How to use xorlo

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The old definitions of lo and le in The Complete Lojban Language are:

  • lo mlatu = some things which really ("veridically") are cats.
  • le mlatu = some specific things I have in mind, each of which I describe to you as being a cat.

The new definitions of lo and le, which you should use instead, are:

  • lo mlatu = any or some cats.
  • le mlatu = some specific things I have in mind, each of which I describe to you as being a cat.

In particular, lo is now the "default". It is completely generic. Use le only when you have specific instances in mind; lo everywhere else. For details, read on.

About xorlo

"xorlo" is a pet name of the BPFK (Committee for developing Lojban) for the articles (called gadri in Lojban, they are like the and a in English). This proposal is written mostly by Xorxes, a member of BPFK. The gadri proposal (which has now been accepted by a vote of 11 to 0 by the BPFK, although it is technically subject to future changes until we declare ourselves done) is quite complete, but rather full of technical jargon.

This change to the language affects The Complete Lojban Language book that was published before accepting xorlo so after reading that book you are supposed to come to this page to see what changed in the language.

Something that needs to be noted in general: the BPFK made a consensus decision that they do not make rulings on ontological or metaphysical issues; that is, we will not tell you whether phrase X has meaning or validity. That is discussion and speaker specific, and not our job. In some discussions, saying mi kalte pa pavyseljirna (which literally means there exists one thing that is a unicorn that I am hunting; this implies that at least one unicorn exists) is perfectly reasonable, in others it's a reason to put someone in a mental hospital. In a similar vein, lo is now completely generic. This means that there are going to be disagreements about how broad it can be. For example, I think that bear goo is perfectly validly lo cribe. The member of BPFK Arnt Richard Johansen does not. That's OK, albeit somewhat obnoxious should I ever need to talk about bear goo. Of course, I can just use lo pesxu be lo cribe.

General Notes

If you choose to read the proposal itself, there are a couple of things you should know. If you just want the high-level overview, and have no intention of reading the proposal, skip this section.

  • distributively means "not as a group", and is a term we owe largely to McKay, whom we should give money to or something :). See also The WP entry on plural quantification. (Xorxes says that we were using it before him; I still think it helped). Basically, three men carried the piano when handled distributively means that they each carried it. lo, le, and la are all unspecified with regards to distributivity. An outer quantifier can be used to quantify distributively over the referents of the sumti. For mass gadri, the outer quantifier of loi, lei and lai is distributive over groups of number indicated by the inner quantifier.
  • non-distributively means "as a group". Three men carried the piano when handled non-distributively means that they all did it.
  • See gadri: an unofficial commentary from a logical point of view for a more precise discussion on plural quantification and gadri.
  • There are no default quantifiers. At all. For example, the default outer quantifier of lo used to be su'o, which means at least one, but that is no longer the case. lo cribe could be one, or a billion, or the idea of bear-ness (as in bears like honey), or bear goo (as in after a car accident involving a really, really big truck).
  • A side effect of the above is that in xorlo, if you mean one bear, consider actually saying pa cribe. It's ever so much more specific. Xorxes points out that to refer to one bear, lo pa cribe is actually a bit better; pa cribe cu pinxe means that exactly one cribe in the whole world drinks, which is often not what you want. We (those of us that have actually been using xorlo for the last few months; there are at least half a dozen active users on #lojban now) have found that context is almost always sufficient, however.


lo is where the biggest changes occured. In fact, it's fair to say that everything but the changes to lo (and to default quantification) were mere clarifications. Here's how lo works now:

  • lo is the default gadri. It's the most vague one. So if in doubt, use lo
  • lo with no outer or inner quantifier is absolutely generic. Thankfully, context is plenty 99% of the time. Expect to see a lot more lo compared to 'The Complete Lojban Language' book!
  • In particular, you almost always want lo nu rather than le nu. lo nu is some event of ..., le nu is some particular event of ... that I have in mind.
  • lo with an outer quantifier selects a certain number of things from among the sumti, e.g. mu lo bakni means Five of the cows.
  • lo's inner quantifier indicates the number of things we're talking about, but in a slightly different fashion. mu lo bakni cu bevri lo pipno means Five cows each carried a piano individually. lo mu bakni cu bevri lo pipno is ambiguous as to whether they did it individually or as a group. To be clear about group-ness, use loi and friends.
  • lo with both an inner and outer quantifier indicates how many of the things we are talking about are involved in the bridi. mu lo pano bakni cu bevri lo pipno means Five of the ten cows each carried a piano individually.
  • The above is actually a substantial change; lo mu bakni cu bevri lo pipno used to mean All the cows in the universe, of which there are 5, carry the piano. That sucked. It is still possible to say the above in xorlo, in several ways: lo ro bakni ku noi mu mei or mu bakni cu zasti .i lo ro bakni cu bevri lo pipno or others.


la is unchanged save for clarification.

  • la has no inner quantifier; a number after la is considered part of the name.
  • la's outer quantifier is just like lo's.

The lVi Series

This is loi and lai. They act exactly like lo and la, respectively, except that:

  • They make things into groups (aka masses, aka non-distributive groups) for purposes of the rest of the bridi. For example, loi mu bakni cu bevri lo pipno definitely means that all the cows carried the piano together, as a group.
  • The inner quantifier (which lai does not have) indicates the size of the group.
  • You almost always want to use an inner quantifier with loi, not an outer one. This may take a bit of getting used to.
  • The outer quantifier gives a number of groups. These are not then grouped together! This means that re loi mu bakni cu bevri lo pipno means that there are two groups of five cows, and that each group of five cows carried the piano.
  • That example should give an idea of the power of xorlo; some very specific things can be said in xorlo very easily.
  • Note that it is not necessarily the case that those two groups of five cows are completely distinct. They could share some members in common. Using this fact without making it clear to your listener you are doing so, however, is very poor form.
  • A fractional outer quantifier selects a portion of the group. So pi mu loi xa bakni cu bevri lo pipno means that one half of some group of six cows (i.e. 3 cows) carried the piano.

The lV'i Series.

This is lo'i and la'i. They act exactly like loi and lai, respectively, except that they turn their arguments into sets instead of groups. A mathematical set has only the properties of membership and cardinality (aka "how many"). Lojban sets may have more properties, like having a chief member (see ralju). They don't get used much, to be honest.

The original text of this page was written by the head of BPFK Robin Lee Powell with the words: "That's it. Hope you enjoy our Christmas 2004 present."

Trivia and technical info

  • It's funny that xorlo has the form of gismu.
  • Also, it's the first biggest change the BPFK has made to the language, and the BPFK hoped at the time of creation that it would be the biggest ever made.

A clarification on xorlo's scope

When asked about if xorlo did anything to lo'e ...

The significant point of xorlo is that sumti without an explicit outer quantifier are not to be taken as quantifying the bridi they appear in. In that sense, all sumti are affected, whether it's a sumti from KOhA or one headed by LE, LA, LAhE, LI, LU, ZO, etc. But other than that, I think they (lo'e and le'e) remain unchanged (i.e. as little understood as before).

— la .xorxes., December 14 2009