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

7. Possessive sumti

In Examples 2.4 through 2.6, the sumti “le mi karce” appears, glossed as “my car”. Although it might not seem so, this sumti actually contains a relative phrase. When a sumti appears between a descriptor and its description selbri, it is actually a “pe” relative phrase. So

✥7.1  le mi karce cu xunre
my car is-red.


✥7.2  le pe mi karce cu xunre
the (associated-with me) car is-red.

mean exactly the same thing. Furthermore, since there are no special considerations of quantifiers here,

✥7.3  le karce pe mi cu xunre
The car associated-with me is-red

means the same thing as well. A sumti like the one in ✥7.1 is called a “possessive sumti”. Of course, it does not really indicate possession in the sense of ownership, but like “pe” relative phrases, indicates only weak association; you can say “le mi karce” even if you've only borrowed it for the night. (In English, “my car” usually means “le karce po mi”, but we do not have the same sense of possession in “my seat on the bus”; Lojban simply makes the weaker sense the standard one.) The inner sumti, “mi” in ✥7.1, is correspondingly called the “possessor sumti”.

Historically, possessive sumti existed before any other kind of relative phrase or clause, and were retained when the machinery of relative phrases and clauses as detailed in this chapter so far was slowly built up. When preposed relative clauses of the ✥7.2 type were devised, possessive sumti were most easily viewed as a special case of them.

Although any sumti, however complex, can appear in a full-fledged relative phrase, only simple sumti can appear as possessor sumti, without a “pe”. Roughly speaking, the legal possessor sumti are: pro-sumti, quotations, names and descriptions, and numbers. In addition, the possessor sumti may not be preceded by a quantifier, as such a form would be interpreted as the unusual “descriptor + quantifier + sumti” type of description. All these sumti forms are explained in full in Chapter 6.

Here is an example of a description used in a possessive sumti:

✥7.4  le le nanmu ku karce cu blanu
The (associated-with-the man) car is blue.
The man's car is blue.

Note the explicit “ku” at the end of the possessor sumti,
which prevents the selbri of the possessor sumti from merging
with the selbri of the main description sumti.  Because of the
need for this “ku”, the most common kind of possessor sumti
are pro-sumti, especially personal pro-sumti, which require no
elidable terminator.  Descriptions are more likely to be attached
with relative phrases.

And here is a number used as a possessor sumti:

✥7.5  le li mu jdice se bende
The of-the-number-five judging team-member
Juror number 5

which is not quite the same as “the fifth juror”; it simply indicates a weak association between the particular juror and the number 5.

A possessive sumti may also have regular relative clauses attached to it. This would need no comment if it were not for the following special rule: a relative clause immediately following the possessor sumti is understood to affect the possessor sumti, not the possessive. For example:

✥7.6  le mi noi sipna vau karce
    cu na klama
The of-me incidentally-which( is-sleeping ) car
    isn't going.

means that my car isn't going; the incidental claim of “noi sipna” applies to me, not my car, however. If I wanted to say that the car is sleeping (whatever that might mean) I would need:

✥7.7  le mi karce poi sipna cu na klama
The of-me car which sleeps isn't going.

Note that ✥7.6 uses “vau” rather than “ku'o” at the end of the relative clause: this terminator ends every simple bridi and is almost always elidable; in this case, though, it is a syllable shorter than the equally valid alternative, “ku'o”.