# leftmost derivation

Let $G=(\Sigma,N,P,\sigma)$ be a context-free grammar. Recall that a word $v$ is generated by $G$ if it is

The second condition simply says that there is a finite sequence  of derivation steps, starting from $\sigma$, and ending at $v$:

 $\sigma=v_{0}\to v_{1}\to\cdots\to v_{n}=v$

For each derivation step $v_{i}\to v_{i+1}$, there is a production $X\to w$ in $P$ such that

 $\displaystyle v_{i}$ $\displaystyle=$ $\displaystyle aXb,$ $\displaystyle v_{i+1}$ $\displaystyle=$ $\displaystyle awb.$

Note that $X$ is a non-terminal (an element of $N$), and $a,b,w$ are words over $\Sigma$.

Definition. Using the notations above, if $X$ is the leftmost non-terminal occurring in $v_{i}$, then we say the derivation step $v_{i}\to v_{i+1}$ is leftmost. Dually, $v_{i}\to v_{i+1}$ is rightmost if $X$ is the rightmost non-terminal occurring in $v_{i}$.

Equivalently, $v_{i}\to v_{i+1}$ is leftmost (or rightmost) if $a$ (or $b$) is a word over $T$.

A derivation is said to be leftmost (or rightmost) if each of its derivation steps is leftmost (or rightmost).

Example. Let $G$ be the grammar consisting of $a,b$ as terminals, $\sigma,X,Y,Z$ as non-terminals (with $\sigma$ as the starting symbol), and $\sigma\to XY$, $X\to a$, $Y\to b$, $\sigma\to ZY$, and $Z\to X\sigma$ as productions. $G$ is clearly context-free.

The word $a^{2}b^{2}=aabb$ can be generated by $G$ by the following three derivations:

1. 1.

$\sigma\to ZY\to X\sigma Y\to XXYY\to XaYY\to XaYb\to Xabb\to aabb$,

2. 2.

$\sigma\to ZY\to X\sigma Y\to a\sigma Y\to aXYY\to aaYY\to aabY\to aabb$,

3. 3.

$\sigma\to ZY\to Zb\to X\sigma b\to XXYb\to XXbb\to Xabb\to aabb$.

The second is leftmost, the third is rightmost, and the first is neither.

Note that in every derivation, the first and last derivation steps are always leftmost and rightmost.

Remarks.

• One of the main properties of a context-free grammar $G$ is that every word generated by $G$ is derivable by a leftmost (correspondingly rightmost) derivation, which can be used to show that for every context-free language $L$, there is a pushdown automaton accepting every word in $L$, and conversely that the set of words accepted by a pushdown automaton is context-free.

• Leftmost derivations may be defined for any arbitrary formal grammar $G$ satisfying the condition

(*) no terminal symbols occur on the left side of any production.

Given two words $u,v$, we define $u\Rightarrow_{L}v$ if there is a production $A\to B$ such that $u=xAy$ and $v=xBy$ such that $x$ is a terminal word. By taking the reflexive transitive closure of $\Rightarrow_{L}$, we have the leftmost derivation $\Rightarrow_{L}^{*}$. It can be shown that for any grammar $G$ satisfying condition (*), the language  $L_{L}(G)$ consisting of terminal words generated by $G$ via leftmost derivations is always context-free.

## References

• 1 S. Ginsburg The Mathematical Theory of Context-Free Languages, McGraw-Hill, New York (1966).
• 2 D. C. Kozen Automata and Computability, Springer, New York (1997).
Title leftmost derivation LeftmostDerivation 2013-03-22 18:54:50 2013-03-22 18:54:50 CWoo (3771) CWoo (3771) 7 CWoo (3771) Definition msc 68Q45 msc 68Q42 rightmost derivation