# substitution

## Definition

Let $\Sigma_{1},\Sigma_{2}$ be alphabets. A substitution, or string substitution, is a function $s:\Sigma_{1}^{*}\to P(\Sigma_{2}^{*})$ such that

In other words, for every word $\alpha$ over $\Sigma_{1}$, $s(\alpha)$ is a language  over $\Sigma_{2}$. In the second condition above, $s(\alpha)s(\beta)$ is the concatenation of languages: $\{uv\mid u\in s(\alpha),v\in s(\beta)\}$.

For example, suppose $\Sigma=\{a,b\}$. The map $s$ taking $u$ to $\{u^{\prime}\}$, where $u^{\prime}$ is obtained from $u$ by replacing every occurrence of $a$ by $b$ is a substitution.

One easy way to obtain more examples of substitutions is to start with some function

 $f:\Sigma_{1}\to P(\Sigma_{2}^{*}),$

and extend it to all of $\Sigma_{1}^{*}$ by language concatenation: if $u=a_{1}\cdots a_{n}$, with $a_{i}\in\Sigma_{1}$, defining

 $s(u):=f(a_{1})\cdots f(a_{n})$

gives us a substitution $s$. It is easy to see that the extension   is unique (if $s_{1}$ and $s_{2}$ both extend $f$, then $s_{1}=s_{2}$).

In fact, every substitution is obtained this way: every substitution $s:\Sigma_{1}^{*}\to P(\Sigma_{2}^{*})$ is the extension of its restriction   to $\Sigma_{1}$. This can be verified directly, but is the result of a more general fact: any function $f:A\to B$, where $B$ is a semigroup  , extends uniquely to a semigroup homomorphism $f^{*}:A^{*}\to B$ where $A^{*}$ is the semigroup freely generated by $A$.

In the previous example, $s$ is the extension of the function that takes $a$ to $\{b\}$ and $b$ to $\{b\}$.

## Closure under Substitution

For any language $L\subseteq\Sigma_{1}^{*}$ and a substitution $s:\Sigma_{1}^{*}\to P(\Sigma_{2}^{*})$, define

 $s(L):=\bigcup\{s(u)\mid u\in L\}.$

A family $\mathscr{F}$ of languages is said to be closed under  substitutions if, given any substitution $s$, with $L\in\mathscr{F}$ and $s(w)\in\mathscr{F}$ for each $w\in L$, we have $s(L)\in\mathscr{F}$. The following families are closed under substitutions:

• type-0 langauges.

The family of context-sensitive languages is not closed under general substitutions. Instead, it is closed under $\lambda$-free substitutions (see remark below).

Remarks.

• The notion of string substitution generally corresponds to our intuitive notion of how a substitution should behave:

given words $u,v,w$, then $\operatorname{Substitute}(u,v,w)$ is a word that is obtained from $u$ by replacing every occurrence of $v$ in $u$ by $w$.

However, this is not always the case. For example, let $\Sigma=\{a,b\}$, and $s$ be the map that takes $u$ to $\{u^{\prime}\}$, where $u^{\prime}$ is obtained from $u$ by replacing all occurrences of $aa$, if any, by $b$. Then it is easy to see that $s$ is not a substitution, for

 $s(a)s(a)=\{a\}\{a\}=\{aa\}$

while

 $s(aa)=\{b\}\neq s(a)s(a).$

Nevertheless, $s$ is “intuitively” a “substitution”.

• A substitution $s$ is said to have property $\mathcal{P}$ if for each $a\in\Sigma$, the set $s(a)$ has property $\mathcal{P}$. Thus, for example, a substitution $s$ is finite if $s(a)$ is a finite set  , regular if $s(a)$ is a regular language, and $\lambda$-free if each $s(a)$ is $\lambda$-free, etc…

## 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 substitution Substitution 2013-03-22 18:55:12 2013-03-22 18:55:12 CWoo (3771) CWoo (3771) 20 CWoo (3771) Definition msc 68Q45 string substitution HomomorphismOfLanguages SubstitutionsInLogic $\lambda$-free substitution regular substitution