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

11. Conversion of simple selbri

Conversion is the process of changing a selbri so that its places appear in a different order. This is not the same as labeling the sumti with the cmavo of FA, as mentioned in c5-§7, and then rearranging the order in which the sumti are spoken or written. Conversion transforms the selbri into a distinct, though closely related, selbri with renumbered places.

In Lojban, conversion is accomplished by placing a cmavo of selma'o SE before the selbri:

✥11.1    mi prami do
I love you.

is equivalent in meaning to:

✥11.2    do se prami mi
You [swap x1 and x2] love me.
You are loved by me.

Conversion is fully explained in Chapter 9. For the purposes of this chapter, the important point about conversion is that it applies only to the following simple selbri. When trying to convert a tanru, therefore, it is necessary to be careful! Consider ✥11.3:

✥11.3    la .alis. cu cadzu klama le zarci
Alice is-a-walker type-of goer to-the market.
Alice walkingly goes to the market.
Alice walks to the market.

To convert this sentence so that “le zarci” is in the x1 place, one correct way is:

✥11.4    le zarci cu se ke cadzu klama [ke'e] la .alis.
The market is-a-[swap x1/x2] ( walker type-of goer) Alice.
The market is-walkingly gone-to by-Alice.

The “ke … ke'e” brackets cause the entire tanru to be converted by the “se”, which would otherwise convert only “cadzu”, leading to:

✥11.5    le zarci cu se cadzu
    klama la .alis.
The market (is-a-[swap x1/x2] walker)
    type-of goer to Alice.
The market is-a-walking-surface type-of goer to Alice.

whatever that might mean. An alternative approach, since the place structure of “cadzu klama” is that of “klama” alone, is to convert only the latter:

✥11.6    le zarci cu cadzu se klama la .alis.
The market walkingly is-gone-to by-Alice.

But the tanru in ✥11.6 may or may not have the same meaning as that in ✥11.3; in particular, because “cadzu” is not converted, there is a suggestion that although Alice is the goer, the market is the walker. With a different sumti as x1, this seemingly odd interpretation might make considerable sense:

✥11.7    la djan. cu cadzu se klama la .alis
John walkingly is-gone-to by Alice

suggests that Alice is going to John, who is a moving target.

There is an alternative type of conversion, using the cmavo “jai” of selma'o JAI optionally followed by a modal or tense construction. Grammatically, such a combination behaves exactly like conversion using SE. More details can be found in Chapter 9.