Static Single Assignment (SSA) Form

This language extension lets you represent Bril programs in static single assignment (SSA) form. As in the standard definition, an SSA-form Bril program contains only one assignment per variable, globally—that is, variables within a function cannot be reassigned. This extension adds ϕ-nodes to the language.


There is one new instruction:

  • phi: Takes n labels and n arguments, for any n. Copies the value of the ith argument, where i is the index of the second-most-recently-executed label. (It is an error to use a phi instruction when two labels have not yet executed, or when the instruction does not contain an entry for the second-most-recently-executed label.)

Intuitively, a phi instruction takes its value according to the current basic block’s predecessor.


In the text format, you can write phi instructions like this:

x: int = phi a .here b .there;

The text format doesn’t care how you interleave arguments and labels, so this is equivalent to (but more readable than) phi a b .here .there. The “second-most-recent label” rule means that the labels refer to predecessor basic blocks, if you imagine blocks being “named” by their labels.

Here’s a small example:

  a: int = const 5;
  br cond .here .there;
  b: int = const 7;
  c: int = phi a .top b .here;
  print c;

A phi instruction is sensitive to the incoming CFG edge that execution took to arrive at the current block. The phi instruction in this program, for example, gets its value from a if control came from the .top block and b if control came from the .here block.

The reference interpreter can supports programs in SSA form because it can faithfully execute the phi instruction.