SQL Data Definition and Data Types

SQL uses the terms table, row, and column for the formal relational model terms relation, tuple, and attribute, respectively. We will use the corresponding terms interchangeably. The main SQL command for data definition is the CREATE statement, which can be used to create schemas, tables (relations), and domains (as well as other constructs such as views, assertions, and triggers). Before we describe the relevant CREATE statements, we discuss schema and catalog concepts to place our discussion in perspective. Next section describes the most important data types available for attribute specification. Because the SQL specification is very large, we give a description of the most important features. Further details can be found in the various SQL standards documents.

Schema and Catalog Concepts in SQL

Early versions of SQL did not include the concept of a relational database schema; all tables (relations) were considered part of the same schema. The concept of an SQL schema was incorporated starting with SQL2 in order to group together tables and other constructs that belong to the same database application. An SQL schema is identified by a schema name, and includes an authorization identifier to indicate the user or account who owns the schema, as well as descriptors for each element in the schema. Schema elements include tables, constraints, views, domains, and other constructs (such as authorization grants) that describe the schema.

A schema is created via the CREATE SCHEMA statement, which can include all the schema elements’ definitions. Alternatively, the schema can be assigned a name and authorization identifier, and the elements can be defined later. For example, the following statement creates a schema called COMPANY, owned by the user with authorization identifier ‘Jsmith’. Note that each statement in SQL ends with a semicolon.


In general, not all users are authorized to create schemas and schema elements. The privilege to create schemas, tables, and other constructs must be explicitly granted to the relevant user accounts by the system administrator or DBA.

In addition to the concept of a schema, SQL uses the concept of a catalog a named collection of schemas in an SQL environment. An SQL environment is basically an installation of an SQL compliant RDBMS on a computer system. A catalog always contains a special schema called INFORMATION_SCHEMA, which provides information on all the schemas in the catalog and all the element descriptors in these schemas. Integrity constraints such as referential integrity can be defined between relations only if they exist in schemas within the same catalog. Schemas within the same catalog can also share certain elements, such as domain definitions.

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Santhakumar Raja

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