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Conway's Problem and the commutation of languages
 Bulletin of EATCS
, 2001
"... We survey the known results on two old open problems on commutation of languages. The first problem, raised by Conway in 1971, is asking if the centralizer of a rational language must be rational as well – the centralizer of a language is the largest set of words commuting with that language. The se ..."
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We survey the known results on two old open problems on commutation of languages. The first problem, raised by Conway in 1971, is asking if the centralizer of a rational language must be rational as well – the centralizer of a language is the largest set of words commuting with that language. The second problem, proposed by Ratoandromanana in 1989, is asking for a characterization of those languages commuting with a given code – the conjecture is that the commutation with codes may be characterized as in free monoids. We present here simple proofs for the known results on these two problems. 1
Commutation with codes
 Theor. Comput. Sci
, 2005
"... The centralizer of a set of words X is the largest set of words C(X) commuting with X: XC(X) = C(X)X. It has been a long standing open question due to Conway, 1971, whether the centralizer of any rational set is rational. While the answer turned out to be negative in general, see Kunc 2004, we prov ..."
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Cited by 2 (1 self)
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The centralizer of a set of words X is the largest set of words C(X) commuting with X: XC(X) = C(X)X. It has been a long standing open question due to Conway, 1971, whether the centralizer of any rational set is rational. While the answer turned out to be negative in general, see Kunc 2004, we prove here that the situation is different for codes: the centralizer of any rational code is rational and if the code is finite, then the centralizer is finitely generated. This result has been previously proved only for binary and ternary sets of words in a series of papers by the authors and for prefix codes in an ingenious paper by Ratoandromanana 1989 – many of the techniques we use in this paper follow her ideas. We also give in this paper an elementary proof for the prefix case. Key words: Codes, Commutation, Centralizer, Conway’s problem, Prefix codes. 1
The Commutation With Codes and Ternary Sets of Words
, 2002
"... We prove several results on the commutation of languages. First, we prove that the largest set commuting with a given code X , i.e., its centralizer C(X), is always (X) , where (X) is the primitive root of X . Using this result, we characterize the commutation with codes similarly as for words, p ..."
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Cited by 1 (1 self)
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We prove several results on the commutation of languages. First, we prove that the largest set commuting with a given code X , i.e., its centralizer C(X), is always (X) , where (X) is the primitive root of X . Using this result, we characterize the commutation with codes similarly as for words, polynomials, and formal power series: a language commutes with X if and only if it is a union of powers of (X). This solves a conjecture of Ratoandromanana, 1989, and also gives an armative answer to a special case of an intriguing problem raised by Conway in 1971. Second, we prove that for any nonperiodic ternary set of words F , and moreover, a language commutes with F if and only if it is a union of powers of F , results previously known only for ternary codes. A boundary point is thus established, as these results do not hold for languages with at least four words.