World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Classification of discontinuities

Article Id: WHEBN0002661487
Reproduction Date:

Title: Classification of discontinuities  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mathematical analysis, Shocks and discontinuities (magnetohydrodynamics), Jump, Singularity (mathematics), Froda's theorem
Collection: Mathematical Analysis
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Classification of discontinuities

Continuous functions are of utmost importance in mathematics, functions and applications. However, not all functions are continuous. If a function is not continuous at a point in its domain, one says that it has a discontinuity there. The set of all points of discontinuity of a function may be a discrete set, a dense set, or even the entire domain of the function. This article describes the classification of discontinuities in the simplest case of functions of a single real variable taking real values.

The oscillation of a function at a point quantifies these discontinuities as follows:

  • in a removable discontinuity, the distance that the value of the function is off by is the oscillation;
  • in a jump discontinuity, the size of the jump is the oscillation (assuming that the value at the point lies between these limits from the two sides);
  • in an essential discontinuity, oscillation measures the failure of a limit to exist.


  • Classification 1
    • Removable discontinuity 1.1
    • Jump discontinuity 1.2
    • Essential discontinuity 1.3
  • The set of discontinuities of a function 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


For each of the following, consider a real valued function f of a real variable x, defined in a neighborhood of the point x0 at which f is discontinuous.

Removable discontinuity

The function in example 1, a removable discontinuity

1. Consider the function

f(x) = \begin{cases} x^2 & \mbox{ for } x < 1 \\ 0 & \mbox{ for } x = 1 \\ 2-x & \mbox{ for } x > 1 \end{cases}

The point x0 = 1 is a removable discontinuity. For this kind of discontinuity:

The one-sided limit from the negative direction

L^{-}=\lim_{x\to x_0^{-}} f(x)

and the one-sided limit from the positive direction

L^{+}=\lim_{x\to x_0^{+}} f(x)

at x0 exist, are finite, and are equal to L = L = L+. In other words, since the two one-sided limits exist and are equal, the limit L of f(x) as x approaches x0 exists and is equal to this same value. If the actual value of f(x0) is not equal to L, then x0 is called a removable discontinuity. This discontinuity can be 'removed to make f continuous at x0', or more precisely, the function

g(x) = \begin{cases}f(x) & x\ne x_0 \\ L & x = x_0\end{cases}

is continuous at x = x0.

It is important to realize that the term removable discontinuity is sometimes used by abuse of terminology for cases in which the limits in both directions exist and are equal, while the function is undefined at the point x0.[1] This use is abusive because continuity and discontinuity of a function are concepts defined only for points in the function's domain. Such a point not in the domain is properly named a removable singularity.

Jump discontinuity

The function in example 2, a jump discontinuity

2. Consider the function

f(x) = \begin{cases} x^2 & \mbox{ for } x < 1 \\ 0 & \mbox{ for } x = 1 \\ 2 - (x-1)^2 & \mbox{ for } x > 1 \end{cases}

Then, the point x0 = 1 is a jump discontinuity.

In this case, the limit does not exist because the one-sided limits, L and L+, exist and are finite, but are not equal: since, LL+, the limit L does not exist. Then, x0 is called a jump discontinuity or step discontinuity. For this type of discontinuity, the function f may have any value at x0.

Essential discontinuity

The function in example 3, an essential discontinuity

3. Consider the function

f(x) = \begin{cases} \sin\frac{5}{x-1} & \mbox{ for } x < 1 \\ 0 & \mbox{ for } x = 1 \\ \frac{1}{x-1} & \mbox{ for } x > 1 \end{cases}

Then, the point \scriptstyle x_0 \;=\; 1 is an essential discontinuity (sometimes called infinite discontinuity). For it to be an essential discontinuity, it would have sufficed that only one of the two one-sided limits did not exist or were infinite.

In this case, one or both of the limits \scriptstyle L^{-} and \scriptstyle L^{+} does not exist or is infinite. Then, x0 is called an essential discontinuity, or infinite discontinuity. (This is distinct from the term essential singularity which is often used when studying functions of complex variables.)

The set of discontinuities of a function

The set of points at which a function is continuous is always a Gδ set. The set of discontinuities is an Fσ set.

The set of discontinuities of a monotonic function is at most countable. This is Froda's theorem.

Thomae's function is discontinuous at every rational point, but continuous at every irrational point.

The indicator function of the rationals, also known as the Dirichlet function, is discontinuous everywhere.

See also


  1. ^ See, for example, the last sentence in the definition given at Mathwords.[1]


  • Malik, S.C.; Arora, Savita (1992). Mathematical Analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley. .  

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.