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CSc 460 Sylabus

  CSc 460: Automata Theory

CSc 460
Automata Theory and Formal Languages
Summer I, 2006 3 Credits

Instructor: Tom Bennet
Office: 302 MCC
Phone: 925-3815
Text: Introduction to Languages and the Theory of Computation, 3rd ed., by John C. Martin, McGraw Hill
Web Page:

A study of languages, grammars, and machines at a theoretical level. Regular, context free, and context sensitive languages are covered, as well as finite state, push down, and Turing machines. The concept of decidability is also discussed.

This course covers the closely related topics of formal languages and automata. A formal language is simply a set of strings described in a formal way. An automaton is a theoretical computing machine also described formally. This course will cover several classes of formal language and automata, comparing their properties and expressive power. This body of knowledge provides the theoretical foundation to solve several practical problems in programming, particularly in building compilers. It also allows us to determine some basic limits on what can be computed.

After completing this course with a passing grade, the student will understand finite automata, pushdown automata, Turing machines, regular expressions context-free grammars, and the Chomsky hierarchy, and be able to prove things about them.

Instruction will be through lecture, class discussion, and problem-solving, including the construction of proofs.


We will have the graded activities listed below. Grades are assigned by percentage of the total points earned. Graduate students must complete longer versions of the exams, hence have a larger total possible.
Activity UG Points Grad Points
Homework 75 75
Regular Exam 100 150
Final Exam 150 200

TOTALS 325 425
Ugrad Grad Percent Grade
292 - 325 382 - 425 90%- 100% A
260 - 291 340 - 381 80%- 89% B
227 - 259 297 - 339 70%- 79% C
195 - 226 255 - 296 60%- 69% D
0 - 194 0 - 254 0%- 59% F
The semester point total may vary due to unforeseen circumstances. Any variance will be small. Final grades will be based on these same percentages of the actual total.

The exams will be take-home. The first one will be due around Monday June 19. The final exam will be due on the scheduled final day, Friday, June 30. See the schedule for more information. The last day to drop this course is Wednesday, June 14.


Mississippi College class attendance policies as described on pp. 46 and 47 of the college catalog will be enforced. Absences may be excused for illness or other appropriate cause. Exams missed due to circumstances beyond the student's control may be made up at a mutually agreeable time and place. Adequate documentation of the cause of an absence may be required.

Academic Honesty

Mississippi College regulations regarding the integrity of academic work, policy 2.19 will be enforced. The computer science group has established the following addendum:

In a computer science class individual effort is expected. Student misconduct not only includes cheating on tests, but also extends to copying or collaborating on programming assignments, projects, lab work or research unless otherwise specified by the instructor. Using other people's accounts to do your work or having others do your work is prohibited. Close proximity in lab does not mean collaboration is permitted. NOTE: Discussing logical solutions to problems is acceptable, exchange of code, pseudocode, designs, or procuring solutions from the Web, other texts, the Internet or other resources on or off campus is not acceptable.

First offense: grade of 0 for all parties involved unless the guilty party can be determined. Second offense: grade of F in the course.