long tanru gotcha

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See also long tanru for another viewpoint.

It sounds tempting, if a single brivla or a gismu seems too vague, to make a tanru; and if the tanru is still too vague, to make a more complex tanru. This can often be communicatively effective.

But the more components in the tanru, the more semantic ambiguities there are, because each tanru joint introduces one or more ambiguous meanings, and the ambiguities, quite literally, multiply.

On the other hand, a tanru with 1000 gismu should be pretty specific.

  • But it would be devlish hard to figure out what it specified, with say 3^1000 possible readings.

The final defense is to make a new lujvo and nail down its meaning.

(This is if you think one can only communicate using semantically

exact utterances. Whereas I insist that most human usage differs

from this, in that there is much assumed meaning taking place, and

then each utterance modifies the context in a minimalistic way. In

essence, the course of the ball both teams are playing with, gets

nudged this way or that; what utterances mark is the change in

direction. Therefore tanru are perfectly adequate for everything

except the formal discourse of philosophers and scientists... but

don't let me keep you from taking twenty five Lojban words to

order a cup of coffee!)


  • This may be true in theory, but in practice tanru parts generally have a very close relationship to one another, quite often one of the officially possible relationships for lujvo. Also, there are informal conventions for many gismu concerning how they are used in tanru. For example, xunre as seltau is almost certainly symmetric.
  • Practically, an on-the-fly lujvo doesn't help the situation, because in order to decode a lujvo, you still have a couple of possible meanings for each joint (which multiply), and you have to work out the unified place structure, which you don't have to do if you leave it as a tanru. If you leave out kes and bos in your lujvo or even leave out complete gismu Zipf's Law ipfeanly, then the lujvo quickly become at least as hard to decifer as a monster tanru. If you're really worried about this, the solution is to use Gismu Deep Structure nambiguous structures and avoid tanru and lujvo altogether. -- Adam

In actual communication, which almost always occurs between who share a universe of discourse, there are but so many ideas that can be comprehended; the universe of discourse is of finite extent in a hypothetical space of concepts. So while a long tanru might select a huge number of concepts, all the tanru really needs to do is "space apart" the members of the set of possible interpretations such that only one is within the universe of discourse (the others are meaningless jibberish or undiscovered concepts), and also within the context of the discussion! --xod