# free group

## Definition

If $F$ is a group with a subset $A$ such that for every group $G$ every function $\psi\colon A\to G$ extends to a unique homomorphism          (http://planetmath.org/GroupHomomorphism) $\phi\colon F\to G$, then $F$ is said to be a free group  of rank $|A|$, and we say that $A$ freely generates $F$.

## Examples

The infinite cyclic group $\mathbb{Z}$ is a free group of rank $1$, freely generated by either $\{1\}$ or $\{-1\}$.

An example of a free group of rank $2$ is the multiplicative group of $2\times 2$ integer matrices generated by

 $\left(\begin{array}[]{cc}1&2\\ 0&1\end{array}\right)\phantom{.}$

and

 $\left(\begin{array}[]{cc}1&0\\ 2&1\end{array}\right).$

If $F$ is a free group freely generated by a set $A$, where $|A|>1$, then for distinct $a,b\in A$ the set $\{a^{n}b^{n}\mid 0 generates a free group of countably infinite  rank.

## Properties

If a free group $F$ is freely generated by $A$, then $A$ is a minimal  generating set  for $F$, and no set of smaller cardinality than $A$ can generate $F$. It follows that if $F$ is freely generated by both $A$ and $B$, then $|A|=|B|$. So the rank of a free group is a well-defined concept  , and free groups of different ranks are non-isomorphic.

Every group is a homomorphic image of some free group. More precisely, if $G$ is a group generated by a set of cardinality $\kappa$, then $G$ is a homomorphic image of every free group of rank $\kappa$ or more.

## Construction

For any set $A$, the following construction gives a free group of rank $|A|$.

Let $A$ be a set with elements $a_{i}$ for $i$ in some index set   $I$. We refer to $A$ as an alphabet and the elements of $A$ as letters. A syllable is a symbol of the form $a_{i}^{n}$ for $n\in\mathbb{Z}$. It is customary to write $a$ for $a^{1}$. Define a word to be a finite sequence  of syllables. For example,

 $a_{2}^{3}a_{1}a_{4}^{-1}a_{3}^{2}a_{2}^{-3}$

is a five-syllable word. Notice that there exists a unique empty word  , i.e., the word with no syllables, usually written simply as $1$. Denote the set of all words formed from elements of $A$ by $\mathcal{W}[A]$.

Define a binary operation  , called the product     , on $\mathcal{W}[A]$ by concatenation  of words. To illustrate, if $a_{2}^{3}a_{1}$ and $a_{1}^{-1}a_{3}^{4}$ are elements of $\mathcal{W}[A]$ then their product is simply $a_{2}^{3}a_{1}a_{1}^{-1}a_{3}^{4}$. This gives $\mathcal{W}[A]$ the structure  of a monoid. The empty word $1$ acts as a right and left identity  (http://planetmath.org/LeftIdentityAndRightIdentity) in $\mathcal{W}[A]$, and is the only element which has an inverse      . In order to give $\mathcal{W}[A]$ the structure of a group, two more ideas are needed.

If $v=u_{1}a_{i}^{0}u_{2}$ is a word where $u_{1},u_{2}$ are also words and $a_{i}$ is some element of $A$, an elementary contraction of type I replaces the occurrence of $a^{0}$ by $1$. Thus, after this type of contraction we get another word $w=u_{1}u_{2}$. If $v=u_{1}a_{i}^{p}a_{i}^{q}u_{2}$ is a word, an elementary contraction of type II replaces the occurrence of $a_{i}^{p}a_{i}^{q}$ by $a_{i}^{p+q}$ which results in $w=u_{1}a_{i}^{p+q}u_{2}$. In either of these cases, we also say that $w$ is obtained from $v$ by an elementary contraction, or that $v$ is obtained from $w$ by an elementary expansion.

Call two words $u,v$ equivalent      (denoted $u\sim v$) if one can be obtained from the other by a finite sequence of elementary contractions or expansions. This is an equivalence relation on $\mathcal{W}[A]$. Let $\mathcal{F}[A]$ be the set of equivalence classes  of words in $\mathcal{W}[A]$. Then $\mathcal{F}[A]$ is group under the operation  $[u][v]=[uv]$

where $[u]\in\mathcal{F}[A]$. The inverse $[u]^{-1}$ of an element $[u]$ is obtained by reversing the order of the syllables of $[u]$ and changing the sign of each syllable. For example, if $[u]=[a_{1}a_{3}^{2}]$, then $[u]^{-1}=[a_{3}^{-2}a_{1}^{-1}]$.

It can be shown that $\mathcal{F}[A]$ is a free group freely generated by the set $\{[x]\mid x\in A\}$. Moreover, a group is free if and only if it is isomorphic to $\mathcal{F}[A]$ for some set $A$.

 Title free group Canonical name FreeGroup Date of creation 2013-03-22 12:28:39 Last modified on 2013-03-22 12:28:39 Owner yark (2760) Last modified by yark (2760) Numerical id 43 Author yark (2760) Entry type Definition Classification msc 20E05 Related topic FreeModule Related topic Subgroup Related topic Group Related topic FreeProduct Defines freely generates Defines freely generated Defines rank Defines empty word