Certain Answers over Incomplete XML Documents: Extending Tractability Boundary

Amélie Gheerbrant, Leonid Libkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies of incomplete XML documents have identified three main sources of incompleteness – in structural information, data values, and labeling – and addressed data complexity of answering analogs of unions of conjunctive queries under the open world assumption. It is known that structural incompleteness leads to intractability, while incompleteness in data values and labeling still permits efficient computation of certain answers. The goal of this paper is to provide a detailed picture of the complexity of query answering over incomplete XML documents. We look at more expressive languages, at other semantic assumptions, and at both data and combined complexity of query answering, to see whether some well-behaving tractable classes have been missed. To incorporate non-positive features into query languages, we look at a gentle way of introducing negation via Boolean combinations of existential positive queries, as well as the analog of relational calculus. We also look at the closed world assumption which, due to the hierarchical structure of XML, has two variations. For all combinations of languages and semantics of incompleteness we determine data and combined complexity of computing certain answers. We show that structural incompleteness leads to intractability under all assumptions, while by dropping it we can recover efficient evaluation algorithms for some queries that go beyond those previously studied. In the process, we also establish a new result about relational query answering over incomplete databases, showing that for Boolean combinations of conjunctive queries, certain answers can be found in polynomial time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalTheory of Computing Systems
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Incomplete information
  • XML
  • Query answering
  • Complexity


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