Extending existing dependency theory to temporal databases

Christian S. Jensen, Richard T. Snodgrass, Michael D. Soo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Normal forms play a central role in the design of relational databases. Several normal forms for temporal relational databases have been proposed. These definitions are particular to specific temporal data models, which are numerous and incompatible. This paper attempts to rectify this situation. We define a consistent framework of temporal equivalents of the important conventional database design concepts: functional dependencies, primary keys, and third and Boyce-Codd normal forms. This framework is enabled by making a clear distinction between the logical concept of a temporal relation and its physical representation. As a result, the role played by temporal normal forms during temporal database design closely parallels that of normal forms during conventional database design. These new normal forms apply equally well to all temporal data models that have timeslice operators, including those employing tuple timestamping, backlogs, and attribute value timestamping. As a basis for our research, we conduct a thorough examination of existing proposals for temporal dependencies, keys, and normal forms. To demonstrate the generality of our approach, we outline how normal forms and dependency theory can also be applied to spatial and spatiotemporal databases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-582
Number of pages20
JournalIEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • Data semantics
  • Database design
  • Functional dependency
  • Normal form
  • Temporal relation
  • Transaction time
  • Valid time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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