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2010 Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 11Mxx [MSN][ZBL]

A generalization of the zeta-function at the cost of introducing characters (cf. Character of a group). The $L$-functions form a complicated class of special functions of a complex variable, defined by a Dirichlet series or an Euler product with characters. They are the basic instrument for studying by analytic methods the arithmetic of corresponding mathematical objects: the field of rational numbers, algebraic fields, algebraic varieties over finite fields, etc. The simplest representatives of $L$-functions are the Dirichlet $L$-functions (cf. Dirichlet $L$-function). The remaining $L$-functions are more or less close analogues and generalizations of these $L$-functions.


Nowadays $L$-functions comprise a very large class of functions which are attached to representations of the Galois group $\def\Gal{\textrm{Gal}}\Gal(\overline{\Q}/\Q)$. For example, choose a representation $\rho : G \to {\textrm{GL}}(n,\C)$ of the Galois group $G$ of an algebraic number field $K$ (cf. Representation of a group). For each prime $p$, let $F_p$ be a Frobenius element in $G$. Then the function

$$L(p,s) = \prod_p \det(\textrm{Id} - \rho(F_p) p^{-s})^{-1}$$ is the Artin $L$-series corresponding to $\rho$. In a similar way, the action of $\Gal(\overline{\Q}/\Q)$ on the $l^n$-torsion points of an elliptic curve $E$, defined over $\Q$, gives rise to the Hasse–Weil $L$-function of $E$. There exists a large body of fascinating conjectures about these $L$-functions, which, on the one hand, relate them to automorphic forms (Langlands' conjectures) and, on the other hand, relate values at integral points to algebraic-geometric invariants (Beilinson's conjectures).


[Ge] S. Gelbart, "An elementary introduction to the Langlands program" Bull. Amer. Math. Soc., 10 (1984) pp. 177–220 MR0733692 Zbl 0539.12008
[RaScSc] M. Rapoport (ed.) N. Schappacher (ed.) P. Schneider (ed.), Beilinson's conjectures on special values of $L$-functions, Acad. Press (1988) MR0944987 Zbl 0635.00005
How to Cite This Entry:
L-function. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by A.F. Lavrik (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article