I am trying to solve this particular problem from Automata Theory by Ullman, Hopcroft, it is as shown below:

Let $A$ be a $DFA$ and $a$ be a particular input symbol of $A$, such that for all states $q$ of $A$ we have $\delta(q,a)=q$.

Show that either $\left\{a\right\}^*\subseteq L(A)$ or $\left\{a\right\}^*\cap L(A)=\emptyset$.

As far as my understanding of the first part of the problem, the language accepted by $A$ is $L(A)=\left\{a, aa, aaa, aaaa, aaaa...\right\}$.

Since, $\left\{a\right\}^*$ represents strings that belong to $L(A)$ including $\varepsilon$, therefore $\left\{a\right\}^*\subseteq L(A)$ is true.

How to show that $\left\{a\right\}^*\cap L(A)=\emptyset$? Doesn't $L(A)$ represent strings generated by $\left\{a\right\}^*$? How can the intersection be $\emptyset$?


1 Answer 1


Hint: Suppose that $a^k \in L(A)$ for some integer $k$. Consider the initial state $s$ of $A$. From the premises it follows that $\delta(s,a^k) = s$, and since $a^k \in L(A)$, $s$ must be an accepting state. For every integer $\ell$ we have $\delta(s,a^\ell) = s$ and so $a^\ell \in L(A)$.

  • $\begingroup$ Your answer is for the first part of the problem right? How and why is the intersection of $\left\{a\right\}^*\cap L(A)=\phi$? $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2014 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ As far as I understand the problem has only one part, and my hint shows you how to solve the entire problem. If you can't see why, I suggest you keep thinking. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2014 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Is it because $a^*$ produces $\varepsilon$ which is not a member of $L(A)$? And hence $\left\{\varepsilon\right\}\cap L(A)=\phi$ $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2014 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ My argument shows that if $a^k \in L(A)$ for some $k$ then $a^k \in L(A)$ for all $k$. This implies your problem. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2014 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry I'm being a noob here but I've been thinking over this problem for 2 days straight! Can you please explain it to me in layman terms? I'm unable to see what I'm missing here. $\endgroup$ Sep 27, 2014 at 20:32

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