With MLton and mlprof, you can profile your program to find out how many bytes each function allocates. To do so, compile your program with -profile alloc. For example, suppose that list-rev.sml is the following.

fun append (l1, l2) =
   case l1 of
      [] => l2
    | x :: l1 => x :: append (l1, l2)

fun rev l =
   case l of
      [] => []
    | x :: l => append (rev l, [x])

val l = List.tabulate (1000, fn i => i)
val _ = 1 + hd (rev l)

Compile and run list-rev as follows.

% mlton -profile alloc list-rev.sml
% ./list-rev
% mlprof -show-line true list-rev mlmon.out
6,030,136 bytes allocated (108,336 bytes by GC)
       function          cur
----------------------- -----
append  list-rev.sml: 1 97.6%
<gc>                     1.8%
<main>                   0.4%
rev  list-rev.sml: 6     0.2%

The data shows that most of the allocation is done by the append function defined on line 1 of list-rev.sml. The table also shows how special functions like gc and main are handled: they are printed with surrounding brackets. C functions are displayed similarly. In this example, the allocation done by the garbage collector is due to stack growth, which is usually the case.

The run-time performance impact of allocation profiling is noticeable, because it inserts additional C calls for object allocation.

Compile with -profile alloc -profile-branch true to find out how much allocation is done in each branch of a function; see ProfilingCounts for more details on -profile-branch.