# Lindenmayer system

## Definition

Formally, an L-system is a triple $G=(\Sigma,P,w)$, where

1. 1.

$\Sigma$ is an alphabet,

2. 2.

$w$ is a word over $\Sigma$, and

3. 3.

$P$ is a finite subset of $\Sigma\times\Sigma^{*}$ such that for every $a\in\Sigma$, there is at least one $u\in\Sigma^{*}$ such that $(a,u)\in P$.

$w$ is called the start word, or the axiom of $G$, and elements of $P$ are called productions of the L-system $G$, and are written $a\to u$ instead of $(a,u)$.

As stated above, an L-system is a language generator, where words are generated from the axiom $w$ by repeated applications of productions of $P$. Let us see how this is done. Define a binary relation  $\Rightarrow$ on $\Sigma^{*}$ as follows: for words $u,v\in\Sigma^{*}$,

$u\Rightarrow v$ iff either $u=a_{1}\cdots a_{n}$ and $v=v_{1}\cdots v_{n}$, where $a_{i}\to v_{i}\in P$, or $u=v$.

Now, take the transitive closure   $\Rightarrow^{*}$ of $\Rightarrow$ and set

 $L(G):=\{u\mid w\Rightarrow^{*}u\}.$

Then $L(G)$ is called the language generated by the L-system $G$. An L-language is $L(G)$ for some L-system $G$.

## Examples

1. 1.

Let $G=(\{a\},\{a\to a^{2}\},a)$. In two derivations, we get $a\Rightarrow a^{2}\Rightarrow a^{2}a^{2}=a^{4}$. It is easy to see that after $n$ derivations, we get $a\Rightarrow^{*}a^{2^{n}}$, and that $L(G)=\{a^{2^{n}}\mid n\geq 1\}$. Note that if parallel rewriting is not required then $a^{3}$ may be derived in three steps: $a\Rightarrow a^{2}\Rightarrow(a^{2})a=a^{3}$.

2. 2.

Let $G=(\{a\},\{a\to a,a\to a^{2}\},a)$. Then $L(G)=\{a\}^{+}$.

3. 3.

Let $G=(\{a\},\{a\to\lambda,a\to a^{2}\},a)$. Then $L(G)=\{a^{2n}\mid n\geq 0\}\cup\{a\}$.

4. 4.

Let $G=(\{a,b\},\{a\to ab,b\to ba\},a)$. Then we get a sequence of words $a\Rightarrow ab\Rightarrow abba\Rightarrow abbabaab\Rightarrow\cdots$, and $L(G)$ is the set containing words in the sequence. Note the recursive nature of the sequence: if $u_{n}$ is the $n$th word in the sequence, then $u_{1}=a$ and $u_{n+1}=u_{n}h(u_{n})$, where $h$ is the homomorphism         given by $h(a)=b$ and $h(b)=a$.

5. 5.

L-systems can be used to generate graphs. Usually, symbols in $\Sigma$ represent instructions on how to construct the graph. For example,

 $G=(\{a,b,c\},\{a\to a,b\to b,c\to cacbbcac\},c)$

generates the famous Koch curve. If $u\in L(G)$ is derived from $c$ in $n$ steps, then $u$ represents the $n$-th iteration of the Koch curve. To draw the $n$-th iteration based on $u$, we do the following:

1. (a)

write $u=d_{1}\cdots d_{m}$, where $d_{i}\in\Sigma$ (it is easy to see that $m=2^{n-1}$).

2. (b)

at each $d_{i}$, a current position $z_{i}$, and current direction $\theta_{i}$, are given.

3. (c)

start at the origin on the Euclidean plane  in the positive $x$ direction, so that $z_{0}=(0,0)$ and $\theta_{0}=0$.

4. (d)

upon reading $d_{i}$, where $i>0$:

A production $b\to u$ is said to correspond to $a\in\Sigma$ if $b=a$. Both productions in Example 2 correspond to $a$. A production is said to be a constant production if it has the form $a\to a$. A symbol in $\Sigma$ is called a constant if the only corresponding production is the constant production. In the last example above, $a,b$ are both constants. $a$ is not a constant in Example 2, even though it has a corresponding constant production.

## Properties

Given an L-system $G=(\Sigma,P,w)$, we can associate a function $f_{G}:\Sigma\to 2^{\Sigma^{*}}$ as follows: for each $a\in\Sigma$, set

 $f_{G}(a):=\{u\mid a\to u\in P\}.$

Then $f_{G}$ extends to a substitution $s_{G}:\Sigma^{*}\to 2^{\Sigma^{*}}$. It is easy to see that $s_{G}(w)$ is just the set of words derivable from $w$ in one step: $s_{G}(w)=\{u\mid w\Rightarrow u\}$. In fact,

 $L(G)=\bigcup\{s_{G}^{n}(w)\mid n\geq 0\},$

where $s_{G}^{0}(w)=\{w\}$, and $s_{G}^{n+1}(w)=s_{G}(s_{G}^{n}(w))$.

In relation to languages described by the Chomsky hierarchy, we have the following results:

1. 1.

Every L-language is context-free.

2. 2.

If an L-system $G=(\Sigma,P,w)$ contains a constant production for each symbol in $\Sigma$, then $L(G)$ is context-free.

3. 3.

Denote the families of regular    , context-free, context-sensitive, and L-languages by $\mathscr{R},\mathscr{F},\mathscr{S},\mathscr{L}$, and set $\mathscr{X}_{1}=\mathscr{R}$, $\mathscr{X}_{2}=\mathscr{F}-\mathscr{R}$, and $\mathscr{X}_{2}=\mathscr{S}-\mathscr{F}$. Then $\mathscr{L}\cap\mathscr{X}_{i}$ and $\overline{\mathscr{L}}\cap\mathscr{X}_{i}$ are non-empty for $i=1,2,3$. Here, $\overline{\mathscr{L}}$ is the complement  of $\mathscr{L}$ in $2^{\Sigma^{*}}$, the family of all languages over $\Sigma$.

## Subsystems

An L-system is said to be deterministic  if every symbol in $\Sigma$ has at most one (hence exactly one) production corresponding to it. A deterministic L-system is also called a DL-system. Examples 1,4,5 above are DL-systems. For a DL-system, the associated substitution is a homomorphism, which means that for each $n\geq 0$, the set $s_{G}^{n}(w)$ is a singleton, so we get a unique sequence of words $w_{0},w_{1},\ldots$, such that $w_{n}\Rightarrow w_{n+1}$. If $|w_{n}|<|w_{n+1}|$ for some $n$, then the word sequence is infinite  . In particular, if $w_{n}$ is a prefix of $w_{n+1}$ for all large enough $n$, and the lengths of the words have the property that $|w_{n}|=|w_{n+1}|$ implies $|w_{m}|<|w_{m+1}|$ for some $m>n$, then the DL-system defines a unique infinite word (by taking the union of all finite words). In Example 4 above, the infinite word we obtain is the famous Thue-Morse sequence (an infinite word is an infinite sequence).

An L-system is said to be propagating if no productions are of the form $a\to\lambda$. A propagating L-system is also called a PL-system. All examples above, except 3, are propagating. A DPL-system is a deterministic propagating L-system. In a DPL-system, the lengths of the words in the corresponding sequence are non-decreasing, and one may classify DPL-systems by how fast these lengths grow.

## Variations

There are also ways one can extend the generative capacity of an L-system by generalizing some or all of the criteria defining an L-system. Below are some:

1. 1.

Create a partition of $\Sigma=N\cup T$, the set $N$ of non-terminals and the set $T$ of terminals, so that only terminal words are allowed in $L(G)$. Such a system is called an EL-system. Formally, an EL-system is a 4-tuple

 $H=(N,T,P,w)$

such that $G_{H}=(N\cup T,P,w)$ is an L-system, and $L(H)=L(G_{H})\cap T^{*}$.

2. 2.

Notice that the productions in an L-system are context-free in the sense that during a rewriting step, the rewriting of a symbol does not depend on the “context” of the symbol (its neighboring symbols). This is the reason why an L-system is also known as a 0L-system. We can generalize an 0L-system by permitting context-sensitivity in the productions. If the rewriting of a symbol depends both on its left and right neighboring symbols, the resulting system is called a 2L-system. On the other hand, a 1L-system is a system such that dependency is one-sided.

Formally, a 2L-system is a quadruple

 $(\Sigma,P,w,\sqcup).$

Both $\Sigma$ and $w$ are defined as in an L-system. $\sqcup$ is a symbol not in $\Sigma$, denoting a blank space. $P$ is a subset of $\Sigma_{1}\times\Sigma\times\Sigma_{1}\times\Sigma^{*}$, where $\Sigma_{1}=\Sigma\cup\{\sqcup\}$, such that for every $(a,b,c)\in\Sigma_{1}\times\Sigma\times\Sigma_{1}$, there is a $u\in\Sigma^{*}$ such that $(a,b,c,u)\in P$. Elements of $P$ are called productions, and are written $abc\to u$ instead of $(a,b,c,u)$. Rewriting works as follows: the binary relation $\Rightarrow$ on $\Sigma^{*}$ called a rewriting step, is given by $u\Rightarrow v$ iff either $u=v$, or $u=a_{1}\cdots a_{n}$ and $v=v_{1}\cdots v_{n}$, such that

1. (a)

$\sqcup a_{1}a_{2}\to v_{1}$,

2. (b)

$a_{i-1}a_{i}a_{i+1}\to v_{i}$ where $i=2,\cdots,n-1$, and

3. (c)

$a_{n-1}a_{n}\sqcup\to v_{n}$.

If $n=2$, then productions of the second form above do not apply. If $n=1$, then $\sqcup a_{1}\sqcup\to v_{1}$ are the only productions.

A 1L-system is then a 2L-system such that either, $abc\to u$ for some $c\in\Sigma_{1}$ implies $abd\to u$ for all $d\in\Sigma_{1}$, or $cab\to u$ for some $c\in\Sigma_{1}$ implies $dab\to u$ for all $d\in\Sigma_{1}$.

It is easy to see that an L-system is a 2L-system such that if $abc\to u$ for some $a,c\in\Sigma_{1}$, then $dbe\to u$ for all $d,e\in\Sigma_{1}$.

3. 3.

Allow the possibility that not all of the symbols may be rewritten. This means that $u\Rightarrow v$ iff either $u=v$, or $u=a_{1}\cdots a_{n}$ and $v=v_{1}\cdots v_{n}$, and either $a_{i}=v_{i}$ or $a_{i}\to v_{i}\in P$.

4. 4.

Allow more than one axiom. In other words, the single axiom word $w$ is replaced by a set $W$ of axioms.

## References

 Title Lindenmayer system Canonical name LindenmayerSystem Date of creation 2013-03-22 18:57:31 Last modified on 2013-03-22 18:57:31 Owner CWoo (3771) Last modified by CWoo (3771) Numerical id 11 Author CWoo (3771) Entry type Definition Classification msc 92C80 Classification msc 68Q45 Synonym L system Synonym DL-system Synonym PL-system Defines L-system Defines start word Defines deterministic L-system Defines propagating L-system Defines L-language Defines EL-system Defines 2L-system Defines 1L-system