oplang: Compiler for OpLang, an esoteric programming language

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Please see the README on GitHub at https://github.com/aionescu/oplang#readme

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Dependencies base (==4.13.*), directory (>=1.3.6 && <1.4), filepath (>=1.4.2 && <1.5), optparse-applicative (==0.16.*), parsec (>=3.1.14 && <3.2), process (>=1.6.9 && <1.7), text (>=1.2.4 && <1.3), text-builder (>=0.6.6 && <0.7), unordered-containers (>=0.2.13 && <0.3) [details]
License MIT
Copyright Copyright (C) 2019-2020 Alex Ionescu
Author Alex Ionescu
Maintainer alxi.2001@gmail.com
Category Compiler
Home page https://github.com/aionescu/oplang#readme
Bug tracker https://github.com/aionescu/oplang/issues
Source repo head: git clone https://github.com/aionescu/oplang
Uploaded by aionescu at 2020-10-10T23:34:54Z
Distributions NixOS:
Executables oplang
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Maintainer's Corner

For package maintainers and hackage trustees

Readme for oplang-

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This repository contains the compiler for OpLang, a stack-based esoteric programming language based on Brainfuck.


To build the compiler yourself, you will need the Haskell Platform, which can be found here.

To build, run cabal new-build in the root of the repository.

You can then either install the package globally running cabal install, or run the local build with cabal new-run.

OpLang Basics

In short, OpLang (Operator Language) is an extended version of Brainfuck that supports defining custom operators, which use a stack for passing arguments and return values.

The memory model of OpLang is similar to that of Brainfuck: There is a "memory tape", consisting of an array of cells (each cell taking up 1 byte), and a "cursor" that keeps track of a cell (the "current cell"), initially set to the first cell in the tape. The language's primitive instructions, called "intrinsics", modify either the cursor, or the current cell.

In OpLang, every time an operator is invoked, a new tape is allocated on the stack (and zeroed out), and when the operator returns, the tape is deallocated (similar to the stack frames of functions or procedures in other languages).

The only way for operators to communicate (e.g. pass arguments or return values) is through the stack (which, ironically, sits on the heap), a special "global" tape which never gets reset, and which all operators have access to.


OpLang has 10 "intrinsic" operators (8 of which are the Brainfuck operators, with the same semantics):

  • +: Increments the value at the current cell
  • -: Decrements the value at the current cell
  • <: Move the current cell to the left
  • >: Move the current cell to the right
  • ;: Pop a value from the stack and move it into the current cell
  • :: Push the value of the current cell onto the stack
  • ,: Read a character from stdin and store its ASCII value in the current cell
  • .: Interpret the current cell as an ASCII character and print it to stdout
  • [: Begin a loop (i.e. if the value at the current cell is zero, jump to the next ])
  • ]: End a loop (i.e. if the value at the current cell is non-zero, jump to the previous [)

An OpLang program consists of a (potentially empty) series of operator definitions, followed by a series of operator calls, called the toplevel (similar to a main() function in other languages).

An operator definition consists of an operator name, which is any non-whitespace character that is not reserved (i.e. not one of +-<>;:,;[]{}#), followed by a series of operator calls delimited between { and }.

OpLang supports single-line comments, introduced by the # character.

Here's an example of a simple OpLang program:

a { ; +++ : }
++++ : a a a ; .

The above program defines a custom operator a that pops a value from the stack, adds 3 to it, then pushes it back onto the stack. The program's top level (i.e. main() function) initializes the first cell to 4, pushes it to the stack, then calls a 3 times, then pops the value from the stack and prints it.

For more sample programs, see the Samples folder.

The recommended file extension for OpLang programs is *.op.

Compiler Settings

The compiler can be passed additional configuration via command-line arguments (for example, setting custom tape and stack sizes). In order to see the available options, run the compiler with the -h or --help argument.

Compiler Internals

The compiler works by translating OpLang code into C, then calling the system's C compiler (via cc).


The compiler performs a series of optimizations on OpLang source code:

Instruction Merging

Multiple instructions of the same kind (e.g. + and -, or < and >) are merged into a single instruction.

+++ --- ++ => Add 2

> <<<< => Move -3

+++ --- => # Nothing

Efficient cell zeroing

Cell zeroing is usually achieved by using [-]. The compiler recognizes this pattern, and transforms it into a single assignment. Note that because cells can overflow, [+] achieves the same behavior.

[-] => Set 0

[+] => Set 0

Dead Code Elimination

In some cases (such as consecutive loops), the compiler can statically determine that particular instructions have no effect, so they are removed.

[+>][<-] => [+>] => Loop [Add 1, Move 1] # Second loop is not compiled

Also, operators that are defined but never used do not get compiled. They are still checked for correctness.

n { ... } # Unused
m { ... }           => m { ... }
... m                  ... m

Strength reduction

In some cases, certain instructions can be replaced with cheaper ones. For example, adding after a loop can be replaced with a Set instruction, as the value of the cell is 0 (since it exited the loop), so the 2 instructions are equivalent.

[-]+++ => Set 0, Add 3 => Set 3

Also, setting a value after adding to it (or subtracting from it) will overwrite the result of the additions, so they are removed.

+++[-] => Add 3, Set 0 => Set 0

Consecutive Sets also behave similarly: Only the last Set is compiled, previous ones are elided.

Offseted instructions

A common pattern that arises in Brainfuck/OpLang code is the following structure: [>>>+<<<-] (the number of >s, <s and +s may vary, and + may be replaced by another instruction)

Instead of generating the following code for such structures: Loop [Move 3, Add 1, Move -3, Add -1], the compiler generates the following code: Loop [AtOffset 3 (Add 1), Add -1], thus performing less arithmetic operations.

Tail Call Optimization*

The compiler has very basic support for TCO: It is able to optimize recursive self-calls in tail position by converting them to a goto to the beginning of the function. For an example, see this sample program.


This repository is licensed under the terms of the MIT License. For more details, see the license file.