It is well known that a Schur function is the `limit' of a sequence of Schur polynomials in an increasing number of variables, and that Schubert polynomials generalize Schur polynomials. We show that the set of Schubert polynomials can be organized into sequences, whose `limits' we call Schubert functions. A graded version of these Schubert functions can be computed effectively by the application of mixed shift/multiplication operators to the sequence of variables

Since the computation of these operator formulas relies basically on the knowledge of the set of reduced words of permutations, it seems natural that in turn the number of reduced words of a permutation can be determined with the help of Schubert functions: we describe new algebraic formulas and a combinatorial procedure, which allow the effective determination of the number of reduced words for an arbitrary permutation in terms of Schubert polynomials.

Received: September 24, 1997; Accepted: January 27, 1998.

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