we can build a church or a school

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Suppose you are at a community meeting, deciding what to build, and you have enough building materials for a church or a school, but not both. The obvious way to say this, {ma'a ka'e zbasu lo malsi .onai lo ckule}, does not work; it means that exactly one of "We can build a church" and "We can build a school" is true. (um, isn't that the same thing? No, they are both true, until you do the other one.) The correct way to say it is {ma'a ka'e zbasu pa malsi jonai ckule}.

If we can build a church, a school, or a hospital, it becomes more complicated. {ma'a ka'e zbasu pa malsi jonai ckule jonai spita} means "We can build a church, a school, a hospital, or a three-purpose building". To say that we can build any one of the three, say {ma'a ka'e zbasu pa lu'a lo malsi ku ce lo ckule ku ce lo spita}. See Do you want coffee or tea?.

OK, these are all good points. But aren't both the pa malsi jonai ckule and the pa lu'a lo malsi ku ce lo ckule ku solutions ambiguous? Specifically, between the meanings "We can build any one of a church or a school, but only one," and "We can build one of: a church or a school (actually, we can only build a school, but that's one of them, right? And I'm not telling you that because either I'm being obnoxious or I don't know which, but there's only one we can build)." I suppose we could always go lo-tech and say ma'a ka'e zbasu pa malsi .ije ma'a ka'e zbasu pa ckule .iku'i ma'a ka'e zbasu pa dinju po'o or something like that, with multiple sentences, but that's very lobykai. Thoughts? --mi'e .mark.

ma'a malsi ja ckule zbasu kakne

Well, yes, if you're big on tanru and down on bridi. Why not just mi ka'e zbasu lo malsi .a lo ckule? (or .onai for .a, depending)

  • Note that this is exactly the same sentence which the first paragraph points out does not work.

Why do people spend time offering alternate translations that are only just as good, or marginally better?

Matter of opinion. Me, I think the tanru-only version is needlessly cutesy and ambiguous, while the full-bridi version has the advantage of actually (gasp) saying what is desired.

I'm personally wondering why someone thought this would be hard to say in Lojban...

How about saying "Do we want to build a church or a school?"? How do we make sure the answer isn't "go'i"?

ma'a djica lenu zbasu lo malsi ji lo ckule. This is the classic use for ji.

ma'a djica le nu zbasu ma po'u lo malsi .a lo ckule

Is it possible to use sets to 1) ask which one of a set applies to a bridi and/or 2) show an action/relationship done by members of a set to other members of a set?

Interesting idea! Can you give an example or a few hints so we can start working on it? --xod

I'm guessing the question is things like "which members of the team are over 2 meters tall?"(1) and "The seven businessmen shaved each other's backs"(2). Hmm. Those would be (1) ma poi ke'a cmima le bende cu mitre li su'ore perhaps? Though that doesn't explicitly use sets, only because I used bende. I could have had a set there instead. and (2) ... um, tougher. I can do it pretty precisely (though without specifics), but it's wordy: roda poi cmima le'i ze kagni gunka ku'o de poi cmima le'i ze kagni gunka zo'u de krevi'u lo trixysefta be da gi'enai du da or something hideous like that (yes, this allows some lazy businessmen not to do any shaving, which I think is closer to the meaning of the original sentence). There are probably better ways. --mi'e .mark.

  • lei ze kagni gunka cu simxu le ka ce'u krevi'u lo trixysefta be ce'u