Weyl character formula

In mathematics, the Weyl character formula in representation theory describes the characters of irreducible representations of compact Lie groups in terms of their highest weights. It was proved by Hermann Weyl (1925, 1926a, 1926b).

By definition, the character of a representation r of G is the trace of r(g), as a function of a group element g in G. The irreducible representations in this case are all finite-dimensional (this is part of the Peter–Weyl theorem); so the notion of trace is the usual one from linear algebra. Knowledge of the character χ of r is a good substitute for r itself, and can have algorithmic content. Weyl's formula is a closed formula for the χ, in terms of other objects constructed from G and its Lie algebra. The representations in question here are complex, and so without loss of generality are unitary representations; irreducible therefore means the same as indecomposable, i.e. not a direct sum of two subrepresentations.

Statement of Weyl character formula

The character of an irreducible representation of a complex semisimple Lie algebra is given by[1]


Using the Weyl denominator formula, the character formula may be rewritten as

Note that the character is itself a large sum of exponentials. We then multiply the character by an alternating sum of exponentials. The surprising part of the character formula is that when we compute this product, only a small number of terms actually remain. Many more terms than this occur at least once in the product of the character and the Weyl denominator, but most of these terms cancel out to zero.[2] The only terms that survive are the terms that occur only once, namely (which is obtained by taking the highest weight from and the highest weight from the Weyl denominator) and things in the Weyl-group orbit of .

The character of an irreducible representation of a compact connected Lie group is given by[3]

where is the character on with differential on the Lie algebra of the maximal Torus .

If is the differential of a character of , e.g. if is simply connected,[4] this can be reformulated as

Weyl denominator formula

In the special case of the trivial 1-dimensional representation the character is 1, so the Weyl character formula becomes the Weyl denominator formula:[5]

For special unitary groups, this is equivalent to the expression

for the Vandermonde determinant.[6]

Weyl dimension formula

By specialization to the trace of the identity element, Weyl's character formula gives the Weyl dimension formula

for the dimension of a finite dimensional representation VΛ with highest weight Λ. (As usual, ρ is the Weyl vector and the products run over positive roots α.) The specialization is not completely trivial, because both the numerator and denominator of the Weyl character formula vanish to high order at the identity element, so it is necessary to take a limit of the trace of an element tending to the identity.[7]

Freudenthal's formula

Hans Freudenthal's formula is a recursive formula for the weight multiplicities that is equivalent to the Weyl character formula, but is sometimes easier to use for calculations as there can be far fewer terms to sum. It states


Weyl–Kac character formula

The Weyl character formula also holds for integrable highest weight representations of Kac–Moody algebras, when it is known as the Weyl–Kac character formula. Similarly there is a denominator identity for Kac–Moody algebras, which in the case of the affine Lie algebras is equivalent to the Macdonald identities. In the simplest case of the affine Lie algebra of type A1 this is the Jacobi triple product identity

The character formula can also be extended to integrable highest weight representations of generalized Kac–Moody algebras, when the character is given by

Here S is a correction term given in terms of the imaginary simple roots by

where the sum runs over all finite subsets I of the imaginary simple roots which are pairwise orthogonal and orthogonal to the highest weight λ, and |I| is the cardinality of I and ΣI is the sum of the elements of I.

The denominator formula for the monster Lie algebra is the product formula

for the elliptic modular function j.

Peterson gave a recursion formula for the multiplicities mult(β) of the roots β of a symmetrizable (generalized) Kac–Moody algebra, which is equivalent to the Weyl–Kac denominator formula, but easier to use for calculations:

where the sum is over positive roots γ, δ, and

Harish-Chandra Character Formula

Harish-Chandra showed that Weyl's character formula admits a generalization to representations of a real, reductive group. Suppose is an irreducible, admissible representation of a real, reductive group G with infinitesimal character . Let be the Harish-Chandra character of ; it is given by integration against an analytic function on the regular set. If H is a Cartan subgroup of G and H' is the set of regular elements in H, then


and the rest of the notation is as above.

The coefficients are still not well understood. Results on these coefficients may be found in papers of Herb, Adams, Schmid, and Schmid-Vilonen among others.

See also


  1. Hall 2015 Theorem 10.14.
  2. Hall 2015 Section 10.4.
  3. Hall 2015 Section 12.4
  4. Hall 2015 Corollary 13.20
  5. Hall 2015 Lemma 10.28.
  6. Hall 2015 Exercise 9 in Chapter 10.
  7. Hall 2015 Section 10.5.
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