The ever popular Structured Query Language (SQL) has continued to be the standard for accessing relational databases for almost two decades. As SQL is widely used by all major relational database management systems (RDBMS), there is an ongoing effort to standardize syntax and semantics in the SQL (ISO/IEC) standards SQL-92 and SQL3.

The first part of this presentation will briefly present and discuss current language support concepts and features in the ANSI SQL standards including:

- Character sets and encodings in SQL data types, identifiers and literals
- Translations
- Collations
- Conversions
- String functions
- Error handling and messaging
- Call-level interfaces
- Remote data access (network access)

It will be shown that those features, as specified in the standard, are not mature and must be refined before being useful for actual implementations.

The second part of the presentation will review the status of previously submitted changes and additions to the SQL standards to make language support features more useable. Topics covered will include a discussion of using Unicode as the basic underlying character set for SQL, and addition of a standard Unicode datatype. Other issues such as language tagging, Unicode-based collation concepts, handling text-elements versus individual characters, use of standardized character set and collation names, Unicode-based string functions, and other topics will also be presented.

In writing this paper, two major database vendors have worked together with the original authors of the international features portions of the SQL Standard to come up with a proposal that meets user's needs, is feasible to implement, and poises SQL for expanded portable use in a global environment.

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24 January 1999, Webmaster