Ogden's lemma

Ogden's lemma

In the theory of formal languages, Ogden's lemma (named after William F. Ogden) provides an extension of flexibility over the pumping lemma for context-free languages.

Ogden's lemma states that if a language L is context-free, then there exists some number p > 0 (where p may or may not be a pumping length) such that for any string w of length at least p in L and every way of "marking" p or more of the positions in w, w can be written as

w = uxyzv

with strings u, x, y, z, and v, such that

  1. xz has at least one marked position,
  2. xyz has at most p marked positions, and
  3. uxiyziv is in L for every i ≥ 0.

Ogden's lemma can be used to show that certain languages are not context-free, in cases where the pumping lemma for context-free languages is not sufficient. An example is the language {aibjckdl : i = 0 or j = k = l}. It is also useful to prove the inherent ambiguity of some languages.

Observe that when every position is marked, this lemma is equivalent to the pumping lemma for context-free languages.

See also


  • Ogden, W. (1968). "A helpful result for proving inherent ambiguity". Mathematical Systems Theory 2 (3): 191–194. doi:10.1007/BF01694004. 
  • Hopcroft, Motwani and Ullman (1979). Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 8178083477. 

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