portable S-expressions (POSE)
specification and libraries


S-expressions, short for symbolic expressions, are the syntactic backbone of the Lisp programming language family. While each dialect uses a slightly different variant for its native syntax, there is broad agreement on the fundamentals. This document gives a precise specification and a rationale for a syntax that is close to a least common denominator.

Such a pidgin syntax is appropriate for the interchange of data files across language boundaries. It is also fit for code written in some of the kind of domain-specific languages that Lisp handles well.

The proposed syntax is simple to implement in full. A reader is about 200 lines of code in a typical high-level language. The authors hope this will encourage the use of S-expressions beyond the Lisp community.