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Traditionally, data that has both linear and hierarchical structure, such as annotated linguistic data, is modeled using ordered trees and queried using tree automata. In this paper, we argue that nested words and automata over nested words offer a better way to capture and process the dual structure. Nested words generalize both words and ordered trees, and allow both word and tree operations. We study various classes of automata over nested words, and show that while they enjoy expressiveness and succinctness benefits over word and tree automata, their analysis complexity and closure properties are analogous to the corresponding word and tree special cases. In particular, we show that finite-state nested word automata can be exponentially more succinct than tree automata, and pushdown nested word automata include the two incomparable classes of context-free word languages and context-free tree languages.
Date Posted: 09 July 2012