PSyIR Types and Symbols


PSyIR DataTypes currently support Scalar, Array, Structure and empty types via the ScalarType, ArrayType, StructureType and NoType classes, respectively. The StructureType simply contains an OrderedDict of namedtuples, each of which holds the name, type and visibility of a component of the type. These types are designed to be composable: one might have an ArrayType with elements that are of a StructureType or a StructureType that has components that are also of (some other) StructureType. NoType is the equivalent of C’s void and is currently only used with RoutineSymbols when the corresponding routine has no return type (such as Fortran subroutines).

There are two other types that are used in situations where the full type information is not currently available: UnknownType means that the type-declaration is not supported by the PSyIR (or the PSyIR frontend) and DeferredType means that the type of a particular symbol has not yet been resolved. Since UnknownType captures the original, unsupported symbol declaration, it is subclassed for each language for which a PSyIR frontend exists. Currently therefore this is limited to UnknownFortranType.


Checking for equality between Type objects is currently only implemented for ScalarType. This will be completed in #1799.

It was decided to include datatype intrinsic as an attribute of ScalarType rather than subclassing. So, for example, a 4-byte real scalar is defined like this:

>>> scalar_type = ScalarType(ScalarType.Intrinsic.REAL, 4)

and has the following pre-defined shortcut

scalar_type = REAL4_TYPE

If we were to subclass, it would have looked something like this:

scalar_type = RealType(4)

where RealType subclasses ScalarType. It may be that the latter would have provided a better interface, but both approaches have the same functionality.


At the moment, nodes that represent a scope (all Schedules and Containers) have a symbol table which contains the symbols used by their descendant nodes. Nested scopes with their associated symbol table are allowed in the PSyIR.

The new_symbol method is provided to create new symbols while avoiding name clashes:

SymbolTable.new_symbol(root_name=None, tag=None, shadowing=False, symbol_type=None, **symbol_init_args)[source]

Create a new symbol. Optional root_name and shadowing arguments can be given to choose the name following the rules of next_available_name(). An optional tag can also be given. By default it creates a generic symbol but a symbol_type argument and any additional initialization keyword arguments of this symbol_type can be provided to refine the created Symbol.

  • root_name (str or NoneType) – optional name to use when creating a new symbol name. This will be appended with an integer if the name clashes with an existing symbol name.

  • tag (str) – optional tag identifier for the new symbol.

  • shadowing (bool) – optional logical flag indicating whether the name can be overlapping with a symbol in any of the ancestors symbol tables. Defaults to False.

  • symbol_type (type object of class (or subclasses) of psyclone.psyir.symbols.Symbol) – class type of the new symbol.

  • symbol_init_args (unwrapped Dict[str] = object) – arguments to create a new symbol.


TypeError – if the type_symbol argument is not the type of a Symbol object class or one of its subclasses.

However, if this symbol needs to be retrieved later on, one must keep track of the symbol or the returned name. As this is not always feasible when accessed from different routines, there is also the option to provide a tag to uniquely identify the symbol internally (the tag is not displayed in the generated code). Therefore, to create a new symbol and associate it with a tag, the following code can be used:

variable = node.symbol_table.new_symbol("variable_name",

There are two ways to retrieve the symbol from a symbol table. Using the name or using the tag as lookup keys. This is done with the two following methods:

SymbolTable.lookup(name, visibility=None, scope_limit=None)[source]

Look up a symbol in the symbol table. The lookup can be limited by visibility (e.g. just show public methods) or by scope_limit (e.g. just show symbols up to a certain scope).

  • name (str) – name of the symbol.

  • visibilty – the visibility or list of visibilities that the symbol must have.

  • scope_limit (psyclone.psyir.nodes.Node or NoneType) – optional Node which limits the symbol search space to the symbol tables of the nodes within the given scope. If it is None (the default), the whole scope (all symbol tables in ancestor nodes) is searched otherwise ancestors of the scope_limit node are not searched.


the symbol with the given name and, if specified, visibility.

Return type


  • TypeError – if the name argument is not a string.

  • SymbolError – if the name exists in the Symbol Table but does not have the specified visibility.

  • TypeError – if the visibility argument has the wrong type.

  • KeyError – if the given name is not in the Symbol Table.

SymbolTable.lookup_with_tag(tag, scope_limit=None)[source]

Look up a symbol by its tag. The lookup can be limited by scope_limit (e.g. just show symbols up to a certain scope).

  • tag (str) – tag identifier.

  • scope_limit – optional Node which limits the symbol search space to the symbol tables of the nodes within the given scope. If it is None (the default), the whole scope (all symbol tables in ancestor nodes) is searched otherwise ancestors of the scope_limit node are not searched.


symbol with the given tag.

Return type


  • TypeError – if the tag argument is not a string.

  • KeyError – if the given tag is not in the Symbol Table.

Sometimes, we have no way of knowing if a symbol we need has already been defined. In this case we can use a try/catch around the lookup_with_tag method and if a KeyError is raised (the tag was not found), then proceed to declare the symbol. As this situation occurs frequently the Symbol Table provides the find_or_create_tag helper method that encapsulates the described behaviour and declares symbols when needed.

SymbolTable.find_or_create_tag(tag, root_name=None, **new_symbol_args)[source]

Lookup a tag, if it doesn’t exist create a new symbol with the given tag. By default it creates a generic Symbol with the tag as the root of the symbol name. Optionally, a different root_name or any of the arguments available in the new_symbol() method can be given to refine the name and the type of the created Symbol.

  • tag (str) – tag identifier.

  • root_name (str) – optional name of the new symbol if it needs to be created. Otherwise it is ignored.

  • new_symbol_args (unwrapped Dict[str, object]) – arguments to create a new symbol.


symbol associated with the given tag.

Return type



SymbolError – if the symbol already exists but the type_symbol argument does not match the type of the symbol found.

By default the get_symbol, new_symbol, add, lookup, lookup_with_tag, and find_or_create_tag methods in a symbol table will also take into account the symbols in any ancestor symbol tables. Ancestor symbol tables are symbol tables attached to nodes that are ancestors of the node that the current symbol table is attached to. These are found in order with the parent_symbol_table method. This method provides a scope_limit argument to limit the extend of the upwards recursion provided to each method that uses it.

Sibling symbol tables are currently not checked. The argument for doing this is that a symbol in a sibling scope should not be visible in the current scope so can be ignored. However, it may turn out to make sense to check both in some circumstances. One result of this is that names and tags do not need to be unique in the symbol table hierarchy (just with their ancestor symbols). It makes sense for symbol names to not be unique in a hierarchy as names can be re-used within different scopes. However this may not be true for all names and it may even make sense to have a separate global symbol table in the future, as well as the existing nested ones. It is less clear whether tags should be unique or not.

All other methods act only on symbols in the local symbol table. In particular __contains__, remove, get_unresolved_data_symbols, symbols, datasymbols, local_datasymbols, argument_datasymbols, imported_symbols, precision_datasymbols and containersymbols. It is currently not clear whether this is the best solution and it is possible that these should reflect a global view. One issue is that the __contains__ method has no mechanism to pass a scope_limit optional argument. This would probably require a separate setter and getter to specify whether to check ancestors or not.

Specialising Symbols

When code is translated into PSyIR there may be symbols with unknown types, perhaps due to symbols being declared in different files. For example, in the following declaration it is not possible to know the type of symbol fred without knowing the contents of the my_module module:

use my_module, only : fred

In such cases a generic Symbol is created and added to the symbol table.

Later on in the code translation it may be that fred is used as the name of a subroutine call:

call fred()

It is now known that fred is a RoutineSymbol so the original Symbol should be replaced by a RoutineSymbol.

A simple way to do this would be to remove the original symbol for fred from the symbol table and replace it with a new one that is a RoutineSymbol. However, the problem with this is that there may be separate references to this symbol from other parts of the PSyIR and these references would continue to reference the original symbol.

One solution would be to search through all places where references could occur and update them accordingly. Another would be to modify the current implementation so that either a) references went in both directions or b) references were replaced with names and lookups. Each of these solutions has their benefits and disadvantages.

A third solution would be to have a single, non-hierarchical Symbol class that has only a name and a symbol-type attribute. Then we could replace the symbol_type attribute when we discover more information without modifying the thinner Symbol class and therefore not affecting the references to it.

What is currently done is to specialise the symbol in place (so that any references to it do not need to change). This is implemented by the specialise method in the Symbol class. It takes a subclass of a Symbol as an argument and modifies the instance so that it becomes the subclass. For example:

>>> sym = Symbol("a")
>>> # sym is an instance of the Symbol class
>>> sym.specialise(RoutineSymbol)
>>> # sym is now an instance of the RoutineSymbol class

Sometimes providing additional properties of the new sub-class is desirable, and sometimes even mandatory (e.g. a DataSymbol must always have a datatype and optionally a constant_value parameter). For this reason the specialise method implementation provides the same interface as the constructor of the symbol type in order to provide the same behaviour and default values as the constructor. For instance, in the DataSymbol case the following specialisations are possible:

>>> sym = Symbol("a")
>>> # The following statement would fail because it doesn't have a datatype
>>> # sym.specialise(DataSymbol)
>>> # The following statement is valid and constant_value is set to None
>>> sym.specialise(DataSymbol, datatype=INTEGER_TYPE)

>>> sym2 = Symbol("b")
>>> # The following statement would fail because the constant_value doesn't
>>> # match the datatype of the symbol
>>> # sym2.specialise(DataSymbol, datatype=INTEGER_TYPE, constant_value=3.14)
>>> # The following statement is valid and constant_value is set to 3
>>> sym2.specialise(DataSymbol, datatype=INTEGER_TYPE, constant_value=3)