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A long running, and apparently unresolvable dispute in the Lojban community is between those emphasising logical and grammatical rigor ("Logical Language"), and those emphasising creativity and perspective-expanding usage ("Sapir-Whorf"). A rallying point is whether or not Lojban should have an explicit semantic theory or not. "Hardliners" refers to the former.

  • xod:
  • What is a semantic theory, and how do we get one without using a language? And if we use a language, how are we doing anything but importing the semantics of that source language into Lojban? Can you prove to me that you know the meaning of ANY word?
  • nitcion:
  1. You use the results of formal semantics, a research field that has been churning along nicely for many a year now.
  2. Lojban has already adopted a lot of formal semantics in its definition. It has fixed and defined place structures, for example, and transformations for generating prenexed forms of sentences from unprenexed forms. The issue is, how much more fixed and defined they should be.
  3. The completeness or not of a semantic theory is not the point; the point is, should there be further attempts at defining the semantics of Lojban words in a formal manner - including gismu amd cmavo - or not.
  4. Obviously there is a risk of importing source language semantics into Lojban through a formal approach. The risk does not go away with 'natural evolution', given the speaker-base of the language. Indeed, if semantics is left completely informal, there is a good chance the risk is actually greater.

Another recurring demand of hardliners is that an Academy be set up to supervise the evolution of Lojban[1][2][3]. Gerald Koenig and Steven Belkamp were particularly in favour of this, in discussion Nov. 95 - Feb 96. Bob LeChevalier is particularly adamant against it.

The caricature simplification of the two positions on the language is that hardliners support prescriptivism, rigorous definition of the language, and the logical content of the language. Naturalists support descriptivism, and avoidance of fully defining the language, creativity, and the natural evolution of the language.

  1. Most Lojbanists really are somewhere in between.
  2. Neither attitude is going away any time soon. (The calls for a semantic theory or an Academy that are being made now have been made in the past, for example; e.g. Jeff Prothero in 1991, exclaiming "Better a bicycle without wheels than a loglan without formal semantics!"[4].
  3. Although there are clear attempts at compromise, the two attitudes are incommensurable, and this may have undesirable consequences (dialectisation).
  4. Inasmuch as there is a party line espoused by the LLG, that line is clearly naturalistic.


  • John Cowan:
    • Toffee-liners?
      • nitcion:
        • For now, I'm using the less tendentious (!) naturalists. This is a distant echo of the skemistoj/naturalistoj (= lujvo vs. fu'ivla) controversy of Esperanto, after all.
  • What about javnykai xarnu and tavlykai xarnu for these positions?
    • nitcion:
      • I'd prefer rarnykai to tavlykai, but that's not for a javnykai xarnu to say.


  • xod:
    • I'm not sure either term gets the point across. One term should emphasize Logic, the other term should emphasize conceptual or experiential exploration. .i le lojypre le frisispre cu relpro
    • xorxes:
      • There is also a third position, of those who think that logical and grammatical rigor are not in conflict with creativity and perspective-expansion, but rather that they complement and potentiate each other.
      • nitcion:
        • Yes, but you know the aphorism about "those in the middle of the road" :-) ... For issues like how a Lojban dictionary is to be written - or whether it should even be written at all - one still has to take a position. In reality, of course, Lojbanists tend to be in between; these are rhetorical abstractions from the debates that recur in the language community.
        • Adam:
          • It's not a "middle of the road" (at least not in the sense of a compromise between the two); it's the position that both rigor and creativity are important, equally so, and non-negotiable, and that neither need be, nor should be, compromised.
  • Nonslang is called by the people who use slang, tatpi valsi (tired words), but by the people who don't, satci valsi (accurate words).
    • Woah! Pretty much identical terminology is used in Klingon ("mu'mey Doy' and mu'mey qar.")!
      • They undoubtedly borrowed our usage.
        • net Sov, net Sov... (ti'e, or zo'e djuno la'edi'u)
  • xod:
  • Inasmuch as I appear to be getting characterized as a Naturalist, if not the prototypical Naturalist:
  • My background is from Physics, Math, and Logical Positivism. I don't see Lojban to be significantly more accurate or precise than English, or hand gestures. This, on a different Wiki, would be considered a hardline view. The result is that I don't care too much for hyperspecification of Lojban because it, like anything else that isn't a deductive system, is just another bowl of oatmeal.
    • nitcion:
      • Noted. For my part, when I made the switch from computer science to linguistics, I made sure I joined up with the fluffiest, un-positivist-est linguistics I could: functionalism, historical linguistics, natural semantic metalanguage. I am allergic to syntax, and consider formal semantics beyond me. In my case, at least, I am a hardliner in Lojban because I am not a hardliner in real life.
  • As xorxes has helpfully pointed out[5], there are two hardlinerisms: hardliner towards the baseline (bangu kamstodi xarnu), and hardliner towards formal semantics (logji banske xarnu). Discussion of hardlinerism to date seems to reflect the latter. The Academian thread of hardlinerism, however, reflects the former.
  • nitcion:
    • I think it might be useful to call the former something else, and propose fundamentalism.
  • Jay Kominek has on his wiki page an admirable statement of bangu kamstodi xarnu.
  • jezrax:
    • Is there a name for people who want to emphasize both "logical and grammatical rigor" and "creativity and perspective-expanding usage"?
      • .JEsikas.:
        • Synthesist?
      • Can you show that they are compatible, or that one induces the other?
        • jezrax:
          • I would like to expand my perspective via logical and grammatical rigor. As I understand it, that was JCB's original motivation for inventing Loglan!
            • xod:
              • Then you need to build the ckinytadji dialect, because the level of logic in current standard Lojban is well below that used by pedantic undergrads debating religion late at night. Only when you make the metaphorical use of mathematical & logical descriptions much easier than they already are in English will you have any chance of the alteration of perceptions. If that's your goal and method, I'm with you!
  • Jay:
    • I didn't know a whole lot of people in my undergrad days (hah, i can act like it was a long time ago, now!) who went about debating religion with any sort of pedantry. More like "you must have faith!" "you're on crack!" "you're going to hell!" "better than wherever you're going." but then again, i was in engineering school...
  • rabrt:
    • Can anyone shed light for me (a lojban n00b) on how the precepts of general semantics might impact the questions being raised here? Thanks.