Probabilistic Deterministic Infinite Automata

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS 2010)

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David Pfau, Nicholas Bartlett, Frank Wood


We propose a novel Bayesian nonparametric approach to learning with probabilistic deterministic finite automata (PDFA). We define and develop and sampler for a PDFA with an infinite number of states which we call the probabilistic deterministic infinite automata (PDIA). Posterior predictive inference in this model, given a finite training sequence, can be interpreted as averaging over multiple PDFAs of varying structure, where each PDFA is biased towards having few states. We suggest that our method for averaging over PDFAs is a novel approach to predictive distribution smoothing. We test PDIA inference both on PDFA structure learning and on both natural language and DNA data prediction tasks. The results suggest that the PDIA presents an attractive compromise between the computational cost of hidden Markov models and the storage requirements of hierarchically smoothed Markov models.