nLab function field analogy



Arithmetic geometry

Analytic geometry

Complex geometry



There is a noticeable analogy between phenomena (theorems) in the theory of number fields and those in the theory of function fields over finite fields (Weil 39, Iwasawa 69, Mazur-Wiles 83), hence between the theories of the two kinds of global fields. When regarding number theory dually as arithmetic geometry, then one may see that this analogy extends further to include complex analytic geometry, the theory of complex curves (e.g. Frenkel 05).

At a very basic level the analogy may be plausible from the fact that both the integers β„€\mathbb{Z} as well as the polynomial rings 𝔽 q[x]\mathbb{F}_q[x] (over finite fields 𝔽 q\mathbb{F}_q) are principal ideal domains with finite group of units, all quotients being finite rings and with infinitely many prime ideals, which already implies that a lot of arithmetic over these rings is similar. Since number fields are the finite dimensional field extensions of the field of fractions of β„€\mathbb{Z}, namely the rational numbers β„š\mathbb{Q}, and since function fields are just the finite-dimensional field extensions of the fields of fractions 𝔽 q(x)\mathbb{F}_q(x) of 𝔽 q[x]\mathbb{F}_q[x], this similarity plausibly extends to these extensions.

The entire holomorphic functions on the complex plane are, while not quite an principal ideal domain, still a BΓ©zout domain, but in constructive mathematics the integers and the polynomial rings over finite fields are only BΓ©zout domains as well.

But the analogy ranges much deeper than this similarity alone might suggest. For instance (Weil 39) defined an invariant of a number field – the genus of a number field– which is analogous to the genus of the algebraic curve on which a given function field is the rational functions. This is such as to make the statement of the Riemann-Roch theorem for algebraic curves extend to arithmetic geometry (Neukirch 92, chapter II, prop.(3.6)).

Another notable part of the analogy is the fact that there are natural analogs of the Riemann zeta function in all three columns of the analogy. This aspect has found attention notably through the lens of regarding number fields as rational functions on β€œarithmetic curves over the would-be field with one element 𝔽 1\mathbb{F}_1”.

The analogy between p-adic numbers and Laurent series over 𝔽 p\mathbb{F}_p is strengthened by (Fontaine-Winterberger 79), which shows that the absolute Galois groups of the perfection of 𝔽 p((t))\mathbb{F}_p((t)) and of β„š p[p 1p ∞]\mathbb{Q}_p[p^{\frac{1}{p^\infty}}] are isomorphic. For more review of this see also (Hartl 06). (The generalization of this to higher dimensions is the topic of perfectoid spaces.)

It is also the function field analogy which induces the conjecture of the geometric Langlands correspondence by analogy from the number-theoretic Langlands correspondence. Here one finds that the moduli stack of bundles over a complex curve is analogous in absolute arithmetic geometry to the coset space of the general linear group with coefficients in the ring of adeles of a number field, on which unramified automorphic representations are functions. Under this analogy the Weil conjecture on Tamagawa numbers may be regarded as giving the groupoid cardinality of the moduli stack of bundles in arithmetic geometry.

In summary then the analogy says that the theories of number fields and of function fields both look much like a global analytic geometry-version of the theory of complex curves.


To date the function field analogy remains just that, an analogy, though various research programs may be thought of as trying to provide a context in which the analogy would become a consequence of a systematic theory (see e.g. the introduction of v.d. Geer et al 05). This includes

Regarding the last point, in particular Borger's absolute geometry (Borger 09) makes precise the analogy between Spec(Z) and the polynomial ring k[z]k[z]/entire holomorphic function-ring π’ͺ β„‚\mathcal{O}_{\mathbb{C}} by interpreting the analog of the canonical derivation βˆ‚βˆ‚z\frac{\partial}{\partial z} on the latter two as the Fermat quotient operation, and more generally by interpreting the lift of this to arithmetic spaces over Spec(β„€){Spec}(\mathbb{Z}) as lifts of Frobenius homomorphisms as given by Lambda-ring structures. See at Borger’s absolute geometry – Motivation for more on this.

In this context the analogy between geometry over number fields and over function fields is made precise by showing (Borger 09, section 7) that for any smooth connected curve S/𝔽 qS/\mathbb{F}_q over a finite field 𝔽 q\mathbb{F}_q the standard geometric morphism of (β€œbig”) toposes

Spec(S/𝔽 q)⟢Spec(𝔽 q) Spec(S/\mathbb{F}_q)\longrightarrow Spec(\mathbb{F}_q)

factors through an alternative base topos Spec˜(𝔽 q)\widetilde Spec(\mathbb{F}_q)

Spec(S/𝔽 q)⟢Spec˜(𝔽 q)⟢Spec(𝔽 q) Spec(S/\mathbb{F}_q)\longrightarrow \widetilde Spec(\mathbb{F}_q) \longrightarrow Spec(\mathbb{F}_q)

which, while different from Spec(𝔽 q)Spec(\mathbb{F}_q) is β€œclose” to Spec(𝔽 q)Spec(\mathbb{F}_q) in some precise sense, but which has the advantage that its construction does exist for q=1q = 1 in that there is directly analogous

Spec(β„€)⟢Spec˜(𝔽 1), Spec(\mathbb{Z}) \longrightarrow \widetilde Spec(\mathbb{F}_1) \,,

where the notation Spec˜(𝔽 1)\widetilde Spec(\mathbb{F}_1) here stands for Borger’s the topos over Lambda-rings, see at Borger's absolute geometry for the actual details.


function field analogy

number fields (β€œfunction fields of curves over F1”)function fields of curves over finite fields 𝔽 q\mathbb{F}_q (arithmetic curves)Riemann surfaces/complex curves
affine and projective line
β„€\mathbb{Z} (integers)𝔽 q[z]\mathbb{F}_q[z] (polynomials, polynomial algebra on affine line 𝔸 𝔽 q 1\mathbb{A}^1_{\mathbb{F}_q})π’ͺ β„‚\mathcal{O}_{\mathbb{C}} (holomorphic functions on complex plane)
β„š\mathbb{Q} (rational numbers)𝔽 q(z)\mathbb{F}_q(z) (rational fractions/rational function on affine line 𝔸 𝔽 q 1\mathbb{A}^1_{\mathbb{F}_q})meromorphic functions on complex plane
pp (prime number/non-archimedean place)xβˆˆπ”½ px \in \mathbb{F}_p, where zβˆ’xβˆˆπ”½ q[z]z - x \in \mathbb{F}_q[z] is the irreducible monic polynomial of degree onexβˆˆβ„‚x \in \mathbb{C}, where zβˆ’x∈π’ͺ β„‚z - x \in \mathcal{O}_{\mathbb{C}} is the function which subtracts the complex number xx from the variable zz
∞\infty (place at infinity)∞\infty
Spec(β„€)Spec(\mathbb{Z}) (Spec(Z))𝔸 𝔽 q 1\mathbb{A}^1_{\mathbb{F}_q} (affine line)complex plane
Spec(β„€)βˆͺplace ∞Spec(\mathbb{Z}) \cup place_{\infty}β„™ 𝔽 q\mathbb{P}_{\mathbb{F}_q} (projective line)Riemann sphere
βˆ‚ p≔(βˆ’) pβˆ’(βˆ’)p\partial_p \coloneqq \frac{(-)^p - (-)}{p} (Fermat quotient)βˆ‚βˆ‚z\frac{\partial}{\partial z} (coordinate derivation)β€œ
genus of the rational numbers = 0genus of the Riemann sphere = 0
formal neighbourhoods
β„€/(p nβ„€)\mathbb{Z}/(p^n \mathbb{Z}) (prime power local ring)𝔽 q[z]/((zβˆ’x) n𝔽 q[z])\mathbb{F}_q [z]/((z-x)^n \mathbb{F}_q [z]) (nn-th order univariate local Artinian 𝔽 q \mathbb{F}_q -algebra)β„‚[z]/((zβˆ’x) nβ„‚[z])\mathbb{C}[z]/((z-x)^n \mathbb{C}[z]) (nn-th order univariate Weil β„‚ \mathbb{C} -algebra)
β„€ p\mathbb{Z}_p (p-adic integers)𝔽 q[[zβˆ’x]]\mathbb{F}_q[ [ z -x ] ] (power series around xx)β„‚[[zβˆ’x]]\mathbb{C}[ [z-x] ] (holomorphic functions on formal disk around xx)
Spf(β„€ p)Γ—Spec(β„€)XSpf(\mathbb{Z}_p)\underset{Spec(\mathbb{Z})}{\times} X (β€œpp-arithmetic jet space” of XX at pp)formal disks in XX
β„š p\mathbb{Q}_p (p-adic numbers)𝔽 q((zβˆ’x))\mathbb{F}_q((z-x)) (Laurent series around xx)β„‚((zβˆ’x))\mathbb{C}((z-x)) (holomorphic functions on punctured formal disk around xx)
𝔸 β„š=∏ β€²pplaceβ„š p\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}} = \underset{p\; place}{\prod^\prime}\mathbb{Q}_p (ring of adeles)𝔸 𝔽 q((t))\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{F}_q((t))} ( adeles of function field )∏ β€²xβˆˆβ„‚β„‚((zβˆ’x))\underset{x \in \mathbb{C}}{\prod^\prime} \mathbb{C}((z-x)) (restricted product of holomorphic functions on all punctured formal disks, finitely of which do not extend to the unpunctured disks)
𝕀 β„š=GL 1(𝔸 β„š)\mathbb{I}_{\mathbb{Q}} = GL_1(\mathbb{A}_{\mathbb{Q}}) (group of ideles)𝕀 𝔽 q((t))\mathbb{I}_{\mathbb{F}_q((t))} ( ideles of function field )∏ β€²xβˆˆβ„‚GL 1(β„‚((zβˆ’x)))\underset{x \in \mathbb{C}}{\prod^\prime} GL_1(\mathbb{C}((z-x)))
theta functions
Jacobi theta function
zeta functions
Riemann zeta functionGoss zeta function
branched covering curves
KK a number field (β„šβ†ͺK\mathbb{Q} \hookrightarrow K a possibly ramified finite dimensional field extension)KK a function field of an algebraic curve Ξ£\Sigma over 𝔽 p\mathbb{F}_pK Ξ£K_\Sigma (sheaf of rational functions on complex curve Ξ£\Sigma)
π’ͺ K\mathcal{O}_K (ring of integers)π’ͺ Ξ£\mathcal{O}_{\Sigma} (structure sheaf)
Spec an(π’ͺ K)β†’Spec(β„€)Spec_{an}(\mathcal{O}_K) \to Spec(\mathbb{Z}) (spectrum with archimedean places)Ξ£\Sigma (arithmetic curve)Ξ£β†’β„‚P 1\Sigma \to \mathbb{C}P^1 (complex curve being branched cover of Riemann sphere)
(βˆ’) pβˆ’Ξ¦(βˆ’)p\frac{(-)^p - \Phi(-)}{p} (lift of Frobenius morphism/Lambda-ring structure)βˆ‚βˆ‚z\frac{\partial}{\partial z}β€œ
genus of a number fieldgenus of an algebraic curvegenus of a surface
formal neighbourhoods
vv prime ideal in ring of integers π’ͺ K\mathcal{O}_Kx∈Σx \in \Sigmax∈Σx \in \Sigma
K vK_v (formal completion at vv)β„‚((z x))\mathbb{C}((z_x)) (function algebra on punctured formal disk around xx)
π’ͺ K v\mathcal{O}_{K_v} (ring of integers of formal completion)β„‚[[z x]]\mathbb{C}[ [ z_x ] ] (function algebra on formal disk around xx)
𝔸 K\mathbb{A}_K (ring of adeles)∏ x∈Σ β€²β„‚((z x))\prod^\prime_{x\in \Sigma} \mathbb{C}((z_x)) (restricted product of function rings on all punctured formal disks around all points in Ξ£\Sigma)
π’ͺ\mathcal{O}∏ xβˆˆΞ£β„‚[[z x]]\prod_{x\in \Sigma} \mathbb{C}[ [z_x] ] (function ring on all formal disks around all points in Ξ£\Sigma)
𝕀 K=GL 1(𝔸 K)\mathbb{I}_K = GL_1(\mathbb{A}_K) (group of ideles)∏ x∈Σ β€²GL 1(β„‚((z x)))\prod^\prime_{x\in \Sigma} GL_1(\mathbb{C}((z_x)))
Galois theory
Galois groupβ€œΟ€ 1(Ξ£)\pi_1(\Sigma) fundamental group
Galois representationβ€œflat connection (β€œlocal system”) on Ξ£\Sigma
class field theory
class field theoryβ€œgeometric class field theory
Hilbert reciprocity lawArtin reciprocity lawWeil reciprocity law
GL 1(K)\GL 1(𝔸 K)GL_1(K)\backslash GL_1(\mathbb{A}_K) (idele class group)β€œ
GL 1(K)\GL 1(𝔸 K)/GL 1(π’ͺ)GL_1(K)\backslash GL_1(\mathbb{A}_K)/GL_1(\mathcal{O})β€œBun GL 1(Ξ£)Bun_{GL_1}(\Sigma) (moduli stack of line bundles, by Weil uniformization theorem)
non-abelian class field theory and automorphy
number field Langlands correspondencefunction field Langlands correspondencegeometric Langlands correspondence
GL n(K)\GL n(𝔸 K)//GL n(π’ͺ)GL_n(K) \backslash GL_n(\mathbb{A}_K)//GL_n(\mathcal{O}) (constant sheaves on this stack form unramified automorphic representations)β€œBun GL n(β„‚)(Ξ£)Bun_{GL_n(\mathbb{C})}(\Sigma) (moduli stack of bundles on the curve Ξ£\Sigma, by Weil uniformization theorem)
Tamagawa-Weil for number fieldsTamagawa-Weil for function fields
theta functions
Hecke theta functionfunctional determinant line bundle of Dirac operator/chiral Laplace operator on Ξ£\Sigma
zeta functions
Dedekind zeta functionWeil zeta functionzeta function of a Riemann surface/of the Laplace operator on Ξ£\Sigma
higher dimensional spaces
zeta functionsHasse-Weil zeta function


analogies in the Langlands program:

arithmetic Langlands correspondencegeometric Langlands correspondence
ring of integers of global fieldstructure sheaf on complex curve Ξ£\Sigma
Galois groupfundamental group of Ξ£\Sigma
Galois representationflat connection/local system on Ξ£\Sigma
idele class group mod integral adelesmoduli stack of line bundles on Ξ£\Sigma
nonabelian \; β€œmoduli stack of vector bundles on Ξ£\Sigma
automorphic representationHitchin connection D-module on bundle of conformal blocks over the moduli stack


Original articles includes

  • AndrΓ© Weil, Sur l’analogie entre les corps de nombres algΓ©brique et les corps de fonctions algΓ©brique, Revue Scient. 77, 104-106, 1939

  • Kenkichi Iwasawa, Analogies between number fields and function fields, in Some Recent Advances in the Basic Sciences, Vol. 2 (Proc. Annual Sci. Conf., Belfer Grad. School Sci., Yeshiva Univ., New York, 1965-1966), Belfer Graduate School of Science, Yeshiva Univ., New York, pp. 203–208, MR 0255510

    for more on this see: Wikipedia, Main conjecture of Iwasawa theory

  • Jean-Marc Fontaine, Jean-Pierre Wintenberger, Extensions algΓ©brique et corps des normes des extensions APF des corps locaux, C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris SΓ©r. A–B 288(8) (1979), A441–A444

  • Barry Mazur, Andrew Wiles, Analogies between function fields and number fields, American Journal of Mathematics Vol. 105, No. 2 (Apr., 1983), pp. 507-521 (JStor)

Textbook accounts include

  • JΓΌrgen Neukirch, Algebraische Zahlentheorie (1992), English translation Algebraic Number Theory, Grundlehren der Mathematischen Wissenschaften 322, 1999 (pdf)

  • Michael Rosen, Number theory in function fields, Graduate texts in mathematics, 2002

Tables showing the parallels between number fields and function fields are in

  • David GossDictionary, in David Goss, David R. Hayes, Michael Rosen (eds.) The Arithmetic of Function Fields, Ohio State Univ. Math. Res. Inst. Publ., 2, de Gruyter, Berlin, 1992, pp. 475-482,

  • Bjorn Poonen, section 2.6 of Lectures on rational points on curves, 2006 (pdf)

  • Urs Hartl, A Dictionary between Fontaine-Theory and its Analogue in Equal Characteristic (arXiv:math/0607182)

See also

  • M. Blickle,HΓ©lΓ¨ne Esnault, K. RΓΌlling, Characteristic 00 and pp analogies, and somemotivic cohomology (pdf)

A collection of more recent developments is in

  • van der Geer et al (eds.) Number Fields and Function Fields – Two Parallel Worlds, BirkhΓ€user 2005 (publisher page)

Discussion including also the complex-analytic side includes

and a comparison of the number theory to that of foliations is in

An actual formalization of the analogy between geometry over number fields and function fields is in

Last revised on July 19, 2023 at 03:53:26. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.