Nondeterministic finite automaton
Type of finite-state machine in automata theory / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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In automata theory, a finite-state machine is called a deterministic finite automaton (DFA), if
- each of its transitions is uniquely determined by its source state and input symbol, and
- reading an input symbol is required for each state transition.
A nondeterministic finite automaton (NFA), or nondeterministic finite-state machine, does not need to obey these restrictions. In particular, every DFA is also an NFA. Sometimes the term NFA is used in a narrower sense, referring to an NFA that is not a DFA, but not in this article.
Using the subset construction algorithm, each NFA can be translated to an equivalent DFA; i.e., a DFA recognizing the same formal language. Like DFAs, NFAs only recognize regular languages.
NFAs were introduced in 1959 by Michael O. Rabin and Dana Scott, who also showed their equivalence to DFAs. NFAs are used in the implementation of regular expressions: Thompson's construction is an algorithm for compiling a regular expression to an NFA that can efficiently perform pattern matching on strings. Conversely, Kleene's algorithm can be used to convert an NFA into a regular expression (whose size is generally exponential in the input automaton).
NFAs have been generalized in multiple ways, e.g., nondeterministic finite automata with ε-moves, finite-state transducers, pushdown automata, alternating automata, ω-automata, and probabilistic automata. Besides the DFAs, other known special cases of NFAs are unambiguous finite automata (UFA) and self-verifying finite automata (SVFA).