Code for "Learning nominal automata"
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Learning Nominal Automata

NOTE: Please download the archive This contains the specific versions (of this and nlambda) used for the POPL submission. This archive should contain a similar README, with simpler instructions. If you want the newest version of the software, then don't use that archive, but use the code in this repository.


This artifact was tested on a Debian system. During development both Mac and Windows have been used, so it should work on these operating systems too. Note that you will need the Z3 solver (as executable). The algorithms are implemented in Haskell and you will need a recent GHC (at least 7.10).

We use the library nlambda. It is recommended to use the most recent version. Just grab the source and put it somewhere (we build it together with nominal-lstar).

You will need to install the Z3 theorem prover. The executable should be locatable through the PATH environment. Follow the build guide on their website.


You can use the stack tool. Make sure to include nlambda as a package. It should be a matter of stack build, if not, stack will probably tell you what to do. (If you need any help, send me a message.)


Stack will produce a binary in the .stack-works directory, which can be invoked directly. Alternatively one can run stack exec NominalAngluin. There is two modes of operation: Running the examples, or running it interactively.


The executable expects three arguments:

stack exec NominalAngluin -- <Learner> <Oracle> <Example>

There are three learners:

  • NomLStar is the nominal L* algorithm as described in the paper.
  • NomLStarCol is the nominal L* algorithm where counter examples are added as columns (instead of rows). This is often a bit faster.
  • NomNLStar learns nominal NFAs.

There are two oracles:

  • EqDFA is an equivalence oracle which returns shortest counter examples by trying to prove two DFAs bisimilar. This method does not work for NomNLStar.
  • EqNFA n is a bounded equivalence oracle for NFAs. Deciding equivalence between NFAs is undecidable, so one has to fix a bound n for termination.

There is an additional oracle which poses the queries to stdout, so that a human can answer them. Since this oracle is a bit buggy (and not described in the paper), it is not part of main.

There is a bunch of examples (also described in the paper, except for the stack data structure):

  • Fifo n is a FIFO queue of capacity n.
  • Stack n is a Stack data structure of capacity n.
  • Running n is the running example from the paper with parameter n.
  • NFA1 accepts the language uavaw, where u,v,w are any words and a any atom.
  • Bollig n is the language where the n-last symbol equals the first. This can be encoded efficiently with an NFA. The corresponding DFA is exponential in n.

For example:

stack exec NominalAngluin -- NomLStar EqDFA "Fifo 2"

The program will output all the intermediate hypotheses. And will terminate once the oracle cannot find any counter examples. Printing the automaton is done with the NLambda library, it is not the most human-friendly output.

You can define your own automaton in Haskell by using NLambda. Then it can be learnt, and the minimal automaton will be printed.

In our paper we ran the algorithm on the examples Fifo, Running, Bollig and NFA1 with the bounds as mentioned in the paper. The first two families are given by DFAs and we used all three learners with the EqDFA teacher. For the latter two we used the EqNFA teacher with a bound of at most 10. We proved by hand that the learnt model did indeed accept the language.


Run the tool like so:

stack exec NominalAngluin -- <Leaner>

(So similar to the above case, but without specifying the equivalence checker and example.) The tool will ask you membership queries and equivalence queries through the terminal. The alphabet is fixed in Main.hs, so change it if you need a different alphabet (it should work generically for any alphabet).

Additionally, one can run the NominalAngluin2 executable instead, if provides an easier to parse protocol for membership queries. Hence it is more suitable for automation. This will first ask for the alphabet which should be either ATOMS or FIFO.

A run might look like the following. The lines with Q: are queries, answered by myself on the lines with A: or >.

1. Making it complete and consistent
2. Constructing hypothesis

# Membership Queries:
# Please answer each query with "True" or "False" ("^D" for quit)
Q: []
A: True
Q: [0]
A: True
Automaton {states = {{([],True)}}, alphabet = {a₁ : for a₁ ∊ 𝔸}, delta = {({([],True)},a₁,{([],True)}) : for a₁ ∊ 𝔸}, initialStates = {{([],True)}}, finalStates = {{([],True)}}}
3. Equivalent? 

# Is the following automaton correct?
# Automaton {states = {{([],True)}}, alphabet = {a₁ : for a₁ ∊ 𝔸}, delta = {({([],True)},a₁,{([],True)}) : for a₁ ∊ 𝔸}, initialStates = {{([],True)}}, finalStates = {{([],True)}}}
# "^D" for equivalent, "[...]" for a counter example (eg "[0,1,0]")
> [0,1]
Just {[a₁,a₂] : a₁ ≠ a₂ for a₁,a₂ ∊ 𝔸}
1. Making it complete and consistent
2. Constructing hypothesis
Using ce: {[a₁,a₂] : a₁ ≠ a₂ for a₁,a₂ ∊ 𝔸}
add columns: {[a₁] : for a₁ ∊ 𝔸, [a₁,a₂] : a₁ ≠ a₂ for a₁,a₂ ∊ 𝔸}

# Membership Queries:
# Please answer each query with "True" or "False" ("^D" for quit)
Q: [0,0]
A: True
Q: [1,0]
A: False
Q: [1,0,1]

Changes since first release

  • Better support for interactive communication.
  • Optimisation: add only one row/column to fix closedness/consistency