# Approximating a multinomial as $p(\xi_1,\ldots,\xi_N)\propto\exp\left(-\frac{n}{2}\sum_{i=1}^N\frac{(\xi_i-p_i)^2}{p_i}\right)$

Question

Suppose we have a multinomial distribution with $N$ possible outcomes, with probabilities $p_1,\ldots,p_N$. We sample this $n$ times, and denote the observed frequency of the $i$th outcome as $\xi_i$. In  the author claims that the distribution of the $\xi_i$ in the limit of large $n$ is:

$$p(\xi_1,\ldots,\xi_N)\propto\exp\left(-\frac{n}{2}\sum_{i=1}^N\frac{(\xi_i-p_i)^2}{p_i}\right).\;\;\;\;\;(1)$$

We can see immediately that this must be an approximation, as it assigns nonzero probabilities for $\xi_1+\cdots+\xi_N>1$. However we can see that these have vanishing probability in the limit $n\rightarrow\infty$. My question is how do we derive (1) from the multinomial distribution, and show that they match in the $n\rightarrow\infty$ limit?

My thoughts

My first thought would be to appeal to the central limit theorem. The multinomial distribution has mean $\mu_i=p_i$ and covariance matrix $\Sigma_{ij}=\delta_{ij}p_i-p_ip_j$, so we would expect this in the large $n$ limit to be described by a multivariate Gaussian with mean $\mu$ and covariance $\frac{1}{n}\Sigma$. However, things are complicated by the fact that the multinomial covariance is singular (since $\xi_N$ is determined by the other $\xi_i$s), and so the multivariate Gaussian is not defined.

To address this, we may try and consider only the first $\xi_1,\ldots,\xi_{N-1}$, which have a non-singular covariance matrix and hence well-defined multivariate Gaussian distribution. Let's take the Binomial distribution $N=2$. The frequency $\xi_1$, this has mean $p_1$ and variance $p_1(1-p_1)$, so this would be described the the Gaussian: $$\propto\exp\left(-\frac{n}{2}\frac{(\xi_1-p_1)^2}{p_1(1-p_1)}\right).\;\;\;\;\;(2)$$ The expression (1) gives: $$\propto\exp\left(-\frac{n}{2}\left(\frac{(\xi_1-p_1)^2}{p_1}+\frac{(\xi_2-p_2)^2}{p_2}\right)\right).\;\;\;\;\;(3)$$ If we substitute $\xi_2\rightarrow 1-\xi_1$, $p_2\rightarrow 1-p_1$ into (3), we can verify that this gives the same answer as (2). I have verified that this also works for $N=4$.

I'm sure that if I just bashed out the algebra for general $N$ we would get agreement between the central limit theorem and (1) when we restrict the latter to $\xi_1+\cdots+\xi_N=1,p_1+\cdots+p_N=1$. However, how can we start with the multinomial distribution and derive (1) as a limit which is valid everywhere? One idea would be to say that (1) goes to zero as $n\rightarrow\infty$ when you are not on that plane, however I am a bit uncomfortable with this as it goes to zero everywhere except the mean as $n\rightarrow\infty$, so I don't know if that argument is good enough.

 Wootters, William K. "Statistical distance and Hilbert space." Physical Review D 23.2 (1981): 357.

Since the probability of any given $$m_i$$ ends up in the tail and goes to zero as $$n\rightarrow\infty$$, the strategy is to instead change variables to $$x_i$$, the number of standard deviations from the mean, which we would intuitively expect to be Gaussian distributed. We hold $$x_i$$ constant, and then let $$n\rightarrow\infty$$.The $$x_i$$ are assumed uniformly bounded above and below, however this isn't a problem as we have convergence for any arbitrary bound.
Note that $$q_i$$ is defined as $$1-p_i$$.
• What is $q_i$? Is it $q_i=1-p_i$? – Carlos Pinzón Mar 9 at 18:24