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7. Creating our own front end

7.1 Our Aim

We are going to develop a small new language with the following constructs - assignments, variable declarations, if and while statements etc. We are not going to directly compile our program but we are making the GCC to do the required operations and produce the machine code. Let's have a name to our language. I have given the name "demo", since it shows how to develop a new compiler. The syntax I am going to choose is a combination of Pascal and C so that it would be familiar to programmers of both the languages.

Our role is to clearly specify the syntax of our language and create a tree structure for the language. We will be creating the RTL from the tree structure. After that, it is the duty of the back end to produce an optimized output. We will be concentrating only on the tree structure creation and rtl conversion.

A number of functions and macros for handling the trees and rtl will be specified. Also a short description of what each does is given. The language that is being explained deals with only integer values so that we can avoid unnecessary type conversion complications.

7.2 Expressions

Let me start our language with the basic unit, expression. Here we have to perform only tree structure creation. It is possible with the help of a function called 'build'.

build(PLUS_EXPR, type, left, right) returns a tree for addition operation. Here left and right are two trees supplied by us for addition. We have one and only one type - the integer type. So there is no confusion regarding that.

Similarly, we have build1 used for operations like negations as shown

build1(NEGATE_EXPR,type,expression) where expression is the tree to be negated. It is used in case of unary operators.

And at last we can create a tree for simple whole numbers as shown

build_int_2(int num, num >=0 ? 0 : -1) to create a tree for the specific number. Actually, the two parameters passed are the low and high values of type HOST_WIDE_INT. But let us understand it like this - We have to set the second parameter of the function to show the correct sign. This is actually a macro invoking the function build_int_2_wide.

Now we have an idea regarding the creation of trees for building expressions. Let us directly write the parsing segment for tree creation for expressions.

exp:  NUM     { $$ = build_int_2 ($1, $1 >= 0 ? 0 : -1); }
     | exp '+' exp  { $$ = build (PLUS_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '-' exp  { $$ = build (MINUS_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '*' exp  { $$ = build (MULT_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '/' exp  { $$ = build (TRUNC_DIV_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '%' exp  { $$ = build (TRUNC_MOD_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | '-' exp %prec NEG { $$ = build1 (NEGATE_EXPR, integer_type_node, $2); }
     | '(' exp ')'  { $$ = $2; }

Now I am directly giving the lexical file required by demo language. No explanation is provided because of its simplicity.

[ \n\t]         ;                   // white space 
[0-9]+          {yylval.ival = atoi(yytext); return NUM;}   // integers
var             {return VAR;}       // variable declaration
return          {return RETURN;}    // return
if              {return IF;}        // if
then            {return THEN;}      // then
else            {return ELSE;}      // else
endif           {return ENDIF;}     // endif
while           {return WHILE;}     // while
endwhile        {return ENDWHILE;}  // endwhile
begin           {return BEGIN;}     // begin
end             {return END;}       // end
"<"             {return LT;}        // less than
">"             {return GT;}        // greater than
"=="            {return EQ;}        // equal to
[a-zA-Z]+       { = strdup(yytext); return NAME;} 
                                // function/variable name
.               {return yytext[0];} // match all single characters

Let's also present the grammar we are going to develop so that I needn't repeat it always.

        tree exp;       //Tree node developed by us.
        int ival;       //Integer value for constants.
        char *name;     //Name of function or variables.

input:            fndef body ;

fndef:            NAME '(' ')';

body:             BEGIN declarations compstmts END;

declarations:     /*empty */
                | declarations VAR NAME

compstmts:        /*empty */
                | compstmts statements;

statements:       exp
                | assignstmt
                | ifstmt
                | whilestmt
                | returnstmt;

assignstmt:       NAME '=' exp;

whilestmt:        head loopbody;
head:             WHILE exp
loopbody:         compstmts ENDWHILE

ifstmt:           ifpart thenpart elsepart;
ifpart:           IF exp;
thenpart:         THEN compstmts;
elsepart:         ELSE compstmts ENDIF;

returnstmt:       RETURN exp;

exp:              NUM
                | exp '+' exp
                | exp '-' exp
                | exp '*' exp
                | exp '/' exp
                | NAME;

I will be developing our "demo" language in a step by step procedure. Starting from expressions we will move steadily to the end. At each stage a new construct will be introduced in the language. So in the final stage the "demo" language obeys the above grammar in all respect.

In the bison code above, I haven't provided the semantic actions for the productions. It will be introduced as we are studying to develop trees and rtl conversion.

Also in each stage I will be providing you only the required bison segments. You can look at the above grammar to understand the overall working.

7.3 Functions

Let us insert our expression inside a function. A large number of steps have to be invoked for a function. It ranges from setting up the parameters to the announcement of our declaration. The required tree and rtl functions are described in a step by step manner below. Most of the functions dealing with trees start with a 'build' and will be returning a tree structure. (I haven't explicitly given this fact everywhere. You should understand it by the way the functions involving trees are used.) We are going to build the tree using the functions provided by the GCC. Using the tree structure we will be creating the rtls.

For the functions provided by the GCC, the arguments are explained only if it is of any relative importance.

Let us write the routine for function handling. The given code builds a function with name, "name".

build_function_decl (char *name)
tree param_list;  //param_list is of type tree. Similarly others.
tree param_type_list;
tree fntype;
tree fndecl; // Consider it as a global value.
             // It will be required quite often.

/*First of all we have to arrange the parameters that are involved in the function. Suppose, we have "hello(int a, int b)" then a and b form the parameters. a and b have to be made available to the function. But since this is our first attempt, we are assuming that the function doesn't involve any parameters. So param_list is made to be a NULL_TREE (which is a NULL of type tree). */

param_list = NULL_TREE;

/*Next is the type of the parameters. The function always take a fixed number of parameters. Since we don't have any parameters in the current example, we are invoking the function, tree_cons as shown. The first field is a purpose field and the last one is a chain field (for linking together different types like integers). We will be explaining more about this when we pass some parameters. */

param_type_list = tree_cons(NULL_TREE, void_type_node, NULL_TREE);

/*Alright, we are done with the parameters. ie. the parameters and the type. We needn't bother about them. Now let's look at the function. The first thing is the type of the function. It depends on the return type and the parameter type. We consider our function as one returning an integer value. So the first argument of build_function is integer. The second one deals with parameters. The type of the parameters is given in the param_type_list. */

fntype = build_function_type(integer_type_node, param_type_list);

/*Next is the function declaration. It is possible with the function build_decl. The first argument says that it is a function declaration. The second one involves a function, get_identifier. It returns a tree whose name is "name". If an identifier with that name has been previously referred to, then the same tree node is returned. Since this is the first time we are using this, a new tree node is returned. The last argument deals with the type of the function. */

fndecl = build_decl(FUNCTION_DECL, get_identifier(name), fntype);

/*Here comes the flags. They are invoked through special macros given below*/

/*If nonzero, it means external reference. Needn't allocate storage. There is a definition elsewhere. But we need to make a definition here itself and hence zero. */

DECL_EXTERNAL(fndecl) = 0;

/* non zero means function can be accessed from outside the module.*/

TREE_PUBLIC(fndecl) = 1;

/* non zero means function has been defined and not declared. */

TREE_STATIC(fndecl) = 1;

/* It declares the argument of the function (which is stored in param_list)*/

DECL_ARGUMENTS(fndecl) = param_list;

/* It makes the declaration for the return value.*/

DECL_RESULT(fndecl) = 
        build_decl(RESULT_DECL, NULL_TREE, integer_type_node);

/*It declares the context of the result. ie. We inform the result, that its scope is fndecl.*/

DECL_CONTEXT( DECL_RESULT( fndecl)) = fndecl;

/*Creates the rtl for the function declaration. The first argument gives the tree for the function declaration The second parameter deals with assembler symbol name. We don't want it here. We make it NULL. Let's look at third and fourth parameters later. Interested readers can refer toplev.c */

rest_of_decl_compilation (fndecl, NULL_PTR, 1, 0);

/*This gives idea regarding where the declaration is in the source code */

DECL_SOURCE_FILE( fndecl) = input_filename;
DECL_SOURCE_LINE( fndecl) = 1;

/* This function is just used to print the name of the function "name", on stderr if required */

announce_function( fndecl);

/* Let the GCC know the name of the function being compiled.*/

current_function_decl = fndecl;

/* It holds the tree of bindings. Just a method used here to make a partial tree. Don't bother about that. */

DECL_INITIAL( fndecl) = error_mark_node;

/* All tree and rtl are allocated in temporary memory. Used per function. */


/*pushlevel is explained in call back. Here, it requires a push at the start of any function. */


/*create function rtl for function definition. */

make_function_rtl( fndecl);

/*Generate rtl for the start of a function, fndecl. The second and third parameters denote the file and the line */

init_function_start(fndecl, input_filename, 1);

/*Let's start the rtl for a new function. It also sets the variables used for emitting rtl. The second parameter shows that there is no cleanup associated with. If it is made nonzero, cleanup will be run when a return statement is met. */

expand_function_start(fndecl, 0);

/*It generates the rtl code for entering a new binding level.*/


} //end of build_function_decl

All the above mentioned functions are invoked when, one enters a function. When we are leaving the function certain other things have to be done. These are explained in the code below.

build_function() {

/*Let's build the tree and emit the rtl for the return statement. In order to avoid an extra tree variable, I have included the tree creation and rtl conversion in a single statement. First build a tree of type result for 'fndecl'. I am always returning zero from our simple function. If you intend to return any other value, replace integer_zero_node with the other corresponding tree structure. expand_return creates the rtl for the tree. */

expand_return (build (MODIFY_EXPR, void_type_node, DECL_RESULT(fndecl),

/*Emit rtl for the end of bindings. Just like start bindings */

expand_end_bindings (NULL_TREE, 1, 0);

/* We have pushed. So don't forget to pop */

poplevel (1, 0, 1);

/*Emit rtl for the end of function. Just like starting */

expand_function_end (input_file_name, 1, 0);

/*Compile the function, output the assembler code, Free the tree storage. */

rest_of_compilation (fndecl);

/*We are free now */


/* Free everything in temporary store. Argument 1 shows that, we have just finished compiling a function */

permanent_allocation (1);

We have understood the working of functions and expressions. Let's add the required semantic actions for functions and expressions.

input:  fndef body      { build_function(); };
fndef:  NAME '(' ')'    { build_function_decl ($1); };

exp:  NUM     { $$ = build_int_2 ($1, $1 >= 0 ? 0 : -1); }
     | exp '+' exp  { $$ = build (PLUS_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '-' exp  { $$ = build (MINUS_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '*' exp  { $$ = build (MULT_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '/' exp  { $$ = build (TRUNC_DIV_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | exp '%' exp  { $$ = build (TRUNC_MOD_EXPR, integer_type_node, $1, $3); }
     | '-' exp %prec NEG { $$ = build1 (NEGATE_EXPR, integer_type_node, $2); }
     | '(' exp ')'  { $$ = $2; }

Example demo program 1


7.4 Variable Declaration

What is our current status? We have with us a function and an expression, which is good for nothing. Our language will be more beautiful with the presence of variables, which can be assigned and returned.

So the next step is to declare variables. As usual we have to build trees and convert it to rtl. When we are making a variable declaration as

var a;    // I prefer PASCAL syntax. Just a matter of taste.

we have to store the value of 'a' because when it is used later in an expression, say a+1, we have to use the same 'a'.

We can define two arrays of our own var_name[ ] and var_decls[ ] as shown.

char *var_name[100];    //global array ie. initialized to zero.
tree var_decls[100];    //global array

I hope the reader has understood that the first one is used to store the name of variables in "demo" and the second one to store the corresponding tree structures that are built.

Let's directly look at the code.

void add_var(char *name)
  int i;
/*Add the name given, as the last name in the array */
/* Store the name */
  var_name[i] = name;
/*Build the tree structure for the variable declared 
All the parameters are explained before.
Thus we have name of the variable stored in var_name[] and
tree stored in var_decls[ ]*/
  var_decls[i] =
  build_decl (VAR_DECL, get_identifier(name), integer_type_node);
/* Explained before*/
  DECL_CONTEXT (var_decls[i]) = fndecl;
/*We are just making the initial value of the variable declared 
as zero. This is a matter of taste. */
  DECL_INITIAL (var_decls[i]) = integer_zero_node;
/*push to the current scope. Explained before*/
  pushdecl (var_decls[i]);
/* Emit the rtl for the variable declaration*/
  expand_decl (var_decls[i]);
/* Emit the rtl for the initialization. ie. Initialized to zero*/
  expand_decl_init (var_decls[i]);

From now onwards I am not going to give the bison file fully. I'll be providing only the segments modified by us in each stage. Please do refer the bison file provided above in case of any doubt.

The bison segment for variable declaration is given by

declarations:    /*empty */     
              |  declarations VAR NAME          { add_var($3); };

Combining the variable declaration with the above syntax for functions and expressions, we have another example of a "demo" program.

Example demo program 2

        var a
        var b

7.5 Assignments

A number of variables and expressions one below the other doesn't help us in any way to do anything useful. For that we need assignments. Let's study the tree structure building and rtl conversion for assignments.

The general format of an assignment statement is "a = 10". Operations required for it is to store the value, 10 in 'a'. We had created the tree structure for 'a' and stored it in var_decls[] at the time of variable declaration. So our duty is to retrieve the tree structure of 'a' and assign the value, say 10 in it.

We seek the help of a function called "get_var" to retrieve the tree structure of the variable. The code is given below

tree get_var(char *name)
  int i;
/*Search for the name "name" in the variable name table, var_name[]
/*If found, return the corresponding tree structure of "name"
     if( !strcmp (var_name[i], name))
        return var_decls[i];

The above function gets us the tree structure of the variable. The only task left is to build the tree structure for assignment and the rtl conversion. It is achieved by the following function.

make_assign (tree vartree, tree valtree)
  tree assign;

/* Create the tree. Explained before.
  assign = 
     build (MODIFY_EXPR, integer_type_node, vartree, valtree);

/*Non zero values means that there is a side effect and re evaluation
  of the whole expression could produce a different value. The 
  optimization phase takes this into consideration.
  TREE_SIDE_EFFECTS (assign) = 1;

/* Indicates that the tree node is used */
  TREE_USED (assign) = 1;

/* Emit the rtl for the assign tree */
  expand_expr_stmt (assign);

We have also studied the tree creation and rtl conversion for assignment construct. Now it is time to give the semantic action in the bison file for assignment.

assignstmt:     NAME = exp      { make_assign ( get_var($1), $3); };

7.6 Expressions revisited

The expressions that we are using now is capable of working with numbers only. ie. We can give expressions as "1+2", "1+2*3" etc. But it is not possible for us to work with variable names as "a+1", "b+a-5" etc.

Let us modify our expressions to include variable names also. The task of inclusion is simple. We have to get the tree structure of the variable name. We have a function "get_var" in our hand which is capable of doing it.

So let us look at the semantic action for this

exp:    NAME            { $$ = get_var ($1); };

Example demo program 3

        var i
        var j
        var k
        i = 10
        j = 20
        k = i + j

7.7 Return

The above program would be more beautiful if it is possible for us to return the sum calculated. So our next step will be the inclusion of return construct.

I have already mentioned about the tree creation for 'return' when I explained the 'function'. But at that time we returned only zero. Now let us return an expression in the place of zero.

ret_stmt (tree expr)
  tree ret;
/* build the tree node for return. The arguments are explained 
    before. 'fndecl' is the global variable that we have defined 
    before, for our function.
  ret = 
      build (MODIFY_EXPR, integer_type_node, DECL_RESULT(fndecl), 

/*emits the rtl */
  expand_return (ret);

Let's look the bison segment straightly

returnstmt:     RETURN exp      { ret_stmt ($2) ; };

Example demo program 4

        var i
        var j
        var k
        i = 10
        j = 20
        k = i + j
        return k

7.8 Conditional statement

In the case of 'if' construct our task is different from the above. We have to clearly give information to GCC regarding where the if construct begins, where the 'else' part begins and where the if construct ends.

GCC supplies us rtl statements, which are capable of performing the above tasks. The rtl statements are given below


expand_start_cond (tree cond, int exitflag)

It generates an rtl for the start of an if-then. 'cond' is the expression whose truth is to be checked. Consider exitflag to be zero.

expand_start_else ()
expand_end_cond ()

These causes the rtl code generation for start of 'else' and for the end of 'if construct' respectively.

Now we can use the above functions in our bison file.

ifstmt  :       ifpart thenpart elsepart        { expand_end_cond (); };
ifpart  :       IF exp                  { expand_start_cond ($2, 0); };
thenpart:       THEN compstmts          { expand_start_else (); };
elsepart:       ELSE compstmts ENDIF            ;

Example demo program 5

        var x
        var y
        x = 100
        if (x) then     
                y = 1
                y = 0
        return y

7.9 Loops

Loops are same as conditional statements. We have to provide the start of the loop, end of the loop and the expression to be checked for truthness.

The rtl statements meant for the above operations are

struct nesting *expand_start_loop (int exit_flag)
expand_exit_loop_if_false (struct nesting *whichloop, tree cond)

The first one denotes the rtl for start of a loop. 'exit_flag' is zero. The return type is struct nesting *, which is used in the second statement. The second statement is used for generating a conditional jump to exit the current loop, if 'cond' evaluates to zero. The third statement is the rtl for end of a loop. It generates a jump back to the top of the loop. The ideas will be clearer with the bison file.

whilestmt:      head loopbody   { expand_end_loop(); };

head :          WHILE exp       { struct nesting *loop;
                                  loop = expand_start_loop (0);
                                  expand_exit_loop_if_false (loop, $2);

loopbody:       compstmts ENDWHILE      ;

Example demo program 6

        var i
        i = 100
        while (i)
                i = i-1
        return i

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