On the Learnability and Usage of Acyclic Probabilistic Finite Automata

Dana Ron, Yoram Singer, Naftali Tishby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


We propose and analyze a distribution learning algorithm for a sub-class of acyclic probalistic finite automata (APFA). This subclass is characterized by a certain distinguishability property of the automata's states. Though hardness results are known for learning distributions generated by general APFAs, we prove that our algorithm can efficiently learn distributions generated by the subclass of APFAs we consider. In particular, we show that the KL-divergence between the distribution generated by the target source and the distribution generated by our hypothesis can be made arbitrarily small with high confidence in polynomial time. We present two applications of our algorithm. In the first, we show how to model cursively written letters. The resulting models are part of a complete cursive handwriting recognition system. In the second application we demonstrate how APFAs can be used to build multiple-pronunciation models for spoken words. We evaluate the APFA-based pronunciation models on labeled speech data. The good performance (in terms of the log-likelihood obtained on test data) achieved by the APFAs and the little time needed for learning suggests that the learning algorithm of APFAs might be a powerful alternative to commonly used probabilistic models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-152
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Computer and System Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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