# Periodicity

Let $x$ be a non-empty word. An integer $p$, $0\lt p\leq|x|$, is called a period of $x$ if $x[i]=x[i+p]$ for $i=0,1,\dots,|x|-p-1$. Note that the length of a word is a period of this word, so every non-empty word has at least one period. The period of $x$, denoted by $\per(x)$, is its smallest period. Note that if $p$ is a period of $x$, its multiples not larger than $|x|$ are also periods of $x$.

Here is a series of properties equivalent to the definition of a period $p$ of $x$. First, $x$ can be factorised uniquely as $(uv)^k u$, where $u$ and $v$ are words, $v$ is non-empty, $k$ is a positive integer and $p=|uv|$. Second, $x$ is a prefix of $ux$ for a word $u$ of length $p$. Third, $x$ is a factor of $u^k$, where $u$ is a word of length $p$ and $k$ a positive integer. Fourth, $x$ can be factorised as $uw=wv$ for three words $u$, $v$ and $w$, verifying $p=|u|=|v|$.

The last point leads to the notion of border. A border of $x$ is a proper factor of $x$ that is both a prefix and a suffix of $x$. The border of $x$, denoted by $\Bord(x)$, is its longest border.

Borders and periods of $x$ are in one-to-one correspondence because of the fourth point above: a period $p$ of $x$ is associated with the border $x[p\dd |x|-1]$.

Note that, when defined, the border of a border of $x$ is also a border of $x$. Then $\langle \Bord(x), \Bord^2(x), \dots, \Bord^k(x)=\mv \rangle$ is the list of all borders of $x$. The (non-empty) word $x$ is said to be border free if its only border is the empty word or equivalently if its only period is $|x|$.

### Lemma 1 (Periodicity lemma}

If $p$ and $q$ are periods of a word $x$ and satisfy $p+q-\pgcd(p,q)\leq|x|$ then $\pgcd(p,q)$ is also a period of $x$.

The proof of the lemma may be found in textbooks. The Weak Periodicity lemma refers to a variant of the lemma in which the condition is strengthened to $p+q\leq|x|$. Its proof comes readily as follows. The conclusion obviously holds when $p=q$. Else, w.l.o.g. assume $p\gt q$ and let us show first that $p-q$ is a period of $x$. Indeed, let $i$ be a position on $x$ for which $i+p\lt |x|$. Then $x[i]=x[i+p]=x[i+p-q]$ because $p$ and $q$ are periods. And if $i+p\geq|x|$, the condition implies $i-q\geq 0$. Then $x[i]=x[i-q]=x[i+p-q]$ as before. Thus $p-q$ is a period of $x$. Iterating the reasoning or using a recurrence as for Euclid's algorithm, we conclude that $\pgcd(p,q)$ is a period of $x$.

To illustrate the Periodicity lemma, let us consider a word $x$ that admits 5 and 8 as periods. Then, if we assume moreover that $x$ is composed of at least two distinct letters, $\pgcd(5,8)=1$ is not a period of $x$. Thus, the condition of the lemma cannot hold, that is, $|x|\lt 5+8-\pgcd(5,8)=12$. The extreme situation is displayed in the picture and shows (when generalised) that the condition required on periods in the statement of the Periodicity lemma cannot be weakened.