ELG. Abstractions

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The syntax of abstraction

The purpose of the feature of Lojban known as “abstraction” is to provide a means for taking whole bridi and packaging them up, as it were, into simple selbri. Syntactically, abstractions are very simple and uniform; semantically, they are rich and complex, with few features in common between one variety of abstraction and another. We will begin by discussing syntax without regard to semantics; as a result, the notion of abstraction may seem unmotivated at first. Bear with this difficulty until Section 1.1.

An abstraction selbri is formed by taking a full bridi and preceding it by any cmavo of selma'o NU. There are twelve such cmavo; they are known as “abstractors”. The bridi is closed by the elidable terminator kei, of selma'o KEI. Thus, to change the bridi

Example 1.1:

mi klama le zarci
I go-to the store

into an abstraction using nu, one of the members of selma'o NU, we change it into

Example 1.2:

nu mi klama le zarci [kei]
an-event-of my going-to the store

The bridi may be a simple selbri, or it may have associated sumti, as here. It is important to beware of eliding kei improperly, as many of the common uses of abstraction selbri involve following them with words that would appear to be part of the abstraction if kei had been elided.

(Technically, kei is never necessary, because the elidable terminator vau that closes every bridi can substitute for it; however, kei is specific to abstractions, and using it is almost always clearer.)

The grammatical uses of an abstraction selbri are exactly the same as those of a simple brivla. In particular, abstraction selbri may be used as observatives, as in Example 1.2, or used in tanru:

Example 1.3:

la djan. cu nu sonci kei djica
John is-an-(event-of being-a-soldier) type-of desirer.
John wants to be a soldier.

Abstraction selbri may also be used in descriptions, preceded by le (or any other member of selma'o LE):

Example 1.4:

la djan. cu djica le nu sonci [kei]
John desires the event-of being-a-soldier.

We will most often use descriptions containing abstraction either at the end of a bridi, or just before the main selbri with its cu; in either of these circumstances, kei can normally be elided.

The place structure of an abstraction selbri depends on the particular abstractor, and will be explained individually in the following sections.

Note: In glosses of bridi within abstractions, the grammatical form used in the English changes. Thus, in the gloss of Example 1.2 we see “my going-to the store” rather than “I go-to the store”; likewise, in the glosses of Example 1.3 and Example 1.4 we see “being-a-soldier” rather than “is-a-soldier”. This procedure reflects the desire for more understandable glosses, and does not indicate any change in the Lojban form. A bridi is a bridi, and undergoes no change when it is used as part of an abstraction selbri.

Event abstraction

The following cmavo is discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning nu NU event abstractor </tab>

The examples in Section made use of nu as the abstractor, and it is certainly the most common abstractor in Lojban text. Its purpose is to capture the event or state of the bridi considered as a whole. Do not confuse the le description built on a nu abstraction with ordinary descriptions based on le alone. The following sumti are quite distinct:

Example 1.5:

le klama
the comer, that which comes
Example 1.6:

le se klama
the destination
Example 1.7:

le te klama
the origin
Example 1.8:

le ve klama
the route
Example 1.9:

le xe klama
the means of transportation
Example 1.10:

le nu klama
the event of someone coming to somewhere from somewhere by some route using some means

Example 1.5 through Example 1.9 are descriptions that isolate the five individual sumti places of the selbri klama. Example 1.10 describes something associated with the bridi as a whole: the event of it.

In Lojban, the term “event” is divorced from its ordinary English sense of something that happens over a short period of time. The description:

Example 1.11:

le nu mi vasxu
the event-of my breathing

is an event which lasts for the whole of my life (under normal circumstances). On the other hand,

Example 1.12:

le nu la djan. cinba la djein.
the event-of John kissing Jane

is relatively brief by comparison (again, under normal circumstances).

We can see from Example 1.10 through Example 1.12 that ellipsis of sumti is valid in the bridi of abstraction selbri, just as in the main bridi of a sentence. Any sumti may be ellipsized if the listener will be able to figure out from context what the proper value of it is, or else to recognize that the proper value is unimportant. It is extremely common for nu abstractions in descriptions to have the x1 place ellipsized:

Example 1.13:

mi nelci le nu limna
I like the event-of swimming.
I like swimming.

is elliptical, and most probably means:

Example 1.14:

mi nelci le nu mi limna
I like the event-of I swim.

In the proper context, of course, Example 1.13 could refer to the event of somebody else swimming. Its English equivalent, “I like swimming”, can't be interpreted as “I like Frank's swimming”; this is a fundamental distinction between English and Lojban. In Lojban, an omitted sumti can mean whatever the context indicates that it should mean.

Note that the lack of an explicit NU cmavo in a sumti can sometimes hide an implicit abstraction. In the context of Example 1.14, the appearance of

le se nelci ( “that which is liked”) is in effect an abstraction:
Example 1.15:

le se nelci cu cafne
The liked-thing is-frequent.
The thing which I like happens often.

which in this context means

My swimming happens often.

Event descriptions with

le nu are commonly used to fill the “under conditions...” places, among others, of gismu and lujvo place structures:
Example 1.16:

la lojban. cu frili mi le nu mi tadni [kei]
Lojban is-easy for-me under-conditions-the event-of I study
Lojban is easy for me when I study.

(The “when” of the English would also be appropriate for a construction involving a Lojban tense, but the Lojban sentence says more than that the studying is concurrent with the ease.)

The place structure of a nu abstraction selbri is simply:

x1 is an event of (the bridi)

Types of event abstractions

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning mu'e NU point-event abstractor pu'u NU process abstractor zu'o NU activity abstractor za'i NU state abstractor </tab>

Event abstractions with nu suffice to express all kinds of events, whether long, short, unique, repetitive, or whatever. Lojban also has more finely discriminating machinery for talking about events, however. There are four other abstractors of selma'o NU for talking about four specific types of events, or four ways of looking at the same event.

An event considered as a point in time is called a “point-event”, or sometimes an “achievement”. (This latter word should be divorced, in this context, from all connotations of success or triumph.) A point-event can be extended in duration, but it is still a point-event if it is thought of as unitary, having no internal structure. The abstractor mu'e means “point-event-of”:

Example 1.17:

le mu'e la djan. catra la djim. cu zekri
The point-event-of (John kills Jim) is-a-crime.
John's killing Jim (considered as a point in time) is a crime.

An event considered as extended in time, and structured with a beginning, a middle containing one or more stages, and an end, is called a “process”. The abstractor pu'u means “process-of”:

Example 1.18:

ca'o le pu'u le latmo balje'a cu porpi kei so'i je'atru cu selcatra
[continuitive] the process-of( the Latin great-state breaking-up ) many state-rulers were-killed
During the fall of the Roman Empire, many Emperors were killed.

An event considered as extended in time and cyclic or repetitive is called an “activity”. The abstractor zu'o means “activity-of”:

Example 1.19:

mi tatpi ri'a le zu'o mi plipe
I am-tired because-of the activity-of (I jump).
I am tired because I jump.

An event considered as something that is either happening or not happening, with sharp boundaries, is called a “state”. The abstractor za'i means “state-of”:

Example 1.20:

le za'i mi jmive cu ckape do
The state-of (I am-alive) is-dangerous-to you.
My being alive is dangerous to you.

The abstractors in Example 1.17 through Example 1.20 could all have been replaced by nu, with some loss of precision. Note that Lojban allows every sort of event to be viewed in any of these four ways:

  • the “state of running” begins when the runner starts and ends when the runner stops;
  • the “activity of running” consists of the cycle “lift leg, step forward, drop leg, lift other leg...” (each such cycle is a process, but the activity consists in the repetition of the cycle);
  • the “process of running” puts emphasis on the initial sprint, the steady speed, and the final slowdown;
  • the “achievement of running” is most alien to English, but sees the event of running as a single indivisible thing, like “Pheidippides' run from Marathon to Athens” (the original marathon).

Further information on types of events can be found in Section 1.11.

The four event type abstractors have the following place structures:

mu'e :x1 is a point event of (the bridi) pu'u: x1 is a process of (the bridi) with stages x2 za'i: x1 is a continuous state of (the bridi) being true zu'o: x1 is an activity of (the bridi) consisting of repeated actions x2

Property abstractions

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning ka NU property abstractor ce'u KOhA abstraction focus </tab> The things described by

le nu descriptions (or, to put it another way, the things of which nu selbri may correctly be predicated) are only moderately “abstract”. They are still closely tied to happenings in space and time. Properties, however, are much more ethereal. What is “the property of being blue”, or “the property of being a go-er”? They are what logicians call “intensions”. If John has a heart, then “the property of having a heart” is an abstract object which, when applied to John, is true. In fact,
Example 1.21:

la djan. cu se risna zo'e
John has-as-heart something-unspecified.
John has a heart.

has the same truth conditions as

Example 1.22:

la djan. cu ckaji le ka se risna [zo'e] [kei]
John has-the-property the property-of having-as-heart something.
John has the property of having a heart.

(The English word “have” frequently appears in any discussion of Lojban properties: things are said to “have” properties, but this is not the same sense of “have” as in “I have money”, which is possession.)

Property descriptions, like event descriptions, are often wanted to fill places in brivla place structures:

Example 1.23:

do cnino mi le ka xunre [kei]
You are-new to-me in-the-quality-of-the property-of being-red.
You are new to me in redness.

(The English suffix “-ness” often signals a property abstraction, as does the suffix “-ity”.)

We can also move the property description to the x1 place of Example 1.23, producing:

Example 1.24:

le ka do xunre [kei] cu cnino mi
The property-of your being-red is-new to me.
Your redness is new to me.

It would be suitable to use Example 1.23 and Example 1.24 to someone who has returned from the beach with a sunburn.

There are several different properties that can be extracted from a bridi, depending on which place of the bridi is “understood” as being specified externally. Thus:

Example 1.25:

ka mi prami [zo'e] [kei]
a-property-of me loving something-unspecified

is quite different from

Example 1.26:

ka [zo'e] prami mi [kei]
a-property-of something-unspecified loving me

In particular, sentences like Example 1.27 and Example 1.28 are quite different in meaning:

Example 1.27:

la djan. cu zmadu la djordj. le ka mi prami
John exceeds George in-the property-of (I love X)
I love John more than I love George.
Example 1.28:

la djan. cu zmadu la djordj. le ka prami mi
John exceeds George in the property of (X loves me).
John loves me more than George loves me.

The “X” used in the glosses of Example 1.27 through Example 1.28 as a place-holder cannot be represented only by ellipsis in Lojban, because ellipsis means that there must be a specific value that can fill the ellipsis, as mentioned in Section 1.1. Instead, the cmavo ce'u of selma'o KOhA is employed when an explicit sumti is wanted. (The form “X” will be used in literal translations.)

Therefore, an explicit equivalent of Example 1.27, with no ellipsis, is:

Example 1.29:

la djan. cu zmadu la djordj. le ka mi prami ce'u
John exceeds George in-the property-of (I love X).

and of Example 1.28 is:

Example 1.30:

la djan. cu zmadu la djordj. le ka ce'u prami mi
John exceeds George in-the property-of (X loves me).

This convention allows disambiguation of cases like:

Example 1.31:

le ka [zo'e] dunda le xirma [zo'e] [kei]
the property-of giving the horse


Example 1.32:

le ka ce'u dunda le xirma [zo'e] [kei]
the property-of (X is-a-giver of-the horse to someone-unspecified)
the property of being a giver of the horse

which is the most natural interpretation of Example 1.31, versus

Example 1.33:

le ka [zo'e] dunda le xirma ce'u [kei]
the property-of (someone-unspecified is-a-giver of-the horse to X)
the property of being one to whom the horse is given

which is also a possible interpretation.

It is also possible to have more than one ce'u in a ka abstraction, which transforms it from a property abstraction into a relationship abstraction. Relationship abstractions “package up” a complex relationship for future use; such an abstraction can be translated back into a selbri by placing it in the x2 place of the selbri bridi, whose place structure is: bridi :x1 is a predicate relationship with relation x2 (abstraction) among arguments (sequence/set) x3

The place structure of ka abstraction selbri is simply: ka :x1 is a property of (the bridi)

Amount abstractions

The following cmavo is discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning ni NU amount abstraction </tab>

Amount abstractions are far more limited than event or property abstractions. They really make sense only if the selbri of the abstracted bridi is subject to measurement of some sort. Thus we can speak of:

Example 1.34:

le ni le pixra cu blanu [kei]
the amount-of (the picture being-blue)
the amount of blueness in the picture

because “blueness” could be measured with a colorimeter or a similar device. However,

Example 1.35:

le ni la djein. cu mamta [kei]
the amount-of (Jane being-a-mother)
the amount of Jane's mother-ness (?)
the amount of mother-ness in Jane (?)

makes very little sense in either Lojban or English. We simply do not have any sort of measurement scale for being a mother.

Semantically, a sumti with

le ni is a number; however, it cannot be treated grammatically as a quantifier in Lojban unless prefixed by the mathematical cmavo mo'e:
Example 1.36:

li pa vu'u mo'e le ni le pixra cu blanu [kei]
the-number 1 minus the-operand the amount-of (the picture being-blue)
1 - B, where B = blueness of the picture

Mathematical Lojban is beyond the scope of this chapter, and is explained more fully in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.

There are contexts where either property or amount abstractions make sense, and in such constructions, amount abstractions can make use of ce'u just like property abstractors. Thus,

Example 1.37:

le pixra cu cenba le ka ce'u blanu [kei]
The picture varies in-the property-of (X is blue).
The picture varies in being blue.
The picture varies in blueness.

is not the same as

Example 1.38:

le pixra cu cenba le ni ce'u blanu [kei]
The picture varies in-the amount-of (X is blue).
The picture varies in how blue it is.
The picture varies in blueness.

Example 1.37 conveys that the blueness comes and goes, whereas Example 1.38 conveys that its quantity changes over time.

Whenever we talk of measurement of an amount, there is some sort of scale, and so the place structure of ni abstraction selbri is: ni :x1 is the amount of (the bridi) on scale x2

Note: the best way to express the x2 places of abstract sumti is to use something like le ni ... kei be. See Example 1.62 for the use of this construction.

Truth-value abstraction: jei

The “blueness of the picture” discussed in Section 1.4 refers to the measurable amount of blue pigment (or other source of blueness), not to the degree of truth of the claim that blueness is present. That abstraction is expressed in Lojban using jei, which is closely related semantically to ni. In the simplest cases,

le jei produces not a number but a truth value:
Example 1.39:

le jei li re su'i re du li vo [kei]
the truth-value-of the-number 2 + 2 = the-number 4
the truth of 2 + 2 being 4

is equivalent to “truth”, and

Example 1.40:

le jei li re su'i re du li mu [kei]
the truth-value-of the-number 2 + 2 = the-number 5
the truth of 2 + 2 being 5

is equivalent to “falsehood”.

However, not everything in life (or even in Lojban) is simply true or false. There are shades of gray even in truth value, and jei is Lojban's mechanism for indicating the shade of grey intended:

Example 1.41:

mi ba jdice le jei la djordj. cu zekri gasnu [kei]
I [future] decide the truth-value of (George being-a-(crime doer)).
I will decide whether George is a criminal.

Example 1.41 does not imply that George is, or is not, definitely a criminal. Depending on the legal system I am using, I may make some intermediate decision. As a result, jei requires an x2 place analogous to that of ni: jei :x1 is the truth value of (the bridi) under epistemology x2

Abstractions using jei are the mechanism for fuzzy logic in Lojban; the jei abstraction refers to a number between 0 and 1 inclusive (as distinct from ni abstractions, which are often on open-ended scales). The detailed conventions for using jei in fuzzy-logic contexts have not yet been established.

Predication/sentence abstraction

The following cmavo is discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning du'u NU predication abstraction </tab>

There are some selbri which demand an entire predication as a sumti; they make claims about some predication considered as a whole. Logicians call these the “propositional attitudes”, and they include (in English) things like knowing, believing, learning, seeing, hearing, and the like. Consider the English sentence:

Example 1.42:

I know that Frank is a fool.

How's that in Lojban? Let us try:

Example 1.43:

mi djuno le nu la frank. cu bebna [kei]
I know the event of Frank being a fool.

Not quite right. Events are actually or potentially physical, and can't be contained inside one's mind, except for events of thinking, feeling, and the like; Example 1.43 comes close to claiming that Frank's being-a-fool is purely a mental activity on the part of the speaker. (In fact, Example 1.43 is an instance of improperly marked “sumti raising”, a concept discussed further in Section 1.9).

Try again:

Example 1.44:

mi djuno le jei la frank. cu bebna [kei]
I know the truth-value of Frank being a fool.

Closer. Example 1.44 says that I know whether or not Frank is a fool, but doesn't say that he is one, as Example 1.42 does. To catch that nuance, we must say:

Example 1.45:

mi djuno le du'u la frank. cu bebna [kei]
I know the predication that Frank is a fool.

Now we have it. Note that the implied assertion “Frank is a fool” is not a property of le du'u abstraction, but of djuno; we can only know what is in fact true. (As a result, djuno like jei has a place for epistemology, which specifies how we know.) Example 1.46 has no such implied assertion:

Example 1.46:

mi kucli le du'u la frank. cu bebna [kei]
I am curious about whether Frank is a fool.

and here du'u could probably be replaced by jei without much change in meaning:

Example 1.47:

mi kucli le jei la frank. cu bebna [kei]
I am curious about how true it is that Frank is a fool.

As a matter of convenience rather than logical necessity, du'u has been given an x2 place, which is a sentence (piece of language) expressing the bridi: du'u :x1 is the predication (the bridi), expressed in sentence x2


le se du'u ... is very useful in filling places of selbri which refer to speaking, writing, or other linguistic behavior regarding bridi:
Example 1.48:

la djan. cusku le se du'u la djordj. klama le zarci [kei]
John expresses the sentence-expressing-that George goes-to the store
John says that George goes to the store.

Example 1.48 differs from

Example 1.49:

la djan cusku lu la djordj. klama le zarci li'u
John expresses, quote, George goes to the store, unquote.
John says “George goes to the store”.

because Example 1.49 claims that John actually said the quoted words, whereas Example 1.48 claims only that he said some words or other which were to the same purpose.

le se du'u is much the same as
lu'e le du'u, a symbol for the predication, but
se du'u can be used as a selbri, whereas lu'e is ungrammatical in a selbri. (See Section for a discussion of lu'e.)

Indirect questions

The following cmavo is discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning kau UI indirect question marker </tab>

There is an alternative type of sentence involving du'u and a selbri expressing a propositional attitude. In addition to sentences like

Example 1.50:

I know that John went to the store.

we can also say things like

Example 1.51:

I know who went to the store.

This form is called an “indirect question” in English because the embedded English sentence is a question: “Who went to the store?” A person who says Example 1.51 is claiming to know the answer to this question. Indirect questions can occur with many other English verbs as well: I can wonder, or doubt, or see, or hear, as well as know who went to the store.

To express indirect questions in Lojban, we use a le du'u abstraction, but rather than using a question word like “who” ( ma in Lojban), we use any word that will fit grammatically and mark it with the suffix particle kau. This cmavo belongs to selma'o UI, so grammatically it can appear anywhere. The simplest Lojban translation of Example 1.51 is therefore:

Example 1.52:

mi djuno le du'u makau pu klama le zarci
I know the predication-of X [indirect question] [past] going to the store.

In Example 1.52, we have chosen to use ma as the word marked by kau. In fact, any other sumti would have done as well: zo'e or da or even

la djan.. Using
la djan. would suggest that it was John who I knew had gone to the store, however:
Example 1.53:

mi djuno le du'u la djan. kau pu klama le zarci
I know the predication-of/fact-that John [indirect question] [past] going to the store.
I know who went to the store, namely John.
I know that it was John who went to the store.

Using one of the indefinite pro-sumti such as ma, zo'e, or da does not suggest any particular value.

Why does Lojban require the kau marker, rather than using ma as English and Chinese and many other languages do? Because ma always signals a direct question, and so

Example 1.54:

mi djuno le du'u ma pu klama le zarci
I know the predication-of [what sumti?] [past] goes-to the store


Example 1.55:

Who is it that I know goes to the store?

It is actually not necessary to use

le du'u and kau at all if the indirect question involves a sumti; there is generally a paraphrase of the type:
Example 1.56:

mi djuno fi le pu klama be le zarci
I know about the [past] goer to-the store.
I know something about the one who went to the store (namely, his identity).

because the x3 place of djuno is the subject of knowledge, as opposed to the fact that is known. But when the questioned point is not a sumti, but (say) a logical connection, then there is no good alternative to kau:

Example 1.57:

mi ba zgana le du'u la djan. jikau la djordj. cu zvati le panka
I [future] observe the predication-of/fact-that John [connective indirect question] George is-at the park.
I will see whether John or George (or both) is at the park.

In addition, Example 1.56 is only a loose paraphrase of Example 1.52, because it is left to the listener's insight to realize that what is known about the goer-to-the-store is his identity rather than some other of his attributes.

Minor abstraction types

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning li'i NU experience abstractor si'o NU concept abstractor su'u NU general abstractor </tab>

There are three more abstractors in Lojban, all of them little used so far. The abstractor li'i expresses experience:

Example 1.58:

mi morji le li'i mi verba
I remember the experience-of (my being-a-child)

The abstractor si'o expresses a mental image, a concept, an idea:

Example 1.59:

mi nelci le si'o la lojban. cu mulno
I enjoy the concept-of Lojban being-complete.

Finally, the abstractor su'u is a vague abstractor, whose meaning must be grasped from context:

Example 1.60:

ko zgana le su'u le ci smacu cu bajra
you [imperative] observe the abstract-nature-of the three mice running
See how the three mice run!

All three of these abstractors have an x2 place. An experience requires an experiencer, so the place structure of li'i is: li'i :x1 is the experience of (the bridi) as experienced by x2

Similarly, an idea requires a mind to hold it, so the place structure of si'o is: si'o :x1 is the idea/concept of (the bridi) in the mind of x2

Finally, there needs to be some way of specifying just what sort of abstraction su'u is representing, so its place structure is: su'u :x1 is an abstract nature of (the bridi) of type x2

The x2 place of su'u allows it to serve as a substitute for any of the other abstractors, or as a template for creating new ones. For example,

Example 1.61:

le nu mi klama
the event-of my going

can be paraphrased as

Example 1.62:

le su'u mi klama kei be lo fasnu
the abstract-nature-of (my going) of-type an event

and there is a book whose title might be rendered in Lojban as:

Example 1.63:

le su'u la .iecuas. kuctai selcatra kei be lo sa'ordzifa'a ke nalmatma'e sutyterjvi
the abstract-nature-of (Jesus is-an-intersect-shape type-of-killed-one) of-type a slope-low-direction type-of non-motor-vehicle speed-competition
The Crucifixion of Jesus Considered As A Downhill Bicycle Race

Note the importance of using kei after su'u when the x2 of su'u (or any other abstractor) is being specified; otherwise, the be lo ends up inside the abstraction bridi.

Lojban sumti raising

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning tu'a LAhE an abstraction involving jai JAI abstraction conversion </tab>

It is sometimes inconvenient, in a situation where an abstract description is logically required, to express the abstraction. In English we can say:

Example 1.64:

I try to open the door.

which in Lojban is:

Example 1.65:

mi troci le nu [mi] gasnu le nu le vorme cu karbi'o
I try the event-of (I am-agent-in the event-of (the door open-becomes)).

which has an abstract description within an abstract description, quite a complex structure. In English (but not in all other languages), we may also say:

Example 1.66:

I try the door.

where it is understood that what I try is actually not the door itself, but the act of opening it. The same simplification can be done in Lojban, but it must be marked explicitly using a cmavo. The relevant cmavo is tu'a, which belongs to selma'o LAhE. The Lojban equivalent of Example 1.66 is:

Example 1.67:

mi troci tu'a le vorme
I try some-action-to-do-with the door.

The term “sumti-raising”, as in the title of this section, signifies that a sumti which logically belongs within an abstraction (or even within an abstraction which is itself inside an intermediate abstraction) is “raised” to the main bridi level. This transformation from Example 1.65 to Example 1.67 loses information: nothing except convention tells us what the abstraction was.

Using tu'a is a kind of laziness: it makes speaking easier at the possible expense of clarity for the listener. The speaker must be prepared for the listener to respond something like:

Example 1.68:

tu'a le vorme lu'u ki'a
something-to-do-with the door [terminator] [confusion!]

which indicates that

tu'a le vorme cannot be understood. (The terminator for tu'a is lu'u, and is used in Example 1.68 to make clear just what is being questioned: the sumti-raising, rather than the word vorme as such.) An example of a confusing raised sumti might be:
Example 1.69:

tu'a la djan. cu cafne
something-to-do-with John frequently-occurs

This must mean that something which John does, or which happens to John, occurs frequently: but without more context there is no way to figure out what. Note that without the tu'a, Example 1.69 would mean that John considered as an event frequently occurs – in other words, that John has some sort of on-and-off existence! Normally we do not think of people as events in English, but the x1 place of cafne is an event, and if something that does not seem to be an event is put there, the Lojbanic listener will attempt to construe it as one. (Of course, this analysis assumes that djan. is the name of a person, and not the name of some event.)

Logically, a counterpart of some sort is needed to tu'a which transposes an abstract sumti into a concrete one. This is achieved at the selbri level by the cmavo jai (of selma'o JAI). This cmavo has more than one function, discussed in Section and Section ; for the purposes of this chapter, it operates as a conversion of selbri, similarly to the cmavo of selma'o SE. This conversion changes

Example 1.70:

tu'a mi rinka le nu do morsi
something-to-do-with me causes the event-of you are-dead
My action causes your death.


Example 1.71:

mi jai rinka le nu do morsi
I am-associated-with causing the event-of your death.
I cause your death.

In English, the subject of “cause” can either be the actual cause (an event), or else the agent of the cause (a person, typically); not so in Lojban, where the x1 of rinka is always an event. Example 1.70 and Example 1.71 look equally convenient (or inconvenient), but in making descriptions, Example 1.71 can be altered to:

Example 1.72:

le jai rinka be le nu do morsi
that-which-is associated-with causing (the event-of your death)
the one who caused your death

because jai modifies the selbri and can be incorporated into the description – not so for tu'a.

The weakness of jai used in descriptions in this way is that it does not specify which argument of the implicit abstraction is being raised into the x1 place of the description selbri. One can be more specific by using the modal form of jai explained in Section :

Example 1.73:

le jai gau rinka be le nu do morsi
that-which-is agent-in causing (the event-of your death)

Event-type abstractors and event contour tenses

This section is a logical continuation of Section 1.2.

There exists a relationship between the four types of events explained in Section 1.2 and the event contour tense cmavo of selma'o ZAhO. The specific cmavo of NU and of ZAhO are mutually interdefining; the ZAhO contours were chosen to fit the needs of the NU event types and vice versa. Event contours are explained in full in Section , and only summarized here.

The purpose of ZAhO cmavo is to represent the natural portions of an event, such as the beginning, the middle, and the end. They fall into several groups:

  • The cmavo pu'o, ca'o, and ba'o represent spans of time: before an event begins, while it is going on, and after it is over, respectively.
  • The cmavo co'a, de'a, di'a, and co'u represent points of time: the start of an event, the temporary stopping of an event, the resumption of an event after a stop, and the end of an event, respectively. Not all events can have breaks in them, in which case de'a and di'a do not apply.
  • The cmavo mo'u and za'o correspond to co'u and ba'o respectively, in the case of those events which have a natural ending point that may not be the same as the actual ending point: mo'u refers to the natural ending point, and za'o to the time between the natural ending point and the actual ending point (the “excessive” or “superfective” part of the event).
  • The cmavo co'i represents an entire event considered as a point-event or achievement.

All these cmavo are applicable to events seen as processes and abstracted with pu'u. Only processes have enough internal structure to make all these points and spans of time meaningful.

For events seen as states and abstracted with za'i, the meaningful event contours are the spans pu'o, ca'o, and ba'o; the starting and ending points co'a and co'u, and the achievement contour co'i. States do not have natural endings distinct from their actual endings. (It is an open question whether states can be stopped and resumed.)

For events seen as activities and abstracted with zu'o, the meaningful event contours are the spans pu'o, ca'o, and ba'o, and the achievement contour co'i. Because activities are inherently cyclic and repetitive, the beginning and ending points are not well-defined: you do not know whether an activity has truly begun until it begins to repeat.

For events seen as point-events and abstracted with mu'e, the meaningful event contours are the spans pu'o and ba'o but not ca'o (a point-event has no duration), and the achievement contour co'i.

Note that the parts of events are themselves events, and may be treated as such. The points in time may be seen as mu'e point-events; the spans of time may constitute processes or activities. Therefore, Lojban allows us to refer to processes within processes, activities within states, and many other complicated abstract things.

Abstractor connection

An abstractor may be replaced by two or more abstractors joined by logical or non-logical connectives. Connectives are explained in detail in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. The connection can be expanded to one between two bridi which differ only in abstraction marker. Example 1.74 and Example 1.75 are equivalent in meaning:

Example 1.74:

le ka la frank. ciska cu xlali .ije le ni la frank. ciska cu xlali
The quality-of Frank's writing is bad, and the quantity of Frank's writing is bad.
Example 1.75:

le ka je ni la frank. ciska cu xlali
The quality and quantity of Frank's writing is bad.

This feature of Lojban has hardly ever been used, and nobody knows what uses it may eventually have.

Table of abstractors

The following table gives each abstractor, an English gloss for it, a Lojban gismu which is connected with it (more or less remotely: the associations between abstractors and gismu are meant more as memory hooks than for any kind of inference), the rafsi associated with it, and (on the following line) its place structure.</para> <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning nu event of fasnu nun

x1 is an event of (the bridi)

ka property of ckaji kam

x1 is a property of (the bridi)

ni amount of klani nil

x1 is an amount of (the bridi) measured on scale x2

jei truth-value of jetnu jez

x1 is a truth-value of (the bridi) under epistemology x2

li'i experience of lifri liz

x1 is an experience of (the bridi) to experiencer x2

si'o idea of sidbo siz

x1 is an idea/concept of (the bridi) in the mind of x2

du'u predication of ----- dum

x1 is the bridi (the bridi) expressed by sentence x2

su'u abstraction of sucta sus

x1 is an abstract nature of (the bridi)

za'i state of zasti zam

x1 is a state of (the bridi)

zu'o activity of zukte zum

x1 is an activity of (the bridi)

pu'u process of pruce pup

x1 is a process of (the bridi)

mu'e point-event of mulno mub

x1 is a point-event/achievement of (the bridi)