Space complexity vs. query complexity

Oded Lachish, Ilan Newman, Asaf Shapira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Combinatorial property testing deals with the following relaxation of decision problems: Given a fixed property and an input x, one wants to decide whether x satisfies the property or is "far" from satisfying it. The main focus of property testing is in identifying large families of properties that can be tested with a certain number of queries to the input. In this paper we study the relation between the space complexity of a language and its query complexity. Our main result is that for any space complexity s(n) ≤ log n there is a language with space complexity O(s(n)) and query complexity 2 Ω(s(n)). Our result has implications with respect to testing languages accepted by certain restricted machines. Alon et al. [FOCS 1999] have shown that any regular language is testable with a constant number of queries. It is well known that any language in space o(log log n) is regular, thus implying that such languages can be so tested. It was previously known that there are languages in space O(log n) that are not testable with a constant number of queries and Newman [FOCS 2000] raised the question of closing the exponential gap between these two results. A special case of our main result resolves this problem as it implies that there is a language in space O(log log n) that is not testable with a constant number of queries. It was also previously known that the class of testable properties cannot be extended to all context-free languages. We further show that one cannot even extend the family of testable languages to the class of languages accepted by single counter machines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-93
Number of pages24
JournalComputational Complexity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research of Ilan Newman was supported in part by an Israel Science Foundation grant number 55/03.


  • Bounded space
  • Complexity
  • Lower bounds
  • Property testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Mathematics (all)
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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