Overlap-Free Words and Generalizations
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N. Rampersad, Overlap-Free Words and Generalizations. Ph.D. thesis, University of Waterloo, 2007.
The study of combinatorics on words dates back at least to the beginning of the 20th century and the work of Axel Thue. Thue was the first to give an example of an infinite word over a three letter alphabet that contains no squares (identical ad- jacent blocks) xx. This result was eventually used to solve some longstanding open problems in algebra and has remarkable connections to other areas of mathematics and computer science as well. This thesis will consider several different generalizations of Thue’s work. In particular we shall study the properties of infinite words avoiding various types of repetitions. In Chapter 1 we introduce the theory of combinatorics on words. We present the basic definitions and give an historical survey of the area. In Chapter 2 we consider the work of Thue in more detail. We present various well-known properties of the Thue–Morse word and give some generalizations. We examine Fife’s characterization of the infinite overlap-free words and give a simpler proof of this result. We also present some applications to transcendental number theory, generalizing a classical result of Mahler. In Chapter 3 we generalize a result of Séébold by showing that the only infinite 7/3-power-free binary words that can be obtained by iterating a morphism are the Thue–Morse word and its complement. In Chapter 4 we continue our study of overlap-free and 7/3-power-free words. We discuss the squares that can appear as subwords of these words. We also show that it is possible to construct infinite 7/3-power-free binary words containing infinitely many overlaps. In Chapter 5 we consider certain questions of language theory. In particular, we examine the context-freeness of the set of words containing overlaps. We show that over a three-letter alphabet, this set is not context-free, and over a two-letter alphabet, we show that this set cannot be unambiguously context-free. In Chapter 6 we construct infinite words over a four-letter alphabet that avoid squares in any arithmetic progression of odd difference. Our constructions are based on properties of the paperfolding words. We use these infinite words to construct non-repetitive tilings of the integer lattice. In Chapter 7 we consider approximate squares rather than squares. We give constructions of infinite words that avoid such approximate squares. In Chapter 8 we conclude the work and present some open problems.