Tamari lattice

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Tamari lattice of order 4

In mathematics, a Tamari lattice, introduced by Dov Tamari (1962), is a partially ordered set in which the elements consist of different ways of grouping a sequence of objects into pairs using parentheses; for instance, for a sequence of four objects abcd, the five possible groupings are ((ab)c)d, (ab)(cd), (a(bc))d, a((bc)d), and a(b(cd)). Each grouping describes a different order in which the objects may be combined by a binary operation; in the Tamari lattice, one grouping is ordered before another if the second grouping may be obtained from the first by only rightward applications of the associative law (xy)z = x(yz). For instance, applying this law with x = a, y = bc, and z = d gives the expansion (a(bc))d = a((bc)d), so in the ordering of the Tamari lattice (a(bc))d ≤ a((bc)d).

In this partial order, any two groupings g1 and g2 have a greatest common predecessor, the meet g1 ∧ g2, and a least common successor, the join g1 ∨ g2. Thus, the Tamari lattice has the structure of a lattice. The Hasse diagram of this lattice is isomorphic to the graph of vertices and edges of an associahedron. The number of elements in a Tamari lattice for a sequence of n + 1 objects is the nth Catalan number.

The Tamari lattice can also be described in several other equivalent ways:

  • It is the poset of sequences of n integers a1, ..., an, ordered coordinatewise, such that i ≤ ai ≤ n and if i ≤ j ≤ ai then aj ≤ ai (Huang & Tamari 1972).
  • It is the poset of binary trees with n leaves, ordered by tree rotation operations.
  • It is the poset of ordered forests, in which one forest is earlier than another in the partial order if, for every j, the jth node in a preorder traversal of the first forest has at least as many descendants as the jth node in a preorder traversal of the second forest (Knuth 2005).
  • It is the poset of triangulations of a convex n-gon, ordered by flip operations that substitute one diagonal of the polygon for another.


The Tamari lattice of the Cn groupings of n+1 objects is called Tn, but the corresponding associahedron is called Kn+1.

In The Art of Computer Programming T4 is called the Tamari lattice of order 4 and its Hasse diagram K5 the associahedron of order 4.