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

8. Inversion of tanru: “co”

The following cmavo is discussed in this section:

co  CO  tanru inversion marker

The standard order of Lojban tanru, whereby the modifier precedes what it modifies, is very natural to English-speakers: we talk of “blue houses”, not of “houses blue”. In other languages, however, such matters are differently arranged, and Lojban supports this reverse order (tertau before seltau) by inserting the particle “co”. ✥8.1 and ✥8.2 mean exactly the same thing:

✥8.1  ta blanu zdani
That is-a-blue type-of-house.
That is a blue house.

✥8.2   ta zdani co blanu
That is-a-house of-type blue.
That is a blue house.

This change is called “tanru inversion”. In tanru inversion, the element before “co” (“zdani” in ✥8.2) is the tertau, and the element following “co” (“blanu”) in ✥8.2) is the seltau.

The meaning, and more specifically, the place structure, of a tanru is not affected by inversion: the place structure of “zdani co blanu” is still that of “zdani”. However, the existence of inversion in a selbri has a very special effect on any sumti which follow that selbri. Instead of being interpreted as filling places of the selbri, they actually fill the places (starting with x2) of the seltau. In c5-§7, we saw how to fill interior places with “be … bei … be'o”, and in fact ✥8.3 and ✥8.4 have the same meaning:

✥8.3  mi klama be le zarci bei le zdani be'o
I am-a-(goer to the market from the house)
    type-of trier.
I try to go to the market from the house.

✥8.4   mi troci co klama le zarci le zdani
I am-a-trier
    of-type (goer to-the market from-the house).
I try to go to the market from the house.

✥8.4 is a less deeply nested construction, requiring fewer cmavo. As a result it is probably easier to understand.

Note that in Lojban “trying to go” is expressed using “troci” as the tertau. The reason is that “trying to go” is a “going type of trying”, not a “trying type of going”. The trying is more fundamental than the going — if the attempt fails, we may not have a going at all.

Any sumti which precede a selbri with an inverted tanru fill the places of the selbri (i.e., the places of the tertau) in the ordinary way. In ✥8.4, “mi” fills the x1 place of “troci co klama”, which is the x1 place of “troci”. The other places of the selbri remain unfilled. The trailing sumti “le zarci” and “le zdani” do not occupy selbri places, despite appearances.

As a result, the regular mechanisms (involving selma'o VOhA and GOhI, explained in Chapter 7) for referring to individual sumti of a bridi cannot refer to any of the trailing places of ✥8.4, because they are not really “sumti of the bridi” at all.

When inverting a more complex tanru, it is possible to invert it only at the most general modifier-modified pair. The only possible inversion of ✥3.4, for instance, is:

✥8.5  ta nixli [bo] ckule co cmalu
that (is-a-girl type-of school) of-type little.
That's a girls' school which is small.

Note that the “bo” of ✥3.4 is optional in ✥8.5, because “co” groups more loosely than any other cmavo used in tanru, including none at all. Not even “ke … ke'e” parentheses can encompass a “co”:

✥8.6  ta cmalu ke nixli ckule [ke'e]
    co melbi
that is-a-(little type-of (girl type-of school))
    of-type pretty.
That's a small school for girls which is beautiful.

In ✥8.6, the “ke'e” is automatically inserted before the “co” rather than at its usual place at the end of the selbri. As a result, there is a simple and mechanical rule for removing “co” from any selbri: change “A co B” to “ke B ke'e A”. (At the same time, any sumti following the selbri must be transformed into “be ... bei … be'o” form and attached following B.) Therefore,

✥8.7  ckule co melbi nixli
school of-type pretty girl
school for beautiful girls

means the same as:

✥8.8  ke melbi nixli ke'e ckule
( pretty girl ) school

Multiple “co” cmavo can appear within a selbri, indicating multiple inversions: a right-grouping rule is employed, as for “bo”. The above rule can be applied to interpret such selbri, but all “co” cmavo must be removed simultaneously:

✥8.9  ckule co nixli co cmalu
school of-type (girl of-type little)

becomes formally

✥8.10    ke ke cmalu ke'e nixli ke'e ckule
( ( little ) girl ) school

which by the left-grouping rule is simply

✥8.11    cmalu nixli ckule
little girl school
school for little girls

As stated above, the selbri places, other than the first, of

✥8.12    mi klama co sutra
I am-a-goer of-type quick
I go quickly

cannot be filled by placing sumti after the selbri, because any sumti in that position fill the places of “sutra”, the seltau. However, the tertau places (which means in effect the selbri places) can be filled with “be”:

✥8.13    mi klama be le zarci co sutra
I am-a-goer (to the store) of-type quick.
I go to the store quickly.