ELG. Pronouns

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Anaphora. Pronouns and reference verbs

What are pro-sumti and pro-bridi? What are they for?

Speakers of Lojban, like speakers of other languages, require mechanisms of abbreviation. If every time we referred to something, we had to express a complete description of it, life would be too short to say what we have to say. In English, we have words called “pronouns” which allow us to replace nouns or noun phrases with shorter terms. An English with no pronouns might look something like this:

Speakers of Lojban, like speakers of other languages, require mechanisms of abbreviation. If every time speakers of Lojban referred to a thing to which speakers of Lojban refer, speakers of Lojban had to express a complete description of what speakers of Lojban referred to, life would be too short to say what speakers of Lojban have to say.

Speakers of this kind of English would get mightily sick of talking. Furthermore, there are uses of pronouns in English which are independent of abbreviation. There is all the difference in the world between:

John picked up a stick and shook it.


John picked up a stick and shook a stick.Example does not imply that the two sticks are necessarily the same, whereas Example requires that they are.

In Lojban, we have sumti rather than nouns, so our equivalent of pronouns are called by the hybrid term “pro-sumti”. A purely Lojban term would be

sumti cmavo: all of the pro-sumti are cmavo belonging to selma'o KOhA. In exactly the same way, Lojban has a group of cmavo (belonging to selma'o GOhA) which serve as selbri or full bridi. These may be called “pro-bridi” or
bridi cmavo. This chapter explains the uses of all the members of selma'o KOhA and GOhA. They fall into a number of groups, known as series: thus, in selma'o KOhA, we have among others the mi-series, the ko'a-series, the da-series, and so on. In each section, a series of pro-sumti is explained, and if there is a corresponding series of pro-bridi, it is explained and contrasted. Many pro-sumti series don't have pro-bridi analogues, however.

A few technical terms: The term “referent” means the thing to which a pro-sumti (by extension, a pro-bridi) refers. If the speaker of a sentence is James, then the referent of the word “I” is James. On the other hand, the term “antecedent” refers to a piece of language which a pro-sumti (or pro-bridi) implicitly repeats. In

John loves himself

the antecedent of “himself” is “John”; not the person, but a piece of text (a name, in this case). John, the person, would be the referent of “himself”. Not all pro-sumti or pro-bridi have antecedents, but all of them have referents.

Personal pro-sumti: the mi-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning mi KOhA mi-series I, me do KOhA mi-series you mi'o KOhA mi-series you and I mi'a KOhA mi-series I and others, we but not you ma'a KOhA mi-series you and I and others do'o KOhA mi-series you and others ko KOhA mi-series you-imperative </tab>

The mi-series of pro-sumti refer to the speaker, the listener, and others in various combinations. mi refers to the speaker and perhaps others for whom the speaker speaks; it may be a Lojbanic mass. do refers to the listener or listeners. Neither mi nor do is specific about the number of persons referred to; for example, the foreman of a jury may refer to the members of the jury as mi, since in speaking officially he represents all of them.

The referents of mi and do are usually obvious from the context, but may be assigned by the vocative words of selma'o COI, explained in Section . The vocative mi'e assigns mi, whereas all of the other vocatives assign do.

mi'e djan. doi frank. mi cusku lu mi bajra li'u do
I-am John, O Frank, I express [quote] I run [unquote] to-you
I am John, Frank; I tell you “I run”.

The cmavo mi'o, mi'a, ma'a, and do'o express various combinations of the speaker and/or the listener and/or other people:

  • mi'o includes only the speaker and the listener but no one else;
  • mi'a includes the speaker and others but excludes the listener;
  • do'o includes the listener and others but excludes the speaker;
  • ma'a includes all three: speaker, listener, others.

All of these pro-sumti represent masses. For example, mi'o is the same as

mi joi do, the mass of me and you considered jointly.
  In English, “we” can mean mi or mi'o or mi'a or even 

ma'a, and English-speakers often suffer because they cannot easily distinguish mi'o from mi'a:

We're going to the store.

Does this include the listener or not? There's no way to be sure.

Finally, the cmavo ko is logically equivalent to do; its referent is the listener. However, its use alters an assertion about the listener into a command to the listener to make the assertion true:

do klama le zarci
You go to-the store.


ko klama le zarci
You [imperative] go to-the store.
Make “you go to the store” true!
Go to the store!

In English, the subject of a command is omitted, but in Lojban, the word ko must be used. However, ko does not have to appear in the x1 place:

mi viska ko
I see you [imperative]

Make “I see you” true!

Be seen by me!

In Example , it is necessary to make the verb passive in English in order to convey the effect of ko in the x2 place. Indeed, ko does not even have to be a sumti of the main bridi:

mi viska le prenu poi prami ko
I see the person that loves you [imperative]

Make “I see the person that loves you” true!

Be such that the person who loves you is seen by me!
Show me the person who loves you!

As mentioned in Section , some pro-sumti series have corresponding pro-bridi series. However, there is no equivalent of the mi-series among pro-bridi, since a person isn't a relationship.

Demonstrative pro-sumti: the ti-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning ti KOhA ti-series this here, a nearby object ta KOhA ti-series that there, a medium-distant object tu KOhA ti-series that yonder, a far-distant object </tab>

It is often useful to refer to things by pointing to them or by some related non-linguistic mechanism. In English, the words “this” and “that” serve this function among others: “this” refers to something pointed at that is near the speaker, and “that” refers to something further away. The Lojban pro-sumti of the ti-series serve the same functions, but more narrowly. The cmavo ti, ta, and tu provide only the pointing function of “this” and “that”; they are not used to refer to things that cannot be pointed at.

There are three pro-sumti of the ti-series rather than just two because it is often useful to distinguish between objects that are at more than two different distances. Japanese, among other languages, regularly does this. Until the 16th century, English did too; the pronoun “that” referred to something at a medium distance from the speaker, and the now-archaic pronoun “yon” to something far away.

In conversation, there is a special rule about ta and tu that is often helpful in interpreting them. When used contrastingly, ta refers to something that is near the listener, whereas tu refers to something far from both speaker and listener. This makes for a parallelism between ti and mi, and ta and do, that is convenient when pointing is not possible; for example, when talking by telephone. In written text, on the other hand, the meaning of the ti-series is inherently vague; is the writer to be taken as pointing to something, and if so, to what? In all cases, what counts as “near” and “far away” is relative to the current situation.

It is important to distinguish between the English pronoun “this” and the English adjective “this” as in “this boat”. The latter is not represented in Lojban by ti:

le ti bloti
the this boat

does not mean “this boat” but rather “this one's boat”, “the boat associated with this thing”, as explained in Section . A correct Lojban translation of Example is

le vi bloti
the here boat
the nearby boat

using a spatial tense before the selbri bloti to express that the boat is near the speaker. (Tenses are explained in full in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.) Another correct translation would be:

ti noi bloti
this-thing which-incidentally is-a-boat

There are no demonstrative pro-bridi to correspond to the ti-series: you can't point to a relationship.

Utterance pro-sumti: the di'u-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning di'u KOhA di'u-series the previous utterance de'u KOhA di'u-series an earlier utterance da'u KOhA di'u-series a much earlier utterance di'e KOhA di'u-series the next utterance de'e KOhA di'u-series a later utterance da'e KOhA di'u-series a much later utterance dei KOhA di'u-series this very utterance do'i KOhA di'u-series some utterance </tab>

The cmavo of the di'u-series enable us to talk about things that have been, are being, or will be said. In English, it is normal to use “this” and “that” for this (indeed, the immediately preceding “this” is an example of such a usage):

You don't like cats.

That is untrue.

Here “that” does not refer to something that can be pointed to, but to the preceding sentence “You don't like cats”. In Lojban, therefore, Example is rendered:

do na nelci loi mlatu .i di'u jitfa jufra
You (Not!) like the-mass-of cats. The-previous-utterance is-a-false-sentence.

Using ta instead of di'u would cause the listener to look around to see what the speaker of the second sentence was physically pointing to.

As with ti, ta, and tu, the cmavo of the di'u-series come in threes: a close utterance, a medium-distance utterance, and a distant utterance, either in the past or in the future. It turned out to be impossible to use the i/ a/ u vowel convention of the demonstratives in Section 1.2 without causing collisions with other cmavo, and so the di'u-series has a unique i/ e/ a convention in the first vowel of the cmavo.

Most references in speech are to the past (what has already been said), so di'e, de'e, and da'e are not very useful when speaking. In writing, they are frequently handy:

la saimn. cusku di'e
Simon expresses the-following-utterance.
Simon says:

Example would typically be followed by a quotation. Note that although presumably the quotation is of something Simon has said in the past, the quotation utterance itself would appear after Example , and so di'e is appropriate.

The remaining two cmavo, dei and do'i, refer respectively to the very utterance that the speaker is uttering, and to some vague or unspecified utterance uttered by someone at some time:

dei jetnu jufra
This-utterance is-a-true-sentence.
What I am saying (at this moment) is true.
do'i jetnu jufra
Some-utterance is-a-true-sentence.
That's true (where “that” is not necessarily what was just said).

The cmavo of the di'u-series have a meaning that is relative to the context. The referent of dei in the current utterance is the same as the referent of di'u in the next utterance. The term “utterance” is used rather than “sentence” because the amount of speech or written text referred to by any of these words is vague. Often, a single bridi is intended, but longer utterances may be thus referred to.

Note one very common construction with di'u and the cmavo la'e (of selma'o LAhE; See Section ) which precedes a sumti and means “the thing referred to by (the sumti)”:

mi prami la djein. .i mi nelci la'e di'u
I love Jane. And I like the-referent-of the-last-utterance.
I love Jane, and I like that.

The effect of

la'e di'u in Example is that the speaker likes, not the previous sentence, but rather the state of affairs referred to by the previous sentence, namely his loving Jane. This cmavo compound is often written as a single word: la'edi'u. It is important not to mix up

di'u and la'edi'u, or the wrong meaning will generally result:

mi prami la djein. .i mi nelci di'u
I love Jane. And I like the-last-utterance.

says that the speaker likes one of his own sentences.

There are no pro-bridi corresponding to the di'u-series.

Assignable pro-sumti and pro-bridi: the ko'a-series and the broda-series

The following cmavo and gismu are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning ko'a KOhA KO'a-series it-1 ko'e KOhA KO'a-series it-2 ko'i KOhA KO'a-series it-3 ko'o KOhA KO'a-series it-4 ko'u KOhA KO'a-series it-5 fo'a KOhA KO'a-series it-6 fo'e KOhA KO'a-series it-7 fo'i KOhA KO'a-series it-8 fo'o KOhA KO'a-series it-9 fo'u KOhA KO'a-series it-10 broda BRIVLA broda-series is-thing-1 brode BRIVLA broda-series is-thing-2 brodi BRIVLA broda-series is-thing-3 brodo BRIVLA broda-series is-thing-4 brodu BRIVLA broda-series is-thing-5 goi GOI pro-sumti assignment cei CEI pro-bridi assignment </tab>

The discussion of personal pro-sumti in Section 1.1 may have seemed incomplete. In English, the personal pronouns include not only “I” and “you” but also “he”, “she”, “it”, and “they”. Lojban does have equivalents of this latter group: in fact, it has more of them than English does. However, they are organized and used very differently.

There are ten cmavo in the ko'a-series, and they may be assigned freely to any sumti whatsoever. The English word “he” can refer only to males, “she” only to females (and ships and a few other things), “it” only to inanimate things, and “they” only to plurals; the cmavo of the ko'a-series have no restrictions at all. Therefore, it is almost impossible to guess from the context what ko'a-series cmavo might refer to if they are just used freely:

la .alis. klama le zarci .i ko'a blanu
Alice goes-to the store. It-1 is-blue.

The English gloss “it-1”, plus knowledge about the real world, would tend to make English-speakers believe that ko'a refers to the store; in other words, that its antecedent is

le zarci. To a Lojbanist, however,
la .alis. is just as likely an antecedent, in which case Example means that Alice, not the store, is blue.

To avoid this pitfall, Lojban employs special syntax, using the cmavo goi:

la .alis. klama le zarci .i ko'a goi la .alis. cu blanu
Alice goes-to the store. It-1, also-known-as Alice, is-blue.


goi la .alis. is a relative phrase (relative phrases are explained in Chapter 2). Semantically, it says that ko'a and
la .alis. refer to the same thing, and furthermore that this is true because ko'a is being defined as meaning
la .alis.. It is equally correct to say:
la .alis. klama le zarci .i la .alis. goi ko'a cu blanu
Alice goes-to the store. Alice, also-known-as it-1, is-blue.

in other words, goi is symmetrical. There is a terminator, ge'u (of selma'o GEhU), which is almost always elidable. The details are in Section .

The afterthought form of goi shown in Example and Example is probably most common in speech, where we do not know until part way through our utterance that we will want to refer to Alice again. In writing, though, ko'a may be assigned at the point where Alice is first mentioned. An example of this forethought form of goi is:

la .alis. goi ko'a klama le zarci .i ko'a cu blanu
Alice, also-known-as it-1, goes-to the store. It-1 is-blue.

Again, ko'a goi la .alis. would have been entirely acceptable in Example . This last form is reminiscent of legal jargon: “The party of the first part, hereafter known as Buyer, ...”.

Just as the ko'a-series of pro-sumti allows a substitute for a sumti which is long or complex, or which for some other reason we do not want to repeat, so the broda-series of pro-bridi allows a substitute for a selbri or even a whole bridi:

ti slasi je mlatu bo cidja lante gacri cei broda .i le crino broda cu barda .i le xunre broda cu cmalu
These are plastic cat-food can covers or thingies. The green thingy is large. The red thingy is small.

The pro-bridi broda has as its antecedent the selbri

slasi je mlatu bo cidja lante gacri. The cmavo cei performs the role of

goi in assigning broda to this long phrase, and broda can then be used just like any other brivla. (In fact, broda and its relatives actually are brivla: they are gismu in morphology, although they behave exactly like the members of selma'o GOhA. The reasons for using gismu rather than cmavo are buried in the Loglan Project's history.)

Note that pro-bridi are so called because, even though they have the grammar of selbri, their antecedents are whole bridi. In the following rather contrived example, the antecedent of brode is the whole bridi

mi klama le zarci:
mi klama cei brode le zarci .i do brode
I go-to (which-is claim-1) the store. You claim-1.
I go to the store. You, too.

In the second bridi,

do brode means
do klama le zarci, because brode carries the x2 sumti of
mi klama le zarci along with it. It also potentially carries the x1 sumti as well, but the explicit x1 sumti do overrides the mi of the antecedent bridi. Similarly, any tense or negation that is present in the antecedent is also carried, and can be overridden by explicit tense or negation cmavo on the pro-bridi. These rules hold for all pro-bridi that have antecedents.

Another use of broda and its relatives, without assignment, is as “sample gismu”:

broda ke brode brodi
a thing-1 type of (thing-2 type-of thing-3)

represents an abstract pattern, a certain kind of tanru. (Historically, this use was the original one.)

As is explained in Section , the words for Lojban letters, belonging to selma'o BY and certain related selma'o, are also usable as assignable pro-sumti. The main difference between letter pro-sumti and ko'a-series pro-sumti is that, in the absence of an explicit assignment, letters are taken to refer to the most recent name or description sumti beginning with the same letter:

mi viska le gerku .i gy. cusku zo arf.

I see the dog. D expresses the-word “Arf!”.

The Lojban word gerku begins with g, so the antecedent of gy., the cmavo for the letter g, must be

le gerku. In the English translation, we use the same principle to refer to the dog as “D”. Of course, in case of ambiguity, goi can be used to make an explicit assignment.

Furthermore, goi can even be used to assign a name:

le ninmu goi la sam. cu klama le zarci
The woman also-known-as Sam goes to-the store.
The woman, whom I'll call Sam, goes to the store.

This usage does not imply that the woman's name is Sam, or even that the speaker usually calls the woman “Sam”. “Sam” is simply a name chosen, as if at random, for use in the current context only.

Anaphoric pro-sumti and pro-bridi: the ri-series and the go'i-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning ri KOhA ri-series (repeats last sumti) ra KOhA ri-series (repeats previous sumti) ru KOhA ri-series (repeats long-ago sumti)

go'i GOhA GO'i-series (repeats last bridi) go'a GOhA GO'i-series (repeats previous bridi) go'u GOhA GO'i-series (repeats long-ago bridi) go'e GOhA GO'i-series (repeats last-but-one bridi) go'o GOhA GO'i-series (repeats future bridi) nei GOhA GO'i-series (repeats current bridi) no'a GOhA GO'i-series (repeats outer bridi)

ra'o RAhO pro-cmavo update </tab>

The term “anaphora” literally means “repetition”, but is used in linguistics to refer to pronouns whose significance is the repetition of earlier words, namely their antecedents. Lojban provides three pro-sumti anaphora, ri, ra, and ru; and three corresponding pro-bridi anaphora, go'i, go'a, and go'u. These cmavo reveal the same vowel pattern as the ti-series, but the “distances” referred to are not physical distances, but distances from the anaphoric cmavo to its antecedent.

The cmavo ri is the simplest of these; it has the same referent as the last complete sumti appearing before the ri:

la .alis. sipna le ri kumfa
Alice sleeps-in the of-[repeat last sumti] room.
Alice sleeps in her room.

The ri in Example is equivalent to repeating the last sumti, which is

la .alis., so Example is equivalent to:
la .alis. sipna le la .alis. kumfa
Alice sleeps-in the of-Alice room.
Alice sleeps in Alice's room.

Note that ri does not repeat

le ri kumfa, because that sumti is not yet complete when ri appears. This prevents ri from getting entangled in paradoxes of self-reference. (There are plenty of other ways to do that!) Note also that sumti within other sumti, as in quotations, abstractions, and the like, are counted in the order of their beginnings; thus a lower level sumti like
la alis. in Example is considered to be more recent than a higher level sumti that contains it.

Certain sumti are ignored by ri; specifically, most of the other cmavo of KOhA, and the almost-grammatically-equivalent lerfu words of selma'o BY. It is simpler just to repeat these directly:

mi prami mi
I love me.
I love myself.

However, the cmavo of the ti-series can be picked up by ri, because you might have changed what you are pointing at, so repeating ti may not be effective. Likewise, ri itself (or rather its antecedent) can be repeated by a later ri; in fact, a string of ri cmavo with no other intervening sumti always all repeat the same sumti:

la djan. viska le tricu .i ri se jadni le ri jimca
John sees the tree. [repeat last] is-adorned-by the of-[repeat last] branch.
John sees the tree. It is adorned by its branches.

Here the second ri has as antecedent the first ri, which has as antecedent

le tricu. All three refer to the same thing: a tree.

To refer to the next-to-last sumti, the third-from-last sumti, and so on, ri may be subscripted (subscripts are explained in Section ):

lo smuci .i lo forca .i la rik. pilno rixire .i la .alis. pilno riximu
A spoon. A fork. Rick uses [repeat next-to-last]. Alice uses [repeat fifth-from-last].


rixire, or “ri-sub-2”, skips
la rik. to reach
lo forca. In the same way,
riximu, or “ri-sub-5”, skips
la .alis.,
la rik., and
lo forca to reach
lo smuci. As can clearly be seen, this procedure is barely practicable in writing, and would break down totally in speech.

Therefore, the vaguer ra and ru are also provided. The cmavo ra repeats a recently used sumti, and ru one that was further back in the speech or text. The use of ra and ru forces the listener to guess at the referent, but makes life easier for the speaker. Can ra refer to the last sumti, like ri? The answer is no if ri has also been used. If ri has not been used, then ra might be the last sumti. Likewise, if ra has been used, then any use of ru would repeat a sumti earlier than the one ra is repeating. A more reasonable version of Example Example , but one that depends more on context, is:

lo smuci .i lo forca .i la rik. pilno ra .i la .alis. pilno ru
A spoon. A fork. Rick uses [some previous thing]. Alice uses [some more remote thing].

In Example , the use of ra tells us that something other than

la rik. is the antecedent;
lo forca is the nearest sumti, so it is probably the antecedent. Similarly, the antecedent of ru must be something even further back in the utterance than
lo forca, and
lo smuci is the obvious candidate.

The meaning of ri must be determined every time it is used. Since ra and ru are more vaguely defined, they may well retain the same meaning for a while, but the listener cannot count on this behavior. To make a permanent reference to something repeated by ri, ra, or ru, use goi and a ko'a-series cmavo:

la .alis. klama le zarci .i ri goi ko'a blanu
Alice goes-to the store. It-last-mentioned also-known-as it-1 is-blue.

allows the store to be referred to henceforth as ko'a without ambiguity. Example is equivalent to Example and eliminates any possibility of ko'a being interpreted by the listener as referring to Alice.

The cmavo go'i, go'a, and go'u follow exactly the same rules as ri, ra, and ru, except that they are pro-bridi, and therefore repeat bridi, not sumti – specifically, main sentence bridi. Any bridi that are embedded within other bridi, such as relative clauses or abstractions, are not counted. Like the cmavo of the broda-series, the cmavo of the go'i-series copy all sumti with them. This makes go'i by itself convenient for answering a question affirmatively, or for repeating the last bridi, possibly with new sumti:

xu zo djan. cmene do .i go'i

[True-false?] The-word “John” is-the-name of you? [repeat last bridi].

Is John your name? Yes.
mi klama le zarci .i do go'i
I go-to the store. You [repeat last bridi].
I go to the store. You, too.

Note that Example means the same as Example , but without the bother of assigning an actual broda-series word to the first bridi. For long-term reference, use

go'i cei broda or the like, analogously to
ri goi ko'a in Example .

The remaining four cmavo of the go'i-series are provided for convenience or for achieving special effects. The cmavo go'e means the same as

go'ixire: it repeats the last bridi but one. This is useful in conversation:
A: mi ba klama le zarci B: mi nelci le si'o mi go'i A: do go'e
A: I [future] go-to the store. B: I like the concept-of I [repeat last bridi]. A: You [repeat last bridi but one].
A: I am going to the store. B: I like the idea of my going. A: You'll go, too.

Here B's sentence repeats A's within an abstraction (explained in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch):

le si'o mi go'i means
le si'o mi klama le zarci. Why must B use the word mi explicitly to replace the x1 of
mi klama le zarci, even though it looks like mi is replacing mi? Because B's mi refers to B, whereas A's mi refers to A. If B said:
mi nelci le si'o go'i

that would mean:

I like the idea of your going to the store.

The repetition signalled by go'i is not literally of words, but of concepts. Finally, A repeats her own sentence, but with the x1 changed to do, meaning B. Note that in Example , the tense ba (future time) is carried along by both go'i and go'e.

Descriptions based on go'i-series cmavo can be very useful for repeating specific sumti of previous bridi:

le xekri mlatu cu klama le zarci .i le go'i cu cadzu le bisli
The black cat goes-to the store. That-described-as-the-x1-place-of [repeat last bridi] walks-on the ice.
The black cat goes to the store. It walks on the ice.

Here the go'i repeats

le xekri mlatu cu klama le zarci, and since le makes the x1 place into a description, and the x1 place of this bridi is
le xekri mlatu,
le go'i means
le xekri mlatu.

The cmavo go'o, nei, and no'a have been little used so far. They repeat respectively some future bridi, the current bridi, and the bridi that encloses the current bridi ( no'a, unlike the other members of the go'i- series, can repeat non-sentence bridi). Here are a few examples:

mi nupre le nu mi go'o .i ba dunda le djini le bersa .i ba dunda le zdani le tixnu
I promise the event-of I [repeat future bridi] [Future] give the money to-the son [Future] give the house to-the daughter
I promise to do the following: Give the money to my son. Give the house to my daughter.

(Note: The Lojban does not contain an equivalent of the my in the colloquial English; it leaves the fact that it is the speaker's son and daughter that are referred to implicit. To make the fact explicit, use

le bersa/tixnu be mi.)

For good examples of nei and no'a, we need nested bridi contexts:

mi se pluka le nu do pensi le nu nei kei pu le nu do zukte
I am-pleased-by the event-of (you think-about (the event-of [main bridi]) before the-event of (your acting).
I am pleased that you thought about whether I would be pleased (about ...) before you acted.
mi ba klama ca le nu do no'a
I [future] go [present] the event-of you [repeats outer bridi]
I will go when you do.

Finally, ra'o is a cmavo that can be appended to any go'i-series cmavo, or indeed any cmavo of selma'o GOhA, to signal that pro-sumti or pro-bridi cmavo in the antecedent are to be repeated literally and reinterpreted in their new context. Normally, any pro-sumti used within the antecedent of the pro-bridi keep their meanings intact. In the presence of ra'o, however, their meanings must be reinterpreted with reference to the new environment. If someone says to you:

mi ba lumci lemi karce
I will wash my car.

you might reply either:

mi go'i
I will wash your car.


mi go'i ra'o
I will wash my car.

The ra'o forces the second mi from the original bridi to mean the new speaker rather than the former speaker. This means that

go'e ra'o would be an acceptable alternative to
do go'e in B's statement in Example .

The anaphoric pro-sumti of this section can be used in quotations, but never refer to any of the supporting text outside the quotation, since speakers presumably do not know that they may be quoted by someone else.

However, a

ri- series or
go'a- series reference within a quotation can refer to something mentioned in an earlier quotation if the two quotations are closely related in time and context. This allows a quotation to be broken up by narrative material without interfering with the pro-sumti within it. Here's an example:
la djan. cusku lu mi klama le zarci li'u .i la .alis. cusku lu mi go'i li'u
John says [quote] I go-to the store [unquote]. Alice says [quote] I [repeat] [unquote].
John says, “I am going to the store.” Alice says, “Me too.”

Of course, there is no problem with narrative material referring to something within a quotation: people who quote, unlike people who are quoted, are aware of what they are doing.

Indefinite pro-sumti and pro-bridi: the zo'e-series and the co'e-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning zo'e KOhA zo'e-series the obvious value zu'i KOhA zo'e-series the typical value zi'o KOhA zo'e-series the nonexistent value

co'e GOhA co'e-series has the obvious relationship </tab>

The cmavo of the zo'e-series represent indefinite, unspecified sumti. The cmavo zo'e represents an elliptical value for this sumti place; it is the optional spoken place holder when a sumti is skipped without being specified. Note that the elliptical value is not always the typical value. The properties of ellipsis lead to an elliptical sumti being defined as “whatever I want it to mean but haven't bothered to figure out, or figure out how to express”.

The cmavo zu'i, on the other hand, represents the typical value for this place of this bridi:

mi klama le bartu be le zdani le nenri be le zdani zu'i zu'i
I go to-the outside of the house from-the inside of the house [by-typical-route] [by-typical-means]

In Example , the first zu'i probably means something like “by the door”, and the second zu'i probably means something like “on foot”, those being the typical route and means for leaving a house. On the other hand, if you are at the top of a high rise during a fire, neither zu'i is appropriate. It's also common to use zu'i in “by standard” places.

Finally, the cmavo zi'o represents a value which does not even exist. When a bridi fills one of its places with zi'o, what is really meant is that the selbri has a place which is irrelevant to the true relationship the speaker wishes to express. For example, the place structure of zbasu is:

actor x1 makes x2 from materials x3

Consider the sentence

Living things are made from cells.

This cannot be correctly expressed as:

loi jmive cu se zbasu [zo'e] fi loi selci
The-mass-of living-things is-made [by-something] from the-mass-of cells

because the zo'e, expressed or understood, in Example indicates that there is still a “maker” in this relationship. We do not generally suppose, however, that someone “makes” living things from cells. The best answer is probably to find a different selbri, one which does not imply a “maker”: however, an alternative strategy is to use zi'o to eliminate the maker place:

loi jmive cu se zbasu zi'o loi selci
The-mass-of living-things is-made [without-maker] from the-mass-of cells.

Note: The use of zi'o to block up, as it were, one place of a selbri actually creates a new selbri with a different place structure. Consider the following examples:

mi zbasu le dinju loi mudri
I make the building from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
I make the building out of wood.
zi'o zbasu le dinju loi mudri
[without-maker] makes the building from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
The building is made out of wood.
mi zbasu zi'o loi mudri
I make [without-thing-made] from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
I build using wood.
mi zbasu le dinju zi'o
I make the building [without-material].
I make the building.

If Example is true, then Example through Example must be true also. However, Example does not correspond to any sentence with three regular (non-zi'o) sumti.

The pro-bridi co'e (which by itself constitutes the co'e-series of selma'o GOhA) represents the elliptical selbri. Lojban grammar does not allow the speaker to merely omit a selbri from a bridi, although any or all sumti may be freely omitted. Being vague about a relationship requires the use of co'e as a selbri place-holder:

mi troci le nu mi co'e le vorme
I try the event-of my [doing-the-obvious-action] to-the door.
I try the door.

The English version means, and the Lojban version probably means, that I try to open the door, but the relationship of opening is not actually specified; the Lojbanic listener must guess it from context. Lojban, unlike English, makes it clear that there is an implicit action that is not being expressed.

The form of co'e was chosen to resemble zo'e; the cmavo do'e of selma'o BAI (see Section ) also belongs to the same group of cmavo.

Note that do'i, of the di'u-series, is also a kind of indefinite pro-sumti: it is indefinite in referent, but is restricted to referring only to an utterance.

Reflexive and reciprocal pro-sumti: the vo'a-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning vo'a KOhA vo'a-series x1 of this bridi vo'e KOhA vo'a-series x2 of this bridi vo'i KOhA vo'a-series x3 of this bridi vo'o KOhA vo'a-series x4 of this bridi vo'u KOhA vo'a-series x5 of this bridi

soi SOI reciprocity

se'u SEhU soi terminator </tab>

The cmavo of the vo'a-series are pro-sumti anaphora, like those of the ri-series, but have a specific function. These cmavo refer to the other places of the same bridi; the five of them represent up to five places. The same vo'a-series cmavo mean different things in different bridi. Some examples:

mi lumci vo'a
I wash myself
mi klama le zarci vo'e
I go to the store from itself [by some route unspecified].

To refer to places of neighboring bridi, constructions like

le se go'i ku do the job: this refers to the 2nd place of the previous main bridi, as explained in Section 1.5.

The cmavo of the vo'a-series are also used with soi (of selma'o SOI) to precisely express reciprocity, which in English is imprecisely expressed with a discursive phrase like “vice versa”:

mi prami do soi vo'a vo'e
I love you [reciprocity] [x1 of this bridi] [x2 of this bridi].
I love you and vice versa (swapping “I” and “you”).

The significance of

soi vo'a vo'e is that the bridi is still true even if the x1 (specified by vo'a) and the x2 (specified by vo'e) places are interchanged. If only a single sumti follows soi, then the sumti immediately preceding soi is understood to be one of those involved:
mi prami do soi vo'a
I love you [reciprocity] [x1 of this bridi].

again involves the x1 and x2 places.

Of course, other places can be involved, and other sumti may be used in place of vo'a-series cmavo, provided those other sumti can be reasonably understood as referring to the same things mentioned in the bridi proper. Here are several examples that mean the same thing:

mi bajykla ti ta soi vo'e
mi bajykla ti ta soi vo'e vo'i
soi vo'e vo'i mi bajykla ti ta
I runningly-go to this from that and vice versa (to that from this).

The elidable terminator for soi is se'u (selma'o SEhU), which is normally needed only if there is just one sumti after the soi, and the soi construction is not at the end of the bridi. Constructions using soi are free modifiers, and as such can go almost anywhere. Here is an example where se'u is required:

mi bajykla ti soi vo'i se'u ta
I runningly-go to-this [reciprocity] [x3 of this bridi] from-that
I run to this from that and vice versa.

sumti and bridi questions: ma and mo

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


Lojban questions are more fully explained in Section , but ma and mo are listed in this chapter for completeness. The cmavo ma asks for a sumti to make the bridi true:

do klama ma
You go to-what-destination?
Where are you going?

The cmavo mo, on the other hand, asks for a selbri which makes the question bridi true. If the answer is a full bridi, then the arguments of the answer override the arguments in the question, in the same manner as the go'i-series cmavo. A simple example is:

do mo
What predicate is true as applied to you?
How are you?
What are you doing?
What are you?

Example is a truly pregnant question that will have several meanings depending on context.

(One thing it probably does not mean is “Who are you?” in the sense “What is your name/identity?”, which is better expressed by:

ma cmene do
What sumti is-the-name-of you?
What is your name?

or even

doi ma
O [what sumti?]

which uses the vocative doi to address someone, and simultaneously asks who the someone is.)

A further example of mo:

lo mo prenu cu darxi do .i barda
A [what selbri?] type-of person hit you? (Observative:) A big thing.
Which person hit you? The big one.

When ma or mo is repeated, multiple questions are being asked simultaneously:

ma djuno ma
[What sumti] knows [what sumti]?
Who knows what?

Relativized pro-sumti: ke'a

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


This pro-sumti is used in relative clauses (explained in Chapter 2) to indicate how the sumti being relativized fits within the clause. For example:

mi catlu lo mlatu poi [zo'e] zbasu ke'a lei slasi
I see a cat such-that something-unspecified makes the-thing-being-relativized [the cat] from-some-mass-of plastic.
I see a cat made of plastic.

If ke'a were omitted from Example , it might be confused with:

mi catlu lo mlatu poi [ke'a] zbasu lei slasi
I see a cat such-that the-thing-being-relativized [the cat] makes a-mass-of plastic
I see a cat that makes plastic.

The anaphora cmavo ri cannot be used in place of ke'a in Example and Example , because the relativized sumti is not yet complete when the ke'a appears.

Note that ke'a is used only with relative clauses, and not with other embedded bridi such as abstract descriptions. In the case of relative clauses within relative clauses, ke'a may be subscripted to make the difference clear (See Section ).

Abstraction focus pro-sumti: ce'u

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


The cmavo ce'u is used within abstraction bridi, particularly property abstractions introduced by the cmavo ka. Abstractions, including the uses of ce'u, are discussed in full in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.

In brief: Every property abstraction specifies a property of one of the sumti in it; that sumti place is filled by using ce'u. This convention enables us to distinguish clearly between:

le ka ce'u gleki
the property-of (X being-happy)
the property of being happy


le ka gleki ce'u
the property-of (being-happy about-X)
the property of being that which someone is happy about

Bound variable pro-sumti and pro-bridi: the da-series and the bu'a-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning da KOhA da-series something-1 de KOhA da-series something-2 di KOhA da-series something-3

bu'a GOhA bu'a-series some-predicate-1 bu'e GOhA bu'a-series some-predicate-2 bu'i GOhA bu'a-series some-predicate-3 </tab>

Bound variables belong to the predicate-logic part of Lojban, and are listed here for completeness only. Their semantics is explained in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. It is worth mentioning that the Lojban translation of Example is:

la djan. cu lafti da poi grana ku'o gi'e desygau da
John raised something-1 which is-a-stick and shake-did something-1.
John picked up a stick and shook it.

Pro-sumti and pro-bridi cancelling

The following cmavo are discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning da'o DAhO cancel all pro-sumti/pro-bridi </tab>

How long does a pro-sumti or pro-bridi remain stable? In other words, once we know the referent of a pro-sumti or pro-bridi, how long can we be sure that future uses of the same cmavo have the same referent? The answer to this question depends on which series the cmavo belongs to.

Personal pro-sumti are stable until there is a change of speaker or listener, possibly signaled by a vocative. Assignable pro-sumti and pro-bridi last indefinitely or until rebound with goi or cei. Bound variable pro-sumti and pro-bridi also generally last until re-bound; details are available in Section .

Utterance pro-sumti are stable only within the utterance in which they appear; similarly, reflexive pro-sumti are stable only within the bridi in which they appear; and ke'a is stable only within its relative clause. Anaphoric pro-sumti and pro-bridi are stable only within narrow limits depending on the rules for the particular cmavo.

Demonstrative pro-sumti, indefinite pro-sumti and pro-bridi, and sumti and bridi questions potentially change referents every time they are used.

However, there are ways to cancel all pro-sumti and pro-bridi, so that none of them have known referents. (Some, such as mi, will acquire the same referent as soon as they are used again after the cancellation.) The simplest way to cancel everything is with the cmavo da'o of selma'o DAhO, which is used solely for this purpose; it may appear anywhere, and has no effect on the grammar of texts containing it. One use of da'o is when entering a conversation, to indicate that one's pro-sumti assignments have nothing to do with any assignments already made by other participants in the conversation.

In addition, the cmavo ni'o and no'i of selma'o NIhO, which are used primarily to indicate shifts in topic, may also have the effect of canceling pro-sumti and pro-bridi assignments, or of reinstating ones formerly in effect. More explanations of NIhO can be found in Section .

The identity predicate: du

The following cmavo is discussed in this section: <tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning du GOhA identity </tab>

The cmavo du has the place structure:

x1 is identical with x2, x3, ...

and appears in selma'o GOhA for reasons of convenience: it is not a pro-bridi. du serves as mathematical “=”, and outside mathematical contexts is used for defining or identifying. Mathematical examples may be found in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.

The main difference between

ko'a du le nanmu
It-1 is-identical-to the man


ko'a mintu le nanmu
It-1 is-the-same-as the man

is this defining nature. Example presumes that the speaker is responding to a request for information about what ko'a refers to, or that the speaker in some way feels the need to define ko'a for later reference. A bridi with du is an identity sentence, somewhat metalinguistically saying that all attached sumti are representations for the same referent. There may be any number of sumti associated with du, and all are said to be identical.Example , however, predicates; it is used to make a claim about the identity of ko'a, which presumably has been defined previously.

Note: du historically is derived from dunli, but dunli has a third place which du lacks: the standard of equality.

lujvo based on pro-sumti

There exist rafsi allocated to a few cmavo of selma'o KOhA, but they are rarely used. (See Section 1.15 for a complete list.) The obvious way to use them is as internal sumti, filling in an appropriate place of the gismu or lujvo to which they are attached; as such, they usually stand as the first rafsi in their lujvo.

Thus donta'a, meaning “you-talk”, would be interpreted as

tavla be do, and would have the place structure
t1 talks to you about subject t3 in language t4

since t2 (the addressee) is already known to be do.

On the other hand, the lujvo donma'o, literally “you-cmavo”, which means “a second person personal pronoun”, would be interpreted as

cmavo be zo do, and have the place structure:
c1 is a second person pronoun in language c4

since both the c2 place (the grammatical class) and the c3 place (the meaning) are obvious from the context do.

An anticipated use of rafsi for cmavo in the fo'a series is to express lujvo which can't be expressed in a convenient rafsi form, because they are too long to express, or are formally inconvenient (fu'ivla, cmene, and so forth.) An example would be:

fo'a goi le kulnrsu,omi .i lo fo'arselsanga
x6 stands for Finnish-culture. An x6-song.

Finally, lujvo involving zi'o are also possible, and are fully discussed in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. In brief, the convention is to use the rafsi for zi'o as a prefix immediately followed by the rafsi for the number of the place to be deleted. Thus, if we consider a beverage (something drunk without considering who, if anyone, drinks it) as a

se pinxe be zi'o, the lujvo corresponding to this is zilrelselpinxe (deleting the second place of
se pinxe). Deleting the x1 place in this fashion would move all remaining places up by one. This would mean that zilpavypinxe has the same place structure as zilrelselpinxe, and
lo zilpavypinxe, like
lo zilrelselpinxe, refers to a beverage, and not to a non-existent drinker.

The pro-bridi co'e, du, and bu'a also have rafsi, which can be used just as if they were gismu. The resulting lujvo have (except for

du- based lujvo) highly context-dependent meanings.

KOhA cmavo by series

<tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning mi-series: mi I (rafsi: mib) do you (rafsi: don and “doi”) mi'o you and I mi'a I and others, we but not you ma'a you and I and others do'o you and others ko you-imperative

ti-series: ti this here; something nearby (rafsi: tif) ta that there; something distant (rafsi: taz) tu that yonder; something far distant (rafsi: tuf)

di'u-series: di'u the previous utterance de'u an earlier utterance da'u a much earlier utterance di'e the next utterance de'e a later utterance da'e a much later utterance dei this very utterance do'i some utterance

ko'a-series: ko'a it-1; 1st assignable pro-sumti ko'e it-2; 2nd assignable pro-sumti ko'i it-3; 3rd assignable pro-sumti ko'o it-4; 4th assignable pro-sumti ko'u it-5; 5th assignable pro-sumti

fo'a it-6; 6th assignable pro-sumti (rafsi: fo'a) fo'e it-7; 7th assignable pro-sumti (rafsi: fo'e) fo'i it-8; 8th assignable pro-sumti (rafsi: fo'i) fo'o it-9; 9th assignable pro-sumti fo'u it-10; 10th assignable pro-sumti

ri-series: ri (repeats the last sumti) ra (repeats a previous sumti) ru (repeats a long-ago sumti)

zo'e-series: zo'e the obvious value zu'i the typical value zi'o the nonexistent value (rafsi: zil)

vo'a-series: vo'a x1 of this bridi vo'e x2 of this bridi vo'i x3 of this bridi vo'o x4 of this bridi vo'u x5 of this bridi

da-series: da something-1 (rafsi: dav/dza) de something-2 di something-3

others: ke'a relativized sumti ma sumti question ce'u abstraction focus </tab>

GOhA and other pro-bridi by series

<tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning broda-series (not GOhA): broda is-1; 1st assignable pro-bridi brode is-2; 2nd assignable pro-bridi brodi is-3; 3rd assignable pro-bridi brodo is-4; 4th assignable pro-bridi brodu is-5; 5th assignable pro-bridi

go'i-series: go'i (repeats the last bridi) go'a (repeats a previous bridi) go'u (repeats a long-ago bridi) go'e (repeats the last-but-one bridi) go'o (repeats a future bridi) nei (repeats the current bridi) no'a (repeats the next outer bridi)

bu'a-series: bu'a some-predicate-1 (rafsi: bul) bu'e some-predicate-2 bu'i some-predicate-3

others: co'e has the obvious relationship (rafsi: com/ co'e) mo bridi question du identity: x1 is identical to x2, x3 ... (rafsi: dub/du'o) </tab>

Other cmavo discussed in this chapter

<tab class=wikitable> cmavo selma'o subclass meaning goi GOI pro-sumti assignment (ko'a-series) cei CEI pro-bridi assignment (broda-series) ra'o RAhO pro-sumti/pro-bridi update soi SOI reciprocity se'u SEhU soi terminator da'o DAhO cancel all pro-sumti/pro-bridi </tab>