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Let $\mathcal{lie}_n$ be the free Lie algebra generated by $n$ elements $x_1,\ldots, x_n$. A derivation $u\in \text{Der}(\mathcal{lie}_n)$ is called tangential if there exist $a_i\in \mathcal{lie}_n, i=1\ldots n$ such that $u(x_i)=[x_i,a_i]$. The definition can be found in section 3 of Alekseev and Torossian's paper "The Kashiwara-Vergne conjecture and Drinfeld's associators" arXiv:0802.4300v1.

My question is: why it has the name "tangential derivation", is there any historical reason or geometric intuition of it?

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(It is usually a good idea to provide a complete refence to a paper, not just its title) – Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Jul 22 '12 at 4:58
Sure, I have edited it. Thank you! – Zhaoting Wei Jul 22 '12 at 5:11
up vote 4 down vote accepted

You may be interested in these Bar Natan's lecture.

The geometric intuition is that the $n$th Lie algebra of tangential derivations can be realized into the algebra of tangential differential operators (not derivations !) on $\mathfrak g^n$ for any (say finite dimensional) Lie algebra $\mathfrak g$. If $G$ is a Lie group with Lie algebra $\mathfrak g$, then it acts on $\mathfrak g$ by the adjoint action, and the action of a tangential differential operators is a differentiation in a direction which is tangential to the orbits of the adjoint action, hence the name.

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Thank you! It's very helpful! – Zhaoting Wei Jul 23 '12 at 4:17

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