Consider formal language $L$ over finite alphabet $\Sigma$ consisting of all words over $\Sigma$ that have non-trivial period (non empty prefix that is also a suffix). Is $L$ always context free?

Maybe pumping lemma will do? I was advised to try with a word $a^Nb^Na^Nb^N$ but if I pump only second block of $a$ then this word still is in $L$, because it has non empty prefix $a^Nb^N$ that is also a suffix.

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  • $\begingroup$ By pumping you can not only add $a$s, but also remove them. $\endgroup$ – Karolis Juodelė May 10 '13 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ This seems related to the $xyx$ problem, which did not get a decent answer. However, here the prefix and suffix can overlap. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Jan May 10 '13 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @KarolisJuodelė, right! I don't know why I forgot about that. This solves all problems, thanks! $\endgroup$ – xan May 10 '13 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ Does the word algebra have nontrivial period? It has a non-empty prefix (a) that is also a suffix, but I wouldn't call it periodic. $\endgroup$ – JeffE May 10 '13 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JeffE, I wouldn't too, but yes it does with given definition. $\endgroup$ – xan May 10 '13 at 17:53

Try to use closure properties instead.

Closer hint:

CFL is closed against (pre)image of language homomorphisms and intersection with regular languages.

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