Assigning pro-sumti

If we're telling a story in English, the meaning of, say, she keeps changing. At the moment, it means 'Susan', but if Susan's friend Jyoti walks into the bar, she could very well mean start meaning 'Jyoti'. In Lojban, we can keep on using le go'i, ri and their relatives, but there is an easier way of dealing with a larger cast of characters.

What we do is assign pro-sumti as and when we need them, using the cmavo goi (which is like the Latin word sive, or the English also known as (aka)). The sumti assigned by goi are a series called KOhA, consisting of ko'a, ko'e, ko'i ... you get the idea?

Note for lawyers (and frustrated non-lawyers): The equivalent in legal documents of goi is "henceforth referred to as," and ko'a is something like "the party of the first part." Lojban has in fact been proposed as the ideal language for law, where precision is of utmost importance. It would also allow non-lawyers to understand legal documents, which would be something of a miracle.

OK, let's go back to Susan's story. We start by saying

la suzyn. goi ko'a klama le barja

This means that from now on, every time we use ko'a, we mean 'Susan'. The man she sees can then be ko'e, so we say

.i ko'a zgana lo nanmu goi ko'e

Now every time we use ko'e, it means that particular man, so the full story so far reads:

la suzyn. goi ko'a klama le barja .i ko'a ze'a pinxe loi vanju .i ko'a zgana lo nanmu goi ko'e .i ko'e melbi .i caku ko'e zgana ko'a

(Note how the cus have disappeared: ko'a, like mi, doesn't need them, since it can't join with a selbri to form a new selbri).

Assigning ko'e to lo nanmu is actually better than starting the next sentence with le nanmu. This is because le nanmu simply means "the thing I have in mind which I call 'man'," which is not exactly the same as "the man" (it could, in theory, be something totally different). Some Lojbanists might even say that using le like this is a bit malglico. (Or at least malrarbau 'damned natural languages': lots of languages have definite articles, and Lojban le is no definite article.)

Tip: If you combine ko'a/e/i/o/u with ri/ra/ru, don't count ko'a-type pro-sumti when you're counting back. For example

la suzyn. rinsa ko'e .i ri cisma

doesn't mean that ko'e (the man, in this context) smiles, but that Susan smiles. Why? Because it is pointless to have a replacing word (anaphor), like ri, replace another replacing word, like ko'e. If you wanted the x1 of cisma to be ko'e, you would have simply said .i ko'e cisma, not .i ri cisma. It works out simpler to keep ri/ra/ru in reserve for more important things.

Let's continue by introducing Susan's friend Jyoti (if people are wondering where I get all these unusual names from, Jyoti is an old Gujarati friend of mine). We continue ....

la djiotis. goi ko'i mo'ine'i klama .i ko'i rinsa ko'e
Jyoti (henceforth #3), goes into. #3 greets #2.
Jyoti comes in and says hello to the guy.

mo'ine'i is another space 'tense'. mo'i indicates movement; ne'i means 'inside' (from the gismu, nenri). So mo'ine'i corresponds to the English preposition into (while ne'i on its own corresponds to inside or in.) The way Lojban grammar works, mo'ine'i on its own is treated as mo'ine'i ku: a sumti tcita with an omitted sumti. (Remember caku, which is exactly the same. Just as baku means 'afterwards' (relative to the here-and-now), mo'ine'i [ku] means something like 'in(to)wards' — but is nowhere near as weird in Lojban as it is in English.)

mo'i is extremely useful, as it allows you to distinguish between location and motion. For example, I ran behind the bar in English is properly speaking ambiguous: are you running while behind the bar, or are you running with your final destination behind the bar? Lojban does not allow that ambiguity: mi bajra ti'a le barja means the former, while mi bajra mo'i ti'a le barja means the latter. In the example given above, ne'i klama would mean not that Jyoti comes in (from outside), but that she is going from somewhere to somewhere else, while inside. This kind of ambiguity may pass unnoticed by native English speakers, but speakers of languages which are more precise about direction find it extremely vague (Turkish, for example, has at least three words to translate 'here').



x1 looks at/examines/views/inspects/regards/watches/gazes at x2 [compare with zgani]


and (individuals, as opposed to joi.) Stay tuned for a proper explanation of these words in a couple of lessons.


x1 (agent) greets/hails/[welcomes/says hello to]/responds to arrival of x2 in manner x3 (action)


x1 is nervous/anxious about x2 (abstraction) under conditions x3

Exercise 2

Translate the following. Assume the same values for ko'a/e/i that we have been using so far (i.e. ko'a is Susan, and so on).

  1. .i ko'a ca rinsa ko'i

  2. .i ko'a .e ko'i xanka cmila

  3. .i caku le go'i cu catlu ko'e

  4. .i ko'e cadzu mo'i zu'a ko'i

  5. .i ko'e djica lenu djuno fi le ko'a cmene