q-Pochhammer symbol

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In mathematics, in the area of combinatorics, a q-Pochhammer symbol, also called a q-shifted factorial, is a q-analog of the Pochhammer symbol. It is defined as


by definition. The q-Pochhammer symbol is a major building block in the construction of q-analogs; for instance, in the theory of basic hypergeometric series, it plays the role that the ordinary Pochhammer symbol plays in the theory of generalized hypergeometric series.

Unlike the ordinary Pochhammer symbol, the q-Pochhammer symbol can be extended to an infinite product:

This is an analytic function of q in the interior of the unit disk, and can also be considered as a formal power series in q. The special case

is known as Euler's function, and is important in combinatorics, number theory, and the theory of modular forms.


The finite product can be expressed in terms of the infinite product:

which extends the definition to negative integers n. Thus, for nonnegative n, one has


The q-Pochhammer symbol is the subject of a number of q-series identities, particularly the infinite series expansions



which are both special cases of the q-binomial theorem:

Fridrikh Karpelevich found the following identity (see Olshanetsky and Rogov (1995) for the proof):

Combinatorial interpretation[edit]

The q-Pochhammer symbol is closely related to the enumerative combinatorics of partitions. The coefficient of in

is the number of partitions of m into at most n parts.

Since, by conjugation of partitions, this is the same as the number of partitions of m into parts of size at most n, by identification of generating series we obtain the identity:

as in the above section.

We also have that the coefficient of in

is the number of partitions of m into n or n-1 distinct parts.

By removing a triangular partition with n − 1 parts from such a partition, we are left with an arbitrary partition with at most n parts. This gives a weight-preserving bijection between the set of partitions into n or n − 1 distinct parts and the set of pairs consisting of a triangular partition having n − 1 parts and a partition with at most n parts. By identifying generating series, this leads to the identity:

also described in the above section. The reciprocal of the function similarly arises as the generating function for the partition function, , which is also expanded by the second two q-series expansions given below:[1]

The q-binomial theorem itself can also be handled by a slightly more involved combinatorial argument of a similar flavor (see also the expansions given in the next subsection) .

Multiple arguments convention[edit]

Since identities involving q-Pochhammer symbols so frequently involve products of many symbols, the standard convention is to write a product as a single symbol of multiple arguments:


A q-series is a series in which the coefficients are functions of q, typically expressions of .[2] Early results are due to Euler, Gauss, and Cauchy. The systematic study begins with Eduard Heine (1843).[3]

Relationship to other q-functions[edit]

Noticing that

we define the q-analog of n, also known as the q-bracket or q-number of n to be

From this one can define the q-analog of the factorial, the q-factorial, as

Again, one recovers the usual factorial by taking the limit as q approaches 1. This can be interpreted as the number of flags in an n-dimensional vector space over the field with q elements, and taking the limit as q goes to 1 yields the interpretation of an ordering on a set as a flag in a vector space over the field with one element.

A product of negative integer q-brackets can be expressed in terms of the q-factorial as:

From the q-factorials, one can move on to define the q-binomial coefficients, also known as Gaussian coefficients, Gaussian polynomials, or Gaussian binomial coefficients as

where it is easy to see that the triangle of these coefficients is symmetric in the sense that for all .

One can check that

One can also see from the previous recurrence relations that the next variants of the -binomial theorem are expanded in terms of these coefficients as follows:[4]

One also obtains a q-analog of the Gamma function, called the q-gamma function, and defined as

This converges to the usual Gamma function as q approaches 1 from inside the unit disc. Note that

for any x and

for non-negative integer values of n. Alternatively, this may be taken as an extension of the q-factorial function to the real number system.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berndt, B. C. "What is a q-series?" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Bruce C. Berndt, What is a q-series?, in Ramanujan Rediscovered: Proceedings of a Conference on Elliptic Functions, Partitions, and q-Series in memory of K. Venkatachaliengar: Bangalore, 1–5 June 2009, N. D. Baruah, B. C. Berndt, S. Cooper, T. Huber, and M. J. Schlosser, eds., Ramanujan Mathematical Society, Mysore, 2010, pp. 31-51
  3. ^ E. Heine, Untersuchungen über die Reihe, J. Reine Angew. Math. 34 (1847), 285-328
  4. ^ Olver et. al. (2010). NIST Handbook of Mathematical Functions. Section 17.2. p. 421. 

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