are used for grouping. Literal strings are enclosed in
quotes. White space is only meaningful to separate tokens.
Rules are normally contained on a single line; rules with many
alternatives may be formatted alternatively with each line after the
first beginning with a vertical bar.
In lexical definitions (as the example above), two more conventions
are used: Two literal characters separated by three dots mean a choice
of any single character in the given (inclusive) range of ASCII
characters. A phrase between angular brackets (<...>) gives an
informal description of the symbol defined; e.g., this could be used
to describe the notion of `control character' if needed.
Even though the notation used is almost the same, there is a big
difference between the meaning of lexical and syntactic definitions:
a lexical definition operates on the individual characters of the
input source, while a syntax definition operates on the stream of
tokens generated by the lexical analysis. All uses of BNF in the next
chapter (``Lexical Analysis'') are lexical definitions; uses in
subsequent chapters are syntactic definitions.