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Abstract. We prove that if M is an o-minimal structure whose underlying order is dense then Th(M ) does not interpret the theory of an infinite discretely ordered structure.


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158 (1998)

A note on noninterpretability in o-minimal structures


Ricardo B i a n c o n i (S˜ao Paulo)

Abstract. We prove that if M is an o-minimal structure whose underlying order is dense then Th(M ) does not interpret the theory of an infinite discretely ordered structure.

We also make a conjecture concerning the class of the theory of an infinite discretely ordered o-minimal structure.

Introduction. In [9], ´ Swierczkowski proves that Th(hω, <i) is not in- terpretable (with parameters) in RCF (the theory of real closed fields) by showing that a pre-ordering with successors is not definable in R.

(We recall that a pre-ordering with successors is a reflexive and transitive binary relation , satisfying ∀x∀y (x  y ∨ y  x) and ∀x∃y Succ(x, y), where

Succ(x, y) ⇔ x  y ∧ x 6≈ y ∧ ∀z (x  z  y → z ≈ x ∨ z ≈ y), and x ≈ y means x  y ∧ y  x.)

Recall that a structure (M, <, R




is said to be o-minimal if < is a total ordering on M and every definable (with parameters) subset of M is a finite union of points in M and open intervals (a, b), where a ∈ M ∪ {−∞}

and b ∈ M ∪ {∞}. Recall also that if M is o-minimal, then all N |= Th(M ) are o-minimal, where Th(M ) is the theory of M (see [1]).

Certain properties of RCF are used in the proof of the main result of [9], such as o-minimality and definable Skolem functions. We show that this result remains true in the more general setting of o-minimal densely ordered structures.

Noninterpretability results. We show the following:

Theorem. Let M be an o-minimal structure whose underlying order is dense. Then Th(M ) does not interpret the theory of a preordered structure with successors.

1991 Mathematics Subject Classification: 03C40, 03C45, 06F99.



20 R. Bianconi

The proof is done in the following three lemmas. We closely follow [9].

We assume familiarity with the notions of interpretability, definability and o-minimality. The reader should consult [1], [2], [4], [7] and [8].

Suppose that M is a densely ordered o-minimal structure.

Lemma 1. Let L


⊂ L


⊂ . . . be a strictly increasing sequence of infinite subsets of M such that the boundary ∂L


of each L


has at most K ele- ments, for a fixed positive integer K. Then the difference L




is infinite for infinitely many i.

P r o o f. It is exactly the same as the proof of Lemma 3.1 of [9], and remains true for any Hausdorff space M without isolated points.

Lemma 2. There does not exist a definable pre-ordering of M for which there is an infinite sequence x


, x


, . . . such that every x


is an immediate successor of x



P r o o f. Compare with the proof of Lemma 3.2 in [9].

Suppose that  is a definable pre-ordering of M , and (x




is a se- quence such that M |= Succ(x


, x


) for each i. Let L


= {x ∈ M : x  x


}, i < ω. These sets are definable by a formula Λ(x, x


), whose parameters in- clude the x


’s. Let ≈ denote the equivalence relation associated with . By the o-minimality of M (using Theorem 0.3(a) of [2]), there is a K < ω such that |∂L


| ≤ K for all n < ω. Therefore, Lemma 1 applies. This means that there are infinitely many infinite ≈-classes in M , a contradiction to o-minimality, by [5], Proposition 2.1.

Lemma 3. There is no definable pre-ordering with successors in M


, d ≥ 1.

P r o o f. We do this by induction on d ≥ 1, the case of d = 1 being treated in Lemma 2.

Now, suppose that the result is true for d = 1, . . . , n and let M be an o-minimal structure such that on M


there is a definable preorder  with successors and {a




is a sequence in M


satisfying Succ(a


, a


) for all i. The equivalence relation ≈ on M


corresponding to  is definable, so there are only finitely many ≈-classes [a] ⊆ M


which have nonempty interior (i.e., contain an (n + 1)-cell). Thus, there is no loss in generality if we assume that none of the equivalence classes [a


] contains an (n + 1)-cell, whence none of the closed intervals for the preorder 



, a


] = [a


] ∪ . . . ∪ [a


], n ∈ ω,

contains an (n + 1)-cell (see the Cell Decomposition Theorem in [1] and

[2]). It follows that the set Σ(x) = {a


 x ∧ [a


, x] does not contain an

(n + 1)-cell: i ∈ ω} of formulas is consistent with the theory of (M, a






Noninterpretability in o-minimal structures 21

Now let M


be an ω


-saturated elementary extension of M . Then M


is o-minimal, by [6]. Also, by the saturation property, there is an a

in M


such that a



for all i ∈ ω and the closed interval I = [a


, a

] does not contain an (n + 1)-cell. By the Cell Decomposition Theorem, I is the union of finitely many cells of dimension at most n. So there is a k-cell X ⊆ I (k ≤ n) intersecting infinitely many ≈-equivalence classes [a


]. Using a definable homeomorphism h : X → M


and the induction hypothesis we arrive at the required contradiction.

We finish by stating the following conjecture. But firstly we recall from [8]

the following definition.

Definition. A structure M is said to be a discrete o-minimal structure in the broad sense if it is an infinite linearly ordered structure such that the set of points which have no immediate predecessor or immediate successor is finite and the definable sets in M are finite unions of intervals with endpoints in M ∪ {±∞}.

Conjecture. Let M be an infinite o-minimal discretely ordered struc- ture (in the broad sense as above) in a countable language. Then Th(M ) interprets Th(ω, <). We conjecture that, conversely, Th(ω, <) interprets Th(M ).

(By [6] and [8], the theory of such an M is not rich enough to define too many sets or functions.)

Acknowledgements. The author wishes to thanks Prof. Jan Mycielski for the attention given during the preparation of this paper. The author is also very grateful to Professor Stanisław Świerczkowski for his careful read- ing of the various versions of this paper, for his remarks which contributed to improving the text (mainly giving a better proof of Lemma 3) and also for finding a serious flaw in the pretended proof of the conjecture stated above.

The author received partial support from CNPq.


[1] L. v a n d e n D r i e s, Tame Topology and O-minimal Structures, London Math. Soc.

Lecture Note Ser. 248, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998.

[2] J. K n i g h t, A. P i l l a y and C. S t e i n h o r n, Definable sets in ordered structures II , Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 295 (1986), 593–605.

[3] J. K r a j´ıˇce k, Some theorems on the lattice of local interpretability types, Z. Logik Grundlagen Math. 31 (1985), 449–460.

[4] J. M y c i e l s k i, P. P u d l ´a k and A. S t e r n, A lattice of chapters of mathematics (in-

terpretations between theorems), Mem. Amer. Math. Soc. 426 (1990).


22 R. Bianconi

[5] A. P i l l a y, Some remarks on definable equivalence relations in o-minimal structures, J. Symbolic Logic 51 (1986), 709–714.

[6] A. P i l l a y and C. S t e i n h o r n, Discrete o-minimal structures, Ann. Pure Appl. Logic 34 (1987), 275–289.

[7] —, —, Definable sets in ordered structures I , Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 295 (1986), 565–592.

[8] —, —, Definable sets in ordered structures III , ibid. 309 (1988), 469–476.

[9] S. Ś w i e r c z k o w s k i, Order with successors is not interpretable in RCF , Fund. Math.

143 (1993), 281–285.


Caixa Postal 66281 CEP 05315-970 S˜ao Paulo, SP, Brazil E-mail: bianconi@ime.usp.br

Received 22 August 1996;

in revised form 7 December 1997


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