Chapter 5: “Pretty Little Girls' School”: The Structure Of Lojban selbri

7. Linked sumti: “be--bei--be'o”

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

be  BE  linked sumti marker
bei BEI linked sumti separator
be'o    BEhO    linked sumti terminator

The question of the place structures of selbri has been glossed over so far. This chapter does not attempt to treat place structure issues in detail; they are discussed in Chapter 9. One grammatical structure related to places belongs here, however. In simple sentences such as ✥1.1, the place structure of the selbri is simply the defined place structure of the gismu “mamta”. What about more complex selbri?

For tanru, the place structure rule is simple: the place structure of a tanru is always the place structure of its tertau. Thus, the place structure of “blanu zdani” is that of “zdani”: the x1 place is a house or nest, and the x2 place is its occupants.

What about the places of “blanu”? Is there any way to get them into the act? In fact, “blanu” has only one place, and this is merged, as it were, with the x1 place of “zdani”. It is whatever is in the x1 place that is being characterized as blue-for-a-house. But if we replace “blanu” with “xamgu”, we get:

✥7.1  ti xamgu zdani
this is-a-good house.
This is a good (for someone, by some standard) house.

Since “xamgu” has three places (x1, the good thing; x2, the person for whom it is good; and x3, the standard of goodness), ✥7.1 necessarily omits information about the last two: there is no room for them. Room can be made, however!

✥7.2  ti xamgu be do bei mi [be'o] zdani
this is-a-good ( for you by-standard me ) house.
This is a house that is good for you by my standards.

Here, the gismu “xamgu” has been followed by the cmavo “be” (of selma'o BE), which signals that one or more sumti follows. These sumti are not part of the overall bridi place structure, but fill the places of the brivla they are attached to, starting with x2. If there is more than one sumti, they are separated by the cmavo “bei” (of selma'o BEI), and the list of sumti is terminated by the elidable terminator “be'o” (of selma'o BEhO).

Grammatically, a brivla with sumti linked to it in this fashion plays the same role in tanru as a simple brivla. To illustrate, here is a fully fleshed-out version of ✥3.4, with all places filled in:

✥7.3  ti cmalu be le ka canlu
        bei lo'e ckule be'o
    nixli be li mu
        bei lo merko be'o bo
    ckule la bryklyn. loi pemci
        le mela nu,IORK. prenu
        le jecta
This is a small (in-dimension the property-of volume
        by-standard the-typical school)
    (girl (of-years the-number five
        by-standard some American-thing)
    school) in-Brooklyn with-subject poems
        for-audience New-York persons
        with-operator the state.
This is a school, small in volume compared to the
    typical school, pertaining to five-year-old
    girls (by American standards), in Brooklyn,
    teaching poetry to the New York community
    and operated by the state.

Here the three places of “cmalu”, the three of “nixli”, and the four of “ckule” are fully specified. Since the places of “ckule” are the places of the bridi as a whole, it was not necessary to link the sumti which follow “ckule”. It would have been legal to do so, however:

✥7.4  mi klama be le zarci bei le zdani [be'o]
I go (to-the market from-the house).

means the same as

✥7.5  mi klama le zarci le zdani
I go to-the market from-the house.

No matter how complex a tanru gets, the last brivla always dictates the place structure: the place structure of

✥7.6  melbi je cmalu nixli bo ckule
a (pretty and little) (girl school)
a school for girls which is both beautiful and small

is simply that of “ckule”. (The sole exception to this rule is discussed in c5-§8.)

It is possible to precede linked sumti by the place structure ordering tags “fe”, “fi”, “fo”, and “fu” (of selma'o FA, discussed further in Chapter 9), which serve to explicitly specify the x2, x3, x4, and x5 places respectively. Normally, the place following the “be” is the x2 place and the other places follow in order. If it seems convenient to change the order, however, it can be accomplished as follows:

✥7.7  ti xamgu be fi mi bei fe do [be'o] zdani
this is-a-good ( by-standard me for you ) house

which is equivalent in meaning to ✥7.2. Note that the order of “be”, “bei”, and “be'o” does not change; only the inserted “fi” tells us that “mi” is the x3 place (and correspondingly, the inserted “fe” tells us that “do” is the x2 place). Changing the order of sumti is often done to match the order of another language, or for emphasis or rhythm.

Of course, using FA cmavo makes it easy to specify one place while omitting a previous place:

✥7.8  ti xamgu be fi mi [be'o] zdani
this is-a-good (by-standard me) house
This is a good house by my standards.

Similarly, sumti labeled by modal or tense tags can be inserted into strings of linked sumti just as they can into bridi:

✥7.9  ta blanu be ga'a mi [be'o] zdani
That is-a-blue ( to-observer me ) house.
That is a blue, as I see it, house.

The meaning of ✥7.9 is slightly different from:

✥7.10    ta blanu zdani ga'a mi
That is-a-blue house to-observer me.
That is a blue house, as I see it.

See discussions in Chapter 9 of modals and in Chapter 10 of tenses for more explanations.

The terminator “be'o” is almost always elidable: however, if the selbri belongs to a description, then a relative clause following it will attach to the last linked sumti unless “be'o” is used, in which case it will attach to the outer description:

✥7.11    le xamgu be do noi barda cu zdani
The good-thing for you (who are-large) is-a-house.

✥7.12 le xamgu be do be'o noi barda cu zdani
The (good-thing for you) (which is-large) is-a-house

(Relative clauses are explained in Chapter 8.)

In other cases, however, “be'o” cannot be elided if “ku” has also been elided:

✥7.13    le xamgu be le ctuca [ku] be'o zdani
the good (for the teacher ) house

requires either “ku” or “be'o”, and since there is only one occurrence of “be”, the “be'o” must match it, whereas it may be confusing which occurrence of “le” the “ku” terminates (in fact the second one is correct).