We prove a freeness theorem for low-rank subgroups of one-relator groups. Let $F$ be a free group, and let $w\in F$ be a non-primitive element. The primitivity rank of $w$, $\pi(w)$, is the smallest rank of a subgroup of $F$ containing $w$ as an imprimitive element. Then any subgroup of the one-relator group $G=F/\langle\langle w\rangle\rangle$ generated by fewer than $\pi(w)$ elements is free. In particular, if $\pi(w)>2$ then $G$ doesn't contain any Baumslag--Solitar groups. The hypothesis that $\pi(w)>2$ implies that the presentation complex $X$ of the one-relator group $G$ has negative immersions: if a compact, connected complex $Y$ immerses into $X$ and $\chi(Y)\geq 0$ then $Y$ is Nielsen equivalent to a graph. The freeness theorem is a consequence of a dependence theorem for free groups, which implies several classical facts about free and one-relator groups, including Magnus' Freiheitssatz and theorems of Lyndon, Baumslag, Stallings and Duncan--Howie. The dependence theorem strengthens Wise's $w$-cycles conjecture, proved independently by the authors and Helfer--Wise, which implies that the one-relator complex $X$ has non-positive immersions when $\pi(w)>1$.
- Pub Date:
- March 2018
- Mathematics - Group Theory;
- Mathematics - Geometric Topology
- 40 pages, 6 figures. Version 2 (and the identical version 3) incorporate referees' comments and corrections. Version 4 only introduces a terminological change: "branched immersions" have been rechristened "branched maps". This is the final version accepted for publication