SOME PRELIMINARIES

Let me begin by reviewing a few points from Chapter 1. First, recall that each algebraic operator takes at least one relation as input and produces another relation as output. Second, recall too that the fact that the output is the same kind of thing as the input(s)—they’re all relations—constitutes the closure property of the algebra, and it’s that property that lets us write nested relational expressions. Third, I gave outline descriptions in Chapter 1 of what I called “the original operators” (restrict, project, product, intersect, union, difference, and join); now I’m in a position to define those operators, and others, much more carefully. Before I can do that, however, I need to make a few more general points:

  • The operators of the algebra are generic: They apply, in effect, to all possible relations. For example, we don’t need one specific join operator to join departments and employees and another, different, join operator to join suppliers and shipments. (Incidentally, do you think an analogous remark applies to object systems?).

  • The operators are also read-only: They “read” their operands and they return a result, but they don’t update anything. In other words, they operate on relations, not relvars.

  • Of course, the previous point doesn’t mean that relational expressions can’t refer to relvars. For example, if R1 and R2 are relvar names, then R1 UNION R2 is certainly a valid relational expression in Tutorial D (so long as the relvars denoted by those names ...

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