Chapter 8: Relative Clauses, Which Make sumti Even More Complicated

5. Non-veridical relative clauses: “voi”

voi NOI non-veridical relative clause introducer

There is another member of selma'o NOI which serves to introduce a third kind of relative clause: “voi”. Relative clauses introduced by “voi” are restrictive, like those introduced by “poi”. However, there is a fundamental difference between “poi” and “voi” relative clauses. A “poi” relative clause is said to be veridical, in the same sense that a description using “lo” or “loi” is: it is essential to the interpretation that the bridi actually be true. For example:

✥5.1  le gerku poi blabi cu klama
The dog which is-white goes.

it must actually be true that the dog is white, or the sentence constitutes a miscommunication. If there is a white dog and a brown dog, and the speaker uses “le gerku poi blabi” to refer to the brown dog, then the listener will not understand correctly. However,

✥5.2  le gerku voi blabi cu klama
the dog which-I-describe-as white goes

puts the listener on notice that the dog in question may not actually meet objective standards (whatever they are) for being white: only the speaker can say exactly what is meant by the term. In this way, “voi” is like “le”; the speaker's intention determines the meaning.

As a result, the following two sentences

✥5.3  le nanmu cu ninmu
That-which-I-describe-as a-man is-a-woman.
The “guy” is actually a gal.

✥5.4   ti voi nanmu cu ninmu
This-thing which-I-describe-as a-man is-a-woman.

mean essentially the same thing (except that ✥5.5 involves pointing thanks to the use of “ti”, whereas ✥5.4 doesn't), and neither one is self-contradictory: it is perfectly all right to describe something as a man (although perhaps confusing to the listener) even if it actually is a woman.