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We propose a formalism for representation of finite languages, referred to as the class of IDL-expressions, which combines concepts that were only considered in isolation in existing formalisms. The suggested applications are in natural language processing, more specifically in surface natural language generation and in machine translation, where a sentence is obtained by first generating a large set of candidate sentences, represented in a compact way, and then by filtering such a set through a parser. We study several formal properties of IDL-expressions and compare this new formalism with more standard ones. We also present a novel parsing algorithm for IDL-expressions and prove a non-trivial upper bound on its time complexity.