# Regular expressions with backreferences over unary alphabet

Setting:

• regular expressions with backreferences
• unary language (1-symbol alphabet)

Is the following problem decidable in this setting:

• Given a regular expression with backreferences, does it define a regular language?

For example, (aa+)\1 defines a regular language, while (aa+)\1+ doesn't. Can we decide which one is the case?

For concreteness, "regular expressions with backreferences" here refer to e.g. the following subset of the usual Perl-compatible regular expressions:

• a matches character a (the only character in the alphabet)
• X* matches 0 or more occurrences of X
• X|Y matches X or Y
• parentheses can be used for grouping and capturing
• \1. \2, etc. match the same string as the 1st, 2nd, etc. pair of parentheses

We can also use the normal shorthands e.g. X+ = XX*.

• Have you explored counting approaches, i.e. inspecting the sequence of $|L_n|$? I guess you are familiar with the work of Freydenberger? – Raphael Oct 9 '16 at 12:55