Why TcLclEnv and DsGblEnv need to store the same IORef for errors?

Alfredo Di Napoli alfredo.dinapoli at gmail.com
Tue Mar 30 07:42:17 UTC 2021

Hello folks,

as some of you might know me and Richard are reworking how GHC constructs,
emits and deals with errors and warnings (See
and #18516).

To summarise very briefly the spirit, we will have (eventually) proper
domain-specific types instead of SDocs. The idea is to have very precise
and "focused" types for the different phases of the compilation pipeline,
and a "catch-all" monomorphic `GhcMessage` type used for the final
pretty-printing and exception-throwing:

data GhcMessage where
  GhcPsMessage      :: PsMessage -> GhcMessage
  GhcTcRnMessage    :: TcRnMessage -> GhcMessage
  GhcDsMessage      :: DsMessage -> GhcMessage
  GhcDriverMessage  :: DriverMessage -> GhcMessage
  GhcUnknownMessage :: forall a. (Diagnostic a, Typeable a) => a ->

While starting to refactor GHC to use these types, I have stepped into
something bizarre: the `DsGblEnv` and `TcLclEnv` envs both share the same
`IORef` to store the diagnostics (i.e. warnings and errors) accumulated
during compilation. More specifically, a function like
`GHC.HsToCore.Monad.mkDsEnvsFromTcGbl` simply receives as input the `IORef`
coming straight from the `TcLclEnv`, and stores it into the `DsGblEnv`.

This is unfortunate, because it would force me to change the type of this
`IORef` to be
`IORef (Messages GhcMessage)` to accommodate both diagnostic types, but
this would bubble up into top-level functions like `initTc`, which would
now return a `Messages GhcMessage`. This is once again unfortunate, because
is "premature": ideally it might still be nice to return `Messages
TcRnMessage`, so that GHC API users could get a very precise diagnostic
type rather than the bag `GhcMessage` is. It also violates an implicit
contract: we are saying that `initTc` might return (potentially) *any* GHC
diagnostic message (including, for example, driver errors/warnings), which
I think is misleading.

Having said all of that, it's also possible that returning `Messages
GhcMessage` is totally fine here and we don't need to be able to do this
fine-grained distinction for the GHC API functions. Regardless, I would
like to ask the audience:

* Why `TcLclEnv` and `DsGblEnv` need to share the same IORef?
* Is this for efficiency reasons?
* Is this because we need the two monads to independently accumulate errors
into the
  same IORef?


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