The problem of harmonic analysis on the infinite-dimensional unitary group

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The goal of harmonic analysis on a (noncommutative) group is to decompose the most "natural" unitary representations of this group (like the regular representation) on irreducible ones. The infinite-dimensional unitary group U(∞) is one of the basic examples of "big" groups whose irreducible representations depend on infinitely many parameters. Our aim is to explain what the harmonic analysis on U(∞) consists of. We deal with unitary representations of a reasonable class, which are in 1-1 correspondence with characters (central, positive definite, normalized functions on U(∞)). The decomposition of any representation of this class is described by a probability measure (called spectral measure) on the space of indecomposable characters. The indecomposable characters were found by Dan Voiculescu in 1976. The main result of the present paper consists in explicitly constructing a 4-parameter family of "natural" representations and computing their characters. We view these representations as a substitute of the nonexisting regular representation of U(∞). We state the problem of harmonic analysis on U(∞) as the problem of computing the spectral measures for these "natural" representations. A solution to this problem is given in the next paper (Harmonic analysis on the infinite-dimensional unitary group and determinantal point processes, math/0109194, to appear in Ann. Math.), joint with Alexei Borodin. We also prove a few auxiliary general results. In particular, it is proved that the spectral measure of any character of U(∞) can be approximated by a sequence of (discrete) spectral measures for the restrictions of the character to the compact unitary groups U(N). This fact is a starting point for computing spectral measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-524
Number of pages61
JournalJournal of Functional Analysis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Characters
  • Gelfand-Tsetlin graph
  • Hua-Pickrell measures
  • Infinite-dimensional unitary group
  • Noncommutative harmonic analysis
  • Spectral measures


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