Chapter 11: Events, Qualities, Quantities, And Other Vague Words: On Lojban Abstraction

2. Event abstraction

The following cmavo is discussed in this section:

nu  NU  event abstractor

The examples in c11-§1 made use of “nu” as the abstractor, and it is certainly the most common abstractor in Lojban text. Its purpose is to capture the event or state of the bridi considered as a whole. Do not confuse the “le” description built on a “nu” abstraction with ordinary descriptions based on “le” alone. The following sumti are quite distinct:

✥2.1  le klama
the comer, that which comes

✥2.2   le se klama
the destination

✥2.3   le te klama
the origin

✥2.4   le ve klama
the route

✥2.5   le xe klama
the means of transportation

✥2.6   le nu klama
the event of someone coming to somewhere
    from somewhere by some route using some means

Examples 2.1 through 2.5 are descriptions that isolate the five individual sumti places of the selbri “klama”. ✥2.6 describes something associated with the bridi as a whole: the event of it.

In Lojban, the term “event” is divorced from its ordinary English sense of something that happens over a short period of time. The description:

✥2.7  le nu mi vasxu
the event-of my breathing

is an event which lasts for the whole of my life (under normal circumstances). On the other hand,

✥2.8  le nu la djan. cinba la djein.
the event-of John kissing Jane

is relatively brief by comparison (again, under normal circumstances).

We can see from Examples 2.6 through 2.8 that ellipsis of sumti is valid in the bridi of abstraction selbri, just as in the main bridi of a sentence. Any sumti may be ellipsized if the listener will be able to figure out from context what the proper value of it is, or else to recognize that the proper value is unimportant. It is extremely common for “nu” abstractions in descriptions to have the x1 place ellipsized:

✥2.9  mi nelci le nu limna
I like the event-of swimming.
I like swimming.

is elliptical, and most probably means:

✥2.10    mi nelci le nu mi limna
I like the event-of I swim.

In the proper context, of course, ✥2.9 could refer to the event of somebody else swimming. Its English equivalent, “I like swimming”, can't be interpreted as “I like Frank's swimming”; this is a fundamental distinction between English and Lojban. In Lojban, an omitted sumti can mean whatever the context indicates that it should mean.

Note that the lack of an explicit NU cmavo in a sumti can sometimes hide an implicit abstraction. In the context of ✥2.10, the appearance of “le se nelci” (“that which is liked”) is in effect an abstraction:

✥2.11    le se nelci cu cafne
The liked-thing is-frequent.
The thing which I like happens often.

which in this context means

My swimming happens often.

Event descriptions with “le nu” are commonly used to fill the “under conditions...” places, among others, of gismu and lujvo place structures:

✥2.12    la lojban. cu frili mi
    le nu mi tadni [kei]
Lojban is-easy for-me
    under-conditions-the event-of I study
Lojban is easy for me when I study.

(The “when” of the English would also be appropriate for a construction involving a Lojban tense, but the Lojban sentence says more than that the studying is concurrent with the ease.)

The place structure of a “nu” abstraction selbri is simply:

x1 is an event of (the bridi)