# Representations of semisimple Lie algebras

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1 Chapter 14 Representations of semisimple Lie algebras In this chapter we study a special type of representations of semisimple Lie algberas: the so called highest weight representations. In particular every finite dimensional representation is an highest weight representation. We fix in all the chapter a semisimple Lie algebras g and a Cartan subalgebra h. We denote by R the associated root system and we fix a base S of R. We denote by R + (resp. R the set of positive (resp. negative) roots and we fix for any positive root α R + elements X α g α and Y α g α such that [X α,y α ] = H α. We define the subalgebras n = α R + g α, n = α R g α and b = h n Weights Definition Let V be a representation of g (not necessarily finite dimensional) and let λ h be a linear form on h. An element v V is said of weight λ if for all h h, we have h v = λ(h)v. The set of all elements of weight λ is a vector space V λ called a weight space of V. If V λ is non trivial then λ is calles aweight of the representation. The dimension dimv λ is called the multiplicity of the weight λ in V. Proposition Let V be a representation of g. (ı) We have g α V λ = V λ+α for λ h and α R. (ıı) The sum V = λ V λ is direct and is a subrepresentation of V. Proof. (ı) Let x g α, h h and v V λ, we have the equalities h (x v) = [h,x] v + x (h v) = α(h)x v + λ(h)x v and the result follows. (ıı) The fact that the sum is direct comes from the classical fact that eigenspaces are in direct sum. Furthermore, from (ı), we get that V is a subrepresentation. 117

2 118 CHAPTER 14. REPRESENTATIONS OF SEMISIMPLE LIE ALGEBRAS 14.2 Primitive elements Definition Let V be a representation of g and λ h. A vector v V is called a promitive element of weight λ if h v = λ(h)v for all h h and x v = 0 for all x n. Remark The last condition defining a primitive element is equivalent to the following two conditions: X α v = 0 for all α R +, X α v = 0 for all α S. The primitive elements are also the eigenvalues of the Borel subalgebra b. Proposition Let V be a representation of g and let v V be a primitive element of weight λ. Let E be the submodule generated by v in V. (ı) If β 1,,β n are the positive roots, then E is spanned by the elements Y k 1 β 1 Y kn β n v with k i Z 0 (ıı) The weight of E have finite multiplicity and are of the form λ α S l α α with l α Z 0. (ııı) The weight λ has multiplicity 1 in E. (ıv) The representation E is irreducible. Proof. (ı) The subrepresentation E generated by v is the subspace of all elements of the form U v for U U(g). Recall from Fact that any element U U(g) can be written in the form U = Y XH (we exchange the role of positive and negative roots here) with X U(n), Y U(n ) and H U(h). By the definition of primitive elements, we have that H v and X v are multiples of v (for X v, this multiple is 0 except for X = 1). We therefore get U v = Y v. But any element of U(n ) can be written in the form Y k 1 β 1 Y kn β n, the result follows (for this last result, use the relations Y βi Y βj = Y βj Y βi + [Y βi,y βj ] for i > j). (ıı) This is direct consequence of (ı) and the previous proposition. (ııı) This comes from the fact that λ α S l αα = λ if and only if l α = 0 for all α S. (ıv) Assume that E = E 1 E 2 where E i is a subrepresentation of E. In particular, we may consider the weight spaces (E i ) λ. Fact We have E λ = (E 1 ) λ (E 2 ) λ. Proof. We easily have that the sum is direct and the inclusion of the right hand side in the left hand side. Let v E λ, we have v = v 1 + v 2 with v i E i. For h h, we get λ(h)(v 1 + v 2 ) = λ(h)v = h v = h v 1 + h v 2 but h v i E i thus h v i = λ(h)v i and the result follows. In our situation, because E λ is one dimensional, we get that one of the two (E i ) λ vanishes and the other is E λ. Let us say (E 1 ) λ = E λ, because E is generated by v E λ we get E = E 1 and E 2 = 0.

3 14.3. HIGHEST WEIGHT REPRESENTATIONS Highest weight representations Definition An simple representation of g with a primitive vector of weight λ is called an highest weight representation of weight λ. Theorem Let V be an highest weight representation of weight λ. (ı) There is a unique primitive vector modulo scalar multiplication, its weight is λ. (ıı) The weights of V have finite multiplicity and are of the form λ α S l α α with l α Z 0. (ııı) The weight λ has multiplicity 1. (ıv) Two highest weight representations V 1 and V 2 of highest weights λ 1 and λ 2 are isomorphic if and only if λ 1 = λ 2. Proof. (ı) The submodule E generated by a primitive vector v in V is non trivial (because it contains v) and therefore it is equal to V because V is simple. This implies that the weight of v is λ by the previous proposition. The result now follows from point (ııı) of the previous proposition. (ıı) Follows from point (ıı) of the previous proposition. (ııı) Follows from point (ııı) of the previous proposition. (ıv) Let V i for i {1,2} be two highest weight representations of highest weight λ i and let v i be primitive vectors. If V 1 V 2, we have λ 1 = λ 2 by (ı). Conversely, assume that λ 1 = λ 2 and define V = V 1 V 2, the vector v = v 1 + v 2 is a primitive vector for V of weight λ = λ 1 = λ 2. Let E be the subrepresentation generated by v in V. The projection V V i induces a morphism of representations E V i mapping v to v i. Because v i spans V i as representation, this implies that this map E V i is surjective. Its kernel is E V 3 i and is a submodule of V 3 i. It does not contain v 1 because dim E λ = 1 thus it is a proper submodule of V 3 i. But V 3 i being simple we get E V 3 i = 0 and the projection E V i is an isomorphism. Therefore V 1 E V 2. Remark There are simple modules with no primitive elements, these are infinite dimensional. Theorem For each linear form λ h, there is an highest weight representation of highest weight λ. Proof. We first construct a representation of g with a primitive element of weight λ. Let L(λ) be a one dimensional vector space and define a representation of b on L(λ) as follows: if v L(λ) is any vector we define X α v = 0 and H α v = λ(h α )v. This is indeed a representation because these elements satisfy the relations between the generators X α and H α for α S in b. Therefore L(λ) is a U(b)-module, but because of the inclusion b g we have a morphism U(b) U(g). We can therfore consider V (λ) = U(g) U(b) L(λ). This module is generated by the element w = 1 v. We have X α w = 1 X α w = 0 and H α w = 1 H α v = λ(h α )w. Therefore w is an primitive vector of highest weight λ as soon as it is non trivial. The non triviality comes from Poincaré-Birkhoff-Witt Theorem : the algebra U(g) is a free U(b)-module. We also see, using Fact (and exchanging the role of the X α s and of the

4 120 CHAPTER 14. REPRESENTATIONS OF SEMISIMPLE LIE ALGEBRAS Y α s), that V (λ) is generated as vector space by the elements of the form Y HX w therefore of the form Y k 1 α 1 Yα km m w. Its weight with respect to h is λ i k iα i and we have V (λ) = µ h V (λ) µ. We now want to construct a simple module out of V (λ). Let V be any proper submodule of V (λ) and consider the weight space V λ. We have V λ V (λ) λ. But the last one is one dimensional thus either V λ = V (λ) λ or V λ = 0. In the first case, because w generates V (λ) we get V = V (λ) a contradiction, thus for any proper submodule V we have V λ = 0. Because V is stable under h, we also have by restriction of the decomposition of V (λ) a decomposition V = µ h V µ and we get the inclusion V µ λ V (λ) µ = W. Thus, the sum N of all proper submodules is contained in W and is again proper. It is the maximal proper submodule and the quotient V (λ)/n is a highest weight module of highest weight λ Finite dimensional representations Proposition Let V be a finite dimensional representation of g. The following properties hold. (ı) We have the equality V = λ V λ. (ıı) If λ is a weight of V, then λ(h α ) Z for all α R. (ııı) If V is not trivial, then v contains a primitive element. (ıv) If V is generated by a primitive element, then V is simple. Proof. (ı) All elements of h act as diagonalisable endomorphisms and are therefore simultaneously diagonalisable because h is abelian. (ıı) If g acts, then the subalgebra s α which is isomorphic to sl 2 also acts. The weights of H α are therefore integers and these weights are the scalars λ(h α ). (ııı) This follows from Lie s theorem: because b is solvable it has a non zero eigenvector which is therefore primitive. (ıv) By Weyl s Theorem, the representation V is completely reducible. But we know that V, being the representation generated by a primitive element, is irreductible, therefore it is simple. Corollary Every finite dimensional representation has a highest weight. Theorem Let λ h and let V (λ) be a simple representation of g with highest weight λ. Then V (λ) is finite dimensional if and only if λ(h α ) Z 0 for all α R +. Proof. If V (λ) is finite dimensional, then λ(h α ) is the weight of a primitive elements in the finite dimensional sl 2 s α -representation V. Therefore we have λ(h α ) Z 0. Conversely, let v be a primitive element of weight λ and let m α = λ(h α ) for α a simple root. We have m α 0 and put v α = Yα mα+1 (v). We have for β α a simple root the equality X β (v α ) = Y mα+1 α (X β (v)) = 0

5 14.4. FINITE DIMENSIONAL REPRESENTATIONS 121 and also X α (v α ) = 0 by our formula in Proposition on sl 2 -representations (here v is a primitive vector of weight m α for V (λ) seen have a sl 2 = s α -representation). Therefore v α is a primitive element of weight λ (m α + 1)α this is not possible because there are only primitive vectors of weight λ in V (λ). Thus we have v α = 0. Denote by F α the subrepresentation of V (λ) as a s α -representation generated by v. It is finite dimensional and spanned by the elements Y k α (v) for k [0,m α ]. Let T α be the set of all finite dimensional sub-s α -representations of V (λ). Fact Let E T α, we have g E T α. Proof. Because g and E are finite dimensional, the same is true for g E. We have to prove that g E is a representation of s α but this is clear since s α g E g E. Let E α = E T α E. Fact The space E α is a representation of g. Proof. Indeed, let x E T α, we have g x g E T α thus x E α. As any element in E α is a linear combination of elements in E T α for some E, the result follows. We therefore have a subrepresentation E α of V (λ) which is non trivial because it contains v. Therefore, as V (λ) is simple, we have E α = V (λ) and V (λ) is a sum of finite dimensional s α -representations. Let P λ be the set of weights of V (λ). It is enough to prove that P λ is finite since all weight spaces are finite dimensional. Recall also that P λ is contained in the set of linear forms of the form λ α S k α α with k α Z 0. We therefore only need to bound P λ to get the result. For this we use the action of the Weyl group. Fact The set P λ is invariant under the action of the Weyl group. Proof. Let µ be a weight and let v be a vector of weight µ. We only need to prove that P λ is stable under the action of simple reflections. Let α be a simple root, we know that v is contained in some finite dimensional subspace F α which is stable under s α. We therefore have m = µ(h α ) Z and we can look at x = Yα m (v ) for m 0 and x = Xα m (v ) for m 0. By our study on sl 2 -representations, we know that x is non trivial and its weight is µ mα = s α (µ). The result follows. We apply this result to the element w of the Weyl group sending the base S to its opposite S. We have that for any weight µ, the linear form w(µ) is a weight of V (λ) thus can be written in the form w(µ) = λ α S k α α with k α Z 0 and applying w 1 we get µ = w 1 (λ) α S k αw 1 (α) but because w(s) = S and because µ P λ, we have µ = w 1 (λ) + α S k w(α) α and µ = λ α S l α α with k α Z 0 and with l α Z 0. Writing λ w 1 (λ) = α r αα we get l α + k w(α) = r α therefore for any weight µ P λ, we have the bound l α r α thus P λ is bounded and therefore finite.

6 122 CHAPTER 14. REPRESENTATIONS OF SEMISIMPLE LIE ALGEBRAS Proposition Let V be a finite dimensional representation of g and let P(V ) be the set of weights of V. Then W acts on P(V ) and if λ and µ are in the same orbit then dimv λ = dim V µ. Proof. The first part of the proposition was proved in the proof of the previous theorem. One easily check that for any simple root (ad even any root) α, the element X α acts nilpotently on V. Indeed, if x has weight λ, then Xα k x has weight λ + kα. Because the set of weights is finite we must have Xα k x = 0 for k large enough. The same is true for the action of Y α. We may therefore define the action of σ α = exp(x α )exp( Y α )exp(x α ) on V. This action is bijective. But because σ α acts on h as s α we see that σ α (V λ ) = V sα(λ), these spaces therefore have the same dimension. The result follows because the Weyl group is generated by the simple reflections Application to the Weyl group Definition The fundamental weights ( α) α S form by definition the dual base in h to the base (H α ) α S of h. Remark Let V (λ) be the highest weight module of highest weight λ. Then V (λ) is finite dimensional if and only if λ is a linear combination of fundamental weights with non negative integer coefficients. We denote by P the set of fundamental weights. Proposition The Weyl group acts simply transitively on the set of bases of the root system. Proof. We already know that the Weyl group acts transitively so we only need to prove that if w W is such that w(s) = S, then w = 1. We first remark that if w(s) = S, then the elements w acting on h satisfies w(s ) = S i.e. the element w permutes the dual simple roots. But the fundamental weights forming the dual base to S we get the equality w(p) = P. On the other hand, for P, let V ( ) be the simple highest weight module with highest weight w. This module is finite dimensional therefore w( ) is a weight of V ( ) and thus w( ) is a linear combination of simple roots with non negative integer coefficients. Now we have w( )) = P( P P = 0. This is possible only for w( ) = 0 for any P. Therefore w acts trivially on P and because P is a base w = Characters Definition (ı) Let P be the subgroup of h of linear forms with integer values on the base (H α ) α S. The group P is a free abelian group generated by the fundamental weights ( α) α S. The group P is called the weight lattice. (ıı) We denote by Q the Z-submodule of h generated by the simple roots. The group Q is called the root lattice. We have the inclusion Q P. (ııı) We denote by A the algebra Z[P] which is the group algebra of the group P with coefficients in Z. It has a Z-basis given by (e(λ)) λ P and multiplication defined by e(λ)e(µ) = e(λ + µ).

7 14.6. CHARACTERS 123 Remark that there is a natural action of the Weyl group W on the algebra A defined by w(e(λ)) = e(w(λ)). Definition Let V be a finite dimensional representation of g. We define the character of V to be the element Ch(V ) = λ Pdim V λ e(λ) of the algebra A. Proposition (ı) Let V be a finite dimensional representation of g, then the character Ch(V ) is invariant under the action of the Weyl group i.e. Ch(V ) A W. (ıı) We have the formulas Ch(V V ) = Ch(V ) + Ch(V ), Ch(V V ) = Ch(V )Ch(V ). (ııı) Two finite dimensional representations are isomorphic if and only if their character coincide. Proof. (ı) This is a consequence of Proposition (ıı) We have the simple formulas (V V ) λ = V λ V λ and (V V ) λ = V µ V ν. µ+ν=λ These formulas easily imply the statement. (ııı) If V and V are isomorphic then we have Ch(V ) = Ch(V ). Conversely we proceed by induction on dimv. If dimv = 0, then Ch(V ) = Ch)V ) = 0 thus V = 0. Otherwise, let λ be a weight in V which is maximal i.e. λ + α is not a weight of V for any simple root α. Then λ is also a maximal weight for V. Let E and E be the submodules in V and V generated by a primitive elements of weight λ. The modules are simple highest weight modules with the same weight therefore E E. Furthermore, because V and V are finite dimensional, we have by Weyl s Theorem the existence of subrepresentations W and W of V and V such that V = E W and V = E W. But we have Ch(V ) = Ch(V ) and Ch(E) = Ch(E ) therefore Ch(W) = Ch(W ). By induction we get W W and V V. We also have the following result we shall not prove. Theorem* Let T α be the character of the simple module of higest weight α, then the elements (T α ) α S are algebraically independent in A and generate the algebra A W. Corollary* The map Ch between isomophism classes of representations with sum and product to A W is an isomorphism. Proof. The injectivity comes from the above proposition while the surjectivity comes from the above theorem. Example In the case of sl n+1, let (e i ) i [1,n=1] be a base of R n+1 such that the roots are described by the elements α i,j = e i e j for i j. The fundamental weights are given by i = 1 i n n + 1 ( (n + 1 i)e k ie k ). k=1 k=i+1

8 124 CHAPTER 14. REPRESENTATIONS OF SEMISIMPLE LIE ALGEBRAS The corresponding representations are the vector spaces Λ i C n+1. The character T i as a function on the basis vectors is writen as T i = σ i (e 1,,e n+1 ) where σ i is the i-th symmetric function and (e i ) i [1,n+1] is the dual base to (e i ) i [1,n+1]. The ring A W is therefore the ring of symmetric polynomials in n + 1 variables Weyl s character formula In this section we state without proof the formula of H. Weyl computing the character of any finite dimensional simple representation. Definition Sign representation. We define the group morphism ε : W {±1} by the equality ε(w) = det(w) where w is seen as an element in GL(h ). Remark We have ε(w) = 1 if w can be written as a product of an even number of simple reflection and 1 otherwise. If we define the length of w to be l(w) = min{n / w = s α1 s αn with α i S}, then ε(w) = ( 1) l(w). Definition Recall the definition of ρ by ρ = 1 2 α R + α. Recall also that we have α,ρ = 1 for α S. This means ρ(h α ) = 1 for α S therefore ρ P. (ı) We define the element D Z[ 1 2P] by D = (e(α/2) e( α/2)). α R + Proposition* We have the equality in Z[ 1 2 P]: D = w W ε(w)e(w(ρ)). Theorem* (Weyl s character formula) Let V be a finite dimensional simple representation of g of highest weight λ, then we have the equality D Ch(V ) = w W ε(w)e(w(λ + ρ)). In other words we have the formula Ch(V ) = ε(w)e(w(λ + ρ)) w W w W. ε(w)e(w(ρ)) Corollary* With the notation as in the above theorem, we have the equality dim V = α,λ + ρ α = (α,λ + ρ),ρ (α,ρ) α R + α R +

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