Regular Expressions and Canonical Equivalence

Richard Wordingham richard.wordingham at
Thu May 14 12:55:33 CDT 2015

On Thu, 14 May 2015 12:25:06 -0500
Stephen E Slevinski Jr <slevin at> wrote:

> On 5/14/15 5:58 AM, Philippe Verdy wrote:
> > Yes it is problematic:  (ab)* is not the same as (a|b)* as this 
> > requires matching pairs of letters "ab" in that order in the first 
> > expression, but random strings of "a" and "b" i nthe second one (so 
> > the second matches *more* input samples.
> >
> > Even if you consider canonical equivalences (where the relative
> > order of "ab" does not matter for example because they have
> > distinct non-zero canonical) this does not mean that "a" alone will
> > match in the first expression "(ab*)", even though it MUST match in
> > "(a|b)*".
> >
> > So the solution is just elegant to simplify the first level of 
> > analysis of "(ab)*" by using "(a|b)*" instead. But then you need to 
> > perform a second pass on the match to make sure it is containing
> > only complete sequences "ab" in that order (or any other order if
> > they are all combining with a non-zero combining class) and no
> > unpaired "a" or "b".
> If you always want to find "a" and "b" in a pair without regard to
> the order, how about the regex:
> ((ab)|(ba))*

In NFD, the language (\u0323\u0302)* consists of

 ε (empty string)

and so on.

Therefore the finite automaton implied by your regex won't work.  No
regular expression will work.  That is mathematically proven.  What I
have listed above is the standard example of a 'non-regular language',
a set of strings that cannot be defined by a finite site of regular


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