Parsing milestoned XML in Python

Thu 25 August 2016

I am trying to write a tool in Python (using Python 3.4 to be able to use the latest Python standard library on Windows without using any external libraries on Windows) for some manipulation with the source code for the Bible texts.

Let me first explain what is the milestoned XML, because many normal Python programmers dealing with normal XML documents may not be familiar with it. There is a problem with using XML markup for documents with complicated structure. One rather complete article on this topic is DeRose (2016).

Briefly [1] , the problem in many areas (especially in documents processing) is with multiple possible hierarchies overlapping each other (e.g., in Bibles there are divisions of text which are going across verse and chapters boundaries and sometimes terminating in the middle of verse, many especially English Bibles marks Jesus’ sayings with a special element, and of course this can go over several verses etc.). One of the ways how to overcome obvious problem that XML doesn't allow overlapping elements is to use milestones. So for example the book of Bible could be divided not like


but just putting milestones in the text, i.e.:

<chapter n="1" />
<verse sID="ID1.1" />text of verse 1.1
<verse eID="ID1.1" /> ....

So, in my case the part of the document may look like

text text
textB textB <czap> textC textC <verse/> textD textD </czap>

And I would like to get from some kind of iterator this series of outputs:

[(1, 1, "text text", ['text text']),
 (1, 2, "textB textB textC textC",
  ['<verse/>', 'textB textB', '<czap>', 'textC textC']),
 (1, 3, "textD textD", ['<verse/>', 'textD textD', '</czap>'])]

(the first two numbers should be number of the chapter and verse respectively).

My first attempt was in its core this iterator:

def __iter__(self) -> Tuple[int, int, str]:
    iterate through the first level elements

    NOTE: this iterator assumes only all milestoned elements on the first
    level of depth. If this assumption fails, it might be necessary to
    rewrite this function (or perhaps ``text`` method) to be recursive.
    collected = None

    for child in self.root:
        if child.tag in ['titulek']:
        if child.tag in ['kap', 'vers']:
            if collected and collected.strip():
                yield self.cur_chapter, self.cur_verse, \
            if child.tag == 'kap':
                self.cur_chapter = int(child.get('n'))
            elif child.tag == 'vers':
                self.cur_verse = int(child.get('n'))
            collected = child.tail or ''
            if collected is not None:
                if child.text is not None:
                    collected += child.text
                for sub_child in child:
                    collected += self._recursive_get_text(sub_child)
                if child.tail is not None:
                    collected += child.tail

(self.root is a product of ElementTree.parse(file_name).getroot()). The problem of this code lies in the note. When the <verse/> element is inside of <czap> one, it is ignored. So, obviously we have to make our iterator recursive. My first idea was to make this script parsing and regenerating XML:

#!/usr/bin/env python3
from xml.etree import ElementTree as ET
from typing import List

def start_element(elem: ET.Element) -> str:
    outx = ['<{} '.format(elem.tag)]
    for attr, attval in elem.items():
        outx.append('{}={} '.format(attr, attval))
    return ''.join(outx)

def recursive_parse(elem: ET.Element) -> List[str]:
    col_xml = []
    col_txt = ''
    cur_chapter = chap

    if elem.text is None:
        if elem.tail is not None:
            col_txt += elem.tail
        col_xml.extend([start_element(elem), elem.text])
        col_txt += elem.text
        for subch in elem:
            subch_xml, subch_text = recursive_parse(subch)
            col_txt += subch_text

        if elem.tail is not None:
            col_txt += elem.tail

    return col_xml, col_txt

if __name__ == '__main__':
    # write result XML to CRLF-delimited file with
    # ET.tostring(ET.fromstringlist(result), encoding='utf8')
    # or encoding='unicode'? Better for testing?
    xml_file = ET.parse('tests/data/Mat-old.xml')

    collected_XML, collected_TEXT = recursive_parse(xml_file.getroot())
    with open('test.xml', 'w', encoding='utf8', newline='\r\n') as outf:
                         encoding='unicode'), file=outf)

    with open('test.txt', 'w', encoding='utf8', newline='\r\n') as outf:
        print(collected_TEXT, file=outf)

This works correctly in sense that the generated file test.xml is identical to the original XML file (after reformatting both files with tidy -i -xml -utf8). However, it is not iterator, so I would like to somehow combine the virtues of both snippets of code into one. Obviously, the problem is that return in my ideal code should serve two purposes. Once it should actually yield nicely formatted result from the iterator, second time it should just provide content of the inner elements (or not, if the inner element contains <verse/> element). If my ideal world I would like to get recursive_parse() to function as an iterator capable of something like this:

if __name__ == '__main__':
    xml_file = ET.parse('tests/data/Mat-old.xml')
    parser = ET.XMLParser(target=ET.TreeBuilder())

    with open('test.txt', 'w', newline='\r\n') as out_txt, \
            open('test.xml', 'w', newline='\r\n') as out_xml:
        for ch, v, verse_txt, verse_xml in recursive_parse(xml_file):
            print(verse_txt, file=out_txt)
            # or directly parser.feed(verse_xml)
            # if verse_xml is not a list

        print(ET.tostring(parser.close(), encoding='unicode'),

So, my first attempt to rewrite the iterator (so far without the XML part I have):

def __iter__(self) -> Tuple[CollectedInfo, str]:
    iterate through the first level elements
    cur_chapter = 0
    cur_verse = 0
    collected_txt = ''
    # collected XML is NOT directly convertable into Element objects,
    # it should be treated more like a list of SAX-like events.
    # xml.etree.ElementTree.fromstringlist(sequence, parser=None)
    # Parses an XML document from a sequence of string fragments.
    # sequence is a list or other sequence containing XML data fragments.
    # parser is an optional parser instance. If not given, the standard
    # XMLParser parser is used. Returns an Element instance.
    # sequence = ["<html><body>", "text</bo", "dy></html>"]
    # element = ET.fromstringlist(sequence)
    # self.assertEqual(ET.tostring(element),
    #         b'<html><body>text</body></html>')
    # FIXME přidej i sběr XML útržků
    # collected_xml = None

    for child in self.root.iter():
        if child.tag in ['titulek']:
            collected_txt += '\n{}\n'.format(child.text)
            collected_txt += child.tail or ''
        if child.tag in ['kap', 'vers']:
            if collected_txt and collected_txt.strip():
                yield CollectedInfo(cur_chapter, cur_verse,
                                    re.sub(r'[\s\n]+', ' ', collected_txt,
                                           flags=re.DOTALL).strip()), \
                    child.tail or ''

            if child.tag == 'kap':
                cur_chapter = int(child.get('n'))
            elif child.tag == 'vers':
                cur_verse = int(child.get('n'))
            collected_txt += child.text or ''

            for sub_child in child:
                for sub_info, sub_tail in MilestonedElement(sub_child):
                    if sub_info.verse == 0 or sub_info.chap == 0:
                        collected_txt += sub_info.text + sub_tail
                        # FIXME what happens if sub_element contains
                        # multiple <verse/> elements?
                        yield CollectedInfo(
                            sub_info.chap, sub_info.verse,
                            collected_txt + sub_info.text), ''
                        collected_txt = sub_tail

            collected_txt += child.tail or ''

    yield CollectedInfo(0, 0, collected_txt), ''

Am I going the right way, or did I still not get it?

[1]From the discussion of the topic on the XSL list.
DeRose, Steven. 2016. “Proceedings of Extreme Markup Languages®.” Accessed August 25.

Category: computer Tagged: python xml bible recursive generator


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