On the power of finite automata with both nondeterministic and probabilistic states

Anne Condon, Lisa Hellerstein, Samuel Pottle, Avi Wigderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We study finite automata with both nondeterministic and random states (npfa's). We restrict our attention to those npfa's that accept their languages with a small probability of error and run in polynomial expected time. Equivalently, we study Arthur-Merlin games where Arthur is limited to polynomial time and constant space. Dwork and Stockmeyer [SIAM J. Comput, 19 (1990), pp. 1011-1023] asked whether these npfa's accept only the regular languages (this was known if the automaton has only randomness or only nondeterminism). We show that the answer is yes in the case of npfa's with a 1-way input head. We also show that if L is a nonregular language, then either L or L̄ is not accepted by any npfa with a 2-way input head. Toward this end, we define a new measure of the complexity of a language L, called its 1-tiling complexity. For each n, this is the number of tiles needed to cover the 1's in the "characteristic matrix" of L, namely, the binary matrix with a row and column for each string of length ≤ n1 where entry [x, y] = 1 if and only if the string xy ε L. We show that a language has constant 1-tiling complexity if and only if it is regular, from which the result on 1-way input follows. Our main result regarding the general 2-way input tape follows by contrasting two bounds: an upper bound of polylog(n) on the 1-tiling complexity of every language computed by our model and a lower bound stating that the 1-tiling complexity of a nonregular language or its complement exceeds a function in 2Ω(√log n) infinitely often. The last lower bound follows by proving that the characteristic matrix of every nonregular language has rank n for infinitely many n. This is our main technical result, and its proof extends techniques of Frobenius and lohvidov developed for Hankel matrices [Sitzungsber, der Königl, Preuss. Akad. der Wiss., 1894, pp. 407-431], [Hankel and Toeplitz Matrices and Forms: Algebraic Theory, Birkhauser, Boston, 1982].

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)739-762
    Number of pages24
    JournalSIAM Journal on Computing
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 1998


    • Arthur-merlin games
    • Hankel matrices
    • Interactive proof systems
    • Matrix tiling
    • Nondeterministic probabilistic finite automata

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Computer Science
    • General Mathematics


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