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We define a new class of shift spaces which contains a number of classes of interest, like Sturmian shifts used in discrete geometry. We show that this class is closed under two natural transformations. The first one is called conjugacy and is obtained by sliding block coding. The second one is called the complete bifix decoding, and typically includes codings by non-overlapping blocks of fixed length.
We investigate the shifts associated with natural codings of linear involutions. We deduce, from the geometric representation of linear involutions as Poincaré maps of measured foliations, a suitable definition of return words which yields that the set of return words to a given word is a symmetric basis of the free group on the underlying alphabet, $A$. The set of return words with respect to a subgroup of finite index $G$ of the free group on $A$ is also proved to be a symmetric basis of $G$.
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