Why positional case system

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Question

mi tavla fe do
I talk to you.
mi tavla fi la lojban
I talk about Lojban.

fe and fi don't carry meanings. If we can have something like prepositions we can do this:

mi tavla [to] do
mi tavla [in] la lojban

(Words yet to be made are wrapped [like this]).

I feel that meaning-based prepositions are easier to remember.

Answer

fe and fi are prepositions. Whereas English uses some kind of metaphorical system to describe arguments of a verb Lojban defines them in an order.

E.g.

  • in English we say I talk of you
  • in Spanish we say pienso en ti (literally I think in you !)
  • in Russian we say Я думаю о тебе (literally I think about you).
These metaphorical prepositions are not universal across languages.


Thus Lojban is made neutral.

However, some prepositions are like what you just proposed. We have sumtcita (prepositions) with fixed meanings and positional ones too. So instead of

tavla fo la lojban

you can say

tavla bau la lojban

Question

Wouldn't it be easier to have a system where only prepositions like bau be used?

Answer

It wouldn't since then you'd have two scenarios:

  1. you would have to remember a lot of new prepositions, several ones for each verb like
    • e.g. for dunda (x1 gives x2 to x3) you will have three new prepositions, similarly, for other verbs
  2. or you would make some metaphorical generalizations e.g. "I talk to you", "I give to you", "I refer to you" all use the preposition to although describe very different relations. For such cases you will still have to remember, which preposition to use in which position. See the example "to think of/about/in" above.

Discussion

  • mudri:
    • I consider this a straw man argument. It is possible to have case systems with a much tighter fit to thematic roles than the European metaphorical system. As far as I understand, Ithkuil does this, and it seems far less arbitrary than the examples above. Also, it is possible to mimic a positional case system in a semantic case system by requiring explicit FA usage, so the semantic framework is strictly more powerful than the positional framework (and thus can be just as neutral). I find it useful for relations with multiple objects, where I just label them “obj0”, “obj1” &c.
      • la gleki:
        • As for Ithkuil-like system one has to prove it in a speakable language. As of 2014 no one has reached fluency in Ithkuil. That Ithkuil case system requires less time to learn than the case system of any European language, also requires a proof. As for natlangs they can be spoken and thus have been chosen for the answer.