Specializing a meta-interpreter: JIT compilation of dynsem specifications on the graal VM

Vlad Vergu, Eelco Visser

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

3 Citations (Scopus)
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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. DynSem specifications can be executed to interpret programs in the language under development. To enable fast turnaround during language development, we have developed a meta-interpreter for DynSem specifications, which requires minimal processing of the specification. In addition to fast development time, we also aim to achieve fast run times for interpreted programs. In this paper we present the design of a meta-interpreter for DynSem and report on experiments with JIT compiling the application of the meta-interpreter on the Graal VM. By interpreting specifications directly, we have minimal compilation overhead. By specializing pattern matches, maintaining call-site dispatch chains and using native control-flow constructs we gain significant run-time performance. We evaluate the performance of the meta-interpreter when applied to the Tiger language specification running a set of common benchmark programs. Specialization enables the Graal VM to JIT compile the meta-interpreter giving speedups of up to factor 15 over running on the standard Oracle Java VM.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 15th International Conference on Managed Languages and Runtimes, ManLang 2018
Place of PublicationNew Yorj, NY
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-6424-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventManLang'18: 15th International Conference on Managed Languages and Runtimes - Linz, Austria
Duration: 12 Sep 201813 Sep 2018
Conference number: 15


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  • Dynamic semantics
  • Interpretation
  • JIT
  • Run-time optimization


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