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Scientific study of the deformation of the rocks that make up the Earth's crust and the forces that produce such deformation. It deals with the folding and faulting associated with mountain building; the large-scale, gradual, upward and downward movements of the crust; and sudden horizontal displacements along faults. Other phenomena studied include igneous processes and metamorphism. The chief working principle of tectonics is the concept of plate tectonics. See alsocontinental drift; seafloor spreading.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on tectonics, visit Britannica.com.