Let Sturm–Liouville problems
with continuous coefficients and appropriate boundary conditions, be coupled by the eigenvalue λ = (λ1, … λk). When k = 1, there are various oscillation, perturbation and comparison theorems concerning existence and continuous or monotonic dependence of eigenvalues, eigenfunctions and their zeros (i.e. focal points).
We attempt a unified theory for such results, valid for general fc, under conditions known as "left" and “right” definiteness. A representative result may be stated loosely as follows: if LD holds then (elementwise) monotonic dependence of p, q and the matrix [ars] forces monotonic dependence of λ. LD is a generalisation of the “polar” case for k = 1, and was originally conceived for a quite different purpose, viz. completeness of eigenfunctions via elliptic partial differential equation theory.