A restricted second-order logic for non-deterministic poly-logarithmic time

Logic Journal of the IGPL 28 (3):389-412 (2020)
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We introduce a restricted second-order logic $\textrm{SO}^{\textit{plog}}$ for finite structures where second-order quantification ranges over relations of size at most poly-logarithmic in the size of the structure. We demonstrate the relevance of this logic and complexity class by several problems in database theory. We then prove a Fagin’s style theorem showing that the Boolean queries which can be expressed in the existential fragment of $\textrm{SO}^{\textit{plog}}$ correspond exactly to the class of decision problems that can be computed by a non-deterministic Turing machine with random access to the input in time $O^k)$ for some $k \ge 0$, i.e. to the class of problems computable in non-deterministic poly-logarithmic time. It should be noted that unlike Fagin’s theorem which proves that the existential fragment of second-order logic captures NP over arbitrary finite structures, our result only holds over ordered finite structures, since $\textrm{SO}^{\textit{plog}}$ is too weak as to define a total order of the domain. Nevertheless, $\textrm{SO}^{\textit{plog}}$ provides natural levels of expressibility within poly-logarithmic space in a way which is closely related to how second-order logic provides natural levels of expressibility within polynomial space. Indeed, we show an exact correspondence between the quantifier prefix classes of $\textrm{SO}^{\textit{plog}}$ and the levels of the non-deterministic poly-logarithmic time hierarchy, analogous to the correspondence between the quantifier prefix classes of second-order logic and the polynomial-time hierarchy. Our work closely relates to the constant depth quasipolynomial size AND/OR circuits and corresponding restricted second-order logic defined by David A. Mix Barrington in 1992. We explore this relationship in detail.



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Choiceless polynomial time.Andreas Blass, Yuri Gurevich & Saharon Shelah - 1999 - Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 100 (1-3):141-187.

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