The Degree of Irreversibility in Deterministic Finite Automata
Recently, Holzer et al. gave a method to decide whether the language accepted by a given deterministic finite automaton (DFA) can also be accepted by some reversible deterministic finite automaton (REV-DFA), and eventually proved NL-completeness. Here, we show that the corresponding problem for nondeterministic finite state automata (NFA) is PSPACE-complete. The recent DFA method essentially works by minimizing the DFA and inspecting it for a forbidden pattern. We here study the degree of irreversibility for a regular language, the minimal number of such forbidden patterns necessary in any DFA accepting the language, and show that the degree induces a strict infinite hierarchy of languages. We examine how the degree of irreversibility behaves under the usual language operations union, intersection, complement, concatenation, and Kleene star, showing tight bounds (some asymptotically) on the degree.
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