Crystal graphs, in the sense of Kashiwara, carry a natural monoid structure given by identifying words labelling vertices that appear in the same position of isomorphic components of the crystal. In the particular case of the crystal graph for the $q$-analogue of the special linear Lie algebra $\mathfrak{sl}_{n}$, this monoid is the celebrated plactic monoid, whose elements can be identified with Young tableaux. The crystal graph and the so-called Kashiwara operators interact beautifully with the combinatorics of Young tableaux and with the Robinson–Schensted correspondence and so provide powerful combinatorial tools to work with them. This paper constructs an analogous ‘quasi-crystal’ structure for the hypoplactic monoid, whose elements can be identified with quasi-ribbon tableaux and whose connection with the theory of quasi-symmetric functions echoes the connection of the plactic monoid with the theory of symmetric functions. This quasi-crystal structure and the associated quasi-Kashiwara operators are shown to interact just as neatly with the combinatorics of quasi-ribbon tableaux and with the hypoplactic version of the Robinson–Schensted correspondence. A study is then made of the interaction of the crystal graph for the plactic monoid and the quasi-crystal graph for the hypoplactic monoid. Finally, the quasi-crystal structure is applied to prove some new results about the hypoplactic monoid.
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