We show that spherical Whittaker functions on an n-fold cover of the general linear group arise naturally from the quantum Fock space representation of Uq(sl^ (n)) introduced by Kashiwara, Miwa and Stern (KMS). We arrive at this connection by reconsidering the solvable lattice models known as “metaplectic ice” whose partition functions are metaplectic Whittaker functions. First, we show that a certain Hecke action on metaplectic Whittaker coinvariants agrees (up to twisting) with a Hecke action of Ginzburg, Reshetikhin, and Vasserot arising in quantum affine Schur-Weyl duality. This allows us to expand the framework of KMS by Drinfeld twisting to introduce Gauss sums into the quantum wedge, which are necessary for connections to metaplectic forms. Our main theorem interprets the row transfer matrices of this ice model as “half” vertex operators on quantum Fock space that intertwine with the action of Uq(sl^ (n)). In the process, we introduce new symmetric functions termed metaplectic symmetric functions and explain how they are related to Whittaker functions on an n-fold metaplectic cover of GL r. These resemble LLT polynomials or ribbon symmetric functions introduced by Lascoux, Leclerc and Thibon, and in fact the metaplectic symmetric functions are (up to twisting) specializations of supersymmetric LLT polynomials defined by Lam. Indeed Lam constructed families of symmetric functions from Heisenberg algebra actions on the Fock space commuting with the Uq(sl^ (n)) -action. The Heisenberg algebra is independent of Drinfeld twisting of the quantum group. We explain that half vertex operators agree with Lam’s construction and this interpretation allows for many new identities for metaplectic symmetric and Whittaker functions, including Cauchy identities. While both metaplectic symmetric functions and LLT polynomials can be related to vertex operators on the quantum Fock space, only metaplectic symmetric functions are connected to solvable lattice models.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by NSF Grants DMS-1406238 and 1801527 (Brubaker) and DMS-1601026 (Bump) and ERC Grant AdG 669655 (Buciumas). During his time at Stanford University (when this paper was written), Gustafsson was supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. We thank Gurbir Dhillon, David Kazhdan, Arun Ram and Anne Schilling for helpful conversations and communications.
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