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=Sumti (nouns)=
=Sumti (nouns)={{startchapter|{{#var:uni}}|chapter-sumti}}
==The five kinds of simple sumti==
==The five kinds of simple sumti==

Latest revision as of 06:49, 26 December 2017

Sumti (nouns)

The five kinds of simple sumti

If you understand anything about Lojban, you know what a sumti is by now, right? An argument, one of those things that fills the places of simple Lojban sentences like:

mi klama le zarci
I go-to the market

In Example , mi and

le zarci are the sumti. It is easy to see that these two sumti are not of the same kind: mi is a pro-sumti (the Lojban analogue of a pronoun) referring to the speaker, whereas
le zarci is a description which refers to something described as being a market.

There are five kinds of simple sumti provided by Lojban:

  • descriptions like
le zarci, which usually begin with a descriptor (called a gadri in Lojban) such as


  • pro-sumti, such as mi;
  • names, such as
la lojban., which usually begin with la;
  • quotations, which begin with lu, le'u, zo, or zoi;
  • pure numbers, which usually begin with li.

Here are a few examples of each kind of sumti:

e'osai ko sarji la lojban.
Please support Lojban!

Example exhibits ko, a pro-sumti; and

la lojban., a name.
mi cusku lu e'osai li'u le tcidu
I express “Please!” to-the reader.
     Example  exhibits mi, a pro-sumti; 
lu e'osai li'u, a quotation; and
le tcidu, a description.
ti mitre li ci
This measures-in-meters the-number three.
This is three meters long.
 Example  exhibits ti, a pro-sumti; and 
li ci, a number.

Most of this chapter is about descriptions, as they have the most complicated syntax and usage. Some attention is also given to names, which are closely interwoven with descriptions. Pro-sumti, numbers, and quotations are described in more detail in Chapter 2, Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch, and Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch respectively, so this chapter only gives summaries of their forms and uses. See Section 1.12 through Section 1.14 for these summaries.

The three basic description types

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


The syntax of descriptions is fairly complex, and not all of it can be explained within the confines of this chapter: relative clauses, in particular, are discussed in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. However, most descriptions have just two components: a descriptor belonging to selma'o LE or LA, and a selbri. (The difference between selma'o LE and selma'o LA is not important until Section 1.11.) Furthermore, the selbri is often just a single brivla. Here is an elementary example:

le zarci
one-or-more-specific-things-each-of-which-I-describe-as being-a-market
the market

The long gloss for le is of course far too long to use most of the time, and in fact le is quite close in meaning to English “the”. It has particular implications, however, which “the” does not have.

The general purpose of all descriptors is to create a sumti which might occur in the x1 place of the selbri belonging to the description. Thus

le zarci conveys something which might be found in the x1 place of zarci, namely a market.

The specific purpose of le is twofold. First, it indicates that the speaker has one or more specific markets in mind (whether or not the listener knows which ones they are). Second, it also indicates that the speaker is merely describing the things he or she has in mind as markets, without being committed to the truth of that description.

le zarci cu barda
One-or-more-specific-things-which-I-describe as “markets” is/are-big.
The market is big.
The markets are big.

Note that English-speakers must state whether a reference to markets is to just one ( “the market”) or to more than one ( “the markets”). Lojban requires no such forced choice, so both colloquial translations of Example are valid. Only the context can specify which is meant. (This rule does not mean that Lojban has no way of specifying the number of markets in such a case: that mechanism is explained in Section 1.6.)

Now consider the following strange-looking example:

le nanmu cu ninmu
One-or-more-specific-things-which-I-describe as “men” are women.
The man is a woman.
The men are women.

Example is not self-contradictory in Lojban, because

le nanmu merely means something or other which, for my present purposes, I choose to describe as a man, whether or not it really is a man. A plausible instance would be: someone we had assumed to be a man at a distance turned out to be actually a woman on closer observation. Example is what I would say to point out my observation to you.

In all descriptions with le, the listener is presumed to either know what I have in mind or else not to be concerned at present (perhaps I will give more identifying details later). In particular, I might be pointing at the supposed man or men: Example would then be perfectly intelligible, since

le nanmu merely clarifies that I am pointing at the supposed man, not at a landscape, or a nose, which happens to lie in the same direction.

The second descriptor dealt with in this section is lo. Unlike le, lo is nonspecific:

lo zarci
one-or-more-of-all-the-things-which-really are-markets
a market
some markets

Again, there are two colloquial English translations. The effect of using lo in Example is to refer generally to one or more markets, without being specific about which. Unlike

le zarci,
lo zarci must refer to something which actually is a market (that is, which can appear in the x1 place of a truthful bridi whose selbri is zarci). Thus
lo nanmu cu ninmu
Some man is a woman.
Some men are women.

must be false in Lojban, given that there are no objects in the real world which are both men and women. Pointing at some specific men or women would not make Example true, because those specific individuals are no more both-men-and-women than any others. In general, lo refers to whatever individuals meet its description.

The last descriptor of this section is la, which indicates that the selbri which follows it has been dissociated from its normal meaning and is being used as a name. Like le descriptions, la descriptions are implicitly restricted to those I have in mind. (Do not confuse this use of la with its use before regular Lojbanized names, which is discussed in Section 1.11.) For example:

la cribe pu finti le lisri

The-one-named “bear” [past] creates the story.

Bear wrote the story.

In Example ,

la cribe refers to someone whose naming predicate is

cribe, i.e. “Bear”. In English, most names don't mean anything, or at least not anything obvious. The name “Frank” coincides with the English word “frank”, meaning “honest”, and so one way of translating “Frank ate some cheese” into Lojban would be:

la stace pu citka lo cirla
The-one-called “Honest/Frank” [past] eats some cheese.

English-speakers typically would not do this, as we tend to be more attached to the sound of our names than their meaning, even if the meaning (etymological or current) is known. Speakers of other languages may feel differently. (In point of fact, “Frank” originally meant “the free one” rather than “the honest one”.)

It is important to note the differences between Example and the following:

le cribe pu finti le lisri
One-or-more-specific-things-which-I-describe-as a-bear [past] creates the story.
The bear(s) wrote the story.
lo cribe pu finti le lisri
One-or-more-of-the-things-which-really are-bears [past] creates the story.
A bear wrote the story.
Some bears wrote the story.

Example is about a specific bear or bearlike thing(s), or thing(s) which the speaker (perhaps whimsically or metaphorically) describes as a bear (or more than one); Example is about one or more of the really existing, objectively defined bears. In either case, though, each of them must have contributed to the writing of the story, if more than one bear (or “bear”) is meant.

(The notion of a “really existing, objectively defined bear” raises certain difficulties. Is a panda bear a “real bear”? How about a teddy bear? In general, the answer is “yes”. Lojban gismu are defined as broadly as possible, allowing tanru and lujvo to narrow down the definition. There probably are no necessary and sufficient conditions for defining what is and what is not a bear that can be pinned down with complete precision: the real world is fuzzy. In borderline cases, le may communicate better than lo.)

So while Example could easily be true (there is a real writer named “Greg Bear”), and Example could be true if the speaker is sufficiently peculiar in what he or she describes as a bear, Example is certainly false.

Similarly, compare the following two examples, which are analogous to Example and Example respectively:

le remna pu finti le lisri
The human being(s) wrote the story.
lo remna pu finti le lisri
A human being wrote the story.
Some human beings wrote the story.

Example says who the author of the story is: one or more particular human beings that the speaker has in mind. If the topic of conversation is the story, then Example identifies the author as someone who can be pointed out or who has been previously mentioned; whereas if the topic is a person, then

le remna is in effect a shorthand reference to that person. Example merely says that the author is human.

The elidable terminator for all descriptions is ku. It can almost always be omitted with no danger of ambiguity. The main exceptions are in certain uses of relative clauses, which are discussed in Section , and in the case of a description immediately preceding the selbri. In this latter case, using an explicit cu before the selbri makes the ku unnecessary. There are also a few other uses of ku: in the compound negator

naku (discussed in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch) and to terminate place-structure, tense, and modal tags that do not have associated sumti (discussed in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch and Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch).

Individuals and masses

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


All Lojban sumti are classified by whether they refer to one of three types of objects, known as “individuals”, “masses”, and “sets”. The term “individual” is misleading when used to refer to more than one object, but no less-confusing term has as yet been found. All the descriptions in Section and Section 1.1 refer to individuals, whether one or more than one. Consider the following example:

le prenu cu bevri le pipno
One-or-more-of-those-I-describe-as persons carry the piano.
The person(s) carry the piano.

(Of course the second le should really get the same translation as the first, but I am putting the focus of this discussion on the first le, the one preceding prenu. I will assume that there is only one piano under discussion.)

Suppose the context of Example is such that you can determine that I am talking about three persons. What am I claiming? I am claiming that each of the three persons carried the piano. This claim can be true if the persons carried the piano one at a time, or in turns, or in a variety of other ways. But in order for Example to be true, I must be willing to assert that person 1 carried the piano, and that person 2 carried the piano, and that person 3 carried the piano.

But suppose I am not willing to claim that. For in fact pianos are heavy, and very few persons can carry a piano all by themselves. The most likely factual situation is that person 1 carried one end of the piano, and person 2 the other end, while person 3 either held up the middle or else supervised the whole operation without actually lifting anything. The correct way of expressing such a situation in Lojban is:

lei prenu cu bevri le pipno
The-mass-of-one-or-more-of-those-I-describe-as persons carry the piano.

Here the same three persons are treated not as individuals, but as a so-called “mass entity”, or just “mass”. A mass has the properties of each individual which composes it, and may have other properties of its own as well. This can lead to apparent contradictions. Thus suppose in the piano-moving example above that person 1 has fair skin, whereas person 2 has dark skin. Then it is correct to say that the person-mass has both fair skin and dark skin. Using the mass descriptor lei signals that ordinary logical reasoning is not applicable: contradictions can be maintained, and all sorts of other peculiarities may exist. However, we can safely say that a mass inherits only the component properties that are relevant to it; it would be ludicrous to say that a mass of two persons is of molecular dimensions, simply because some of the parts (namely, the molecules) of the persons are that small.

The descriptors loi and lai are analogous to lo and la respectively, but refer to masses either by property ( loi) or by name ( lai). A classic example of loi use is:

loi cinfo cu xabju le fi'ortu'a
Part-of-the-mass-of-those-which-really are-lions dwell in-the African-land.
The lion dwells in Africa.
Lions dwell in Africa.

The difference between lei and loi is that

lei cinfo refers to a mass of specific individuals which the speaker calls lions, whereas
loi cinfo refers to some part of the mass of all those individuals which actually are lions. The restriction to “some part of the mass” allows statements like Example to be true even though some lions do not dwell in Africa – they live in various zoos around the world. On the other hand, Example doesn't actually say that most lions live in Africa: equally true is
loi glipre cu xabju le fi'ortu'a
Part-of-the-mass-of-those-which-really are-English-persons dwell in-the African-land.
The English dwell in Africa.

since there is at least one English person living there. Section 1.3 explains another method of saying what is usually meant by “The lion lives in Africa” which does imply that living in Africa is normal, not exceptional, for lions.

Note that the Lojban mass articles are sometimes translated by English plurals (the most usual case), sometimes by English singulars (when the singular is used to express typicalness or abstraction), and sometimes by singulars with no article:

loi matne cu ranti
Part-of-the-mass-of-that-which-really is-a-quantity-of-butter is-soft.
Butter is soft.

Of course, some butter is hard (for example, if it is frozen butter), so the “part-of” implication of loi becomes once again useful. The reason this mechanism works is that the English words like “butter”, which are seen as already describing masses, are translated in Lojban by non-mass forms. The place structure of matne is “x1 is a quantity of butter from source x2”, so the single English word “butter” is translated as something like “a part of the mass formed from all the quantities of butter that exist”. (Note that the operation of forming a mass entity does not imply, in Lojban, that the components of the mass are necessarily close to one another or even related in any way other than conceptually. Masses are formed by the speaker's intention to form a mass, and can in principle contain anything.)

The mass name descriptor lai is used in circumstances where we wish to talk about a mass of things identified by a name which is common to all of them. It is not used to identify a mass by a single name peculiar to it. Thus the mass version of Example ,

lai cribe pu finti le vi cukta

The-mass-of-those-named “bear” [past] creates the nearby book.

The Bears wrote this book.

in a context where

la cribe would be understood as plural, would mean that either Tom Bear or Fred Bear (to make up some names) might have written the book, or that Tom and Fred might have written it as collaborators. Using

la instead of lai in Example would give the implication that each of Tom and Fred, considered individually, had written it.

Masses and sets

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


Having said so much about masses, let us turn to sets. Sets are easier to understand than masses, but are more rarely used. Like a mass, a set is an abstract object formed from a number of individuals; however, the properties of a set are not derived from any of the properties of the individuals that compose it.

Sets have properties like cardinality (how many elements in the set), membership (the relationship between a set and its elements), and set inclusion (the relationship between two sets, one of which – the superset – contains all the elements of the other – the subset). The set descriptors le'i, lo'i and la'i correspond exactly to the mass descriptors lei, loi, and lai except that normally we talk of the whole of a set, not just part of it. Here are some examples contrasting lo, loi, and lo'i:

lo ratcu cu bunre
One-or-more-of-those-which-really-are rats are-brown.
Some rats are brown.
loi ratcu cu cmalu
Part-of-the-mass-of-those-which-really-are rats are-small.
Rats are small.
lo'i ratcu cu barda
The-set-of rats is-large.
There are a lot of rats.

The mass of rats is small because at least one rat is small; the mass of rats is also large; the set of rats, though, is unquestionably large – it has billions of members. The mass of rats is also brown, since some of its components are; but it would be incorrect to call the set of rats brown – brown-ness is not the sort of property that sets possess.

Lojban speakers should generally think twice before employing the set descriptors. However, certain predicates have places that require set sumti to fill them. For example, the place structure of fadni is:

x1 is ordinary/common/typical/usual in property x2 among the members of set x3

Why is it necessary for the x3 place of fadni to be a set? Because it makes no sense for an individual to be typical of another individual: an individual is typical of a group. In order to make sure that the bridi containing fadni is about an entire group, its x3 place must be filled with a set:

mi fadni zo'e lo'i lobypli
I am-ordinary among the-set-of Lojban-users.
I am a typical Lojban user.

Note that the x2 place has been omitted; I am not specifying in exactly which way I am typical – whether in language knowledge, or age, or interests, or something else. If lo'i were changed to lo in Example , the meaning would be something like “I am typical of some Lojban user”, which is nonsense.

Descriptors for typical objects

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


As promised in Section 1.2, Lojban has a method for discriminating between “the lion” who lives in Africa and “the Englishman” who, generally speaking, doesn't live in Africa even though some Englishmen do. The descriptor lo'e means “the typical”, as in

lo'e cinfo cu xabju le fi'ortu'a
The-typical lion dwells-in the African-land.
The lion dwells in Africa.

What is this “typical lion”? Surely it is not any particular lion, because no lion has all of the “typical” characteristics, and (worse yet) some characteristics that all real lions have can't be viewed as typical. For example, all real lions are either male or female, but it would be bizarre to suppose that the typical lion is either one. So the typical lion has no particular sex, but does have a color (golden brown), a residence (Africa), a diet (game), and so on. Likewise we can say that

lo'e glipre cu xabju le fi'ortu'a na.e le gligugde
The-typical English-person dwells-in the African-land (Not!) and the English-country.
The typical English person dwells not in Africa but in England.

The relationship between

lo'e cinfo and
lo'i cinfo may be explained thus: the typical lion is an imaginary lion-abstraction which best exemplifies the set of lions. There is a similar relationship between le'e and le'i:
le'e xelso merko cu gusta ponse
The-stereotypical Greek-type-of American is-a-restaurant-type-of owner.
Lots of Greek-Americans own restaurants.

Here we are concerned not with the actual set of Greek-Americans, but with the set of those the speaker has in mind, which is typified by one (real or imaginary) who owns a restaurant. The word “stereotypical” is often derogatory in English, but le'e need not be derogatory in Lojban: it simply suggests that the example is typical in the speaker's imagination rather than in some objectively agreed-upon way. Of course, different speakers may disagree about what the features of “the typical lion” are (some would include having a short intestine, whereas others would know nothing of lions' intestines), so the distinction between

lo'e cinfo and
le'e cinfo may be very fine.


le'e skina cu se finti ne'i la xali,uyd.
The-stereotypical movie is-invented in Hollywood.

is probably true to an American, but might be false (not the stereotype) to someone living in India or Russia.

Note that there is no naming equivalent of lo'e and le'e, because there is no need, as a rule, for a “typical George” or a “typical Smith”. People or things who share a common name do not, in general, have any other common attributes worth mentioning.

Quantified sumti

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


Quantifiers tell us how many: in the case of quantifiers with sumti, how many things we are talking about. In Lojban, quantifiers are expressed by numbers and mathematical expressions: a large topic discussed in some detail in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. For the purposes of this chapter, a simplified treatment will suffice. Our examples will employ either the simple Lojban numbers pa, re, ci, vo, and mu, meaning “one”, “two”, “three”, “four”, “five” respectively, or else one of four special quantifiers, two of which are discussed in this section and listed above. These four quantifiers are important because every Lojban sumti has either one or two of them implicitly present in it – which one or two depends on the particular kind of sumti. There is more explanation of implicit quantifiers later in this section. (The other two quantifiers, piro and pisu'o, are explained in Section 1.6.)

Every Lojban sumti may optionally be preceded by an explicit quantifier. The purpose of this quantifier is to specify how many of the things referred to by the sumti are being talked about. Here are some simple examples contrasting sumti with and without explicit quantifiers:

do cadzu le bisli
You walk-on the ice.
re do cadzu le bisli
Two-of you walk-on the ice.

The difference between Example and Example is the presence of the explicit quantifier re in the latter example. Although re by itself means “two”, when used as a quantifier it means “two-of”. Out of the group of listeners (the number of which isn't stated), two (we are not told which ones) are asserted to be “walkers on the ice”. Implicitly, the others (if any) are not walkers on the ice. In Lojban, you cannot say “I own three shoes” if in fact you own four shoes. Numbers need never be specified, but if they are specified they must be correct.

(This rule does not mean that there is no way to specify a number which is vague. The sentence

mi ponse su'o ci cutci
I possess at-least three shoes.

is true if you own three shoes, or four, or indeed any larger number. More details on vague numbers appear in the discussion of mathematical expressions in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.)

Now consider Example again. How many of the listeners are claimed to walk on the ice? The answer turns out to be: all of them, however many that is. So Example and Example :

ro do cadzu le bisli
All-of you walk-on the ice.

turn out to mean exactly the same thing. This is a safe strategy, because if one of my listeners doesn't turn out to be walking on the ice, I can safely claim that I didn't intend that person to be a listener! And in fact, all of the personal pro-sumti such as mi and mi'o and ko obey the same rule. We say that personal pro-sumti have a so-called “implicit quantifier” of ro (all). This just means that if no quantifier is given explicitly, the meaning is the same as if the implicit quantifier had been used.

Not all sumti have ro as the implicit quantifier, however. Consider the quotation in:

mi cusku lu do cadzu le bisli li'u
I express [quote] you walk-on the ice [unquote].
I say, “You walk on the ice.”

What is the implicit quantifier of the quotation

lu do cadzu le bisli li'u? Surely not ro. If ro were supplied explicitly, thus:
mi cusku ro lu do cadzu le bisli li'u
I express all-of [quote] you walk-on the ice [unquote].

the meaning would be something like “I say every occurrence of the sentence 'You walk on the ice'”. Of course I don't say every occurrence of it, only some occurrences. One might suppose that Example means that I express exactly one occurrence, but it is more Lojbanic to leave the number unspecified, as with other sumti. We can say definitely, however, that I say it at least once.

The Lojban cmavo meaning “at least” is su'o, and if no ordinary number follows, su'o means “at least once”. (See Example for the use of su'o with an ordinary number). Therefore, the explicitly quantified version of Example is

mi cusku su'o lu do cadzu le bisli li'u
I express at-least-one-of [quote] you walk-on the ice [unquote].
I say one or more instances of “You walk on the ice”.
I say “You walk on the ice”.

If an explicit ordinary number such as re were to appear, it would have to convey an exact expression, so

mi cusku re lu do cadzu le bisli li'u
I express two-of [quote] you walk-on the ice [unquote].

means that I say the sentence exactly twice, neither more nor less.

Quantified descriptions

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:




Like other sumti, descriptions can be quantified. When a quantifier appears before a description, it has the same meaning as one appearing before a non-description sumti: it specifies how many things, of all those referred to by the description, are being talked about in this particular bridi. Suppose that context tells us that

le gerku refers to three dogs. Then we can say that exactly two of them are white as follows:
re le gerku cu blabi
Two-of the dogs are-white.
Two of the dogs are white.

When discussing descriptions, this ordinary quantifier is called an “outer quantifier”, since it appears outside the description. But there is another possible location for a quantifier: between the descriptor and the selbri. This quantifier is called an “inner quantifier”, and its meaning is quite different: it tells the listener how many objects the description selbri characterizes.

For example, the context of Example supposedly told us that

le gerku referred to some three specific dogs. This assumption can be made certain with the use of an explicit inner quantifier:
re le ci gerku cu blabi
Two-of the three dogs are-white.
Two of the three dogs are white.

(As explained in the discussion of Example , simple numbers like those in Example must be exact: it therefore follows that the third dog cannot be white.)

You may also specify an explicit inner quantifier and leave the outer quantifier implicit:

le ci gerku cu blabi
The three dogs are-white.
The three dogs are white.

There are rules for each of the 11 descriptors specifying what the implicit values for the inner and outer quantifiers are. They are meant to provide sensible default values when context is absent, not necessarily to prescribe hard and fast rules. The following table lists the implicit values: <tab class=wikitable header=true>le: ro le su'o all of the at-least-one described aslo: su'o lo ro at least one of all of those which really arela: ro la su'o all of the at least one namedlei: pisu'o lei su'o some part of the mass of the at-least-one described asloi: pisu'o loi ro some part of the mass of all those that really arelai: pisu'o lai su'o some part of the mass of the at-least-one namedle'i: piro le'i su'o the whole of the set of the at-least-one described aslo'i: piro lo'i ro the whole of the set of all those that really arela'i: piro la'i su'o the whole of the set of the at-least-one namedle'e: ro le'e su'o all the stereotypes of the at-least-one described aslo'e: su'o lo'e ro at least one of the types of all those that really are </tab> When examined for the first time, this table looks dreadfully arbitrary. In fact, there are quite a few regularities in it. First of all, the la-series (that is, the descriptors la, lai, and la'i) and the le-series (that is, the descriptors le, lei, le'i, and le'e) always have corresponding implicit quantifiers, so we may subsume the la-series under the le-series for the rest of this discussion: “le-series cmavo” will refer to both the le-series proper and to the la-series.

The rule for the inner quantifier is very simple: the lo-series cmavo (namely, lo, loi, lo'i, and lo'e) all have an implicit inner quantifier of ro, whereas the le-series cmavo all have an implicit inner quantifier of su'o.

Why? Because lo-series descriptors always refer to all of the things which really fit into the x1 place of the selbri. They are not restricted by the speaker's intention. Descriptors of the le-series, however, are so restricted, and therefore talk about some number, definite or indefinite, of objects the speaker has in mind – but never less than one.

Understanding the implicit outer quantifier requires rules of greater subtlety. In the case of mass and set descriptors, a single rule suffices for each: reference to a mass is implicitly a reference to some part of the mass; reference to a set is implicitly a reference to the whole set. Masses and sets are inherently singular objects: it makes no sense to talk about two distinct masses with the same components, or two distinct sets with the same members. Therefore, the largest possible outer quantifier for either a set description or a mass description is piro, the whole of it.

(Pedantically, it is possible that the mass of water molecules composing an ice cube might be thought of as different from the same mass of water molecules in liquid form, in which case we might talk about

re lei djacu, two masses of the water-bits I have in mind.)

Why “pi-”? It is the Lojban cmavo for the decimal point. Just as

pimu means “.5”, and when used as a quantifier specifies a portion consisting of five tenths of a thing, piro means a portion consisting of the all-ness – the entirety – of a thing. Similarly, pisu'o specifies a portion consisting of at least one part of a thing, i.e. some of it.

Smaller quantifiers are possible for sets, and refer to subsets. Thus

pimu le'i nanmu is a subset of the set of men I have in mind; we don't know precisely which elements make up this subset, but it must have half the size of the full set. This is the best way to say “half of the men”; saying
pimu le nanmu would give us a half-portion of one of them instead! Of course, the result of
pimu le'i nanmu is still a set; if you need to refer to the individuals of the subset, you must say so (see lu'a in

Section 1.9).

The case of outer quantifiers for individual descriptors (including le, lo, la, and the typical descriptors le'e and lo'e) is special. When we refer to specific individuals with le, we mean to refer to all of those we have in mind, so ro is appropriate as the implicit quantifier, just as it is appropriate for do. Reference to non-specific individuals with lo, however, is typically to only some of the objects which can be correctly described, and so su'o is the appropriate implicit quantifier, just as for quotations.

From the English-speaking point of view, the difference in structure between the following example using le:

[ro] le ci gerku cu blabi
[All-of] those-described-as three dogs are-white.
The three dogs are white.

and the corresponding form with lo:

ci lo [ro] gerku cu blabi
Three-of those-which-are [all] dogs are-white.
Three dogs are white.

looks very peculiar. Why is the number ci found as an inner quantifier in Example and as an outer quantifier in Example ? The number of dogs is the same in either case. The answer is that the ci in Example is part of the specification: it tells us the actual number of dogs in the group that the speaker has in mind. In Example , however, the dogs referred to by

... lo gerku are all the dogs that exist: the outer quantifier then restricts the number to three; which three, we cannot tell. The implicit quantifiers are chosen to avoid claiming too much or too little: in the case of le, the implicit outer quantifier ro says that each of the dogs in the restricted group is white; in the case of lo, the implicit inner quantifier simply says that three dogs, chosen from the group of all the dogs there are, are white.

Using exact numbers as inner quantifiers in lo-series descriptions is dangerous, because you are stating that exactly that many things exist which really fit the description. So examples like

[so'o] lo ci gerku cu blabi
[some-of] those-which-really-are three dogs are-white

are semantically anomalous; Example claims that some dog (or dogs) is white, but also that there are just three dogs in the universe!

Nevertheless, inner quantifiers are permitted on lo descriptors for consistency's sake, and may occasionally be useful.

Note that the inner quantifier of le, even when exact, need not be truthful:

le ci nanmu means “what I describe as three men”, not “three of what I describe as men”. This follows from the rule that what is described by a le description represents the speaker's viewpoint rather than the objective way things are.

Indefinite descriptions

By a quirk of Lojban syntax, it is possible to omit the descriptor lo, but never any other descriptor, from a description like that of Example ; namely, one which has an explicit outer quantifier but no explicit inner quantifier. The following example:

ci gerku [ku] cu blabi
Three dogs are white.

is equivalent in meaning to Example . Even though the descriptor is not present, the elidable terminator ku may still be used. The name “indefinite description” for this syntactic form is historically based: of course, it is no more and no less indefinite than its counterpart with an explicit lo. Indefinite descriptions were introduced into the language in order to imitate the syntax of English and other natural languages.

Indefinite descriptions must fit this mold exactly: there is no way to make one which does not have an explicit outer quantifier (thus

*gerku cu blabi is ungrammatical), or which has an explicit inner quantifier (thus
*reboi ci gerku cu blabi is also ungrammatical –
re ci gerku cu blabi is fine, but means “23 dogs are white”).

Note: Example also contains an indefinite description, namely

su'o ci cutci; another version of that example using an explicit lo would be:
mi ponse su'o ci lo cutci
I possess at-least three things-which-really-are shoes
I own three (or more) shoes.

sumti-based descriptions

As stated in Section 1.1, most descriptions consist of just a descriptor and a selbri. (In this chapter, the selbri have always been single gismu, but of course any selbri, however complex, can be employed in a description. The syntax and semantics of selbri are explained in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.) In the intervening sections, inner and outer quantifiers have been added to the syntax. Now it is time to discuss a description of a radically different kind: the sumti-based description.

A sumti-based description has a sumti where the selbri would normally be, and the inner quantifier is required – it cannot be implicit. An outer quantifier is permitted but not required.

A full theory of sumti-based descriptions has yet to be worked out. One common case, however, is well understood. Compare the following:


re do cu nanmu
Two-of you are-men.
le re do cu nanmu
The two-of you are men.Example simply specifies that of the group of listeners, size unknown, two are men. Example , which has the sumti-based description
le re do, says that of the two listeners, all (the implicit outer quantifier ro) are men. So in effect the inner quantifier re gives the number of individuals which the inner sumti

do refers to.

Here is another group of examples:

re le ci cribe cu bunre
Two-of the three bears are-brown.
le re le ci cribe cu bunre
The two-of the three bears are-brown.
pa le re le ci cribe cu bunre
One-of the two-of the three bears are-brown.

In each case,

le ci cribe restricts the bears (or alleged bears) being talked of to some group of three which the speaker has in mind. Example says that two of them (which two is not stated) are brown. Example says that a specific pair of them are brown. Example says that of a specific pair chosen from the original three, one or the other of that pair is brown.

sumti qualifiers

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:


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:

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

But Example 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:

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. Example 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:

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 ( Example ), which too closely resembles its literal English equivalent, into a true sentence ( Example ), 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,


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:

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

which is equivalent to Example , 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 Section . The triplet lu'a, lu'i, and lu'o convert between individuals, sets, and masses; 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:

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

Example 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 Section .

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.
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.
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 ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. Here are a few examples of negation sumti qualifiers:

mi viska na'ebo le gerku
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:
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 Example , 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 Section .)

The syntax of vocative phrases

Vocative phrases are not sumti, but are explained in this chapter because their syntax is very similar to that of sumti. Grammatically, a vocative phrase is one of the so-called “free modifiers” of Lojban, along with subscripts, parentheses, and various other constructs explained in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. They can be placed after many, but not all, constructions of the grammar: in general, after any elidable terminator (which, however, must not then be elided!), at the beginnings and ends of sentences, and in many other places.

The purpose of a vocative phrase is to indicate who is being addressed, or to indicate to that person that he or she ought to be listening. A vocative phrase begins with a cmavo of selma'o COI or DOI, all of which are explained in more detail in Section . Sometimes that is all there is to the phrase:


In these cases, the person being addressed is obvious from the context. However, a vocative word (more precisely, one or more cmavo of COI, possibly followed by doi, or else just doi by itself) can be followed by one of several kinds of phrases, all of which are intended to indicate the addressee. The most common case is a name:

coi. djan.
Hello, John.

A pause is required (for morphological reasons) between a member of COI and a name. You can use doi instead of a pause:

coi doi djan.
Hello, John.

means exactly the same thing and does not require a pause. Using doi by itself is like just saying someone's name to attract his or her attention:

doi djan.

In place of a name, a description may appear, lacking its descriptor, which is understood to be le:

coi xunre pastu nixli
Hello, (red-type-of dress)-type-of girl.
Hello, girl with the red dress!

The listener need not really be a

xunre pastu nixli, as long as she understands herself correctly from the description. (Actually, only a bare selbri can appear; explicit quantifiers are forbidden in this form of vocative, so the implicit quantifiers
su'o le ro are in effect.)

Finally, a complete sumti may be used, the most general case.

co'o la bab. .e la noras.
Goodbye, Bob and Nora.

Example is thus the same as:

coi le xunre pastu nixli
Hello, the-one-described-as red-dress girl!

and Example is the same as:

doi la djan.
The-one-named John!

Finally, the elidable terminator for vocative phrases is do'u (of selma'o DOhU), which is rarely needed except when a simple vocative word is being placed somewhere within a bridi. It may also be required when a vocative is placed between a sumti and its relative clause, or when there are a sequence of so-called “free modifiers” (vocatives, subscripts, utterance ordinals – See Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch – metalinguistic comments – See Section – or reciprocals – seeChapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch) which must be properly separated.

The meaning of a vocative phrase that is within a sentence is not affected by its position in the sentence: thus Example and Example mean the same thing:

doi djan. ko klama mi
John, come to me!
ko klama mi doi djan.
Come to me, John!

As usual for this chapter, the full syntax of vocative phrases has not been explained: relative clauses, discussed in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch, make for more possibilities.

Lojban names

Names have been used freely as sumti throughout this chapter without too much explanation. The time for the explanation has now come.

First of all, there are two different kinds of things usually called “names” when talking about Lojban. The naming predicates of Section 1.1 are just ordinary predicates which are being used in a special sense. In addition, though, there is a class of Lojban words which are used only to name things: these can be recognized by the fact that they end in a consonant followed by a pause. Some examples:

djan. meris. djein. .alis.
John. Mary. Jane. Alice.

(Note that .alis. begins as well as ends with a pause, because all Lojban words beginning with a vowel must be preceded by a pause. See Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch for more information.)

Names of this kind have two basic uses in Lojban: when used in a vocative phrase (see Section 1.10) they indicate who the listener is or should be. When used with a descriptor of selma'o LA, namely la, lai, or la'i, they form sumti which refer to the persons or things known by the name.

la djonz. klama le zarci
Jones goes to-the store.
The Joneses go to-the store.
lai djonz. klama le zarci
The-mass-of Joneses go to-the store.
The Joneses go to the store.

In Example , the significance is that all the persons (perhaps only one) I mean to refer to by the name djonz. are going to the store. In Example , the Joneses are massified, and only some part of them needs to be going. Of course, by djonz. I can mean whomever I want: that person need not use the name djonz. at all.

The sumti in Example and Example operate exactly like the similar uses of la and lai in Example and Example respectively. The only difference is that these descriptors are followed by Lojban name-words. And in fact, the only difference between descriptors of selma'o LA (these three) and of selma'o LE (all the other descriptors) is that the former can be followed by name-words, whereas the latter cannot.

There are certain limitations on the form of name-words in Lojban. In particular, they cannot contain the letter-sequences (or sound-sequences) la, lai, or doi unless a consonant immediately precedes within the name. Reciprocally, every name not preceded by la, lai, la'i, or doi must be preceded by a pause instead:

coi .djan.
Hello, John.
zo .djan. cmene mi
The-word “John” is-the-name-of me.
My name is John.

In Example and Example , .djan. appears with a pause before it as well as after it, because the preceding word is not one of the four special cases. These rules force names to always be separable from the general word-stream.

Unless some other rule prevents it (such as the rule that zo is always followed by a single word, which is quoted), multiple names may appear wherever one name is permitted, each with its terminating pause:

doi djan. pol. djonz. le bloti cu klama fi la niuport. niuz.
John Paul Jones, the boat comes (to somewhere) from Newport News.

A name may not contain any consonant combination that is illegal in Lojban words generally: the “impermissible consonant clusters” of Lojban morphology (explained in Section ). Thus djeimz. is not a valid version of “James” (because mz is invalid): djeimyz will suffice. Similarly, la may be replaced by ly, lai by

ly'i, doi by do'i or dai. Here are a few examples:

<tab class=wikitable header=true> Doyle *doi,l do'il or dai,l Lyra *lairas ly'iras Lottie *latis LYtis. or lotis. (American pronunciation) </tab>

Names may be borrowed from other languages or created arbitrarily. Another common practice is to use one or more rafsi, arranged to end with a consonant, to form a name: thus the rafsi loj- for logji (logical) and ban- for bangu (language) unite to form the name of this language:


When borrowing names from another language which end in a vowel, or when turning a Lojban brivla (all of which end in vowels) into a name, the vowel may be removed or an arbitrary consonant added. It is common (but not required) to use the consonants

s or n when borrowing vowel-final names from English; speakers of other languages may wish to use other consonant endings.

The implicit quantifier for name sumti of the form la followed by a name is su'o, just as for la followed by a selbri.

Pro-sumti summary

The Lojban pro-sumti are the cmavo of selma'o KOhA. They fall into several classes: personal, definable, quantificational, reflexive, back-counting, indefinite, demonstrative, metalinguistic, relative, question. More details are given in Chapter 2; this section mostly duplicates information found there, but adds material on the implicit quantifier of each pro-sumti.

The following examples illustrate each of the classes. Unless otherwise noted below, the implicit quantification for pro-sumti is ro (all). In the case of pro-sumti which refer to other sumti, the ro signifies “all of those referred to by the other sumti”: thus it is possible to restrict, but not to extend, the quantification of the other sumti.

Personal pro-sumti ( mi, do, mi'o, mi'a, ma'a, do'o, ko) refer to the speaker or the listener or both, with or without third parties:

mi prami do
I love you.

The personal pro-sumti may be interpreted in context as either representing individuals or masses, so the implicit quantifier may be pisu'o rather than ro: in particular, mi'o, mi'a, ma'a, and do'o specifically represent mass combinations of the individuals (you and I, I and others, you and I and others, you and others) that make them up.

Definable pro-sumti ( ko'a, ko'e, ko'i, ko'o, ko'u, fo'a, fo'e, fo'i, fo'o, fo'u) refer to whatever the speaker has explicitly made them refer to. This reference is accomplished with goi (of selma'o GOI), which means “defined-as”.

le cribe goi ko'a cu xekri .i ko'a citka le smacu
The bear defined-as it-1 is-black. It-1 eats the mouse.

Quantificational pro-sumti ( da, de, di) are used as variables in bridi involving predicate logic:

ro da poi prenu cu prami pa de poi finpe
All somethings-1 which-are persons love one something-2 which-is a-fish.
All persons love a fish (each his/her own).

(This is not the same as “All persons love a certain fish”; the difference between the two is one of quantifier order.) The implicit quantification rules for quantificational pro-sumti are particular to them, and are discussed in detail in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. Roughly speaking, the quantifier is su'o (at least one) when the pro-sumti is first used, and ro (all) thereafter.

Reflexive pro-sumti ( vo'a, vo'e, vo'i, vo'o, vo'u) refer to the same referents as sumti filling other places in the same bridi, with the effect that the same thing is referred to twice:

le cribe cu batci vo'a
The bear bites what-is-in-the-x1-place.
The bear bites itself.

Back-counting pro-sumti ( ri, ra, ru) refer to the referents of previous sumti counted backwards from the pro-sumti:

mi klama la frankfurt. ri
I go to-Frankfurt from-the-referent-of-the-last-sumti
I go from Frankfurt to Frankfurt (by some unstated route).

Indefinite pro-sumti ( zo'e, zu'i, zi'o) refer to something which is unspecified:

mi klama la frankfurt. zo'e zo'e zo'e
I go to-Frankfurt from-unspecified via-unspecified by-means-unspecified.

The implicit quantifier for indefinite pro-sumti is, well, indefinite. It might be ro (all) or su'o (at least one) or conceivably even no (none), though no would require a very odd context indeed.

Demonstrative pro-sumti ( ti, ta, tu) refer to things pointed at by the speaker, or when pointing is not possible, to things near or far from the speaker:

ko muvgau ti ta tu
You [imperative] move this-thing from-that-nearby-place to-that-further-away-place.
Move this from there to over there!

Metalinguistic pro-sumti ( di'u, de'u, da'u, di'e, de'e, da'e, dei, do'i) refer to spoken or written utterances, either preceding, following, or the same as the current utterance.

li re su'i re du li vo .i la'e di'u jetnu
The-number two plus two equals the-number four. The-referent-of the-previous-utterance is-true.

The implicit quantifier for metalinguistic pro-sumti is su'o (at least one), because they are considered analogous to lo descriptions: they refer to things which really are previous, current, or following utterances.

The relative pro-sumti ( ke'a) is used within relative clauses (See Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch for a discussion of relative clauses) to refer to whatever sumti the relative clause is attached to.

mi viska le mlatu ku poi zo'e zbasu ke'a loi slasi
I see the cat(s) such-that something-unspecified makes it/them (the cats) from-a-mass-of plastic.
I see the cat(s) made of plastic.

The question pro-sumti ( ma) is used to ask questions which request the listener to supply a sumti which will make the question into a truth:

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

The implicit quantifier for the question pro-sumti is su'o (at least one), because the listener is only being asked to supply a single answer, not all correct answers.

In addition, sequences of lerfu words (of selma'o BY and related selma'o) can also be used as definable pro-sumti.

Quotation summary

There are four kinds of quotation in Lojban: text quotation, words quotation, single-word quotation, non-Lojban quotation. More information is provided in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch.

Text quotations are preceded by lu and followed by li'u, and are an essential part of the surrounding text: they must be grammatical Lojban texts.

mi cusku lu mi'e djan. li'u
I say the-text [quote] I-am John [unquote].
I say “I'm John”.

Words quotations are quotations of one or more Lojban words. The words need not mean anything, but they must be morphologically valid so that the end of the quotation can be discerned.

mi cusku lo'u li mi le'u
I say the-words [quote] li mi [unquote].
I say “li mi”.

Note that the translation of Example does not translate the Lojban words, because they are not presumed to have any meaning (in fact, they are ungrammatical).

Single-word quotation quotes a single Lojban word. Compound cmavo are not allowed.

mi cusku zo .ai
I say the-word ai.

Non-Lojban quotation can quote anything, Lojban or not, even non-speech such as drum talk, whistle words, music, or belching. A Lojban word which does not appear within the quotation is used before and after it to set it off from the surrounding Lojban text.

mi cusku zoi kuot. I'm John .kuot
I say “I'm John”.

The implicit quantifier for all types of quotation is su'o (at least one), because quotations are analogous to lo descriptions: they refer to things which actually are words or sequences of words.

Number summary

The sumti which refer to numbers consist of the cmavo li (of selma'o LI) followed by an arbitrary Lojban mekso, or mathematical expression. This can be anything from a simple number up to the most complicated combination of numbers, variables, operators, and so on. Much more information on numbers is given in Chapter ELG-ERROR in Template:Lch. Here are a few examples of increasing complexity:

li vo
the-number four
li re su'i re
the-number two plus two
2 + 2
li .abu bopi'i xy. bote'a re su'i by. bopi'i xy. su'i cy.
the-number a times x to-power 2 plus b times x plus c
ax2 + bx + c

An alternative to li is me'o, also of selma'o LI. Number expressions beginning with me'o refer to the actual expression, rather than its value. Thus Example and Example above have the same meaning, the number four, whereas

me'o vo
the-expression four


me'o re su'i re
the-expression two plus two

refer to different pieces of text.

The implicit quantifier for numbers and mathematical expressions is su'o, because these sumti are analogous to lo descriptions: they refer to things which actually are numbers or pieces of text. In the case of numbers (with li), this is a distinction without a difference, as there is only one number which is 4; but there are many texts “4”, as many as there are documents in which that numeral appears.