A term used in GENERATIVE GRAMMAR to refer to a CATEGORY which is introduced earlier than a further instance of the same category in a TREE-diagram representation. The first instance of the category is seen to be higher up the tree than the other instance(s). For example, in such sentences as the idea that the man will resign surprises me, the following (partial) tree might be used:
In this sentence, the ‘higher VERB’ is surprise, and the ‘higher CLAUSE’ or ‘higher sentence’ is the idea surprises me. Alternative terms are MATRIX and ‘superordinate’. The usual term for the ‘lower’ verb/clause is EMBEDDED.