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

10. sumti qualifiers

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

la'e    LAhE    something referred to by
lu'e    LAhE    a reference to
tu'a    LAhE    an abstraction involving

lu'a    LAhE    an individual/member/component of
lu'i    LAhE    a set formed from
lu'o    LAhE    a mass formed from
vu'i    LAhE    a sequence formed from

na'ebo  NAhE+BO something other than
to'ebo  NAhE+BO the opposite of
no'ebo  NAhE+BO the neutral form of
je'abo  NAhE+BO that which indeed is

lu'u    LUhU    elidable terminator for LAhE and NAhE+BO

Well, that's quite a list of cmavo. What are they all about?

The above cmavo and compound cmavo are called the “sumti qualifiers”. All of them are either single cmavo of selma'o LAhE, or else compound cmavo involving a scalar negation cmavo of selma'o NAhE immediately followed by “bo” of selma'o BO. Syntactically, you can prefix a sumti qualifier to any sumti and produce another simple sumti. (You may need to add the elidable terminator “lu'u” to show where the qualified sumti ends.)

Semantically, sumti qualifiers represent short forms of certain common special cases. Suppose you want to say “I see 'The Red Pony”', where “The Red Pony” is the title of a book. How about:

✥10.1    mi viska lu le xunre cmaxirma li'u
I see [quote] the red small-horse [unquote]

But ✥10.1 doesn't work: it says that you see a piece of text “The Red Pony”. That might be all right if you were looking at the cover of the book, where the words “The Red Pony” are presumably written. (More precisely, where the words “le xunre cmaxirma” are written — but we may suppose the book has been translated into Lojban.)

What you really want to say is:

✥10.2    mi viska le selsinxa be
    lu le xunre cmaxirma li'u
I see the thing-represented-by
    [quote] the red small-horse [unquote]

The x2 place of “selsinxa” (the x1 place of “sinxa”) is a sign or symbol, and the x1 place of “selsinxa” (the x2 place of “sinxa”) is the thing represented by the sign. ✥10.2 allows us to use a symbol (namely the title of a book) to represent the thing it is a symbol of (namely the book itself).

This operation turns out to be needed often enough that it's useful to be able to say:

✥10.3    mi viska la'e lu le xunre cmaxirma li'u [lu'u]
I see the-referent-of
    [quote] the red small-horse [unquote].

So when “la'e” is prefixed to a sumti referring to a symbol, it produces a sumti referring to the referent of that symbol. (In computer jargon, “la'e” dereferences a pointer.)

By introducing a sumti qualifier, we correct a false sentence (✥10.1), which too closely resembles its literal English equivalent, into a true sentence (✥10.3), without having to change it overmuch; in particular, the structure remains the same. Most of the uses of sumti qualifiers are of this general kind.

The sumti qualifier “lu'e” provides the converse operation: it can be prefixed to a sumti referring to some thing to produce a sumti referring to a sign or symbol for the thing. For example,

✥10.4    mi pu cusku lu'e le vi cukta
I [past] express a-symbol-for the nearby book.
I said the title of this book.

The equivalent form not using a sumti qualifier would be:

✥10.5    mi pu cusku le sinxa be le vi cukta
I [past] express the symbol-for the nearby book.

which is equivalent to ✥10.4, but longer.

The other sumti qualifiers follow the same rules. The cmavo “tu'a” is used in forming abstractions, and is explained more fully in Chapter 11. The triplet “lu'a”, “lu'i”, and “lu'o” convert between individuals, masses, and sets; “vu'i” belongs to this group as well, but creates a sequence, which is similar to a set but has a definite order. (The set of John and Charles is the same as the set of Charles and John, but the sequences are different.) Here are some examples:

✥10.6    mi troci tu'a le vorme
I try some-abstraction-about the door.
I try (to open) the door.

✥10.6 might mean that I try to do something else involving the door; the form is deliberately vague.

Most of the following examples make use of the cmavo “ri”, belonging to selma'o KOhA. This cmavo means “the thing last mentioned”; it is equivalent to repeating the immediately previous sumti (but in its original context). It is explained in more detail in Chapter 7.

✥10.7    lo'i ratcu cu barda
    .iku'i lu'a ri cmalu
the-set-of rats is-large.
    But some-members-of it-last-mentioned is-small
The set of rats is large,
    but some of its members are small.

✥10.8 lo ratcu cu cmalu
    .iku'i lu'i ri barda
some rats are-small.
    But the-set-of them-last-mentioned is-large.
Some rats are small, but the set of rats is large.

✥10.9 mi ce do girzu
    .i lu'o ri gunma
    .i vu'i ri porsi
I in-a-set-with you are-a-set.
    The-mass-of it-last-mentioned is-a-mass.
    The-sequence-of it-last-mentioned is-a-sequence
The set of you and me is a set.
    The mass of you and me is a mass.
    The sequence of you and me is a sequence.

(Yes, I know these examples are a bit silly. This set was introduced for completeness, and practical examples are as yet hard to come by.)

Finally, the four sumti qualifiers formed from a cmavo of NAhE and “bo” are all concerned with negation, which is discussed in detail in Chapter 15. Here are a few examples of negation sumti qualifiers:

✥10.10  mi viska na'ebo le gerka
I see something-other-than the dog.

This compound, “na'ebo”, is the most common of the four negation sumti qualifiers. The others usually only make sense in the context of repeating, with modifications, something already referred to:

✥10.11  mi nelci loi glare cidja
    .ije do nelci
        to'ebo ri
    .ije la djein. nelci
        no'ebo ra
I like part-of-the-mass-of hot-type-of food.
    And you like
        the-opposite-of the-last-mentioned.
    And Jane likes
        the-neutral-value-of something-mentioned.
I like hot food, and you like cold food,
    and Jane likes lukewarm food.

(In ✥10.11, the sumti “ra” refers to some previously mentioned sumti other than that referred to by “ri”. We cannot use “ri” here, because it would signify “la djein.”, that being the most recent sumti available to “ri”. See more detailed explanations in Chapter 7.)