Scott continuity

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In mathematics, given two partially ordered sets P and Q, a function between them is Scott-continuous (named after the mathematician Dana Scott) if it preserves all directed suprema, i.e. if for every directed subset D of P with supremum in P its image has a supremum in Q, and that supremum is the image of the supremum of D: that is, , where is the directed join.[1] When is the poset of truth values, i.e. Sierpinski space, then the are characteristic functions, and thus, Sierpinski space is the classifying topos for open sets.[2]

A subset O of a partially ordered set P is called Scott-open if it is an upper set and if it is inaccessible by directed joins, i.e. if all directed sets D with supremum in O have non-empty intersection with O. The Scott-open subsets of a partially ordered set P form a topology on P, the Scott topology. A function between partially ordered sets is Scott-continuous if and only if it is continuous with respect to the Scott topology.[1]

The Scott topology was first defined by Dana Scott for complete lattices and later defined for arbitrary partially ordered sets.[3]

Scott-continuous functions show up in the study of models for lambda calculi[3] and the denotational semantics of computer programs.


A Scott-continuous function is always monotonic.

A subset of a partially ordered set is closed with respect to the Scott topology induced by the partial order if and only if it is a lower set and closed under suprema of directed subsets.[4]

A directed complete partial order (dcpo) with the Scott topology is always a Kolmogorov space (i.e., it satisfies the T0 separation axiom).[4] However, a dcpo with the Scott topology is a Hausdorff space if and only if the order is trivial.[4] The Scott-open sets form a complete lattice when ordered by inclusion.[5]

For any topological space satisfying the T0 separation axiom, the topology induces an order relation on that space, the specialization order: xy if and only if every open neighbourhood of x is also an open neighbourhood of y. The order relation of a dcpo D can be reconstructed from the Scott-open sets as the specialization order induced by the Scott topology. However, a dcpo equipped with the Scott topology need not be sober: the specialization order induced by the topology of a sober space makes that space into a dcpo, but the Scott topology derived from this order is finer than the original topology.[4]


The open sets in a given topological space when ordered by inclusion form a lattice on which the Scott topology can be defined. A subset X of a topological space T is compact with respect to the topology on T (in the sense that every open cover of X contains a finite subcover of X) if and only if the set of open neighbourhoods of X is open with respect to the Scott topology.[5]

For CPO, the cartesian closed category of dcpo's, two particularly notable examples of Scott-continuous functions are curry and apply.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vickers, Steven (1989). Topology via Logic. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36062-5. 
  2. ^ Scott topology in nLab
  3. ^ a b Scott, Dana (1972). "Continuous lattices". In Lawvere, Bill. Toposes, Algebraic Geometry and Logic. Lecture Notes in Mathematics. 274. Springer-Verlag. 
  4. ^ a b c d Abramsky, S.; Jung, A. (1994). "Domain theory" (PDF). In Abramsky, S.; Gabbay, D.M.; Maibaum, T.S.E. Handbook of Logic in Computer Science. Vol. III. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853762-X. 
  5. ^ a b Bauer, Andrej & Taylor, Paul (2009). "The Dedekind Reals in Abstract Stone Duality". Mathematical Structures in Computer Science. Cambridge University Press. 19: 757–838. doi:10.1017/S0960129509007695. Retrieved October 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ Barendregt, H.P. (1984). The Lambda Calculus. North-Holland. ISBN 0-444-87508-5.  (See theorems 1.2.13, 1.2.14)