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SQL and Relational Theory, 3rd Edition by C.J. Date

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Chapter 2

Types and Domains

A major purpose of type systems is to avoid embarrassing questions about representations, and to forbid situations in which these questions might come up.

—Luca Cardelli and Peter Wegner: “On Understanding Types, Data Abstraction, and Polymorphism”ACM Comp. Surv. 17, No. 4 (December 1985)

This chapter is related only tangentially to the main theme of the book. Types are certainly fundamental, and the ideas discussed in this chapter are certainly important (they might help to dispel certain common misconceptions, too). However, type theory as such isn’t a specially relational topic, and type-related matters don’t seem—at least on the surface—to have much to do with SQL daily life, as it were. What’s more, while there are certainly SQL problems in this area, there isn’t much you can do about them, for the most part; I mean, there isn’t much concrete advice I can offer to help with the goal of using SQL relationally (though there is some, as you’ll see). So you might want to give this chapter just a “once over lightly” reading on a first pass, and come back to it after you’ve absorbed more of the material from later chapters.

TYPES AND RELATIONS

Data types (types for short) are fundamental to computer science. Relational theory in particular requires a supporting type theory, because relations are defined over types—that is, every attribute of every relation is defined to be of some type, and the same is true of relvars too, of course. For example, I’m ...

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