Deep Separability of Ontological Constraints

Andrea Calì, Marco Console, Riccardo Frosini

When data schemata are enriched with expressive constraints that aim at representing the domain of interest, in order to answer queries one needs to consider the logical theory consisting of both the data and the constraints. Query answering in such a context is called ontological query answering. Commonly adopted database constraints in this field are tuple-generating dependencies (TGDs) and equality-generating dependencies (EGDs). It is well known that their interaction leads to intractability or undecidability of query answering even in the case of simple subclasses. Several conditions have been found to guarantee separability, that is lack of interaction, between TGDs and EGDs. Separability makes EGDs (mostly) irrelevant for query answering and therefore often guarantees tractability, as long as the theory is satisfiable. In this paper we review the two notions of separability found in the literature, as well as several syntactic conditions that are sufficient to prove them. We then shed light on the issue of satisfiability checking, showing that under a sufficient condition called deep separability it can be done by considering the TGDs only. We show that, fortunately, in the case of TGDs and EGDs, separability implies deep separability. This result generalizes several analogous ones, proved ad hoc for particular classes of constraints. Applications include the class of sticky TGDs and EGDs, for which we provide a syntactic separability condition which extends the analogous one for linear TGDs; preliminary experiments show the feasibility of query answering in this case.

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