Schur–Weyl duality

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Schur–Weyl duality is a mathematical theorem in representation theory that relates irreducible finite-dimensional representations of the general linear and symmetric groups. It is named after two pioneers of representation theory of Lie groups, Issai Schur, who discovered the phenomenon, and Hermann Weyl, who popularized it in his books on quantum mechanics and classical groups as a way of classifying representations of unitary and general linear groups.

Schur–Weyl duality can be proven using the double centralizer theorem.[1]


Schur–Weyl duality forms an archetypical situation in representation theory involving two kinds of symmetry that determine each other. Consider the tensor space

with k factors.

The symmetric group Sk on k letters acts on this space (on the left) by permuting the factors,

The general linear group GLn of invertible n×n matrices acts on it by the simultaneous matrix multiplication,

These two actions commute, and in its concrete form, the Schur–Weyl duality asserts that under the joint action of the groups Sk and GLn, the tensor space decomposes into a direct sum of tensor products of irreducible modules for these two groups that determine each other,

The summands are indexed by the Young diagrams D with k boxes and at most n rows, and representations of Sk with different D are mutually non-isomorphic, and the same is true for representations of GLn.

The abstract form of the Schur–Weyl duality asserts that two algebras of operators on the tensor space generated by the actions of GLn and Sk are the full mutual centralizers in the algebra of the endomorphisms


Suppose that k = 2 and n is greater than one. Then the Schur–Weyl duality is the statement that the space of two-tensors decomposes into symmetric and antisymmetric parts, each of which is an irreducible module for GLn:

The symmetric group S2 consists of two elements and has two irreducible representations, the trivial representation and the sign representation. The trivial representation of S2 gives rise to the symmetric tensors, which are invariant (i.e. do not change) under the permutation of the factors, and the sign representation corresponds to the skew-symmetric tensors, which flip the sign.


  1. ^ Etingof, Pavel; Golberg, Oleg; Hensel, Sebastian; Liu, Tiankai; Schwendner, Alex; Vaintrob, Dmitry; Yudovina, Elena (2011), Introduction to representation theory. With historical interludes by Slava Gerovitch, Zbl 1242.20001 , Theorem 5.18.4
  • Roger Howe, Perspectives on invariant theory: Schur duality, multiplicity-free actions and beyond. The Schur lectures (1992) (Tel Aviv), 1–182, Israel Math. Conf. Proc., 8, Bar-Ilan Univ., Ramat Gan, 1995. MR 1321638
  • Issai Schur, Über eine Klasse von Matrizen, die sich einer gegebenen Matrix zuordnen lassen. Dissertation. Berlin. 76 S (1901) JMF 32.0165.04
  • Issai Schur, Über die rationalen Darstellungen der allgemeinen linearen Gruppe. Sitzungsberichte Akad. Berlin 1927, 58–75 (1927) JMF 53.0108.05
  • Hermann Weyl, The Classical Groups. Their Invariants and Representations. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1939. xii+302 pp. MR 0000255