Decreasing Diagrams for Confluence and Commutation

by   Jörg Endrullis, et al.

The decreasing diagrams technique is one of the strongest and most versatile methods for proving confluence of abstract reduction systems, it is complete for countable systems, and it has many well-known confluence criteria as corollaries. So what makes decreasing diagrams so powerful? In contrast to other confluence techniques, decreasing diagrams employ a labelling of the steps with labels from a well-founded order in order to conclude confluence of the underlying unlabelled relation. Hence it is natural to ask how the size of the label set influences the strength of the technique. In particular, what class of abstract reduction systems can be proven confluent using decreasing diagrams restricted to 1 label, 2 labels, 3 labels, and so on? Surprisingly, we find that two labels suffice for proving confluence for every abstract rewrite system having the cofinality property, thus in particular for every confluent, countable system. Secondly, we show that this result stands in sharp contrast to the situation for commutation of rewrite relations, where the hierarchy does not collapse. Thirdly, investigating the possibility of a confluence hierarchy, we discuss the logical issue of first-order definability of the notion of confluence, and related properties, using techniques from finite model theory, in particular Hanf's theorem.


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