SQL's Three-Valued Logic and Certain Answers

Author Leonid Libkin

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Leonid Libkin

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Leonid Libkin. SQL's Three-Valued Logic and Certain Answers. In 18th International Conference on Database Theory (ICDT 2015). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 31, pp. 94-109, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2015)


SQL uses three-valued logic for evaluating queries on databases with nulls. The standard theoretical approach to evaluating queries on incomplete databases is to compute certain answers. While these two cannot coincide, due to a significant complexity mismatch, we can still ask whether the two schemes are related in any way. For instance, does SQL always produce answers we can be certain about? This is not so: SQL's and certain answers semantics could be totally unrelated. We show, however, that a slight modification of the three-valued semantics for relational calculus queries can provide the required certainty guarantees. The key point of the new scheme is to fully utilize the three-valued semantics, and classify answers not into certain or non-certain, as was done before, but rather into certainly true, certainly false, or unknown. This yields relatively small changes to the evaluation procedure, which we consider at the level of both declarative (relational calculus) and procedural (relational algebra) queries. We also introduce a new notion of certain answers with nulls, which properly accounts for queries returning tuples containing null values.
  • Null values
  • incomplete information
  • query evaluation
  • three-valued logic
  • certain answers


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