magic words in Lojban

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This pages is based on me collecting what I thought was the best options out of Magic Words Alternatives. The core is Cowan's version, which in turn uses la xorxes' LTR processing idea.

Magic Words

Magic words are all cmavo that have some interaction with words as words irrespective of the function of those words. These are SI SA SU ZO ZOI LOhU LEhU ZEI BU and FAhO. (BAhE, even though it can modify nearly any word, is not a magic word, because it doesn't affect the function of the word it modifies; LEhU is merely a magic word assistant as discussed under LOhU below).

Many magic words convert the words they affect into a member of the special grammatical classes any-word and any-string. A member of one of these special grammatical classes has no selma'o for purposes of the rest of the Lojban grammar.

Meta-Rules

  1. Y+BU (i.e. ".y. bu") is considered a single word of selma'o BY. This conversion is done before any other processing of any kind.
  1. Magic words are processed left-to-right.
  1. Y is not a word (i.e. it is considered whitespace) for the purposes of these definitions.

Mini-Definitions

BU

Main Article bu

BU binds with the preceding word. The combination is considered a single word of selma'o BY. SA+BU grabs back to the last BU, SA+BY grabs back to the last word+BU, consuming it entirely.

FAhO

Main Article: fa'o

FAhO terminates the text. No words are read to the right of FAhO, unconditionally. This means FAhO+BU is not the FAhO letteral. SI, SA, and SU are ignored if they occur after FAhO.

LOhU (and LEhU)

Main Article: lo'u / le'u

LOhU turns all following Lojban words up and including a LEhU into a single word of the pseudo selma'o any-string (which acts as a sumti in all respects). The selma'o of LOhU and LEhU are retained for SA matching purposes, however. In other words, SA LOhU destroys everything since the beginning of the last LOhU...LEhU quote, replacing it with a new LOhU, and SA LEhU destroys everything since the end of the last LOhU...LEhU quote, replacing the terminating LEhU with a new LEhU (i.e. not changing the quote at all). LOhU...LEhU quotes cannot be re-opened; to attach more information to a closed quote, use JOI LOhU...LEhU. To quote a LOhU...LEhU quote including the LEhU, use ZOI.

LEhU terminates a LOhU-quote. It is never elidable. However, it is technically not a magic word by itself, since it is only a delimiter for LOhU (consider ZOI, which is magic and can use any word as a delimiter, but those delimiters are not themselves magic).

SA

Main Article: sa

SA erases the preceding text back until it sees a word of the same selma'o as the word that follows SA, which replaces it. Words whose selma'o has been changed to any-word or any-string are invisible to SA for purposes of deciding what to erase; they are erased as any other word would be. If a word of the same selma'o is not found (which will always be the case with SI and SU), it erases back to the beginning of text. Multiple SA before a word erase back to successively further instances of the same selma'o, one for each SA. SA at the beginning of text have no effect, but are not in error. To back out of a SA spoken in error, simply follow the SA with the word that preceded it.

SI

Main Article: si

SI erases the preceding word. This construct can appear anywhere in the text (or be removed completely) and has no affect on the grammar. SI at the beginning of text have no effect, but are not in error.

SU

Main Article: su

SU erases all words back to the beginning of text. More precisely, "su" erases back to the previous word of selma'o NIhO, LU, TUhE, or TO. This construct has no affect on the grammar and may be removed completely. SU at the beginning of text have no effect, but are not in error.

ZEI

Main Article: zei

ZEI binds with the preceding word and the following word. The combination is considered a single brivla (i.e. it is treated as just one word). ZEI+BU grabs back to the last ZEI, brivla+SA grabs back to the last brivla, which may consume a whole ZEI clause.

  • la mukti:
    • What does "ZEI+BU grabs back to the last ZEI" mean?

ZO

Main Article: zo

ZO binds with the following word. The combination is considered a single word of the pseudo selma'o any-word (which acts as a sumti in all respects), except for SA matching purposes, where it retains the selma'o ZO.

ZOI

Main Article: zoi

ZOI uses the following word as a delimiting word and binds with it and further text until the same word is repeated, inclusive of both delimiters. Both delimiter words lose their grammatical function. Neither delimiter can be elided. The combination is considered a single word of the pseudo selma'o any-string (which acts as a sumti in all respects), except for SA matching purposes, where it retains the selma'o ZOI.

Marking Words

  • BAhE marks the following word but does not change its meaning. BAhE cannot be used to mark BU; BU wins.
  • Attitudinals (UI and CAI cmavo) mark the previous word, quoted word, LOhU-quote, ZEI-lujvo, lerfu word, or ZOI-phrase, but do not change its nature and do not bind with it. One NAI can follow any UI or CAI cmavo. Attitudinals do not blend into a single word with the word they modify, but remain as separate words for the purposes of magic words that come after them. Multiple UI cmavo may be used in succession. They may also be used at the beginning of text.
  • DAhO, FUhE, and FUhO are the same as UI, but do not absorb a following NAI.

Unique Cases

The rules for interaction between Magic Words creates some unique cases, documented below:

  • [controversial] {.abu sa bu} is the same as {.abu}. While .abu is the BY letteral, {sa bu} backs up to the last BU, being unique amongst Magic Words in pulling an already constructed pseudo-word apart to find BU.
  • bu and le'u are never grammatical by themselves, but are grammatical as part of an utterance erased by sa, si, or su. si is a particularly noteworthy exception, as it erases the previous word, which could be BU or a BY pseudo-word.
  • [controversial] zei can quote constructs on the right that it cannot quote on the left.

Examples

Subject Phrase Result Comments
lo'u co co co le'u si Nothing
lo'u co co le'u sa lo'u si Unclosed lo'u
lo'u co co co le'u bu The letter "co co co"
lo'u co co le'u bu co le'u Error co le'u outside of a lo'u quote
lo'u co co co le'u si bo le'u Error bo le'u outside of a lo'u quote
lo'u co le'u si si si le'u Error le'u outside of a lo'u quote
lo'u co co zo le'u co le'u Error "co le'u" outside of a lo'u...le'u quote
broda .y. bu broda and the letter y
zoi si stuff si "stuff"
da zoi sa da joi de Error Unclosed zoi
da zei fa'o Lujvo of da and fa'o
zoi si doi do Error Unclosed zoi
zo da si Nothing
co zo da si si Nothing
co co zo da si si Error One bare co left
da zei de bu Letter "da type of de" You're going to hell if you actually use this
bu zei de Error Nothing for bu to use
zo bu zei de "bu" type-of de
ba'e bu "ba'e" letter
broda zei brode si brodi brodi
zei zei zei Error Nothing for the leftmost zei to bind to
da zei zei da type-of zei
broda ba'e si broda
broda ba'e da si da broda ba'e da
zo da bu The letter "da"
zoi zoi That letter that you use between a user id and a host name in an e-mail address zoi bu @
broda brode si bu The letter broda
zoi zoi stuff zoi si Nothing
zoi zoi lots of stuff zoi sa zoi si Open zoi The delimiter is si
le broda sa le si Nothing sa leaves le, which si eats
mi ba'e Error Nothing for ba'e to mark
bu mi Error Nothing for bu to bind to
fa'o si Nothing FAhO ends all text *
lu fa'o li'u Unclosed lu *
zoi vy fa'o vy "fa'o" Contents of ZOI are ignored by meta-syntax *

(*According to purpleposeidon. The rumors of me being full of crap are crap.)

Terminology

Some people think that "Magic Words" is not a particularly good term, as it would necessarily end up in formal descriptions of this particular part of the grammar. The following replacements have been suggested:

  • Extra-syntactical word. (ie. a word outside the regular grammar)
  • Meta-syntactical word.
  • Super-syntactical word. (ie. a word that works on a higher level than the regular phrase structure rules)