The Sorgenfrey line is a well known topological space. It is the real number line with open intervals defined as sets of the form . Though this is a seemingly small tweak, it generates a vastly different space than the usual real number line. In this post, we look at the Sorgenfrey line from the continuous function perspective, in particular, the continuous functions that map the Sorgenfrey line into the real number line. In the process, we obtain insight into the space of continuous functions on the Sorgenfrey line.
The Sorgenfrey Line
Let denote the real number line. The usual open intervals are of the form . The union of such open intervals is called an open set. If more than one topologies are considered on the real line, these open sets are referred to as the usual open sets or Euclidean open sets (on the real line). The open intervals form a base for the usual topology on the real line. One important fact abut the usual open sets is that the usual open sets can be generated by the intervals where both end points are rational numbers. Thus the usual topology on the real line is said to have a countable base.
Now tweak the usual topology by calling sets of the form open intervals. Then form open sets by taking unions of all such open intervals. The collection of such open sets is called the Sorgenfrey topology (on the real line). The real number line with the Sorgenfry topology is called the Sorgenfrey line, denoted by . The Sorgenfrey line has been discussed in this blog, starting with this post. This post examines continuous functions from into the real line. In the process, we gain insight on the space of continuous functions defined on .
Note that any usual open interval is the union of intervals of the form . Thus any usual (Euclidean) open set is an open set in the Sorgenfrey line. Thus the usual topology (on the real line) is contained in the Sorgenfrey topology, i.e. the usual topology is a weaker (coarser) topology.
Let be the set of all continuous functions where the domain is the real number line with the usual topology. Let be the set of all continuous functions where the domain is the Sorgenfrey line. In both cases, the range is always the number line with the usual topology. Based on the preceding paragraph, any continuous function is also continuous with respect to the Sorgenfrey line, i.e. .
Pictures of Continuous Functions
Consider the following two continuous functions.
The first one (Figure 1) is the cumulative distribution function (CDF) of the standard normal distribution. The second one (Figure 2) is the CDF of the uniform distribution on the interval where . Both of these are continuous in the usual Euclidean topology (in the domain). Such graphs would make regular appearance in a course on probability and statistics. They also show up in a calculus course as an everywhere differentiable curve (Figure 1) and as a differentiable curve except at finitely many points (Figure 2). Both of these functions can also be regarded as continuous functions on the Sorgenfrey line.
Consider a function that is continuous in the Sorgenfrey line but not continuous in the usual topology.
Figure 3 is a function that maps the interval to 1 and maps the interval to 1. It is not continuous in the usual topology because of the jump at . But it is a continuous function when the domain is considered to be the Sorgenfrey line. Because of the open intervals being , continuous functions defined on the Sorgenfrey line are right continuous.
The cumulative distribution function of a discrete probability distribution is always right continuous, hence continuous in the Sorgenfrey line. Here’s an example.
Figure 4 is the CDF of the uniform distribution on the finite set , where each point has probability 0.2. There is a jump of height 0.2 at each of the points from 0 to 4. Figure 3 and Figure 4 are step functions. As long as the left point of a step is solid and the right point is hollow, the step functions are continuous on the Sorgenfrey line.
The take away from the last four figures is that the realvalued continuous functions defined on the Sorgenfrey line are right continuous and that step functions (with the left point solid and the right point hollow) are Sorgenfrey continuous.
A Family of Sorgenfrey Continuous Functions
The four examples of continuous functions shown above are excellent examples to illustrate the Sorgenfrey topology. We now introduce a family of continuous functions for . These continuous functions will lead to additional insight on the function space whose domain space is the Sorgenfrey line.
For any , the following gives the definition and the graph of the function .
Function Space on the Sorgenfrey Line
This is the place where we switch the focus to function space. The set is a subset of the product space . So we can consider as a topological space endowed with the topology inherited as a subspace of . This topology on is called the pointwise convergence topology and with the product subspace topology is denoted by . See here for comments on how to work with the pointwise convergence topology.
For the present discussion, all we need is some notation on a base for . For , and for any open interval (open in the usual topology of the real number line), let . Then the collection of intersections of finitely many would form a base for .
The following is the main fact we wish to establish.
The function space contains a closed and discrete subspace of cardinality continuum. In particular, the set is a closed and discrete subspace of .
The above result will derive several facts on the function space , which are discussed in a section below. More interestingly, the proof of the fact that is a closed and discrete subspace of is based purely on the definition of the functions and the Sorgenfrey topology. The proof given below does not use any deep or high powered results from function space theory. So it should be a nice exercise on the Sorgenfrey topology.
I invite readers to either verify the fact independently of the proof given here or follow the proof closely. Lots of drawing of the functions on paper will be helpful in going over the proof. In this one instance at least, drawing continuous functions can help gain insight on function spaces.
Working out the Proof
The following diagram was helpful to me as I worked out the different cases in showing the discreteness of the family . The diagram is a valuable aid in convincing myself that a given case is correct.
Now the proof. First, is relatively discrete in . We show that for each , there is an open set containing such that does not contain for any . To this end, let where and are the open intervals and . With Figure 6 as an aid, it follows that for , and for , .
The open set contains , the function in the middle of Figure 6. Note that for , and . Thus . On the other hand, for , and . Thus . This proves that the set is a discrete subspace of relative to itself.
Now we show that is closed in . To this end, we show that

for each , there is an open set containing such that contains at most one point of .
Actually, this has already been done above with points that are in . One thing to point out is that the range of is . As we consider , we only need to consider that maps into . Let . The argument is given in two cases regarding the function .
Case 1. There exists some such that .
We assume that and . Then for all , and for all , . Let . Then and contains no for any and for any . To help see this argument, use Figure 6 as a guide. The case that and has a similar argument.
Case 2. For every , we have .
Claim. The function is constant on the interval . Suppose not. Let such that . Suppose that . Consider . Clearly the number is an upper bound of . Let be a least upper bound of . The function has value 1 on the interval . Otherwise, would not be the least upper bound of the set . There is a sequence of points in the interval such that from the left such that for all . Otherwise, would not be the least upper bound of the set .
It follows that . Otherwise, the function is not continuous at . Now consider the 6 points . By the assumption in Case 2, and . Since for all , for all . Note that from the right. Since is right continuous, , contradicting . Thus we cannot have .
Now suppose we have where . Consider . Clearly has an upper bound, namely the number . Let be a least upper bound of . The function has value 0 on the interval . Otherwise, would not be the least upper bound of the set . There is a sequence of points in the interval such that from the left such that for all . Otherwise, would not be the least upper bound of the set .
It follows that . Otherwise, the function is not continuous at . Now consider the 6 points . By the assumption in Case 2, and . Since for all , for all . Note that from the right. Since is right continuous, , contradicting . Thus we cannot have .
The claim that the function is constant on the interval is established. To wrap up, first assume that the function is 1 on the interval . Let . It is clear that . It is also clear from Figure 5 that contains no . Now assume that the function is 0 on the interval . Since is Sorgenfrey continuous, it follows that . Let . It is clear that . It is also clear from Figure 5 that contains no .
We have established that the set is a closed and discrete subspace of .
What does it Mean?
The above argument shows that the set is a closed an discrete subspace of the function space . We have the following three facts.
Three Results 

To show that is separable, let’s look at one basic helpful fact on . If is a separable metric space, e.g. , then has quite a few nice properties (discussed here). One is that is hereditarily separable. Thus , the space of realvalued continuous functions defined on the number line with the pointwise convergence topology, is hereditarily separable and thus separable. Recall that continuous functions in are also Soregenfrey line continuous. Thus is a subspace of . The space is also a dense subspace of . Thus the space contains a dense separable subspace. It means that is separable.
Secondly, is not hereditarily separable since the subspace is a closed and discrete subspace.
Thirdly, is not a normal space. According to Jones’ lemma, any separable space with a closed and discrete subspace of cardinality of continuum is not a normal space (see Corollary 1 here). The subspace is a closed and discrete subspace of the separable space . Thus is not normal.
Remarks
The topology of the Sorgenfrey line is vastly different from the usual topology on the real line even though the the Sorgenfrey topology is obtained by a seemingly small tweak from the usual topology. The real line is a metric space while the Sorgenfrey line is not metrizable. The real number line is connected while the Sorgenfrey line is not. The countable power of the real number line is a metric space and thus a normal space. On the other hand, the Sorgenfrey line is a classic example of a normal space whose square is not normal. See here for a basic discussion of the Sorgenfrey line.
The pictures of Sorgenfrey continuous functions demonstrated here show that the real number line and the Sorgenfrey line are also very different from a function space perspective. The function space has a whole host of nice properties: normal, Lindelof (hence paracompact and collectionwise normal), hereditarily Lindelof (hence hereditarily normal), hereditarily separable, and perfectly normal (discussed here).
Though separable, the function space contains a closed and discrete subspace of cardinality continuum, making it not hereditarily separable and not normal.
For more information about in general and in particular, see [1] and [2]. A different proof that contains a closed and discrete subspace of cardinality continuum can be found in Problem 165 in [2].
Reference
 Arkhangelskii, A. V., Topological Function Spaces, Mathematics and Its Applications Series, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1992.
 Tkachuk V. V., A Theory Problem Book, Topological and Function Spaces, Springer, New York, 2011.
2017 – Dan Ma