On Rational Recursive Sequences

Authors Lorenzo Clemente , Maria Donten-Bury , Filip Mazowiecki, Michał Pilipczuk

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Author Details

Lorenzo Clemente
  • University of Warsaw, Poland
Maria Donten-Bury
  • University of Warsaw, Poland
Filip Mazowiecki
  • University of Warsaw, Poland
Michał Pilipczuk
  • University of Warsaw, Poland


We thank Szymon Toruńczyk for helpful discussions.

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Lorenzo Clemente, Maria Donten-Bury, Filip Mazowiecki, and Michał Pilipczuk. On Rational Recursive Sequences. In 40th International Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science (STACS 2023). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 254, pp. 24:1-24:21, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2023)


We study the class of rational recursive sequences (ratrec) over the rational numbers. A ratrec sequence is defined via a system of sequences using mutually recursive equations of depth 1, where the next values are computed as rational functions of the previous values. An alternative class is that of simple ratrec sequences, where one uses a single recursive equation, however of depth k: the next value is defined as a rational function of k previous values. We conjecture that the classes ratrec and simple ratrec coincide. The main contribution of this paper is a proof of a variant of this conjecture where the initial conditions are treated symbolically, using a formal variable per sequence, while the sequences themselves consist of rational functions over those variables. While the initial conjecture does not follow from this variant, we hope that the introduced algebraic techniques may eventually be helpful in resolving the problem. The class ratrec strictly generalises a well-known class of polynomial recursive sequences (polyrec). These are defined like ratrec, but using polynomial functions instead of rational ones. One can observe that if our conjecture is true and effective, then we can improve the complexities of the zeroness and the equivalence problems for polyrec sequences. Currently, the only known upper bound is Ackermanian, which follows from results on polynomial automata. We complement this observation by proving a PSPACE lower bound for both problems for polyrec. Our lower bound construction also implies that the Skolem problem is PSPACE-hard for the polyrec class.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Formal languages and automata theory
  • recursive sequences
  • polynomial automata
  • zeroness problem
  • equivalence problem


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