A Data Model and Algebra for XML Query
This document:
http://www.cs.belllabs.com/ wadler/topics/xml.html#algebra
1 Introduction
This note presents a possible data model and algebra for an XML query language.
It should be compared with the alternative proposal [3].
The algebra is derived from the nested relational algebra, which is a widelyused
algebra for semistructured and objectoriented databases. For instance, similar
techniques are used in the implementation of OQL [2]. We differ from other
presentations of nested relational algebra in that we make heavy use of list
comprehensions, a standard notation in the functional programming community
[1]. We find list comprehensions slighly easier to manipulate than the
more traditional algebraic operators, but it is not hard to translate comprehensions
into these operators (or vice versa).
One important aspect of XML is not covered by traditional nested relational
algebras, namely, the structure imposed by a DTD or Schema. (So far as we can see,
the proposal [3] also does not cover this aspect.) We extend the
nested relational algebra with operators on regular expressions to
capture this additional structure. The operators for regular expressions are
also expressed with a comprehension notation, similar to that used for lists.
Again, a similar technique is common in the functional programming community.
(Chapter 11 of [1] uses a do notation that is quite
similar to our comprehensions.)
We use the functional programming language Haskell as a notation for
presenting the algebra. This allows us to use a notation that is formal and concrete, without
having to invent one from scratch. It also means you can download and play with
the algebra, for instance, to try implementing your favorite query. We use a slightly
modified version of Haskell that supports regular expression comprehensions. Code that
implements the algebra and a modified Hugs interpreter for Haskell can be downloaded
from the URL at the head of this document.
The algebra is at the logical level, not the physical level. Hence,
we do not have operators that exploit an index to compute joins efficiently.
This concern is deferred to another level.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section 2
presents the data model. Section 3 presents the algebra.
Section 4 presents some of the laws that apply to list comprehensions
and regular expressions.
2 Data Model
Our data model is based on the data model for XSLT given in
[4], which in turn is based on the data model in the XSLT
recommendation [5]. One difference is the addition of
reference nodes. The data model here is simpler in a few ways;
notably, it merges attribute and element nodes, and eliminates comment
and PI nodes. But these differences are minor; if desired, it is easy
to separate attribute and elements nodes, or to restore comment and PI
nodes.
The basic type is Node
. Each Node
is one of
three kinds: text, element, or reference. Correspondingly, we
have three constructor functions
text :: String > Node
elem :: Tag > [Node] > Node
ref :: Node > Node
For instance, the second line says that elem
is a
function with two arguments, a tag and a list of children nodes,
and returns a node. In Haskell, we write [Node]
for the type
of lists where each element is of type Node
.
Attributes are modeled as elements where the name begins
with `@
'. In our model, children are always in a list.
Sometimes the order of this list is relevant, sometimes it is not; in
particular, for attributes it is not.
As an example, the XML serialization
<bib>
<book year="1999">
<title>Data on the Web</title>
<author>Abiteboul</author>
<author>Buneman</author>
<author>Suciu</author>
<year>1999</year>
</book>
<book year="1987">
<title>Foundations of Databases</title>
<author>Abiteboul</author>
<author>Hull</author>
<author>Vianu</author>
</book>
</bib>
corresponds to the model term
elem "bib" [
elem "book" [
elem "@year" [ text "1999" ],
elem "title" [ text "Data on the Web" ],
elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ],
elem "author" [ text "Buneman" ],
elem "author" [ text "Suciu" ]],
elem "book" [
elem "@year" [ text "1987" ],
elem "title" [ text "Foundations of Databases" ],
elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ],
elem "author" [ text "Hull" ],
elem "author" [ text "Vianu" ]]]
In later examples, we will refer to the above node as bib0
,
its first child as book0
, and that node's first child as
year0
.
To find the type of a node, we have three boolean functions.
For each node, exactly one of these returns true.
isText :: Node > Bool
isElem :: Node > Bool
isRef :: Node > Bool
For a text node, we can access the text.
string :: Node > String
For an element node, we can access its tag and children.
tag :: Node > Tag
children :: Node > [Node]
For a reference node, we can access the node referenced.
dereference :: Node > Node
The string
function is undefined if applied to an
element or a reference node, and similiarly for the other
functions.
We can check a tag to see whether it is an attribute
(begins with @
).
tagAttr :: Tag > Bool
We can check whether a node is an element with a given tag,
and whether it is an attribute.
is :: Tag > Node > Bool
is t x = isElem x && tag x == t
isAttr :: Node > Bool
isAttr x = isElem x && tagAttr (tag x)
For example, is "@year" year0
and isAttr year0
each return true.
It is helpful to have a function that given a node, returns
the content of the node. (For a text node, this is its string;
for an attribute, this is the value of the attribute; for an
element node, it is the concatenation of the value of the
nonattribute children.)
value :: Node > String
For example, value year0
is the string "1999"
.
The DOM provides a function similar to value
.
Later, we will see how to define value
in terms of the
rest of the data model, using structural recursion.
Modelling attributes as elements gives us some flexibility in
modelling different types of attribute, as shown in the table below.
Attribute 
multiplicity 
child type 
CDATA 
one 
text 
NMTOKEN 
one 
text 
NMTOKENS 
many 
text 
ID 
one 
text 
IDREF 
one 
reference 
IDREFS 
many 
reference 
The element representing an attribute of type CDATA, has one child of
type text, while the element representing an attribute of type IDREFS
has any number of children of type reference.
In our model, nodes do not contain a pointer to their parents.
We believe this should be optional, as including such pointers
can be expensive. Where desired, parent pointers can be represented
by an element node with tag ``..
'' and one child which is
a reference to the parent.
3 Nested relational algebra
In the relational approach to databases, everything is a table. In
the nested relational approach, data is composed of tuples and lists,
arbitrarily nested (hence the name). In place of a table, one might
have a list of tuples. But also, for instance, a bibliography might
be represented by a list of tuples (one for each book), where one
field of the tuples is itself a list of authors.
We concentrate here on lists (as opposed to bags and sets). The
operations on bags and sets are similar to those on lists, and going into
the details here would add little to the exposition other than length.
3.1 Tuples
Tuple values and tuple types are written in round brackets.
(1999,"Data on the Web",["Abiteboul","Buneman","Suciu"])
:: (Int,String,[String])
Lists and tuples use related forms for values and types, we
hope this is helpful rather than confusing.
To decompose values, we allow tuples to appear on the lefthand
side of a definition. For example,
year :: (Int,String,[String])
year (x,y,l) = x
Given a tuple representing a book, this extracts the first component.
3.2 Comprehensions
The main tool we will use is the list comprehension, which is based
on a familiar notation for sets. Here is an example.
[ value x  x < children book0, is "author" x ]
==> [ "Abiteboul", "Buneman", "Suciu" ]
This is read as follows: return the list the values of each node
x
, such that x
is a child of book0
,
and x
is an author node. (Recall that value
,
children
, and is
were all defined in the section on the
data model).
Here is a second example.
[ value y  x < children bib0, is "book" x, y < children x, is "title" y ]
==> [ "Data on the Web", "Foundations of Databases" ]
This is read as follows: return the list the values of each node
y
, such that x
is a child of bib0
, and x
is a book node, and y
is a child of node x
, and y
is a title node. Note that here the values of y
depend on the
values of x
.
For completists, here is a more formal description of comprehensions.
In general, a comprehension has the form
[ exp  qual1, ..., qualn ]
where exp
is a return expression, and each quali
is a qualifier. Each qualifier is either a filter,
which has the form
boolexp
where boolexp
is a booleanvalued expression, or a
generator which has the form
pat < listexp
where pat
is a pattern, and listexp
is a
listvalued expression. A pattern is either a variable
or a tuple of patterns. The arrow in a generator may be
pronounced ``drawn from''. A variable appearing in a pattern
is bound, and its scope is all qualifiers to its
right and the return expression.
3.3 Using comprehensions to write queries
We can use comprehensions to express fundamental query operations
such as navigation, cartesian product, nesting, and joins.
We can navigate from a node to all of its children elements with
a given tag.
follow :: Tag > Node > [Node]
follow t x = [ y  y < children x, is t y ]
The term follow t x
is similar in effect to
$x/t
in XQL or f(E,t)(x) in [3].
The examples from the previous section can now be expressed more concisely.
[ value x  x < follow "author" book0 ]
==> [ "Abiteboul", "Buneman", "Suciu" ]
[ value y  x < follow "book" bib0, y < follow "title" x ]
==> [ "Data on the Web", "Foundations of Databases" ]
Later we will see the reasoning rules that can be used to prove the old
forms and the new forms equivalent.
Comprehensions make it easy to compute cartesian products.
[ (value y, value z)
 x < follow "book" bib0,
y < follow "title" x,
z < follow "author" x ]
==> [ ("Data on the Web", "Abiteboul"),
("Data on the Web", "Buneman"),
("Data on the Web", "Suciu"),
("Foundations of Databases", "Abiteboul"),
("Foundations of Databases", "Hull"),
("Foundations of Databases", "Vianu") ]
Here the comprehension returns pairs of each title with each author.
Comprehensions may be nested.
[ (int (value y),
value z,
[ value u  u < follow "author" x ])
 x < follow "book" bib0,
y < follow "@year" x,
z < follow "title" x ]
==> [(1999,
"Data on the Web",
["Abiteboul","Buneman","Suciu"])],
(1991,
"Foundations of Databases",
["Abiteboul,"Hull","Vianu"])]
Here a nested comprehension forms a list of all the authors
of the book.
Comprehensions make it easy to compute joins.
Let us assume a second data source of book reviews.
elem "reviews" [
elem "book" [
elem "title" [ text "Data on the Web" ],
elem "review" [ text "This is great!" ]]
elem "book" [
elem "title" [ text "Foundations of Databases" ],
elem "review" [ text "This is pretty good too!" ]]]
Call the above reviews0
. Here is a comprehension that
joins the two data sources.
[ (value y, int (value z), value w)
 x < follow "book" bib0,
y < follow "title" x,
z < follow "@year" x,
u < follow "book" reviews0,
v < follow "title" u,
w < follow "review" u,
y == v ]
==> [("Data on the Web",
1999,
"This is great!"),
("Foundations of Databases",
1991,
"This is pretty good too!")]
This finds a book node in the bibliography and a book node in
the reviews that have the same title, and returns the title,
year, and review for all such nodes.
3.4 Additional operations on lists
We need a few additional operations on lists. These allow us to union
queries, to query the position of an element in a list, and to form
universal and existential queries.
We may append one list to another list.
Append for lists serves much the same function
as union for sets.
(++) :: [a] > [a] > [a]
For example,
follow "title" book0 ++ follow "author" book0
==> [elem "title" [text "Data on the Web"],
elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ],
elem "author" [ text "Buneman" ],
elem "author" [ text "Suciu" ]]
(We use infix notation for ++
, treating
x ++ y
and (++) x y
as equivalent.)
We may pair each element in a list with its index,
counting from zero.
index :: [a] > [(Int,a)]
For example,
index (follow "author" book0)
==> [(0, elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ]),
(1, elem "author" [ text "Buneman" ]),
(2, elem "author" [ text "Suciu" ])]
One can use indexing to select elements based on their position
in a list. For example
[ x  (i,x) < index (follow "author" book0), i < 2 ]
==> [(0, elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ]),
(1, elem "author" [ text "Buneman" ])]
selects the first two authors of book0
.
We may check whether a list is empty.
null :: [a] > Bool
One can use null to test whether there is an element
of a list with a given property. For example,
null [ x  (i,x) < index (follow "author" book0), i >= 1 ]
==> False
is true if book0
has at most one author. Both
universal and existential queries can be formed in
this way, since the two kinds of query are related
by negation.
There is a function that takes a list of length one and returns its
sole element, and is undefined otherwise.
the :: [a] > a
This function is useful when we expect there to be only
one node of a given kind. For example,
the (follow "title" book0)
==> elem "title" [text "Data on the Web"]
returns the title node of book0
.
3.5 Structural recursion
We allow recursive and mutually recursive functions, in order to
process trees with a recursive structure. In order to ensure
termination, we limit when recursion may be used: a recursive function
must take one argument that is a node, and any recursive invocation
should be on a descendant of that node; since any node has a finite
number of descendants, this avoids infinite regress. (Ideally, we
should have a simple syntactic rule that enforces this restriction,
but we have not yet devised such a rule.)
For example, here is the definition of value
promised earlier.
value :: Node > String
value x = if isText x then
string x
else if isElem x then
concat [ value y  y < children x, not (isAttr y) ]
else if isRef x then
""
For a text node, this extracts the string; for an element node it finds
the value of each of the nonattribute children and concatenates them;
for a reference it returns the empty string.
Here
concat :: [String] > String
concatenates together a list of strings into a single string.
The following example is taken from Peter Frankhauser.
Consider the following document.
<bookstore>
<fiction>
<scifi>
<book>
<isbn>0006482805</isbn>
<title>Do androids dream of electric sheep</title>
<author>Philip K. Dick</author>
</book>
</scifi>
<fantasy>
<mystery>
<book>
<isbn>0261102362</isbn>
<title>The two towers</title>
<author>JRR Tolkien</author>
</book>
</mystery>
</fantasy>
</fiction>
</bookstore>
Here we have books organized in an irregular hierarchy, the P.K.Dick
book is on level two, the Tolkien book on level three. More generally,
books can be organized at arbitrary level of an irregular hierarchy.
A reasonable query might want to hide all but isbns but maintain their
context in the orginal irregular hierarchy. That is, we want the
following result.
<bookstore>
<fiction>
<scifi>
<book>
<isbn>0006482805</isbn>
</book>
</scifi>
<fantasy>
<mystery>
<book>
<isbn>0261102362</isbn>
</book>
</mystery>
</fantasy>
</fiction>
</bookstore>
The query should be applicable to any sort of document, regardless of
how deeply the actual books are nested.
Here is a recursive function that computes the desired query.
isbns :: Node > Node
isbns x = if is "book" x then
elem "book" [ the (follow "isbn" x) ]
else
elem (tag x) [ isbns y  y < children x ]
If the given node is a book node, then a new book node containing
only the isbn is returned; otherwise the element is copied with the
function recursively applied to each of its children.
3.6 Regular expression matching
Sequence is significant for some XML trees. Typically, sequence is
described by a regular expression, as in a DTD or schema. Regular
expressions are composed by sequencing, alternation, and repetition.
We introduce a new type Reg a
, which stands for a regular
expression that returns a value of type a
for each successful
match.
Sequencing of regular expressions is written with a comprehension notation
similar to that for lists. For example,
([ (x,y,u)
 x < item "@year",
y < item "title",
u < rep (item "author") ])
:: Reg (Node,Node,[Node])
is a regular expression comprehension that matches a year, followed by
a title, followed by zero or more authors. To distinguish them from
list comprehensions, regular expression comprehensions will always be
written in parentheses. For each successful match, the regular
expression returns a triple consisting of two nodes (the year and
title nodes) and a list of nodes (the author nodes). A regular
expression matches against the children of a given node. A match
returns a list, which is empty if the match fails, or contains
multiple entries if the match is ambiguous. For example, if
reg0
is the regular expression above, then
match reg0 book0
==> [(elem "@year" [text "1999"],
elem "title" [text "Data on the Web"],
[elem "author" [text "Abiteboul"],
elem "author" [text "Buneman"],
elem "author" [text "Suciu"]])]
In this case, the result is a list with one triple, since the match
succeeds and is unambiguous.
Order matters with regular expressions. Here is another book element,
identical to book0
except the year is at the end.
elem "book" [
elem "title" [ text "Data on the Web" ],
elem "author" [ text "Abiteboul" ],
elem "author" [ text "Buneman" ],
elem "author" [ text "Suciu" ],
elem "@year" [ text "1999" ]]
Call this book1
. Then we have
match reg0 book1 ==> []
The match fails, and so returns the empty list.
There is an operator to indicate the cases where order is unimportant.
For example, if reg1
is the regular expression
([ (x,y,u)
 x < anywhere (item "@year"),
y < item "title",
u < rep (item "author") ])
:: Reg (Node,Node,[Node])
then match reg1 book0
and match reg1 book1
return the
same result. Normally, a regular expression looks for a match at the
beginning of the given sequence of nodes. Applying anywhere
allows it to find a match anywhere in the given sequence of nodes. In
either case, subsequent regular expressions apply only to the
remaining unmatched nodes.
In general, the match operation takes a regular expression and
a node, and returns a list.
match :: Reg a > Node > [a]
A match returns a list with one entry for each successful match
of the regular expression against the children of the node.
The list is empty if the match fails, and contains multiple entries
if the match is ambiguous.
The most basic regular expression matches against a single node.
nodeItem :: Reg Node
Like a list comprehension, a regular expression comprehension may
contain a filter. For example, we can define regular expressions
that match against a single text node, or a single element node
with a given tag.
textItem :: Reg Node
textItem = ([ x  x < nodeItem, isText x ])
item :: Tag > Reg Node
item t = ([ x  x < nodeItem, is t x ])
We saw an example with item
above.
Regular expressions can be combined by alternation.
(+++) :: Reg a > Reg a > Reg a
For example,
item "author" +++ item "editor"
will match either an author or an editor node.
A regular expression comprehension that contains only the filter
True
returns a value without matching against any items. This
is useful for providing defaults. For example,
([ int (value x)  x < item "@year" ]) +++ ([ 1999  True ])
will either match a year node (and return the integer value of the year)
or match nothing (and return the integer 1999
).
Regular expressions can be combined by repetition.
rep :: Reg a > Reg [a]
rep p = ([ [x]++l  x < p, l < rep p ]) +++ ([ []  True ])
Repetition of regular expressions is defined using sequencing, alternation,
and recursion. We saw an example with rep
above.
Like a list comprehension, a regular expression comprehension may
apply a function to the value returned. For example,
stringItem :: Reg String
stringItem = ([ string x  x < textItem ])
This regular expression matches a text item, but returns the string
that is the value of the text node, rather than the node itself.
The function step
is similar to item
, except once it
matches the item it also applies a regular expression to the item's
children.
step :: Tag > Reg a > Reg a
For example,
step "@year" stringItem :: Reg String
first matches a year node, and then matches string
against the
text node that is the child of the year node. As another example,
step "name"
([ (x,y)
 x < step "first" stringItem,
y < step "last" stringItem ])
:: Reg (String, String)
matches a name node, and then matches against children representing the
first and last names. The name node must contain only first and last
children in the specified order or else the match fails.
As a final example, here is a variant of something we saw earlier.
([ (int x,y,u)
 x < anywhere (step "@year" stringItem),
y < step "title" stringItem,
u < rep (step "author" stringItem) ])
:: Reg (Int,String,[String])
This returns a tuple of integers and strings, which may be more
convenient than a tuple of nodes.
3.7 Sorting and grouping
We can sort a list with respect to a given order.
sortBy :: (a > a > Bool) > [a] > [a]
For instance,
sortBy (<=) [3,1,2,1]
==> [1,1,2,3]
Here (<=) :: Int > Int > Bool
is true if its first argument
is less than or equal to its second. Sorting is only defined if
its first argument is transitive (that is, we will only write
sortBy p when p x y and p y z implies p x z).
Often, we have a list of tuples and sort on only one field.
We have a second version of sort that lets us specify a function
to apply to the elements before comparison; usually this will
extract a field.
sortOn :: (a > b) > (b > b > Bool) > [a] > [a]
For instance
sortOn fst (<=) [(3,'d'),(1,'c'),(2,'b'),(1,'a')]
==> [(1,'c'),(1,'a'),(2,'b'),(3,'d')]
Here the order function is not total, so the order of the resulting
elements may not be specified (unless we require a stable sort).
It is easy to define sortOn
in terms of sortBy
.
sortOn f p l = [ x  (u,x) < sort q [ (f x, x)  x < l ] ]
where
q (u,x) (v,y) = p u v
We can also group a list with respect to a given equality operator.
groupBy :: (a > a > Bool) > [a] > [[a]]
For instance,
groupBy (==) [3,1,2,1]
== [[2],[1,1],[3]]
where (==) :: Int > Int > Bool
is true if its arguments are
equal. The order of the groups is unspecified, but one may choose to
sort the resulting groups.
As with sorting, it is common to have a list of tuples and group
on only one field. We have a second version of group, similar to
the second version of sort.
groupOn :: (a > b) > (b > b > Bool) > [a] > [(b,[a])]
For instance
groupOn fst (==) [(3,'d'),(1,'c'),(2,'b'),(1,'a')]
==> [(3,[(3,'d')]),(1,[(1,'c'),(1,'a')]),(2,[(2,'b')])]
It is easy to define groupOn
in terms of groupBy
.
groupOn f p l = [ (head [ w  (w,x) < m ], [ x  (w,x) < m ])
 m < groupBy q [ (fst x, x)  x < l ] ]
where
q (u,x) (v,y) = p u v
(Well, maybe not easy, but possible.)
3.8 An example
Here we give the translation of a query in XMLQL and a similar
query in Yatl, to show how the algebra can express subtle
semantic distinctions, such as how order is handled.
Here is the first example from the Exemplars paper, expressed
in XMLQL.
CONSTRUCT <bib> {
WHERE
<bib>
<book year=$y>
<title>$t</title>
<publisher><name>AddisonWesley</name></publisher>
</book>
</bib> IN "www.bn.com/bib.xml",
$y > 1991
CONSTRUCT <book year=$y><title>$t</title></book>
} </bib>
XMLQL queries ignore the order in which elements appear.
Here is its translation into our algebra.
query :: Node > Node
query x = elem "bib"
[ elem "book"
[ elem "@year" [text (value y)],
elem "title" [text (value t)]]
 a < follow "bib" x,
b < follow "book" a,
y < follow "@year" b,
t < follow "title" b,
p < follow "publisher" b,
n < follow "name" p,
int (value y) > 1991,
value n == "Addison Wesley" ]
When order is irrelevant, we use list comprehensions
and follow
.
Here is the same example expressed in Yatl.
make
bib [ *book [ @year [ $y ],
title [ $t ] ] ]
match "www.bn.com/bib.xml" with
bib [ *book [ @year [ $y ],
title [ $t ] ],
publisher [ name [ $n ] ] ]
where
$n = "AddisonWesley" and $y > 1991
This Yatl query differs from XMLQL in that it specifies
that the order is significant. (In Yatl one uses square
braces to indicate that order is significant, and curly
braces to indicate that order is irrelevant.)
Here is its translation into our algebra.
query :: Node > Node
query x = elem "bib"
[ elem "book"
[ elem "@year" [ text y ],
elem "title" [ text t ] ]
 (y,t,n) < the (match bibReg x),
int y > 1991,
n == "Addison Wesley" ]
bibReg :: Reg [(String,String,String)]
bibReg = step "bib"
(rep
(step "book"
([ (y,t,n)
 y < step "@year" stringItem,
t < step "title" stringItem,
n < step "publisher"
(step "name" stringItem) ])))
When order is significant, we use regular expression
comprehensions and step
.
4 Equivalences
4.1 List comprehensions
List comprehensions can be characterized by the following
laws. We write q
to range over a list of qualifiers.
(0) [ e  q ] = [ e  q, True ]
(1) [ e  x < [], q] = [ ]
(2) [ e  x < [v], q] = [ e  q ][x:=v]
(3) [ e  x < l ++ m, q ] = [ e  x < l, q ] ++ [ e  x < m, q ]
(4) [ e  False, q ] = [ ]
(5) [ e  True, q ] = [ e  q ]
(6) [ e  True ] = [ e ]
Line (0) says we can always append the filter True
to the end
of a list of qualifiers without changing its meaning; doing so
provides a simple way to terminate our recursive definition, as shown
in line (6). Every list can be simplified to one of three forms: the
empty list []
, the unit list [v]
, or the append of two
lists l ++ m
, giving lines (13). In line (2), the notation
[ e  q ][x:=v]
stands for the comprehension [ e  q ]
with all occurrences of variable x
replaced by value v
(or with corresponding variables repaced by corresponding expressions
if x
and v
are tuples). Every filter can be simplified
to either False
or True
, giving lines (45).
Here is how the above laws can be used to evaluate
a simple comprehension.
[ x*x  x < [1,2,3], odd x ]
==> (3)
[ x*x  x < [1], odd x ] ++
[ x*x  x < [2], odd x ] ++
[ x*x  x < [3], odd x ]
==> (2)
[ 1*1  odd 1 ] ++
[ 2*2  odd 2 ] ++
[ 3*3  odd 3 ]
==> (4,5)
[ 1*1 ] ++
[ ] ++
[ 3*3 ]
==>
[ 1, 9 ]
The following laws are conseqences of the definition of list comprehensions.
Let d
and e
be expressions, and let p
, q
, and
r
be lists of qualifiers.
(trivial) [ x  x < e ] = e
(flattening) [ d  p, x < [ e  q ], r ] = [ d[x:=e]  p, q, r[x:=e] ]
Here d[x:=e]
and r[x:=e]
stand for expression d
and qualifier list r
with all occurrences of variable x
replaced by expression e
. We call this the flattening law.
The flattening law can be used to move expressions together, enabling
further optimizations. Here is a simple example.
[ x+1  x < [ y1  y < u ] ]
==> (flattening)
[ (y1)+1  y < u ]
==> (arithmetic)
[ y  y < u ]
==> (trivial)
u
Recall that earlier we made the following definition.
follow :: Tag > Node > [Node]
follow t x = [ y  y < children x, is t y ]
We then claimed that the comprehension
[ value y  x < children bib0, is "book" x, y < children x, is "title" y ]
and the comprehension
[ value y  x < follow "book" bib0, y < follow "title" x ]
were equivalent. This can be seen immediately by two applications
of the above law.
4.2 List comprehensions and algebra
Traditionally, nested relational algebra is presented using a few operators
such as map
, concatenate
, and filter
, instead of list
comprehensions. We explain the equivalence here.
The operations map
, concatenate
, and filter
can be
defined in terms of list comprehensions as follows.
map :: (a > b) > [a] > [b]
map f l = [ f x  x < l ]
concat :: [[a]] > [a]
concat u = [ x  l < u, x < l ]
filter :: (a > Bool) > [a] > [a]
filter p l = [ x  x < l, p x ]
Conversely, list comprehensions can be defined in terms of map
and concat
by the following equations.
[ e  x < l, q ] = concat (map g l)
where g x = [ e  q ]
[ e  b, q ] = if b then [ e  q ] else []
[ e  True ] = [ e ]
4.3 Sets
For sets, there are additional laws for comprehensions. We write
set
in front of the comprehension to indicate
which sort of collection it acts upon.
We can commute two qualifier lists, if neither binds any variable
used by the other.
set [ e  p, q, r, s ] = set [ e  p, r, q, s ]
Here the bound variables of q
must be disjoint from the
free variables of r
, and vice versa. Further, we can
delete a qualifier if it mentions variables used nowhere else.
set [ e  p, q, r ] = set [ e  p, r ]
Here no bound variable of q
appears in e
or r
.
For instance, we can use the above to push selections about, as
happens in relational algebra.
set [ u  (u,v) < set [ (y,z)  y < follow "title" x, z < follow "author" x ] ]
=
set [ y  y < follow "title" x, z < follow "author" x ]
=
set [ y  y < follow "title" x ]
=
set (follow "title" x)
4.4 Regular expressions
To give a formal specification of regular expressions, we define a regular
expression as a function.
type Reg a = [Node] > [(a,[Node])]
A regular expression is a function that takes as its argument the list
of nodes to be matched, and returns a list of pairs. There is one pair
for each successful match, containing the value of the match and the
remaining nodes to be matched.
The match
function applies the regular expression to the children of the
given node, and returns the value of each successful match that has no
remaining nodes to be matched.
match :: Reg a > Node > [a]
match p x = [ y  (y,l) < p (children x), null l ]
The nodeItem
regular expression checks the list of nodes to be matched.
If it is empty, the match fails (returns an empty list); otherwise, there is
one successful match, the value is the node at the head of the list and the
remaining list of nodes is the tail of the list.
nodeItem :: Reg Node
nodeItem l = if null l then [] else [(head l, tail l)]
Alternation of regular expressions is defined in terms of append.
(p +++ q) l = p l ++ q l
Regular expression comprehensions are defined as follows.
If e
is an expression, x
is a varialbe,
p
is a regular expression,
and q
is a list of qualifiers, then we have
([ e  x < p, q ]) l = [ (y,n)  (x,m) < p l, (y,n) < ([ e  q ]) m ]
That is, first we apply regular expression p
to the list of nodes
l
, yielding the value x
and the remainder m
, then
we apply the remaining comprehension to the list of nodes m
,
yielding the value y
and the remainder n
, then we return
the value y
and the remainder n
.
If e
is an expression, b
is a boolean valued expression,
and q
is a list of qualifiers, then we have
([ e  b, q ]) l = if b then ([ e  q ]) l else []
A filter does not match any input, so if the filter is true then
the list of nodes to be matched l
is passed unchanged to the
remaining comprehension, otherwise the match fails.
Finally, if e
is an expression, then we have
([ e  True ]) l = [ (e,l) ]
The expression is returned paired with the input.
Just as with lists, the trivial and flattening laws follow from the
definition of regular expression comprehensions.
(trivial) ([ x  x < e ]) = e
(flattening) ([ d  p, x < ([ e  q ]), r ]) = ([ d[x:=e]  p, q, r[x:=e] ])
Here e
and d
are expressions, and p
, q
, and r
are lists of qualifiers. These laws can be used for optimization in much the
same ways as the laws of list comprehensions.
References
 [1]

Richard Bird.
Introduction to Functional Programming using Haskell.
Prentice Hall, 1998.
 [2]

Francois Bancilhon, Paris Kanellakis, Claude Delobel.
Building an ObjectOriented Database System.
Morgan Kaufmann, 1990.
 [3]

David Beech, Ashok Malhotra, Michael Rys.
A Formal Data Model and Algebra for XML.
W3C XML Query working group note, September 1999.
 [4]

Philip Wadler.
A formal semantics of patterns in XSLT.
Markup Technologies, Philadelphia, December 1999.
 [5]

WorldWide Web Consortium
XSL Transformations (XSLT), Version 1.0.
W3C Recommendation, November 1999.
http://www.w3.org/TR/xslt.
This document was translated from L^{A}T_{E}X by H^{E}V^{E}A.