Associativity on Four Elements

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Let $\struct {S, \circ}$ be a semigroup.

Let $a, b, c, d \in S$.


$a \circ b \circ c \circ d$

gives a unique answer no matter how the elements are associated.


As $\struct {S, \circ}$ is a semigroup:

it is closed
$\circ$ is associative

From Parenthesization of Word of $4$ Elements, there are exactly $5$ different ways of inserting brackets in the expression $a \circ b \circ c \circ d$.

As $\circ$ is associative, we have that:

$\forall s_1, s_2, s_3 \in S: \paren {s_1 \circ s_2} \circ s_3 = s_1 \circ \paren {s_2 \circ s_3}$

As $\struct {S, \circ}$ is closed, we know that all products of elements from $\set {a, b, c, d}$ are in $S$, and are likewise bound by the associativity of $S$.


\(\ds \paren {\paren {a \circ b} \circ c} \circ d\) \(=\) \(\ds \paren {a \circ \paren {b \circ c} } \circ d\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds a \circ \paren {\paren {b \circ c} \circ d}\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds a \circ \paren {b \circ \paren {c \circ d} }\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds \paren {a \circ b} \circ \paren {c \circ d}\)


Also see


in the context of addition