Chapter 6: To Speak Of Many Things: The Lojban sumti

5. Descriptors for typical objects

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

lo'e    LE  the typical
le'e    LE  the stereotypical

As promised in c6-§3, Lojban has a method for discriminating between “the lion” who lives in Africa and “the Englishman” who, generally speaking, doesn't live in Africa even though some Englishmen do. The descriptor “lo'e” means “the typical”, as in

✥5.1  lo'e cinfo cu xabju le fi'ortu'a
The-typical lion dwells-in the African-land.
The lion dwells in Africa.

What is this “typical lion”? Surely it is not any particular lion, because no lion has all of the “typical” characteristics, and (worse yet) some characteristics that all real lions have can't be viewed as typical. For example, all real lions are either male or female, but it would be bizarre to suppose that the typical lion is either one. So the typical lion has no particular sex, but does have a color (golden brown), a residence (Africa), a diet (game), and so on. Likewise we can say that

✥5.2  lo'e glinanmu cu xabju le fi'ortu'a
    na.e le gligugde
The-typical English-man dwells-in the African-land
    (Not!) and the English-country.
The typical Englishman dwells not in Africa
    but in England.

The relationship between “lo'e cinfo” and “lo'i cinfo” may be explained thus: the typical lion is an imaginary lion-abstraction which best exemplifies the set of lions. There is a similar relationship between “le'e” and “le'i”:

✥5.3  le'e xelso merko
    cu gusta ponse
The-stereotypical Greek-type-of American
    is-a-restaurant-type-of owner.
Lots of Greek-Americans own restaurants.

Here we are concerned not with the actual set of Greek-Americans, but with the set of those the speaker has in mind, which is typified by one (real or imaginary) who owns a restaurant. The word “stereotypical” is often derogatory in English, but “le'e” need not be derogatory in Lojban: it simply suggests that the example is typical in the speaker's imagination rather than in some objectively agreed-upon way. Of course, different speakers may disagree about what the features of “the typical lion” are (some would include having a short intestine, whereas others would know nothing of lions' intestines), so the distinction between “lo'e cinfo” and “le'e cinfo” may be very fine.


✥5.4  le'e skina cu se finti ne'i la xali,uyd.
The-stereotypical movie is-invented in Hollywood.

is probably true to an American, but might be false (not the stereotype) to someone living in India or Russia.

Note that there is no naming equivalent of “lo'e” and “le'e”, because there is no need, as a rule, for a “typical George” or a “typical Smith”. People or things who share a common name do not, in general, have any other common attributes worth mentioning.