Lojban Wave Lessons/Ellipticals, raising, quotes, numbers

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Lesson 17: Cute assorted words

And with that, third chapter, you know a lot about Lojban sumti. After such a long time of rigorous systematic learning, what could be more fitting that this lesson where I speak about some words which I could not, or wanted not to fit into any other lessons? So here are a few small and really useful words:

The following cmavo are all elliptical words. You should already be familiar with the first.

zo'e = elliptical sumti
co'e = elliptical selbri
do'e = elliptical sumtcita
ju'a = elliptical evidential
do'i = elliptical utterance variable
ge'e = elliptical attitudinal

All of these act grammatically as a cmavo of the kind they represent, but they contain no information, and can be quite handy when you're lazy and don't need to be specific anyway. There are, however, a few things which need to be cleared up:

  • zo'e have to refer to something which is claimed to have a value. zero cars or nothing, for instance, has no value, and therefore cannot be referred to by zo'e. This is because, if it could mean nothing by zo'e, then any selbri could be identical to its negation, if one of the elided sumti were filled with a zo'e with no value.
  • ge'e does not mean that you feel no emotion, just that you feel nothing special or worth to mention at the moment. It's similar to I'm fine.. ge'e pei ask about an elliptical emotion and is a good translation for: How are you feeling?.
  • co'e is handy when needing a selbri in a construct for grammatical reasons, like in the definition of tu'a in the previous lesson.
  • ju'a does not change the truth value or subjective understanding of the bridi or anything like that. In fact, it's mostly does nothing. However, ju'a pei, What is your basis for saying that? is handy.
  • do'i is really useful. A lot of times when you refer to utterances or conversations by words like this or that, you want do'i.
  • If you fill in more sumti than a selbri has places for, the last sumti have implied do'e sumtcita in front of them.

Furthermore, there is a word, zi'o, that you can fill a sumti place with to delete it from any selbri. lo melbi be zi'o, for instance, is just Something beautiful, and does not include the usual x2 of melbi, which is the observer who judges something to be beautiful. Thus, it can mean something like Objectively beautiful. It does not state that nothing fills the sumti place which is being deleted, just that the sumti place is not being considered in the selbri. Using zi'o with a sumtcita gives weird results. Formally, they should cancel each other out. Practically, it would probably be understood as an explicit way of saying that the sumtcita does not apply, as in: mi darxi do mu'i zi'o - I hit you, with or without motivation.

Then there is the word jai. It's one of those cool, small words which are hard to grasp, but easy to work with once you know it. It has two distinct, but similar functions. Both have something to do with converting the selbri, like se does.

jai = Selbri conversion: Converts sumtcita or unspecified abstraction to x1. Use with fai
fai = Marks sumti place. Works like fa. To be used with jai.

The first grammatical construction it can make is "jai {sumtcita} {selbri}". It changes the sumti places such that the sumti place of the sumtcita becomes the selbri's x1, and the selbri's old x1 is removed, and only accessible by using fai, which works like fa. You can see it with this example:

gau = sumtcita (from gasnu) bridi has been brought about by/with active agent {sumti}'

do jai gau jundi ti fai mi. - You bring about attention to this by me. The new selbri, jai gau jundi, has the place structure of x1 brings about attention paid to x2. These are then filled by do and ti. The fai then marks the place for the old x1, the one who was paying attention, and it is filled with mi. This word can be very convenient and has tons of uses. A good example is descriptive-like sumti. One can, for instance, refer to the method of volitional action by lo jai ta'i zukte.

ta'i = sumtcita (from tadji): Bridi is done with the method of {sumti}

Can you deduce what the ordinary Lojban phrase do jai gau mo means?

Answer: What are you doing?

The other function of jai is easier to explain. It simply converts the selbri such that the sumti in the x1 gets a tu'a in front of it (ko'a jai broda = tu'a ko'a broda). In other words, it converts the selbri in a way such that it builds an elliptical abstraction from the sumti in the x1, and then fills x1 with the abstraction instead of the actual sumti. Again, the original sumti place is accessible by fai.

A very active Lojban IRC-user often says le gerku pe do jai se stidi mi, to use a random example of a sumti in x1. What's he saying?

stidi = x1 inspires/suggests x2 in/to x3

Answer: I suggest (something about) your dog.

So far you've learned how to convert bridi to selbri, selbri to sumti, and selbri into bridi, since all selbri by themselves are also bridi. You only need one last function: convert sumti to selbri. This is done with the word me. It accepts a sumti and converts it into a selbri.

me = Generic convert sumti to selbri. x1 is/are among the referents of SUMTI

When screwing a sentence up, knowing how to correct yourself is a good idea. There are three words in Lojban which you can use to delete your previous word(s)

si = deletion: Deletes last word only.
sa = deletion: Deletes back until next cmavo spoken.
su = deletion: Deletes entire discourse.

The function of these words are obvious: They delete words as if they have never been spoken. They do not work inside certain quotes (all quotes except lu...li'u), though, as that would leave it impossible to quote these words. Several si in a row deletes several words

Lesson 18: Quotes

One of the key design features of Lojban is that it's supposed to be audio-visual isomorphic, meaning that everything expressed in text should also be expressed in speech and vice versa. Therefore, there cannot be any punctuation which is not pronounced. This means that Lojban has a wide range of words to quote other words. All Lojban quotes take some input of text and converts it to a sumti. Let's begin with the most simple:

lu = Quote word: Begin quote of grammatical Lojban content
li'u = Quote word: End quote of grammatical Lojban content

The text inside this construct must by itself be grammatical. It can quote all Lojban words with some few exceptions, most notably, obviously, li'u.

Try to translate the following sentence. Take your time.

mi stidi lo drata be tu'a lu ko jai gau mo li'u

drata = x1 is different from x2 by standard

Answer: I suggest something different than something about ko jai gau mo.

These quote words cannot quote ungrammatical text. This is sometimes useful, when you want to only pick out part of a sentence, as in: is gi'e a Lojban sumtcita?

For this, you need these two cmavo

lo'u = Quote word: Begin quote of ungrammatical but Lojban content
le'u = Quote word: End quote of ungrammatical but Lojban content

The text inside must be Lojban words, but need not be grammatical. Try to translate the above example (the one with gi'e) into Lojban

Answer: xu lo'u gi'e le'u lojbo sumtcita

This quote can be used to quote all Lojban words except le'u. However, this is not enough. If we want to translate is do mo a correct translation of "What's up?", we might be slightly wrong about what we here state, since do mo also can mean What are you?, but let's roll with it for a second. What we need here is the word zoi.

zoi = Next cmavo starts all-purpose quote and closes all-purpose quote.

When using zoi, you pick any morphologically correct lojban word at will (called the delimiter), which then opens a quote. To close it, use that word again. This way, you can quote anything except the delimiter, which shouldn't be a problem because you can pick it yourself. Usually, the word picked is either zoi itself, or a letter which stands for the language which the quote is written in. Example: I liked The Phantom of the Opera is mi pu nelci la'e zoi zoi. The Phantom of the Opera .zoi Notice two things: Firstly, I need a la'e, since I didn't like the quote, but rather what it referred to. Secondly, between the chosen delimiter and the quote, there are pauses, optionally represented by a full stop in writing. This pause is necessary to correctly identify the delimiter.

Try to translate the above sentence concerning What's up?

drani = x1 is correct/proper in aspect x2 in situation x3 by standard x4

Answer: xu lu do mo li'u drani xe fanva zoi gy. What's up? .gy. Here the delimiter gy is chosen because it's short for glico, meaning "English"

Closely analogously, there is la'o. It works exactly like zoi, but turns the resulting quote into a name. It is needed because normally, only selbri and cmevla can be names, not quotes.

la'o = Next cmavo is begin all-purpose quote and close all-purpose quote – use as name.

Last of the official quote words, there is zo. zo always quotes the next Lojban word, no matter what it is. It's pretty handy.

zo = quotes next Lojban word, no matter what.


zo zo zo'o plixau
"zo" is useful, hehe.
zo'o = attitudinal: discursive: Humorously, "kidding you"
plixau = x1 is useful for x2 to do purpose x3

Some Lojban users have found it useful to supplement with four additional quote words. The most used is:

u'i ri pu cusku zo'oi Doh
Ha ha, he said "Doh!"
zo'oi = Quote next word only. Next word is identified by pauses in speech or whitespace/dot in writing:

It is apparently very easy to use, but as a matter of fact, general use of them is very problematic. Users should be aware that the word following zo'oi should not include a period, a glottal stop or a pause. For example, * zo'oi http://www.lojban.org/ is not grammatical since the string "http://www.lojban.org/" contains periods.

Another erratic text: * lo salpo (ku) fa'u lo finti cu smuni zo'oi saka fa'u zo'oi sa.ka lo ponjo. Here "sa.ka" has a period inside.

Analogous to zo'oi and la'o, there is also the word la'oi, which works just like zo'oi, but forms a sumti that refers to something called (whatever next words is put):

la'oi = Scope over the next word only; "something called by the name...". Next word is identified by pauses in speech or whitespace/dot in writing.

How would you say: "Safi" is an English guy. It's his name?

glico = x1 is English/pertains to English culture in aspect x2
cmene = x1 is the name of x2 as used by x3

Answer: la'oi Safi glico .i lu'e ri cmene ri

la'oi has the same problem as zo'oi: the word following la'oi should not include a period, a glottal stop or a pause. For example, the following sentences are not grammatical:

  • .u'a mi te vecnu lo zgike datni pe la'oi t.A.T.u. Here "t.A.T.u" has periods inside ("t.A.T.u" was a musical group).

Example of spoken text: la'oi .uli.uli zgike tutci. "`uli`uli" is a Hawaiian musical instrument. This word has periods inside.

Example of spoken text: ju'i la'oi jugemujugemugokounosurikirekaijarisuigiono- suigioumatsu,unraimatsufuuraimatsuku,unerutokoronisumutokoro,iaburakoujinoburakouji- paipopaipopaiponosiu,uringansiu,uringan,nogu,urindaigu,urindainoponpokopi,inoponpokona,anotcoukiu,umeinotcousuke mi'o ko'oi klama lo ckule. Don't take a breathing in the name, or it will result in an error! This word ("じゅげむじゅげむごこうのすりきれかいじゃりすいぎょのすいぎょうまつうんらいまつふうらいまつくうねるところにすむところやぶらこうじのぶらこうじぱいぽぱいぽぱいぽのしゅーりんがんしゅーりんがんのぐーりんだいぐーりんだいのぽんぽこぴーのぽんぽこなーのちょうきゅうめいのちょうすけ") is a famous Japanese name of a boy.)

Thirdly, ra'oi quotes the next rafsi. Since rafsi are not words, they would usually have to be quoted by zoi. Furthermore, several rafsi are also cmavo. To avoid confusion of which is meant, ra'oi always refer to a rafsi, and is wrong in front of any text string which are not rafsi.

What does ra'oi zu'e rafsi zo zukte .i ku'i zo'oi zu'e sumtcita mean?

ku'i = attitudinal: discursive: However / though (contrasts to something previously said)
rafsi = x1 an affix for word/concept x2 with properties/of form x3 in language x4

Answer: The rafsi zu'e is a rafsi for zukte. But zu'e is a sumtcita.

And finally the useful word ma'oi. ma'oi quotes any cmavo, but treats the quote as a name for the word class (selma'o) to which that word belongs. So, for instance, ba'o belongs to the wordclass called ZAhO, so ma'oi ba'o is unofficial Lojban for the selmaho ZahO.

Try it out. Say that pu and ba are in the same selma'o!

cmavo = x1 is a grammatical word of class x2 in language x3

One possible answer: zo pu cmavo ma'oi ba

Lesson 19: Numbers

When learning a language, one of the things which are usually taught very early on is how to count. This really makes little sense, because it's not necessary to know numbers if you don't know how to speak about those things to which they apply. This is partly the reason why I have left it for lesson number nineteen. The other reason is that while the numbers themselves are easy to learn, how they apply to sumti can get very confusing indeed. That, however, we will save for a later lesson.

Before learning the words themselves, you should know that numbers do not have any internal grammar. This means that any row of number words (henceforth referred to as a "number string") are treated identically to any other number string to the Lojban grammar, even if the string makes no sense. Therefore, one can never answer unambiguously whether a number construct makes sense or not. There are, however, intended ways of using the number words, and confusion will probably result if you deviate from the standard.

Learning all the number words of Lojban are way beyond the scope of this lesson, so you will only be introduced to what is normally used in text. The wide range of Lojban mathematical cmavo are called mekso (Lojban for "mathematical expression"), and is widely disregarded because of its complexity and questionable advantage over so-called bridi math.

Let's begin with the ordinary Lojban numbers, from zero to nine:

Notice how the vowels are alternating (with the exception of no), and how no consonant is used for two digits. In order to express numbers higher than nine, the numbers are just strung together:
  • vo mu ci – four hundred and fifty three (453)
  • pa no no no no ten thousand (10 000)
There is also a question-digit, which is used like other fill-in-the-blank question words. It's xo. The answer to such a question may be just the relevant digit(s) by itself, or they can be numerical constructs, as shown later.
  • ci xo xo xo – "Three thousand and how many?" (3???)
xo = question digit – use like any other digit to ask for the correct digit.
The experimental word xo'e is sometimes used to mean an unspecified, elliptical digit. Its definition is not official, though.
  • ci xo'e xo'e xo'e – Three thousand and something
xo'e = elliptical digit.
Since all number strings are treated grammatically the same, one might also answer several digits to one xo'e Furthermore, there is also a set of hexadecimal digits A through F. By default, Lojban operates in base 10, but when using hexadecimal digits, it can be safely assumed that you use base sixteen:
dau fei gai jau rei xei vai
10(A) 11(B) 12(C) 13(D) 14(E) 14(E) 15(F)

Yes, I know there are two words for E. The official one is rei (all three-letter cmavo beginning with x is experimental). xei was invented to avoid confusion with re.

The base can be explicitly stated using ju'u: Any number before ju'u the number being spoken of, any number after is the base of the number:

  • dau so fei no ju'u pa re – A9B0 in base 12 (notice here that base 12 is always in decimal. It is possible to permanently change the base you speak in, but since it has never been used in practice, it has not been standardized how one should do it)

Fractions are also useful to learn how to express. They are usually expressed via a decimal point, pi.

pi = Decimal point (or point in whichever base you are talking in)

pa re pi re mu – twelve point two five (12.25).

Like in mathematics, when no number string is placed before or after pi, zero is assumed.

Related to this, the number separator pi'e is used to separate numbers, either to separate digits when speaking in a base larger than sixteen, or when a decimal point is not applicable, for instance, when talking about time in hours, minutes, seconds:

pa so pi'e re mu pi'e no ju'u re ze – Nineteen, twenty-five, zero in base 27 (JP0 base 27)

re re pi'e vo bi – twenty-two, fourty eight (22:48)

There is also a range of number words which are not mathematically exact but rather subjective or relative. The behaviors of these words are almost exactly like the behavior of digits, except they cannot be combined to make bigger numbers the way digits can:

ro so'a so'e so'i so'o so'u
all almost all most many some few

When combined with any of the digits, these words are assumed to give a second verdict about the size of the number:

mu bi so'i sai – Fifty eight, which is really many.

They should therefore not be placed in the middle of a number string. When placed after pi, they are assumed to convey the size of a fraction:

  • pi so'u – a small part of it
  • pi so'o – some of it
  • pi so'i – a large part of it
  • pi so'e – most of it
  • pi so'a – almost all of it

These are some hightly subjective numbers - they work just like the previous ones.

du'e mo'a rau
too many too few enough

The following five are context-based numbers – these work like the previous ones, with the exception that they take the next number in order to assign them meaning:

da'a su'e su'o za'u me'i
all except n At most n At least n more than n less than n

If no number string follow them, one is assumed.

so'i pa re da'a mu – Many, which is twelve, which is all but five.

The two last number words you should know have slightly more complicated grammar:

ji'i = number rounding or number approximation

When ji'i is placed before a number, the entire number is approximated:

ji'i ze no za'u rau ju'o – "About seventy, which is more than enough, certainly

Placed in the middle of the number, only the following digits are non-exact. At the end of a number, it signifies that the number has been rounded off.

ki'o = Number comma - separates digits within one string; Thousands.

It is not incidential that ki'o sounds like kilo. At its simplest, ki'o is used to separate three digits at a time in large numbers, much like commas are used in English:

pa ki'o so so so ki'o bi xa ze – 1,999,867

If less than three digits are put before a ki'o, the digits are assumed to be the least significant ones, and zeros are assumed to fill in the rest:

vo ki'o ci bi ki'o pa ki'o ki'o – 4,038,001,000,000

ki'o is used similarly after a decimal point.

That concludes the common Lojban numbers themselves. How they apply to sumti is a science in itself, and we leave that for lesson twenty-two. Now we focus on how these numbers can be used in a bridi.

A string of number words by themselves are grammatical, since they can act as an answer to a xo-type of question. In this case, however, they cannot be considered part of any bridi. In general, if numbers fill part of a bridi, they do so in one of two forms: Pure numbers and quantifiers. We will return to quantifiers in a later lesson. For now, we will look at pure numbers.

A pure number is any row of number words prefixed with li. This makes a sumti directly from the number, and refers to the mathematical concept of, for instance, the number six. Its famyma'o is lo'o

li = convert number/mekso-expression to sumti.
lo'o = famyma'o: end convert number/mekso-expression to sumti.

These pure sumti are usually what fills the x2 of brivla such as mitre or cacra

mitre = x1 is x2 metres in dimension x3 by standard x4
cacra = x1 is x2 hours in duration (default 1) by standard x3

Try to translate the following:

le ta nu cinjikca cu cacra li ci ji'i u'i nai

Answer: (sigh) That flirting has been going on for around three hours.

How do you count to three in Lojban?

Answer: li pa li re li ci

The last thing we'll go through in this lesson is the words of the selma'o MAI and those of MOI.

MAI only contains two words, mai and mo'o. Both of these convert any number string to an ordinal, which has the grammar of attitudinals. Ordinals are used to divide a text into numbered segments, like chapters or parts. The only difference between mai and mo'o is that mo'o quantifies larger subdivisions of text, allowing you to divide a text on two different levels, for example enumerating chapters with mo'o and sections with mai. Notice that these as well as the MOI take any number string directly, without any need for li.

mai = Lower-order ordinal marker: Convert number to ordinal.
mo'o = Higher order ordinal marker: Convert number to ordinal.

There are five MOI, and they all convert any number string to selbri. We'll take them one at a time:

moi = Convert number n to selbri: x1 is the n'th member of set x2 by order x3


la lutcimin ci moi lo'i ninmu pendo be mi le su'u lo clani zmadu cu lidne lo clani mleca
Lui-Chi Min is third among my female friends by the order: The more tall ones precedes the less tall ones.

When specifying a sequence, it is widely understood that if a ka-abstraction (lesson twenty-nine) is used as a sumti, the members of the set are ordered from the one with most of the property to the one with less of the property, so the x3 of the following sentence could have been shortened to lo ka clani.

lidne = x1 is before x2 in sequence x3
clani = x1 is long in dimension x2 by standard x3
zmadu = x1 exceeds x2 in property/aspect x3 by amount x4
mleca = x1 is less than/is less characterized than x2 by property/aspect x3 by amount x4
mei = Convert number n to selbri: x1 is the mass formed from the set x2, which has the n members of x3

Notice here that x3 are supposed to be individuals, x2 a set and x1 a mass.

What would mi ci mei mean?

Anwer: We are group of three.

si'e = Convert number n to selbri: x1 is n times x2

Example: le vi plise cu me'i pi pa si'e lei mi cidja be ze'a lo djediThis apple here is less than one tenth of my food for one day

Please note that the definition of si'e when looked up will tell you that it's "x1 is an nth of x2", instead of "x1 is n times x2". But people only use it as I have defined it, so the definition in the dictionaries will probably change.

cu'o = Convert number n to selbri: x1 has n probability of occurring under conditions x2


lo nu mi mrobi'o cu pa cu'o lo nu mi denpa ri
An event of me dying has probability 1 under the conditions: I wait for it = Me dying is completely certain if I wait long enough.
denpa = x1 waits for x2, being in state x3 until resuming/doing x4
va'e = Convert number n to selbri: x1 is at the n'th position on the scale x2


li pa no cu ro va'e la torinon
10 is the highest value on the Torino-scale.