MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Recall that the (first) Weyl algebra over $\mathbb{C}$ is the algebra generated by $x,y$ with the relation $yx-xy=1$. It can be realized as the algebra of polynomial differential operators in 1 variable, i.e. $\mathbb{C}[x]$ is a faithful representation, where $x$ acts by multiplication by $x$ and $y$ acts by $\frac{\partial}{\partial x}$.

In many places I've seen the q-Weyl algebra defined as the algebra generated by $x,y$ with relations yx-qxy=1, where q is some fixed nonzero scalar. This seems like a natural way to do it, and seems to be quite common.

Now in the notes Introduction to representation theory Etingof et al. define an algebra which they call the q-Weyl algebra. This is the $\mathbb{C}$-algebra generated by $x,x^{-1},y,y^{-1}$ with the relations $xx^{-1} = x^{-1}x = 1$, $yy^{-1}= y^{-1}y = 1$ and $xy=qyx$ where q is some fixed nonzero scalar.

My question then is: What is the reason for the name 'q-Weyl algebra' for the algebra defined by Etingof et al.?

share|cite|improve this question
What happens with the Weyl algebra if you replace $\partial/\partial x$ with a suitable $q$-differentiation? – Wadim Zudilin May 25 '10 at 0:16
For another q-Weyl algebra, you can look at $A^-_q(n)$ from Hiyashi's "q-analog of Clifford and Weyl algebras" – B. Bischof Apr 26 '11 at 3:22
up vote 13 down vote accepted

Suppose that $x$ and $y$ obey $xy-yx=h$, where $h$ is a central element. Set $X$ and $Y$ to be $e^x$ and $e^y$. For now, don't worry too much about what this exponentiation means. Then $XY=q YX$, where $q=e^h$.

If we interpret $X$ and $Y$ as operators on functions then $(Xf)(x)=e^x f(x)$ and $(Yf)(x) = f(x+h)$. You can check that $XY$ does indeed equal $q YX$. So the $q$-commutation relation can be seen as an exponentiation of the standard Weyl relation.

share|cite|improve this answer
Very nice, thank you! – Grétar Amazeen May 25 '10 at 0:37
What I find interesting is that what we call the Weyl algebra is built from the canonical commutation relations (CCR) introduced by Heisenberg (thus also known as the Heisenberg commutation relations), whereas what Weyl really considered was the exponentiated form of these relations (replacing the Lie commutator with the group commutator) leading to what we call the $q$-Weyl algebra. – Victor Protsak May 25 '10 at 4:25

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.