Scopes and frames improve meta-interpreter specialization

Vlad Vergu, Andrew Tolmach, Eelco Visser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

48 Downloads (Pure)


DynSem is a domain-specific language for concise specification of the dynamic semantics of programming languages, aimed at rapid experimentation and evolution of language designs. To maintain a short definition-to-execution cycle, DynSem specifications are meta-interpreted. Meta-interpretation introduces runtime overhead that is difficult to remove by using interpreter optimization frameworks such as the Truffle/Graal Java tools; previous work has shown order-of-magnitude improvements from applying Truffle/Graal to a meta-interpreter, but this is still far slower than what can be achieved with a language-specific interpreter. In this paper, we show how specifying the meta-interpreter using scope graphs, which encapsulate static name binding and resolution information, produces much better optimization results from Truffle/Graal. Furthermore, we identify that JIT compilation is hindered by large numbers of calls between small polymorphic rules and we introduce rule cloning to derive larger monomorphic rules at run time as a countermeasure. Our contributions improve the performance of DynSem-derived interpreters to within an order of magnitude of a handwritten language-specific interpreter.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication33rd European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, ECOOP 2019
EditorsAlastair F. Donaldson
PublisherSchloss Dagstuhl- Leibniz-Zentrum fur Informatik GmbH, Dagstuhl Publishing
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783959771115
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
Event33rd European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, ECOOP 2019 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Jul 201919 Jul 2019


Conference33rd European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, ECOOP 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Definitional interpreters
  • Partial evaluation


Dive into the research topics of 'Scopes and frames improve meta-interpreter specialization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this