Chapter 2: A Quick Tour of Lojban Grammar, With Diagrams

9. tanru

When two gismu are adjacent, the first one modifies the second, and the selbri takes its place structure from the rightmost word. Such combinations of gismu are called “tanru”. For example,

✥9.1  sutra tavla

has the place structure

✥9.2  x1 is a fast type-of talker to x2
about x3
      in language x4
  x1 talks fast to x2 about x3 in language x4

When three or more gismu are in a row, the first modifies the second, and that combined meaning modifies the third, and that combined meaning modifies the fourth, and so on. For example

✥9.3  sutra tavla cutci

has the place structure

✥9.4  s1 is a fast-talker type of shoe
      worn by s2 of material s3

That is, it is a shoe that is worn by a fast talker rather than a shoe that is fast and is also worn by a talker.

Note especially the use of “type-of” as a mechanism for connecting the English translations of the two or more gismu; this convention helps the learner understand each tanru in its context. Creative interpretations are also possible, however:

✥9.5  bajra cutci
  runner shoe

most probably refers to shoes suitable for runners, but might be interpreted in some imaginative instances as “shoes that run (by themselves?)”. In general, however, the meaning of a tanru is determined by the literal meaning of its components, and not by any connotations or figurative meanings. Thus

✥9.6  sutra tavla

would not necessarily imply any trickery or deception, unlike the English idiom, and a

✥9.7  jikca toldi
  social butterfly

must always be an insect with large brightly-colored wings, of the family Lepidoptera .

The place structure of a tanru is always that of the final component of the tanru. Thus, the following has the place structure of “klama”:

✥9.8  mi [cu] sutra klama la meris.
  --      =========== ---------
  I quickly-go to Mary.

With the conversion “se klama” as the final component of the tanru, the place structure of the entire selbri is that of “se klama”: the x1 place is the destination, and the x2 place is the one who goes:

✥9.9  mi [cu] sutra se klama la meris.
  --      ============== ---------
  I quickly am-gone-to by Mary.

The following example shows that there is more to conversion than merely switching places, though:

✥9.10    la tam. [cu] melbi tavla la
  -------      =========== ---------
  Tom beautifully-talks to Mary.
  Tom is a beautiful-talker to Mary.

has the place structure of “tavla”, but note the two distinct interpretations.

Now, using conversion, we can modify the place structure order:

✥9.11    la meris. [cu] melbi se tavla
la tam.
  ---------      ============== -------
  Mary is beautifully-talked-to by Tom.
  Mary is a beautiful-audience for Tom.

and we see that the modification has been changed so as to focus on Mary's role in the bridi relationship, leading to a different set of possible interpretations.

Note that there is no place structure change if the modifying term is converted, and so less drastic variation in possible meanings:

✥9.12    la tam. [cu] tavla melbi la
  -------      =========== ---------
  Tom is talkerly-beautiful to Mary.

✥9.13 la tam. [cu] se tavla melbi la
  -------      ============== ---------
  Tom is audiencely-beautiful to Mary.

and we see that the manner in which Tom is seen as beautiful by Mary changes, but Tom is still the one perceived as beautiful, and Mary, the observer of beauty.