Chapter 17: As Easy As A-B-C? The Lojban Letteral System And Its Uses

10. References to lerfu

The rules of c17-§9 make it impossible to use unmarked lerfu words to refer to lerfu themselves. In the sentence:

✥10.1    .abu. cu lerfu
A is-a-letteral.

the hearer would try to find what previous sumti “.abu” refers to. The solution to this problem makes use of the cmavo “me'o” of selma'o LI, which makes a lerfu string into a sumti representing that very string of lerfu. This use of “me'o” is a special case of its mathematical use, which is to introduce a mathematical expression used literally rather than for its value.

✥10.2    me'o .abu cu lerfu
the-expression “a” is-a-letteral.

Now we can translate ✥1.1 into Lojban:

✥10.4    dei vasru vo lerfu
    po'u me'o .ebu
this-sentence contains four letterals
    which-are the-expression “e”.
This sentence contains four “e”s.

Since the Lojban sentence has only four “e” lerfu rather than fourteen, the translation is not a literal one — but ✥10.4 is a Lojban truth just as ✥1.1 is an English truth. Coincidentally, the colloquial English translation of ✥10.4 is also true!

The reader might be tempted to use quotation with “lu ... li'u” instead of “me'o”, producing:

10.4.5)    lu .abu li'u cu lerfu
[quote] .abu [unquote] is-a-letteral.

(The single-word quote “zo” cannot be used, because “.abu” is a compound cmavo.) But ✥10.4 is false, because it says:

✥10.5    The word “.abu” is a letteral

which is not the case; rather, the thing symbolized by the word “.abu” is a letteral. In Lojban, that would be:

✥10.6    la'e lu .abu li'u cu lerfu
The-referent-of [quote] .abu [unquote] is-a-letteral.

which is correct.