Generalized List Decoding

Authors Yihan Zhang , Amitalok J. Budkuley , Sidharth Jaggi

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Yihan Zhang
  • Department of Information Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Amitalok J. Budkuley
  • Department of Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India
Sidharth Jaggi
  • Department of Information Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


We thank Andrej Bogdanov who provided an elegant reduction from general $L$ to $L=2$ for the proof of the asymmetric case of the converse (Lemma 68) and rederived Blinovsky’s [Blinovsky, 1986] characterization of the Plotkin point P_{L-1} for (p,L-1)-list decoding via a conceptually cleaner proof (Sec. 16), despite that he generously declined to co-author this paper. We also thank him for inspiring discussions in the early stage and helpful comments near the end of this work. Part of this work was done while YZ was visiting the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing for the Summer Cluster: Error-Correcting Codes and High-Dimensional Expansion, and AJB was at the Department of Information Engineering, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. This work was partially supported by GRF grants 14301519 and 14313116.

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Yihan Zhang, Amitalok J. Budkuley, and Sidharth Jaggi. Generalized List Decoding. In 11th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 151, pp. 51:1-51:83, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


This paper concerns itself with the question of list decoding for general adversarial channels, e.g., bit-flip (XOR) channels, erasure channels, AND (Z-) channels, OR channels, real adder channels, noisy typewriter channels, etc. We precisely characterize when exponential-sized (or positive rate) (L-1)-list decodable codes (where the list size L is a universal constant) exist for such channels. Our criterion essentially asserts that: For any given general adversarial channel, it is possible to construct positive rate (L-1)-list decodable codes if and only if the set of completely positive tensors of order-L with admissible marginals is not entirely contained in the order-L confusability set associated to the channel. The sufficiency is shown via random code construction (combined with expurgation or time-sharing). The necessity is shown by 1) extracting approximately equicoupled subcodes (generalization of equidistant codes) from any using hypergraph Ramsey’s theorem, and 2) significantly extending the classic Plotkin bound in coding theory to list decoding for general channels using duality between the completely positive tensor cone and the copositive tensor cone. In the proof, we also obtain a new fact regarding asymmetry of joint distributions, which may be of independent interest. Other results include 1) List decoding capacity with asymptotically large L for general adversarial channels; 2) A tight list size bound for most constant composition codes (generalization of constant weight codes); 3) Rederivation and demystification of Blinovsky’s [Blinovsky, 1986] characterization of the list decoding Plotkin points (threshold at which large codes are impossible) for bit-flip channels; 4) Evaluation of general bounds [Wang et al., 2019] for unique decoding in the error correction code setting.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Mathematics of computing → Coding theory
  • Mathematics of computing → Information theory
  • Generalized Plotkin bound
  • general adversarial channels
  • equicoupled codes
  • random coding
  • completely positive tensors
  • copositive tensors
  • hypergraph Ramsey theory


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