Scopes and Frames Improve Meta-Interpreter Specialization

Vlad A. Vergu, Andrew P. Tolmach, Eelco Visser. Scopes and Frames Improve Meta-Interpreter Specialization. In Alastair F. Donaldson, editor, 33rd European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, ECOOP 2019, July 15-19, 2019, London, United Kingdom. Volume 134 of LIPIcs, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik, 2019. [doi]


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.