The role of the Interner

Most everything in the IR is parameterized by the Interner trait:

trait Interner: Copy + Clone + Debug + Eq + Ord {

We'll go over the details later, but for now it suffices to say that the interner is defined by the embedder and can be used to control (to a certain extent) the actual representation of types, goals, and other things in memory. For example, the Interner trait could be used to intern all the types, as rustc does, or it could be used to Box them instead, as the chalk testing harness currently does.

Controlling representation with Interner

The purpose of the Interner trait is to give control over how types and other bits of chalk-ir are represented in memory. This is done via an "indirection" strategy. We'll explain that strategy here in terms of Ty and TyKind, the two types used to represent Rust types, but the same pattern is repeated for many other things.

Types are represented by a Ty<I> type and the TyKind<I> enum. There is no direct connection between them. The link is rather made by the Interner trait, via the InternedTy associated type:

struct Ty<I: Interner>(I::InternedTy);
enum TyKind<I: Interner> { .. }

The way this works is that the Interner trait has an associated type InternedTy and two related methods, intern_ty and ty_data:

trait Interner {
    type InternedTy;

    fn intern_ty(&self, data: &TyKind<Self>) -> Self::InternedTy;
    fn ty_data(data: &Self::InternedTy) -> &TyData<Self>;

However, as a user you are not meant to use these directly. Rather, they are encapsulated in methods on the Ty and TyKind types:

impl<I: Interner> Ty<I> {
  fn data(&self) -> &TyKind<I> {


impl<I: Interner> TyKind<I> {
  fn intern(&self, i: &I) -> Ty<I> {

Note that there is an assumption here that ty_data needs no context. This effectively constrains the InternedTy representation to be a Box or & type. To be more general, at the cost of some convenience, we could make that a method as well, so that one would invoke instead of just This would permit us to use (for example) integers to represent interned types, which might be nice (e.g., to permit using generational indices).