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.
NFA for (0|1)* 1 (0|1)3.
A DFA for that language has at least 16 states.

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.[1] Like DFAs, NFAs only recognize regular languages.

NFAs were introduced in 1959 by Michael O. Rabin and Dana Scott,[2] 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).