On the Satisfiability Problem for SPARQL Patterns

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Xiaowang Zhang
Jan Van den Bussche
François Picalausa


The satisfiability problem for SPARQL 1.0 patterns is undecidable in general, since the relational algebra can be emulated using such patterns. The goal of this paper is to delineate the boundary of decidability of satisfiability in terms of the constraints allowed in filter conditions. The classes of constraints considered are bound-constraints, negated bound- constraints, equalities, nonequalities, constant-equalities, and constant-nonequalities. The main result of the paper can be summarized by saying that, as soon as inconsistent filter conditions can be formed, satisfiability is undecidable. The key insight in each case is to find a way to emulate the set difference operation. Undecidability can then be obtained from a known undecidability result for the algebra of binary relations with union, composition, and set difference. When no inconsistent filter conditions can be formed, satisfiability is decidable by syntactic checks on bound variables and on the use of literals. Although the problem is shown to be NP-complete, it is experimentally shown that the checks can be implemented efficiently in practice. The paper also points out that satisfiability for the so-called ‘well-designed’ patterns can be decided by a check on bound variables and a check for inconsistent filter conditions.

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