Automatic group

In mathematics, an automatic group is a finitely generated group equipped with several finite-state automata. These automata represent the Cayley graph of the group. That is, they can tell if a given word representation of a group element is in a "canonical form" and can tell if two elements given in canonical words differ by a generator.[1]

More precisely, let G be a group and A be a finite set of generators. Then an automatic structure of G with respect to A is a set of finite-state automata:[2]

  • the word-acceptor, which accepts for every element of G at least one word in representing it;
  • multipliers, one for each , which accept a pair (w1w2), for words wi accepted by the word-acceptor, precisely when in G.

The property of being automatic does not depend on the set of generators.[3]


Automatic groups have word problem solvable in quadratic time. More strongly, a given word can actually be put into canonical form in quadratic time, based on which the word problem may be solved by testing whether the canonical forms of two words represent the same element (using the multiplier for  ).[4]

Automatic groups are characterized by the fellow traveler property.[5] Let   denote the distance between   in the Cayley graph of  . Then, G is automatic with respect to a word acceptor L if and only if there is a constant   such that for all words   which differ by at most one generator, the distance between the respective prefixes of u and v is bounded by C. In other words,   where   for the k-th prefix of   (or   itself if  ). This means that when reading the words synchronously, it is possible to keep track of the difference between both elements with a finite number of states (the neighborhood of the identity with diameter C in the Cayley graph).

Examples of automatic groupsEdit

The automatic groups include:

Examples of non-automatic groupsEdit

Biautomatic groupsEdit

A group is biautomatic if it has two multiplier automata, for left and right multiplication by elements of the generating set, respectively. A biautomatic group is clearly automatic.[7]

Examples include:

Automatic structuresEdit

The idea of describing algebraic structures with finite-automata can be generalized from groups to other structures.[9] For instance, it generalizes naturally to automatic semigroups.[10]


  1. ^ Epstein, David B. A.; Cannon, James W.; Holt, Derek F.; Levy, Silvio V. F.; Paterson, Michael S.; Thurston, William P. (1992), Word Processing in Groups, Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, ISBN 0-86720-244-0.
  2. ^ Epstein et al. (1992), Section 2.3, "Automatic Groups: Definition", pp. 45–51.
  3. ^ Epstein et al. (1992), Section 2.4, "Invariance under Change of Generators", pp. 52–55.
  4. ^ Epstein et al. (1992), Theorem 2.3.10, p. 50.
  5. ^ Campbell, Colin M.; Robertson, Edmund F.; Ruskuc, Nik; Thomas, Richard M. (2001), "Automatic semigroups" (PDF), Theoretical Computer Science, 250 (1–2): 365–391, doi:10.1016/S0304-3975(99)00151-6
  6. ^ Brink and Howlett (1993), "A finiteness property and an automatic structure for Coxeter groups", Mathematische Annalen, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, doi:10.1007/bf01445101, ISSN 0025-5831.
  7. ^ Birget, Jean-Camille (2000), Algorithmic problems in groups and semigroups, Trends in mathematics, Birkhäuser, p. 82, ISBN 0-8176-4130-0
  8. ^ a b Charney, Ruth (1992), "Artin groups of finite type are biautomatic", Mathematische Annalen, 292: 671–683, doi:10.1007/BF01444642
  9. ^ Khoussainov, Bakhadyr; Rubin, Sasha (2002), Some Thoughts On Automatic Structures, CiteSeerX
  10. ^ Epstein et al. (1992), Section 6.1, "Semigroups and Specialized Axioms", pp. 114–116.

Further readingEdit

  • Chiswell, Ian (2008), A Course in Formal Languages, Automata and Groups, Springer, ISBN 978-1-84800-939-4.