The project can be cloned from github repository.
The revision described in this post is 83102b4c3f979c8d3e82abe35c91d3b14d37f1ab.

Grammar changes

I defined a new rule called “returnStatement”.

You may wonder why is it not “returnExpression”? After all an expression is something that evaluates to a value (as described in the previous post ) . Doesn’t a return statement evaluate to a value?

This may seem confusing but it turns out that return does not evaulate to a value. In Java the following code would not make sens: int x = return 5; , and same thing is with enkel. In other words expression is essentially something that can be assigned to a variable. That is why the return is a statement not an expression:

statement : variableDeclaration
           //other statements rules
           | returnStatement ;

variableDeclaration : VARIABLE name EQUALS expression;
printStatement : PRINT expression ;
returnStatement : 'return' #RETURNVOID
                | ('return')? expression #RETURNWITHVALUE;

The return statement comes in two versions:

  • RETURNVOID - used in void methods. Does not take an expression. Requires ‘return’ keyword
  • RETURNWITHVALUE - used in non-void methods. Does require an expression. Does not require ‘return’ keyword (optional).

It is possible to return value explicitly and implicitly:

SomeClass {
    fun1 {
       return  //explicitly return from void method
    fun2 {
        //implicitly return from void method
    int fun2 {
        return 1  //explicitly return "1" from int method
    int fun3 {
        1  //implicitly return "1" from int method

The above code results in following parse tree:

Parse Tree

You may notice that the parser did not resolve implicit return statement in fun2. This is due to the fact that the block is empty and matching “empty” as return statement is not a good idea. The missing return statements are added at bytecode generation phase.

Mapping antlr context objects

Parsed return statements are converted from antlr context classes into POJO ReturnStatement objects. The purpose of this step is to feed compiler only with data required for bytecode generation. Getting data from antlr generated objects to generate bytecode would result in ugly unreadable code.

public class StatementVisitor extends EnkelBaseVisitor<Statement> {

    //other stuff
    public Statement visitRETURNVOID(@NotNull EnkelParser.RETURNVOIDContext ctx) {
        return new ReturnStatement(new EmptyExpression(BultInType.VOID));
    public Statement visitRETURNWITHVALUE(@NotNull EnkelParser.RETURNWITHVALUEContext ctx) {
        Expression expression = ctx.expression().accept(expressionVisitor); 
        return new ReturnStatement(expression);

Detecting implicit void return

If there is a implicit return from a void method, no return statement is detected during parse time. That is why it is necessary to detect this scenario and append return statement at generation time.

public class MethodGenerator {
    //other stuff
    private void appendReturnIfNotExists(Function function, Block block,StatementGenerator statementScopeGenrator) {
        Statement lastStatement = block.getStatements().get(block.getStatements().size() - 1);
        boolean isLastStatementReturn = lastStatement instanceof ReturnStatement;
        if(!isLastStatementReturn) {
            EmptyExpression emptyExpression = new EmptyExpression(function.getReturnType());
            ReturnStatement returnStatement = new ReturnStatement(emptyExpression);

This method detects if the last statement in the method is a ReturnStatement. If not it generates return instruction.

Generating bytecode

public class StatementGenerator {
    //oher stuff
    public void generate(ReturnStatement returnStatement) {
        Expression expression = returnStatement.getExpression();
        Type type = expression.getType();
        expression.accept(expressionGenrator); //generate bytecode for expression itself (puts the value of expression onto the stack)
        if(type == BultInType.VOID) {
        } else if (type == BultInType.INT) {

As an example the statements return 5 would result in following steps:

  • get expression from returnStatement (“5” - which is of type “Value” - deducted during parsing).
  • generate bytecode for “5” expression (expression.accept(expressionGenerator) calls ExpressionGenerator.generate(Value value) - visitor pattern).
  • Bytecode generation results in a new value (5) pushed onto operand stack
  • IRETURN instruction invocation takes a value from operand stack and returns it.

Which generates bytecode:

 bipush        5


The following Enkel class:

SumCalculator {

    main(stirng[] args) {
        print sum(5,2)

    int sum (int x ,int y) {

gets compiled into following bytecode:

kuba@kuba-laptop:~/repos/Enkel-JVM-language$ javap -c  SumCalculator
public class SumCalculator {
  public static void main(java.lang.String[]);
       0: getstatic     #12                 //get static field java/lang/System.out:Ljava/io/PrintStream;
       3: bipush        5
       5: bipush        2
       7: invokestatic  #16                 // call method sum (with the values on operand stack 5,2)
      10: invokevirtual #21                 // call method println (with the value on stack - the result of method sum)
      13: return                           //return

  public static int sum(int, int);
       0: iload_0
       1: iload_1
       2: iadd
       3: ireturn //return the value from operand stack (result of iadd)

Jakub Dziworski

JVM Dev Blog