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2022-01-22

Subcubic certificates for CFL reachability

Summary

Many problems in interprocedural program analysis can be modeled as the context-free language (CFL) reachability problem on graphs and can be solved in cubic time. Despite years of efforts, there are no known truly sub-cubic algorithms for this problem. We study the related certification task: given an instance of CFL reachability, are there small and efficiently checkable certificates for the existence and for the non-existence of a path? We show that, in both scenarios, there exist succinct certificates (O(n^2) in the size of the problem) and these certificates can be checked in subcubic (matrix multiplication) time. The certificates are based on grammar-based compression of paths (for reachability) and on invariants represented as matrix inequalities (for non-reachability). Thus, CFL reachability lies in nondeterministic and co-nondeterministic subcubic time. A natural question is whether faster algorithms for CFL reachability will lead to faster algorithms for combinatorial problems such as Boolean satisfiability (SAT). As a consequence of our certification results, we show that there cannot be a fine-grained reduction from SAT to CFL reachability for a conditional lower bound stronger than n^ω, unless the nondeterministic strong exponential time hypothesis (NSETH) fails. In a nutshell, reductions from SAT are unlikely to explain the cubic bottleneck for CFL reachability. Our results extend to related subcubic equivalent problems: pushdown reachability and 2NPDA recognition; as well as to all-pairs CFL reachability. For example, we describe succinct certificates for pushdown non-reachability (inductive invariants) and observe that they can be checked in matrix multiplication time. We also extract a new hardest 2NPDA language, capturing the “hard core” of all these problems.

Conference / Medium

POPL 2022

Date published

2022-01-22

Date last modified

2022-02-24 09:36:52