SystemRDL Spec Errata

This document keeps track of all ambiguities, contradictions, and typos found in Accellera’s SystemRDL 2.0 language specification.

For each issue, I include the resolved interpretation that is used in this project.

Inconsistencies & Contradictions

Semantic rule 10.6.1.c is violated in 2

Rule 10.6.1.c states that accesswidth cannot be greater than regwidth.

However, in the example:

  • reg ‘a’ has an implied regwidth of 32

  • reg ‘a’ gets assigned an accesswidth of 64 via default. Results in accesswidth > regwidth!


None. Example is invalid and violates rule 10.6.1.c.

Grammar does not allow empty array literals

The grammar in appendix B.10 shows that an array literal’s array_literal_body requires at one or more instances of a constant_expression

Section 6.3.1-d states that empty array literals are allowed to be declared using the following:

left_hand_side = '{}

However based on appendix B.10, this is grammatically incorrect.


Arrays of zero-size seem like a reasonable concept, especially since 6.3.1-d explicitly makes note of them.

Grammar is implemented to allow this.

Invalid SystemRDL 2.0 in Table E1

In Annex E, Table E1, many of the cells in the “SystemRDL 2.0” column show what appears to be incorrect usage of the onread and onwrite side-effect properties.

The table shows assignments of invalid rhs keywords such as:

  • onread = r

  • onwrite = w

… where r and w do not seem to be allowed in this context.

Section 9.6 shows that these properties only accept the onreadtype and onwritetype enumeration values. These enumerations are defined in Table 15 and 16, as well as the grammar:

onreadtype ::= rclr | rset | ruser
onwritetype ::= woset | woclr | wot | wzs | wzc | wzt | wclr | wset | wuser


Ignore illegal assignments in Table E1. This looks like a mistake by the author. Invalid entries appear to be redundant anyways.

Constraint example uses struct datatype in an undocumented way

In 14.2.3, the example declares a struct data type called “RGB”. Immediately after, the struct is apparently “instantiated” as if it is a component.

struct RGB {
    longint unsigned red1;
    longint unsigned green1;
    longint unsigned blue1;

reg regfoo {
    RGB pixelvalue;

Nowhere in the SystemRDL spec does it describe the ability to do this. The author seems to imply that the struct members are akin to register fields. Furthermore, pretty clearly describes the use-cases for structs.


Based on the usage in the rest of the constraints example, it seems like the author intended to imply that a register “regfoo” was declared to contain three fields: red1, green1, blue1. It will be assumed that the example does NOT include a struct declaration for “RGB”, but instead the following declaration for “regfoo”:

reg regfoo {
    field {} red1[8];
    field {} green1[8];
    field {} blue1[8];

RDLFormatCode paragraph tag listed as a single tag?

In annex F.2, the [p] paragraph tag is listed as a “single-tag” construct. Since all the other tags seem to closely mirror HTML tags, this seems out-of-place. The description from the phpBB site makes more sense since it shows the paragraph tag as a pair: [p] paragraph text [/p].

Also, the example in F.4 shows the paragraph tag used as expected - as a pair.


Implement paragraph tag as an open/close pair.

Existence of the RDLFormatCode [desc] tag is inappropriate

I fail to understand why the [desc] tag exists and how it could possibly be useful.

If the [desc] tag is used within the desc property, then a recursive self-reference is created.

If the [desc] tag is used in the name property, then it would technically work, but then the designer is horrifically abusing the semantics of the name property by polluting it with a long-form description.


Not implementing the [desc] tag.

Use of RDLFormatCode tags in name property is inappropriate

Use of block formatting tags in a component’s name property seems out of scope from what the property’s intent is.


Only implementing tags that control inline text style. Not implementing structural formatting tags such as [p] and [list].

Definition of the hdl_path_slice property is shortsighted

14.1.2 Example 2 shows how multiple entries in an hdl_path_slice would be used:

  • A field f2 is declared with bit-range [5:3]

  • The field’s hdl_path_slice is assigned the following strings: '{"rtl_f2_5_4", "rtl_f2_3"}

Given the naming convention used in the string, this implies that the backdoor paths for these slices are to be mapped asymmetrically to logical bits as follows:

  • “rtl_f2_5_4” –> bit slice [5:4]

  • “rtl_f2_3” –> bit slice [3:3]

However these are merely strings, and the end user could name them something entirely different. It is impossible to infer the intent of the user! The mapping could have just as easily been:

  • “foo” –> bit slice [5:5]

  • “bar” –> bit slice [4:3]

To illustrate this issue, UVM requires that the explicit bit positions of each slice be provided when defining them in the model. One cannot simply provide a list of slice strings to the UVM register model.


Recommended interpretation is to only honor the hdl_path_slice property in situations where its value is completely unambiguous.

  • If a field is given a single slice, it is assumed it represents the hdl path to all bits in the field.

  • If a field is given multiple slices, it is assumed each slice represents exactly 1 bit of the field. The slice order is assumed to be from msb down to lsb.

  • If multiple slices are given, and the length of the string array does not match the field’s bit-width, then this represents an ambiguous slice definition. Tools should ignore this property and emit a warning.

Verilog does not have an `if preprocessor directive

In 16.2.1 - Table 32, the SystemRDL spec references an `if preprocessor directive. Nowhere in SystemVerilog IEEE Std 1800-2012 is this defined, nor does the RDL spec offer an explanation for its semantics.


Do not implement an `if preprocessor directive.

Inconsistent definition of the ref type keyword

In section 6.1, Table 7’s denotes that the ref keyword is allowed to be used in both “parameter or struct member type names”. This is in direct conflict with what the formal grammar in Annex B defines:

struct_type ::= data_type | component_type
param_def_elem ::= data_type id [ array_type ] [ = constant_expression ]
component_type ::= component_primary_type | signal
component_primary_type ::= addrmap | regfile | reg | field | mem

According to the grammar, parameters are not allowed to use component references. This is further corroborated in clause that explicitly forbids it. Similarly, the grammar definition forbids structs from using the ref keyword but allows specific component type keywords to be used instead.

The only place where the ref keyword is allowed to be used is in a User Defined Property (UDP) definition.


Ignore the implication in Table 7 that the ref keyword can be used in parameters or structs. Other areas in the specification forbid it more directly.

donttest and dontcompare are not strictly mutually-exclusive

Table G1 shows these marked as mutually exclusive group “O”, however these properties are not strictly mutually-exclusive, so marking them as such is inappropriate.

Clause outlines specific scenarios where both can be assigned on the same field.


Ignore the mutex mark in Table G1 in favor of the semantics in

Compilation issues in examples

Some very minor typos found while attempting to compile several code snippet examples. These issues do not have any significant effect on the interpretation of the language., Examples 1,2, and 3

All three examples fail to create an instance of regfile example inside the top addrmap component. This results in an empty component definition which violates the rule described in 13.3-b., Examples 1 and 2

Numerous uses of “bool”. Keyword should be “boolean” as required by the grammar.

9.8.1, Example 1

Illegal integer literal 4'3.


Field f2 uses enumeration literals that are missing their color:: prefix.

15.2.2, Example 1

Missing semicolon in some_num_p after regfile.

15.2.2, Example 2

Enumeration literals are missing their myEncoding:: prefix.

Typos in the spec

Typo in semantic rule 11.2-f

Virtual registers, register files, and fields shall have the same software access (sw property value) as the parent memory.

Mentions “register files”, even though they are not allowed in “mem” components as per 11.1-b-1-ii.

A similar mistake exists in 3.1:

memory: A contiguous array of memory data elements. A data structure within a memory can be specified with virtual registers or register files.

Typo in type name generation BNF snippet

BNF-style description implies parentheses are part of the generated type name but the text in the same section only mentions underscore delimiters. Assuming the red parentheses are to be ignored.

Description of haltenable and haltmask is incorrect

Text in section 9.9, Table 21 is inconsistent for haltenable and haltmask properties.


Defines a halt enable (the inverse of haltmask); i.e., which bits in an interrupt field are set to de-assert the halt out.


Defines a halt mask (the inverse of haltenable); i.e., which bits in an interrupt field are set to assert the halt out.

The above phrasing is misleading and can confuse the reader into thinking that these properties have a different effect on halt compared to their sister properties for the intr output. The above highlighted segments should be changed to “are used to assert” and “are not used to assert” to match how the existing enable & mask properties are described.

This would make the semantics of these consistent with the rest of the spec’s description of how the halt mechanism works:

  • Comment in example 17.2.7 confirms that ‘halt’ is basically the same as the ‘intr’ output, just that it can be used as an alternate priority level.

  • The pseudocode just prior to the example in 9.9 also confirms that the haltenable and haltmask properties are similar in interpretation to enable and mask.

Open Questions

Topics where the SystemRDL spec leaves too much ambiguity and further clarification would have been beneficial.

User-defined property’s “type” attribute can not be “signal”?

Grammar seems to describe that a property’s type attribute does not allow “signal” types. Furthermore, text in 15.1, Table 31 implies that the “ref” type generalization also does not include “signal”.

The spec is pretty clear about this, and it appears to be intentional. I’m just a little surprised since it seems like an odd exclusion to make. UDPs are basically user-extensions that can be used to describe things outside of the RDL spec. Why restrict a user’s ability to use these? Plus, there are several built-in properties that expect signal reference types, so the precedent is simply not there… (resetsignal, some counter properties)

Resolution: None for now. Implemented according to spec until I hear otherwise.

Compilation units and their scope not described in SystemRDL spec

The SystemRDL 2.0 spec does not address the concept of “compilation units” and how multiple RDL files share namespaces.

If multiple RDL files are compiled together, how are their namespaces shared?

Resolution: I have provided my own interpretation of how compilation units in SystemRDL should work. Some concepts are borrowed from SystemVerilog, but are simplified significantly in order to have the least “surprising” effects.

See Multi-file Compilation notes for more details.

Interaction of Verilog-style include with Perl tags needs clarification

Interaction between include directives and Perl-style preprocessor variable scope needs clarification. Using a strict interpretation of the spec would result in surprising behavior that does not seem desireable.

See Preprocessor Includes implementation notes for more details.

Generated type names should also account for dynamic property assignments

The SystemRDL 2.0 spec goes at great lengths to describe how component type names are uniquified when parameters get overridden ( Unfortunately the spec falls short when it comes to accounting for dynamic property assignments.


Since the semantics for this are not included in the SystemRDL 2.0 spec, I have provided my own extended interpretation of how dynamic property assignments should affect a component’s generated type name.

See Extended Type Name Generation notes for more details.

Precedence of hwclr and hwset at runtime

The hwclr and hwset properties provide a mechanism to clear or set a field at runtime using a user signal. Nothing prevents the user from enabling both of these control signals, however their runtime precedence is ambiguous.

Consider the following:

signal {} set_me;
signal {} clear_me;

field {
    hwset = set_me;
    hwclr = clear_me;
} my_field;

If at runtime, a design simultaneously asserts the set_me and clear_me signals, is the next value of my_field 1 or 0? Table 17 does not specify the assignment priority.

Resolution: It is out of scope for the compiler to suggest either has preference. Instead, any RTL generators should clearly state the precedence used.


Areas of the specification that are not ambiguous, but could have been more explicitly described to the reader. Often requires very careful interpretation across separate chapters to come to an accurate understanding of the author’s intent.

Interpretation of swwe and swwel properties

The spec is vague in describing the logic these properties infer. The swwe and swwel properties are used to infer logic that overrides a field’s ability to be written at runtime.

If either property is set to a field or signal component reference, then the state of that signal/field determines whether the current field is writable by software.

If either property is set to a boolean true, then an input signal is inferred, which controls software’s ability to write the field.

Property “Ref Targets”

In Annex G, the specification vaguely suggests that some properties can be referenced in the right-hand side of assignment expressions. Only through detailed reading of examples and some property semantics is it possible to infer how these work.

Let’s take the anded property as an example. If assigned true using a normal property assignment, a hardware output signal will be generated. This signal will be assigned the AND-reduction of that field’s value.

field {
    anded = true;
} my_field[7:0];

A Verilog code generator may output something similar to this:

output wire my_field__anded;

logic [7:0] my_field;
// (field logic not shown)
assign my_field__anded = &(my_field);

If the anded property is referenced in the right-hand side of an assignment expression (aka a “ref target”), then the assigned property receives the AND-reduction of the field’s value at runtime.

field {
    sw=rw; hw=r;
} my_field[7:0];

field {
    sw=rw; hw=r;
} my_anded_field[8:8];
my_anded_field->next = my_field->anded;

A Verilog code generator may output something similar to this:

logic [7:0] my_field;
// (field logic not shown)

logic my_anded_field;
always_ff @(posedge clk) begin
    if(my_anded_field_swwe) begin
        my_anded_field <= cpuif_bus[8];
    end else begin
        my_anded_field <= &(my_field);

The spec really ought to have a brief section explaining this in more explicit detail.

Determining counter direction

Section 9.8.1 describes that it is possible to create three types of counters:

A SystemRDL compiler shall imply the nature of a counter as a up counter, a down counter, or an up/down counter by the properties specified for that counter field.

Unfortunately none of the semantics in section 9.8 explicitly describe how one determines the type of counter. Only after examining the examples in detail is it possible to infer how a counter’s directionality is determined.

Up-counter properties:
  • incrvalue

  • incrwidth

  • incr

  • incrsaturate/saturate

  • incrthreshold/threshold

  • overflow

Down-counter properties:
  • decrvalue

  • decrwidth

  • decr

  • decrsaturate

  • decrthreshold

  • underflow

  • If a counter field specifies at least one of the Up-counter properties properties, it is implied to be an up-counter

  • If a counter field specifies at least one of the Down-counter properties properties, it is implied to be a down-counter

  • If a counter field specifies at least one property of both groups, it is implied to be an up/down counter.

  • If a counter field does not assign any additional counter properties, it is implied to be an up-counter.

To assist users in this interpretation, the following helper properties have been added:

Field’s ‘next’ Property

Section 9.5 describes a field’s next property as a mechanism to access the D-input of the field’s flip-flop. If taken too literally, it is easy to misinterpret this as a direct connection to the FF’s D-pin that unconditionally overrides the field’s next value. After careful reading of several examples in other sections (9.9 - Interrupt Properties), it becomes clear that the next property should really be interpreted as a general hardware input signal to the field’s logic. Assignment of this property effectively replaces the inferred input signal to the field.

Some examples:
hw=rw; we;
  • Implies a hardware input signal for the field’s next value as well as a write-enable.

  • The field’s next value is only sampled if the write-enable is asserted.

hw=rw; we; next = some_reference;
  • Same as the previous case, but the next value input signal is no longer inferred.

  • Instead, the field’s next value is from the reference provided.

  • As before, the next value is only loaded if the associated write-enable signal is asserted.

hw=rw; level intr; stickybit;
  • Implies a hardware input signal that controls assertion of the interrupt field bits.

  • A ‘1’ in any bit position of the value input sets the corresponding bit in the field’s storage element.

hw=rw; level intr; stickybit; next = some_reference;
  • Same as the previous example, except the inferred hardware input signal is replaced by an explicit reference.

  • Field’s behavior is still the same. The referenced value controls setting of sticky bits in the field.

In addition to the above, a passing comment in the example in 17.2.8 appears to imply that use of the next property requires the field to be writable by hardware:

default hw = w; // w needed since dyn assign below implies interconnect to hw
                // global_int.global_int->next = master_int->intr;

Unfortunately the text does not provide this detail in any of the semantics. Fortunately it is still consistent with the interpretation clarified here.

Interpretation of nonsticky intr

Table 20 enumerates nonsticky as one of the interrupt types, however the spec also describes that it can be combined this with other interrupt types. This implies that a nonsticky interrupt is not a distinct interrupt type in itself, but rather a modifier.

The simplest interpretation of the nonsticky modifier is that its use is equivalent to setting the stickybit property to false.

For example, this:

nonsticky intr;

is equivalent to:

intr; // Mark field as an interrupt
level intr; // Interrupts are level-sensitive by default
stickybit = false; // but do not imply stickiness

The spec also ought to go into more explicit detail on how the field’s interrupt state is updated for the various combinations of interrupt types.

level intr; nonsticky intr;

Non-sticky level-sensitive interrupt. The field’s value directly mirrors the interrupt input without any latching:

field_value <= next;
posedge intr; nonsticky intr;

Asserts interrupt synchronously on a 0->1 input transition. Since the field is nonsticky, the interrupt only asserts for a single cycle:

field_value <= ~next_r & next;
negedge intr; nonsticky intr;

Asserts interrupt synchronously on a 1->0 input transition. Since the field is nonsticky, the interrupt only asserts for a single cycle:

field_value <= next_r & ~next;
bothedge intr; nonsticky intr;

Asserts interrupt synchronously on any input transition. Since the field is nonsticky, the interrupt only asserts for a single cycle:

field_value <= next_r ^ next;

Behavior of sticky fields

A field that uses the stickybit property has latching behavior that is self-evident. Each bit latches individually and can be implemented using a bitwise OR operation:

field_value <= field_value | next;

Unfortunately for multi-bit fields that use the sticky property, the spec does not go into very much detail into how this type of field latches an incoming value.

The spec only provides the following context:

  • Multi-bit ‘sticky’ fields are intended as a mechanism to ‘latch’ a value

  • A single-bit ‘sticky’ field shall collapse into the same behavior as a ‘stickybit’ field.

The simplest interpretation that accomplishes the above is as follows:

  • The ‘sticky’ field latches its value when its current value is zero and its ‘next’ input signal becomes non-zero.

  • The latched value remains unchanged, regardless of the state of the field’s ‘next’ input signal.

  • The field can only latch a new value if its state is explicitly cleared back to zero by a software action.

This latching behavior can be implemented simply as follows:

if((field_value == '0) && (field_input != '0))
    field_value <= field_input;

This interpretation implies that sticky multi-bit interrupts that are edge-sensitive are meaningless. A field defined as follows would be contradictory:

field {
    negedge intr;
} bad_field[8];

Meaning of the User Defined Property default attribute

User Defined Property (UDP) declarations allow one to specify a default attribute for a property. For example:

property some_bool_p {
    type = boolean;
    component = field;
    default = false;

Often, users will misinterpret this as the default value that gets bound to any component which was not explicitly assigned the property. However, careful reading of the SystemRDL spec will illustrate that this misleading attribute should actually be interpreted as the implied assignment value to be used if no value is specified in a property assignment statement.

Specifically, using the some_bool_p UDP declared above, its usage would have the following effect:

field {
    // some_bool_p is not assigned. It does not have a defined value for this component
} a;
// a->some_bool_p == undefined

field {
    // Explicitly assigning true
    some_bool_p = true;
} b;
// b->some_bool_p == true

field {
    // Since no value was specified, The "default" assignment value of 'false' is used.
} c;
// c->some_bool_p == false

For users that truly want to make a default assignment of a known value to all components, be reminded that the following assignment mechanism exists:

// Assigns 'false' to all compatible components unless overridden
default some_bool_p = false;

field {} a;
// a->some_bool_p = false

Interleaved arrays of components

A frequent question I get is whether arrays can be interleaved. For example:

addrmap test {
    field my_field {};

    reg {
        my_field f[0:0] = 0;
    } array1[2] @ 0x0 += 0x8;

    reg {
        my_field f[0:0] = 0;
    } array2[2] @ 0x4 += 0x8;

The SystemRDL spec does not provide explicit guidance on this, however some investigation of this topic has concluded that this should not be allowed.