Supporting Valid-Time Indeterminacy

Curtis E. Dyreson, Richard T. Snodgrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


In valid-time indeterminacy it is known that an event stored in a database did in fact occur, but it is not known exactly when. In this paper we extend the SQL data model and query language to support valid-time indeterminacy. We represent the occurrence time of an event with a set of possible instants, delimiting when the event might have occurred, and a probability distribution over that set. We also describe query language constructs to retrieve information in the presence of indeterminacy. These constructs enable users to specify their credibility in the underlying data and their plausibility in the relationships among that data. A denotational semantics for SQL's select statement with optional credibility and plausibility constructs is given. We show that this semantics is reliable, in that it never produces incorrect information, is maximal, in that if it were extended to be more informative, the results may not be reliable, and reduces to the previous semantics when there is no indeterminacy. Although the extended data model and query language provide needed modeling capabilities, these extensions appear initially to carry a significant execution cost. A contribution of this paper is to demonstrate that our approach is useful and practical. An efficient representation of valid-time indeterminacy and efficient query processing algorithms are provided. The cost of support for indeterminacy is empirically measured, and is shown to be modest. Finally, we show that the approach is general, by applying it to the temporal query language constructs being proposed for SQL3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-57
Number of pages57
JournalACM Transactions on Database Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1998


  • Algorithms
  • Data models
  • H.2.1 [Database Management]: Logical Design
  • H.2.3 [Database Management]: Languages
  • H.2.4 [Database Management]: Systems
  • Incomplete information
  • Indeterminacy
  • Languages
  • Probabilistic information
  • Query languages
  • Query processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Supporting Valid-Time Indeterminacy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this