Monoids are semigroups with identity. They occur in several branches of mathematics.
For example, the functions from a set into itself form a monoid with respect to function composition. More generally, in category theory, the morphisms of an object to itself form a monoid, and, conversely, a monoid may be viewed as a category with a single object.
In computer science and computer programming, the set of strings built from a given set of characters is a free monoid. Transition monoids and syntactic monoids are used in describing finite-state machines. Trace monoids and history monoids provide a foundation for process calculi and concurrent computing.
See Semigroup for the history of the subject, and some other general properties of monoids.
In other words, a monoid is a semigroup with an identity element. It can also be thought of as a magma with associativity and identity. The identity element of a monoid is unique. For this reason the identity is regarded as a constant, i. e. 0-ary (or nullary) operation. The monoid therefore is characterized by specification of the triple (S, o , e).
Depending on the context, the symbol for the binary operation may be omitted, so that the operation is denoted by juxtaposition; for example, the monoid axioms may be written and . This notation does not imply that it is numbers being multiplied.
A submonoid of a monoid (M, o) is a subset N of M that is closed under the monoid operation and contains the identity element e of M. Symbolically, N is a submonoid of M if N ? M, x o y ? N whenever x, y ? N, and e ? N. N is thus a monoid under the binary operation inherited from M.
A subset S of M is said to be a generator of M if M is the smallest set containing S that is closed under the monoid operation, or equivalently M is the result of applying the finitary closure operator to S. If there is a generator of M that has finite cardinality, then M is said to be finitely generated. Not every set S will generate a monoid, as the generated structure may lack an identity element.
A monoid whose operation is commutative is called a commutative monoid (or, less commonly, an abelian monoid). Commutative monoids are often written additively. Any commutative monoid is endowed with its algebraic preordering , defined by x y if there exists z such that x + z = y. An order-unit of a commutative monoid M is an element u of M such that for any element x of M, there exists v in the set generated by u such that x v. This is often used in case M is the positive cone of a partially ordered abelian group G, in which case we say that u is an order-unit of G.
In a monoid, one can define positive integer powers of an element x : x1 = x, and xn = x o ... o x (n times) for n > 1 . The rule of powers xn + p = xn o xp is obvious.
From the definition of a monoid, one can show that the identity element e is unique. Then, for any x, one can set x0 = e and the rule of powers is still true with nonnegative exponents.
It is possible to define invertible elements: an element x is called invertible if there exists an element y such that x o y = e and y o x = e. The element y is called the inverse of x. If y and z are inverses of x, then by associativity y = (zx)y = z(xy) = z. Thus inverses, if they exist, are unique.
If y is the inverse of x, one can define negative powers of x by setting x-1 = y and x-n = y o ... o y (n times) for n > 1. And the rule of exponents is still verified for all integers n, p. This is why the inverse of x is usually written x-1. The set of all invertible elements in a monoid M, together with the operation o, forms a group. In that sense, every monoid contains a group (possibly only the trivial group consisting of only the identity).
However, not every monoid sits inside a group. For instance, it is perfectly possible to have a monoid in which two elements a and b exist such that a o b = a holds even though b is not the identity element. Such a monoid cannot be embedded in a group, because in the group we could multiply both sides with the inverse of a and would get that b = e, which isn't true. A monoid (M, o) has the cancellation property (or is cancellative) if for all a, b and c in M, a o b = a o c always implies b = c and b o a = c o a always implies b = c. A commutative monoid with the cancellation property can always be embedded in a group via the Grothendieck construction. That is how the additive group of the integers (a group with operation +) is constructed from the additive monoid of natural numbers (a commutative monoid with operation + and cancellation property). However, a non-commutative cancellative monoid need not be embeddable in a group.
If a monoid has the cancellation property and is finite, then it is in fact a group. Proof: Fix an element x in the monoid. Since the monoid is finite, xn = xm for some m > n > 0. But then, by cancellation we have that xm - n = e where e is the identity. Therefore, x o xm - n - 1 = e, so x has an inverse.
The right- and left-cancellative elements of a monoid each in turn form a submonoid (i.e. obviously include the identity and not so obviously are closed under the operation). This means that the cancellative elements of any commutative monoid can be extended to a group.
It turns out that requiring the cancellative property in a monoid is not required to perform the Grothendieck construction - commutativity is sufficient. However, if the original monoid has an absorbing element then its Grothendieck group is the trivial group. Hence the homomorphism is, in general, not injective.
An inverse monoid is a monoid where for every a in M, there exists a unique a-1 in M such that a = a o a-1 o a and a-1 = a-1 o a o a-1. If an inverse monoid is cancellative, then it is a group.
In the opposite direction, a zerosumfree monoid is an additively written monoid in which a + b = 0 implies that a = 0 and b = 0: equivalently, that no element other than zero has an additive inverse.
Let M be a monoid, with the binary operation denoted by o and the identity element denoted by e. Then a (left) M-act (or left act over M) is a set X together with an operation ? : M × X -> X which is compatible with the monoid structure as follows:
This is the analogue in monoid theory of a (left) group action. Right M-acts are defined in a similar way. A monoid with an act is also known as an operator monoid. Important examples include transition systems of semiautomata. A transformation semigroup can be made into an operator monoid by adjoining the identity transformation.
A homomorphism between two monoids (M, *) and (N, o) is a function f : M -> N such that
where eM and eN are the identities on M and N respectively. Monoid homomorphisms are sometimes simply called monoid morphisms.
Not every semigroup homomorphism between monoids is a monoid homomorphism, since it may not map the identity to the identity of the target monoid, even though the identity is the identity of the image of homomorphism. For example, consider , the set of residue classes modulo equipped with multiplication. In particular, the class of is the identity. Function given by is a semigroup homomorphism as in . However, , so a monoid homomorphism is a semigroup homomorphism between monoids that maps the identity of the first monoid to the identity of the second monoid and the latter condition cannot be omitted.
In contrast, a semigroup homomorphism between groups is always a group homomorphism, as it necessarily preserves the identity (because, in a group, the identity is the only element such that x ? x = x).
Monoids may be given a presentation, much in the same way that groups can be specified by means of a group presentation. One does this by specifying a set of generators ?, and a set of relations on the free monoid ?*. One does this by extending (finite) binary relations on ?* to monoid congruences, and then constructing the quotient monoid, as above.
Given a binary relation R ? ?* × ?*, one defines its symmetric closure as R ? R-1. This can be extended to a symmetric relation E ? ?* × ?* by defining x ~Ey if and only if x = sut and y = svt for some strings u, v, s, t ? ?* with (u,v) ? R ? R-1. Finally, one takes the reflexive and transitive closure of E, which is then a monoid congruence.
In the typical situation, the relation R is simply given as a set of equations, so that . Thus, for example,
is the equational presentation for the bicyclic monoid, and
is the plactic monoid of degree 2 (it has infinite order). Elements of this plactic monoid may be written as for integers i, j, k, as the relations show that ba commutes with both a and b.
|^? Closure, which is used in many sources, is an equivalent axiom to totality, though defined differently.|
Monoids can be viewed as a special class of categories. Indeed, the axioms required of a monoid operation are exactly those required of morphism composition when restricted to the set of all morphisms whose source and target is a given object. That is,
More precisely, given a monoid (M, o), one can construct a small category with only one object and whose morphisms are the elements of M. The composition of morphisms is given by the monoid operation o.
Likewise, monoid homomorphisms are just functors between single object categories. So this construction gives an equivalence between the category of (small) monoids Mon and a full subcategory of the category of (small) categories Cat. Similarly, the category of groups is equivalent to another full subcategory of Cat.
In this sense, category theory can be thought of as an extension of the concept of a monoid. Many definitions and theorems about monoids can be generalised to small categories with more than one object. For example, a quotient of a category with one object is just a quotient monoid.
Monoids, just like other algebraic structures, also form their own category, Mon, whose objects are monoids and whose morphisms are monoid homomorphisms.
In computer science, many abstract data types can be endowed with a monoid structure. In a common pattern, a sequence of elements of a monoid is "folded" or "accumulated" to produce a final value. For instance, many iterative algorithms need to update some kind of "running total" at each iteration; this pattern may be elegantly expressed by a monoid operation. Alternatively, the associativity of monoid operations ensures that the operation can be parallelized by employing a prefix sum or similar algorithm, in order to utilize multiple cores or processors efficiently.
Given a sequence of values of type M with identity element and associative operation , the fold operation is defined as follows:
In addition, any data structure can be 'folded' in a similar way, given a serialization of its elements. For instance, the result of "folding" a binary tree might differ depending on pre-order vs. post-order tree traversal.
An application of monoids in computer science is so-called MapReduce programming model (see Encoding Map-Reduce As A Monoid With Left Folding). MapReduce, in computing, consists of two or three operations. Given a dataset, "Map" consists of mapping arbitrary data to elements of a specific monoid. "Reduce" consists of folding those elements, so that in the end we produce just one element.
For example, if we have a multiset, in a program it is represented as a map from elements to their numbers. Elements are called keys in this case. The number of distinct keys may be too big, and in this case the multiset is being sharded. To finalize reduction properly, the "Shuffling" stage regroups the data among the nodes. If we do not need this step, the whole Map/Reduce consists of mapping and reducing; both operation are parallelizable, the former due to its element-wise nature, the latter due to associativity of the monoid.
These two concepts are closely related: a continuous monoid is a complete monoid in which the infinitary sum may be defined as
where the supremum on the right runs over all finite subsets E of I and each sum on the right is a finite sum in the monoid.