Relational Programming

A relational procedure is more flexible than a functional procedure in two ways.

  • First, there can be any number of results to a call.
  • Second, which arguments are inputs and which are outputs can be different for each call.

These features make relational programming well-suited for databases and parsers. And it extends declarative programming with a new kind of statement called a "choice". And Prolog language uses a choice operation as the heart of its execution model.

The flexibility of relational programming has a reverse side. It can easily lead to inefficient programs. Relational programming is practical in these areas:

  • When the search space is small.
  • As an exploratory tool.

The Relational Computational Model

The relational computational model extends the declrative model with two new statements, choice and fail.

  • The choice statement group together a set of alternative statements.
  • The fail statement indicates that the current alternative is wrong.

Search Tree

A relational program is executed sequentially. The choice statements are executed in the order that they are encountered during execution.

When a choice is first executed, its first alternativeis picked. When fail is executed, execution "backs up" to the most recent choice statement.

This execution stategy can be illustrated with a tree called the search tree.

The Solve Function

We provide encapsulated search by adding one function, Solve to the computation model. The call {Solve F} is given a zero-argument function F that returns a solution to a relational program. This returns a lazy list of all solutions with DFS.

We just look the first element with this function:

fun {SolveOne F}
   L={Solve F}
   if L==nil then nil else [L.1] end

To get all-solution search, we look at the whole list:

fun {SolveAll F}
   L={Solve F}
   proc {TouchAll L}
      if L==nil then skip else {TouchAll L.2} end
   {TouchAll L}


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