nLab Dieudonné determinant



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Basic facts





The Dieudonné determinant is a variant of the notion of determinant which applies to matrices with values in division rings, such as the quaternions. It is crucial for making sense of the notion of “special linear group” over such coefficients, such as the group SL(2,H) over the quaternions.


Dieudonné 43 showed that for KK a division ring, there is a group homomorphism of the form

(1)α:GL(n,K)/[GL(n,K),GL(n,K)]K ×/[K ×,K ×], \alpha \;\colon\; GL(n,K)/[GL(n,K), GL(n,K)] \longrightarrow K^\times/[K^\times, K^\times] \,,


Moreover, this group homomorphism (1) is uniquely determined by the following properties:

  • If a row of the matrix TT is left multiplied by aK ×a \in K^\times then α(T)\alpha(T) is left multiplied by [a]K ×/[K ×K ×][a] \in K^\times/[K^\times K^\times].

  • If a multiple of one row of TT is added to another row of TT, then α(T)\alpha(T) is unchanged.

Composing the homomorphism α\alpha (1) with the quotient map

q:GL(n,K)GL(n,K)/[GL(n,K),GL(n,K)] q \,\colon\, GL(n,K) \longrightarrow GL(n,K) / [GL(n,K), GL(n,K)]

gives the Dieudonné determinant

(2)det Dqα:GL(n,K)K ×/[K ×,K ×]. det_{D} \,\coloneqq\, q \circ \alpha \;\colon\; GL(n,K) \longrightarrow K^\times / [K^\times, K^\times] \,.

The quaternionic case

In the case that KK is the ring of quaternions, \mathbb{H}, we have a group isomorphism

×/[ ×, ×] >0 \mathbb{H}^\times / [ \mathbb{H}^\times, \mathbb{H}^\times ] \longrightarrow \mathbb{R}_{\gt 0}

where >0\mathbb{R}_{\gt 0} is made into a group using multiplication of real numbers, coming from the fact that now the commutator subgroup [ ×, ×][\mathbb{H}^\times, \mathbb{H}^\times] is the group Sp(1) of quaternions qq with |q|=1|q| = 1, and that any invertible quaternion can uniquely be written as aqa q where a >0a \in \mathbb{R}_{\gt 0} and |q|=1\left\vert q \right\vert = 1.

Thus, in this case we can write the Dieudonné determinant (2) more concretely as a group homomorphism of the form

det D:GL(n,) >0. det_{D} \,\colon\, GL(n,\mathbb{H}) \longrightarrow \mathbb{R}_{\gt 0} \,.

Furthermore, for any n×nn \times n quaternionic matrix TT that is not invertible, setting det D(T)0det_D(T) \coloneqq 0 extends the Dieudonné determinant to a function of the form

(3)det D:M n() 0, det_{D} \;\colon\; M_n(\mathbb{H}) \longrightarrow \mathbb{R}_{\ge 0} \,,

where M n()\mathrm{M}_n(\mathbb{H}) is now the full matrix algebra of n×nn \times n matrices with quaternion entries. This function (3) is a monoid homomorphism, in that:

(4)det D(ST)=det D(S)det D(T),det D(1)=1. det_{D}(S T) \,=\, det_{D}(S) det_{D}(T), \qquad det_{D}(1) = 1 \,.

Relation to the Study determinant

There is another notion of determinant for quaternionic matrices, the Study determinant. This turns out to be just the square of the Dieudonné determinant, but it often gives a more convenient way to compute the Dieudonné determinant.

Any matrix TM n()T \in \mathrm{M}_n(\mathbb{H}) determines by right multiplication a homomorphism of left \mathbb{H}-modules T: n nT \colon \mathbb{H}^n \to \mathbb{H}^n. Choosing any element ii \in \mathbb{H} with i 2=1i^2 = -1 gives n\mathbb{H}^n the structure of a left \mathbb{C}-module: indeed, a complex vector space of dimension 2n2n. In this way we can identify T: n nT \colon \mathbb{H}^n \to \mathbb{H}^n with a complex-linear transformation of a complex vector space, and define its determinant in the usual way for such a transformation.

This determinant turns out not to depend on the choice of ii \in \mathbb{H} with i 2=1i^2 = -1, and it is called the Study determinant det S(T)det_S(T).

It clearly obeys

det S(ST)=det S(S)det S(T),det S(1)=1. det_S(S T) = det_S(S) det_S(T), \qquad det_S(1) = 1 \,.

A priori it is complex-valued, but in fact it takes nonnegative real values, because one can show (Arlaksen 96) that

det S(T)=det D(T) 2, det_{S}(T) = det_{D}(T)^2 \,,

where the determinant on the right is the Dieudonné determinant (3).

Thus, by (4), the Study determinant on n×nn \times n quaternionic matrices defines a monoid homomorphism

det S:M n() 0 det_{S} \;\colon\; M_n(\mathbb{H}) \longrightarrow \mathbb{R}_{\ge 0}

which contains exactly as much information as the Dieudonné determinant.

Examples and applications

Over any division ring, the Dieudonné determinant of an invertible 2×22 \times 2 matrix has the following form:

det(a b c d)={[cb] if a=0 [adaca 1b] if a0. \det \left({\begin{array}{cc} a & b \\ c & d \end{array}}\right) = \left\lbrace{\begin{array}{ccc} [-c b] & \text{if } \; a = 0 \\ [a d - a c a^{-1}b] & \text{if } \; a \ne 0 \end{array}}\right. \, .

Here [x][x] stands for the equivalence class of xK ×x \in K^\times in the abelianization K ×/[K ×,K ×]K^\times/[K^\times, K^\times].

The special linear group SL(n,)\mathrm{SL}(n,\mathbb{H}) over the quaternions (e.g. SL(2,H)) is defined to be the group of n×nn \times n quaternionic matrices for which the Dieudonné determinant equals 1, or equivalently for which the Study determinant equals 1.

We can show that the quaternionic unitary group Sp(n) is a subgroup of SL(n,)\mathrm{SL}(n,\mathbb{H}), as follows. So, unlike the real and complex cases, there is no additional concept of “special unitary group” in the quaternionic case.

Every quaternionic unitary matrix is conjugate to a diagonal one since every element is conjugate to one in a maximal torus, U(n)\mathrm{U}(n) contains a maximal torus of Sp(n)\mathrm{Sp}(n), and every matrix in U(n)\mathrm{U}(n) is conjugate to a diagonal one. Thus, every gSp(n)g \in Sp(n) is conjugate to one of the form diag(q 1,,q n)\mathrm{diag}(q_1, \dots, q_n) with q iq_i \in \mathbb{C} \subset \mathbb{H} and |q i|=1|q_i| = 1 for all ii. By the defining properties of the Dieudonné determinant we have det D(diag(q 1,,q n))=1det_D(\mathrm{diag}(q_1, \dots, q_n)) = 1, and since this determinant is invariant under conjugation we have det D(g)=1det_D(g) = 1 for all gSp(n)g \in Sp(n).

Draxl’s pre-determinant

Draxl 83 introduces a more primitive notion, the Dieudonné predeterminant:

Given an invertible matrix TT over a skew-field (and in some other cases) there is a strict Bruhat normal form of TT (Draxl 83, Sec. 19, Thm. 1, Def. 1 (p. 128)) T=UDPLT = U D P L where

  • PP is a permutation matrix

  • UU is upper triangular unidiagonal,

  • DD diagonal

  • LL lower triangular unidiagonal matrix.

The case when for PP the identity matrix can be taken may be viewed as generic as such matrices are dense in a number of meanings and contexts. This is the case of belonging to the big Bruhat cell or equivalently to the main Gauss cell, and the decomposition T=UDLT = U D L is the Gauss decomposition. Recall that other Bruhat cells are in commutative case of higher codimension, hence not dense, and similar statements can be made in a number of noncommutative contexts. Shifted Gauss cells, which correspond to a decomposition of matrices in the form PUDLP U D L for PP fixed, are also dense in the same sense as they are simply the shifts (by multiplication by an invertible matrix PP) of the main cell.

The Dieudonné predeterminant δϵτ(T)\delta\epsilon\tau(T), introduced by Draxl, is the product of the entries of the diagonal part DD upside down (Draxl 83, Sec. 20, Def. 1 (p. 133)) if the matrix is invertible and zero otherwise.

The Dieudonné determinant is then the image of δϵτ(T)\delta\epsilon\tau(T) under the projection to the abelianization (Draxl 83, Sec. 20, Cor. 1 (p. 135))

It is well known that the Gauss decomposition of matrices over a noncommutative ring has a simple expression in terms of quasideterminants, as shown by Gelfand-Retakh 02 (and in their earlier references, around 1990), from which it can be inferred that the Dieudonné predeterminant can be generically presented as a signed product of quasideterminants.


The concept is due to

Exposition and review:

See also:

Comparison to quasideterminants is in

For lectures on quasideterminants see

  • V. Retakh, R. Wilson, Advanced course on quasideterminants and universal localization, 124 pp, CRM, Barcelona, 2007 (pdf)

Last revised on September 16, 2022 at 14:21:04. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.