The question is related to this post

Representation theory of the general linear group over a finite prime field

However, I am asking for more detailed references for n small, for example, for n=2, 3, 4.

Here is the specific question.

We consider the representation of $GL_n(F_q)$ over $\overline F_p$, where $F_q$ is finite extension of $F_p$, and $\overline F_p$ is the algebraic closure.

It is known that the irreducile representations as in the above are classified by some Weyl modules. See for example Corollary 3.17 of Herzig "The weight in a Serre-type conjecture for tame n-dimensional Galois representations. " http://www.math.toronto.edu/~herzig/sc_gln_rev3.pdf

My question is, for a Weyl module corresponding to a general dominant weight (so the Weyl module is not necessarily irreducible), what are its Jordan-Holder factors like? In particular, for n small (even just for n=2).

  • $\begingroup$ To clarify terminology: the definition of "Weyl module" has been dualized in Jantzen's book Representations of Algebraic Groups, which Geordie refers to. (See my notes people.math.umass.edu/~jeh/pub/weyl.pdf) This makes no difference for the composition factors. The case $n=2$ goes back to classical work of Brauer-Nesbitt, while $n=3$ was done (modulo Steinberg's 1963 paper) by a student of Curtis in his 1966 thesis, and $n=4$ is due to Jantzen in 1974 for $p>n$ (the Coxeter number). For "small" $p$ lots of uncertainties remain, but computers help a bit. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ Jim, Thank you very much for all the references! $\endgroup$
    – H. Gao
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. For small ranks and small primes, you should look at Luebeck's computations: math.rwth-aachen.de/~Frank.Luebeck/chev/WMSmall/index.html For $SL_4$ with $p > 4$ see $\S7$ in Jantzen's paper in Math. Z. 140 (1974) and his Durham conference article in English in Finite Simple Groups II (Academic Press, 1980). For $GL_n$ you just have to multiply by powers of det, which requires mainly some bookkeeping. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Gao: I wrote a fairly detailed survey Modular Representations of Finite Groups of Lie Type, which appeared in 2006 as London Math. Soc. Lecture Note Ser. 326 (Cambridge U. Press). Almost nothing there is original, but it includes some treatment of special cases including general linear groups. You might find the 460 references useful. (See also the revisions on my homepage.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim. Yes, I know of that book, and will read it. Thanks again! $\endgroup$
    – H. Gao
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


(For simplicity I will discuss $G = SL_n$. Making the necessary modifications to $GL_n$ shouldn't be hard.)

The most important result here is Steinberg's restriction theorem, which tells you that the restriction of $L(\lambda)$ to $G(\mathbb{F_q})$ is simple if $\lambda$ is of the form $\lambda = \sum \lambda_i \omega_i$ with $0 \le \lambda_i \le q-1$ for $1 \le i \le n$ ($\omega_i$ are the fundamental weights). (Let us call this set of dominant weights $X_q$).

The second most important result here is Steinberg's tensor product theorem, which tells you that for any highest weight $\lambda$ if we write

$ \lambda = \lambda_0 + p \lambda_1 + \dots + p^a \lambda_a$

with each $\lambda_i \in X_p$ then $L(\lambda) = L(\lambda_0) \otimes L(\lambda_1)^{Fr} \otimes \dots \otimes L(\lambda_a)^{Fr^a}$ (where $M^{Fr}$ denotes the Frobenius twist of a module $M$, i.e. inflation with respect to the Frobenius $Fr : G \to G$.) This allows you to reduce to the case $q = p$.

Hence one needs to understand the modules $L(\lambda)$ for $\lambda$ in the box $X_p$ decompose. As you mention, these are the simple socles of induced modules $\nabla(\lambda)$.

For $n = 2$ this is easy: each $L(\lambda) = \nabla(\lambda)$ for $0 \le \lambda \le p-1$. Hence $L(\lambda)$ is realised as homogenous polynomials in $k[X,Y]$ of degree $\lambda$ (with natural $SL_2$ action).

For $n = 3$ things get more complicated. (Here the relevant $\nabla(\lambda)$ can have either 1 or 2 composition factors, and one gets the answer using the Jantzen sum formula. (See Jantzen's "Representations of algebraic groups").

For $n = 4$ things get even more complicated! Here I think one can still get the answer from Jantzen's sum formula, but this seems more of an accident here.

In general there is a character formula (due to Lusztig) which holds for large $p$ (see Jantzen's book). In the case of $n = 4$ this is known to hold for any $p > n$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the explanation. I was just wondering if there is any referrence where everything is written down very explicitly. But I will check the references Jim pointed out in his comments first! Thanks again! $\endgroup$
    – H. Gao
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 18:11

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