menli saske papri

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ENG: This is a collection of notes regarding Lojban prepared mostly by la gleki.


Tailed Lojban

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ENG: Tailed Lojban. Why talking about humans? Cats also have their own tail Lojban.

You can't search for love

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Lojban and why you cannot search for love like you search for your lost keys? And about the danger of natural languages .

Many search for love like they search for real objects like lost keys.

We can clearly imagine the "keys" as a thing, but what about "love"?

In English language (and not only English) a noun is a word such as 'car', 'love', or 'Jimm' which is used to refer to a person or thing.

However, "love" is just a word with a lot of individual values that describes preferences of the individual or a group of people, but not a thing!

Example: My love for cats is limitless.

This leads us to the Lojban Grammar, where words such as "key", "love" are relations between objects or phenomena.

Here are two examples of these:

prami - А loves B

ckiku - A is a key fitting lock B with properties C

You cannot search for love but you can search for "se prami", the creature loved by you or act in such a way so that you start feeling love.

And "love" is "su'u prami", the abstraction (e.g. state) of being in love.

So you can clearly distinguish between "things" and "abstractions" and make relevant conclusions when using Lojban as the instrument of your reasoning.

Comment: citations here are taken from discussions at the Zeitgeist Movement websites. the Zeit Geist movement doesn't have any relation to Lojban.

"To feed" in Japanese

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Get imbued with Japanese style of reasoning, using Lojban!

The realisation of "to feed" concept.

In Japanese language the agent of an action can be defined using suffixes.

Let's explain it in English.

Japanese word - translation.

1. taberu - to eat

2. tabesaseru - to feed (to cause someone to eat)

1. miru - to look. misaseru - to show (to cause someone to look)

2. matsu - to wait. mataseru - to keep waiting (to cause someone to wait)

In Lojban:

citka – to eat

gasnu – A causes B to happen

citka gasnu – to feed, literally "to cause in the aspect of eating"

gasnu lo nu citka – to feed, literally "to cause an eating process"

In Lojban this concept is so important that the word "to feed" was even included into in the dictionary in the form of compound word created using compressed roots (usually called affixes or "rafsi" in Lojban)


cti-gau - to feed

cti - an affix of the word "citka"

gau - an affix of the word "gasnu"

As for the rest of the words, we can apply the same concept only changing the roots when necessary.

One more example showing that causative is grammaticalised in Japanese.


Transfer: Following the teacher's proposal many questions were asked.

Parsing the text: Teacher {rheme, nominative case suffix} question {accusative case suffix} many ask+{causative suffix}+{verbal adverb suffix} give+{past tense suffix}.

Aymara trivalent logic

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Was Aymara language created by aliens? And why Lojban here.

When European researchers started studying Aymara language spoken in South America they were astonished at it's orderly design.

Some even claimed that humans had no abilities to construct such language and therefore it had probably been constructed by aliens and presented to humanity.

But sometimes the reality is more enchanting than any fairy-tale.

Aymara is a language of people, constructed by people and for people.

One of it's core features is trivalent logic.

While European languages divide our world by two (yes/no, good/bad), Aymara divides it by three: yes, no and somewhere in between.

Let's have an example.

"Will it rain tomorrow?" And we have three realisations.

A. It will rain.
B. Either it will rain or it will be dry.
C. It will be dry.

For each option we can have three opinions

+ "yes, it is so"
0 "I don't know" or "it's not known"
‒ "not, it won't be so"

Now for each of the options we give one of our three opinions which (as a simple count says) can give us up to 27 possible answers. Let's have a look at one of them to be more clear

+ ­‒ ­‒
  • Under A we see + and that means that we agree that it'll be raining tomorrow.
  • Under B we see - so we reject any doubt about this event
  • Under C we see - so we reject the draught for tomorrow.

In other words " + ‒ ­‒ " means certitude that it will rain tomorrow (see the picture for some other examples).

Lojban although having native support for trivalent logic (such series as ja'ai/cu'i/nai and je'a/no'e/to'e) is still in the beginning of absorbing Aymara's advances in mind research.

The development of a clean trivalent logic system applied to lojbanic indicators of love, fear, doubt etc. will lead to the realisation of the instrument unprecedented in human history.

The instrument of expressing human emotions, attitudes and relations towards the Universe.

Further reading:

John Clifford once said this research was wrong. But yes we need learning resources to prove his claim. Well, learning spanish only in order to figure out whether to apply trivalent system to Lojban.. ha, nice idea.

"Bitten by a dog" in different languages

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"I was bitten by a dog". How people of different language background express this thing.

English style:

✔mi pu se batci lo gerku - I was bitten by a dog

Spanish style:

✔pu se batci lo gerku - Was bitten by a dog

German style:

✔mi lo gerku ba'o se batci - I have, by a dog, been bitten

Chinese style:

✔batci gerku- Bite dog

Turkish style:

✔fe lo gerku pu selbatci fa mi - By a dog bitten was I

Master Yoda from Star Wars:

✔pu batci mi fa lo gerku - Bitten me have a dog


Italian "ciao" and Lojban.

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"ciao" in Italian means both "Hello!" and "Good-bye!".

This attractive example shows that words of natural languages can possess incompatible properties.

Of course, in Lojban we can think up a word which will mean both a greeting, and a farewell.

For example, at a meeting it would be possible to say

"jikca" - it means something like "Contact!" Literally 'jikca' means "socialise". After all, we don't know, whether it's the beginning of the conversation of the end.

or 'penmi' - to meet (again 'penmi' could also denote a hint that the meeting is coming to an end).

There are other nice solutions.

.io (it is read as "yoh!") - expresses respect.

ge'e - is an interjection which expresses any emotion, without specifying it.

It would be entertaining to use these words not only in Lojban, but also while speaking in your native language.

Lojban language. The power of simplicity.

Copyright Robin Lee Powell, 2012

Lojban helps us see relations between objects. But sometimes being precise in pointing to relations is not what we want. Is it possible to express thoughts shorter?

The answer is yes.

Skillfull lojban speakers have realised the power of tanru constructions.

Tanru is just a simple chain of words sticking to each other. Every word in this chain acts as a modifier, as an 'adjective' of the next word.

Let's take an example

"She is trying to crawl on the floor".

Although we can think a lot what process the verb "to try" should denote here or how "to crawl" is connected with the floor

we can simply say

"Ta loldi cpare troci" - literally "that-one floor-crawl-tries".

And yes, it's that short, simple and comprehensible!

"Floor" (loldi) is connected in an unspecified manner to "crawling" (cpare). And the resulting floor-crawling is connected to "trying" (troci).

Start learning Lojban and you'll set your mind free!

[about the photo in this post: Copyright Robin Lee Powell, 2012]

How much Lojban is close to other languages?

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Syntax apart Lojban sometimes acts and sounds similar to other languages.

Look at Chinese word "měi-nǚ" that denotes a beautiful girl. Literally

"měi" means "beautiful"

"nǚ" means "woman" (of any age)

Lojban acts the same way

"mle" is a short form for the word "beautiful"

"ni'u" is a short form for the word "woman" (of any age).

This results in a similar sounding and word structure.

The word "Mu". Lojban is ready to explain Eastern philosophy.

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There is a special word in Chinese and Japanese, pronounced as wú and mu correspondingly.

Although it's usually translated as "not, not having" it has special meaning in philosophy.

Here is the story.

A monk asked Zhaozhou Congshen, a Chinese Zen master, "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?"

Zhaozhou answered, "Wú" (in Japanese translation - "Mu").

This answer, which is literally translated that dogs do not have Buddha nature may actually mean that such categorical thinking is a delusion and the question is not correct.

Alternatively it may mean that either a positive or negative answer is absurd because there is no particular thing called Buddha-nature.

Robert M. Pirsig said in one of his novels:

"For example, it's stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for 'one' and a voltage for 'zero'. ... [But try] to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu state."

So why Lojban here? It has several cute words such as

{na'i} - It lets the asker know the question cannot have been asked because it's incorrectly formed. Therefore, "na'i" metaphorically unasks the question.

{co'e} - it denotes any relation between any objects, facts or events.

e.g. {mi co'e do} - "I'm somehow have some relation, connection to you". It may mean anything depending on the context, from "I love you" or "I'm your son" to "I'll eat you".

There are more words that are so easy to use in Lojban but that are absent or extremely hard to express in other languages.

See how we can accelerate our thoughts if such complicated things can be managed in Lojban at the speed of light on a daily basis?

Let's feel the spirit of Native American languages.

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We'll use the standard emulating language of Lojban for that purpose.

inikwihl'minik'isit (in Nuu-chah-nulth language).

Translation: The lights were burning in the house

inikwihl'minik'isit is split into the following blocks:

inkiw - fire / burn

ihl - in-house

'minik - plural

'is - diminutive

it - past tense

So this is how we can emulate it in Lojban.


which is divided into the following blocks:

fag kem zda ner so'i cma pru

fag - fire

kem - opening bracket

zda - home

ner - within

so'i - few

cma - small

pru - past-event

So we get

fire ( house within few little past-event )

So the Indians literally say "Fire event, associated with the small objects in the number of several pieces inside the house".

Simple non-emulating translation to Lojban looks like this:

so'i cmalu fagri puca'o jelca ne'i le zdani

Several small fires in the past continuously burn inside the house.

"wow" in languages

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There is a lojbanic word .uesai (it's read as "weh-say!")

It means "Wow!" This exclamation is used when you are amazed by something.

Surprisingly, the Chinese "wasai" means almost the same.

"wasai" is the expression of strong surprise.

Comparison of the languages with the fixed level of concretion.

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Tokipona much depends on context. Quijada tried to get rid of all metaphors and therefore context in his Ithkuil. Lojban was never intended to be a semantically regularised language although of course it's much more regular than natlangs.


menli saske 16.jpg menli saske 17.jpg aUI, The Language of Space was created by W. John Weilgart. It's goal is to create a form of communication based on what he proposed to be universal, basic elements of human thought and expression, that presented meaning in a straightforward and logical manner.

Here is one possible translation of those elements to lojban.

See also

"I give you money" or "I give money to you?"

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"I give you money" or "I give money to you?" - Direct and indirect object in Khmer language, English and Slavic.

In many languages, the order in which

the direct object (in this case "money") and

the indirect object (the one who gives)

are placed is very important.

For example, in English we say "I give you money", but "I give money you" sounds meaningless.

In the Khmer language, "Give me the money" will be "aoi luy kniom." But note that "lui" - is "money" and "knyom" is "I" (in English it would look like "Give money me", which is also impossible).

In some languages, e.g. in Slavic languages, we can play with the order using cases (in this example, accusative and dative).

In Lojban we have access to all options, including a version with the preposition "fa'a" (towards ..., in the direction of ...) to indicate the indirect object - the one who gives.

But the default word "dunda - to give" has the following order of objects.

dunda - "(A) gives/presents/gives the gift/present (B) towards (C) (recipient)"

Amazingly "sold" means "bought" in Lojban!

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What? Impossible?

The phrase "mo'u se vecnu" means both "sold" and "bought" in Lojban.

Meanings of each word:

vecnu = seller A sells goods B to buyer C for cost D.

mo'u = denotes completed action.

se = refers to the second argument (B)

If we think over this fact we'll understand that something sold is at the same time bought.

Lojban pays our attention to the interconnection of elements of any solid phenomenon.

Feel the Hungarian way of thinking using Lojban language.

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Emulating the phrase "German History".

"a Nemetorszag tortenelme" - "History of Germany" in Hungarian.

a - the definite article

Nemetorszag - Germany

tortenelem - history

tortenelme - history of it, the previous word (possessive form)

Some nouns lose the last vowel when the suffix is being attached to them. So we remove the vowel from "tortenelem" and get "tortenelm-". Then we attach the possessive suffix -a/-e (possessor: third person, singular, possessed:singular) and we get "tortenelme".

Simulation using Lojban language.

We need to make the phrase

"Germany" "history+possessiveness-of-the-last-word."

la doitcland. - Germany

citri - A is a history of B.

srana - A belongs to B

"la. doitcland. ke citri zei srana" - literally "to Germany in the historical aspect belonging" that can be reduced to

"la. doitcland. citrysrana - History of Germany"

Logic and intuition. The European way.

In this picture: Lojban double ring logo. Logic - cornflower blue, intuition - violet.


Speakers of Lojban often assert that this constructed language is that flexible so it's grammar is universal for the whole planet. It is indeed true.

But let us see from the height of Lojban how predicate relations are expressed in European languages.

We won't study every peculiar feature of every European language here. We need to get the gist of them.

Luckily this task was completed long ago. Main points of those languages are represented in Esperanto, a very well known planned language. So we can have a look at this gist from the viewpoint of only one language.

Morphemes in Esperanto words set a very precise structure of sentence.

-as/-is/-os/-us/-u = predicate

-е = modifiers for predicates.

-o / -on = arguments of predicates

-a / -an = subsidiary predicates-modifiers for those arguments

More complex structures are express using word order.

Let us take an example.

The brown fox quickly jumps to the tree.
Bruna vulpo rapide saltas al arbo.

Look at the endings of Esperanto words to understand the class of every word.

This design completely covers the expressiveness level of European languages.

We can easily understand this short list if we are familiar with more generalised lojbanic grammar.

The brown fox quickly jumps onto the tree.
lo bunre lorxu ku sutra plipe lo tricu
  • Predicate is not marked.
  • Modifiers stick to the left of predicates.
  • Arguments are expressed using lo ... ku brackets.
  • Subsidiary modifiers of arguments also stick to the left but inside lo ... ku brackets.
  • More complex structures (of any level of complexity) are expressed with "be ... bei ... be'o" and "fi'o ...fe'u" brackets (for precise predicate style) or with "ke ... ke'e" brackets (simple style).

And while using them you are free to use "and" / "or" conjunctions and also more elegant conjunctions that are too long to describe in English. It's better to learn and feel them for examples of sentences.

Our brain and ships of Christopher Columbus

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ENG: They say, when the first ships of Christopher Columbus arrived in America then native citizens couldn't see those ships because the appearance of them was IMPOSSIBLE for their experience and therefore their brain DELETED the images of the ships from their perception. Therefore they just ignored those ships as if they didn't exist.

Many ask "What if a language doesn't express e.g. some feeling? May be the speakers of that language also can't possess that feeling?"

Although it can be partially true look at the example with Columbus'es ships. If we can't see them does it mean that they don't exist?

Isn't it the right way to start learning a language that will allow you to feel something that you have no words for in your native speech?

And indeed there is a language that can make your thoughts clean and expand your understanding of how we think.

So welcome to the world of Lojban, the language with the most elaborate design in the world, an instrument for personal development.

Konstantin Boyandin about Lojban

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Lojban, even though this analogy is not entirely accurate, is a version of the assembly language for natural languages. An intermediate language that can convey the most bizarre versions of the relationships between objects and the nuances of those relationships, not taking the bias of any of natural languages.

(Konstantin Boyandin, Russian science fiction writer)

No nouns and verbs in Lojban?

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Why there is no distinction between nouns, adjectives, verbs, participles and adverbs in Lojban ?

And also about "Melbi bajra - graceful runner".

Let's take three phrases in English:

A. Gracefully runs
B. Graceful runner
C. Gracefully running

What parts of speech have we used in the examples?

A. adverb, verb
B. Adjective, noun
C. Adverb, participle

But all the three sentences describe the same pattern.

And therefore we can call this picture as "Melbi bajra".

melbi - a beautiful, bajra - to run

And "melbi bajra" can be translated as any of the three examples.

This example shows that without any muddle and hangups Lojban describes the essence of the phenomenon having ONE meaning but which even within one language (English) can be expressed in different ways.

No surprise, the vocabulary of Lojban can be learnt much faster.

Just after you realise that there is no need in such distinctions between parts of speech. Lojban doesn't copy syntax and grammar of other languages.

Lojban expresses meaning. With any level of precision that you need.

And no language can rival it.


In English an adverb for a verb is the same as as an adjective for an noun. Adverbs and adjectives are kind of modifiers (not just "running", but "running gracefully", not just "a runner", but "a graceful runner".

Gender in words

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The class of a word it belongs to often imposes erroneous assumptions in natural languages.

Here is the story:

A father and his son got into a road accident. They were taken to the hospital. The surgeon looked at the son and said: "It's my son!"

How can that story be true?

The surgeon was his mother.

But 90% of surgeons are males. We subconsciously think that any surgeon must be male by default.

Such wrong assumptions might lead to unpredictable results.

But there is a way to get rid of such flaws encoded in the language. Just by choosing a better language.

E.g. Lojban, the language that has no bias of masculine/feminine words that should not imply gender in their meaning.

Lojban is the most documented language in the world with precise design.

Place structure is like a necklace with gems

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Meanings are interconnected in Lojban like gems of a necklace.

"Rider - route - vehicle" are interconnected like gems of a necklace.

Five English terms:

A. rider
B. destination
C. a point of departure
D. route
E. vehicle.

One would think that they sound different. What do they have in common?

Well, look how they sound in Lojban

A. klama
B. se klama
C. te klama
D. ve klama
E. xe klama

This remarkable regularity and ease of memorization of the five words is explained by the fact that "klama" is a kind of a "necklace" of five beads, one associated with each other in meaning. Indeed, how can there be a destination without someone going to that destination (even if this person is imaginary)?

This is what the word "klama" really means:

klama - (A) goes to (B) from (C) via the route (D) using the vehicle (E)

This is just one example how Lojban is amazingly thought out.

About plural number.

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About plural number.

"Elephant lives in Africa" or "Elephants live in Africa?"

In English any noun has either singular or plural marker.

However, consider the following statement.

"Elephant lives in Africa."

Are we talking about one elephant? No, here we mean that most elephants live in Africa.

We use singular, but we mean plural.

To remove this barrier we can use Lojban language. In Lojban words don't have singular or plural by default. You don't have to add endings like you add -s/-es in English.

✔ lo xanto ku se zdani la. Afrik. - Elephant / Elephants live in Africa.

But we can clarify.

✔ lo'e xanto ku se zdani la. Afrik. - Typical elephant lives in Africa

✔ lo pa xanto ku se zdani la. Afrik. - An elephant, one elephant lives in Africa. We are talking about only one elephant.

✔ lo za'u xanto ku se zdani la. Afrik. - Elephants (any number greater than one) live in Africa

Note that some natural languages partially work this way. For example, in Japanese words don't have plural/singular marker by default.

Deep-blue and light-blue in English and Slavic languages.

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The language you speak can affect how you see the world.

Native speakers of Russian discriminated between light and dark blues differently from their English-speaking counterparts. The Russian language makes an obligatory distinction between light blue, pronounced "goluboy", and dark blue, pronounced "siniy". In English, both colors are denoted by one word - blue. This linguistic distinction influences colour perception.

During the experiment subjects completed two types of tests: in one version, the three squares were of a similar shade, whereas the other test involved one square that was a markedly different shade - for example, distinguishing a dark blue from a light blue.

It is noteworthy that Russian speakers were 10% faster at distinguishing between light (goluboy) blues and dark (siniy) blues than at discriminating between blues within the same shade category.

This shows cross-linguistic differences in colour perception in an objective task.

As for Lojban we are ready to eliminate this confusion.

cicna - aquamarine

blanu - blue

zirpu - purple

Using simple combinations like "cicna blanu, zirpu blanu" and by making compound single words out of them we can introduce the needed colors.

Source data:

Leibniz was dreaming about Lojban?

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German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said that reality is composed of 1. substances and 2. their properties, and the basic linguistic structure should mirror the having of properties by substances.

The subject-predicate form appears to be very convenient for this. E.g. in the sentence “Paris is the lover” the subject ‘Paris’ identifies the individual substance Paris, and the predicate ‘is the lover’ ascribes the property of loving to him.

(Note: Lojban is also based primarily on predicate logic)

And the sentence “Paris is the lover of Helen” asserts a relationship between two subjects, Paris and Helen. It is equivalent to the two sentences “Paris loves” and “Helen is loved” + that each is true only because the other is true. This removes relations from within sentences and turns them into causal relations between sentences.

Relations don't correspond to distinct components of reality, but to facts about why things are as they are.

(Note:Lojban doesn't split such relations into separate components preserving Leibniz's views).

Asymmetrical relations. Leibniz turns “a is wiser than b” into the two propositions “as to wisdom, a is superior” and “as to wisdom, b is inferior”.

(Note:Lojban also has the predicate {zmadu} meaning “a exceeds/is more than b in property/quantity c by amount d” and has separate predicate words for other concepts like “wise”).

Abstractions. It is essential to distinguish between truths about abstractions, and truths about individual substances. If we define a triangle as a plane figure with three angles and three sides, we can say: ‘A triangle is a plane figure’, or: ‘A triangle has three angles’, or even: ‘A triangle has fewer than five sides.’ But it makes no sense to ascribe a particular shape or size to triangularity in general, or to ascribe a particular colour or weight to an abstract triangle of a definite shape or size.

(Note: Lojban makes clear distinction between objects and abstractions by such words as su'u - generalise abstractor, ka - property, ni - amount etc.)

A better language. Leibniz was not interested in tinkering with ordinary language. He was concerned with the possibility of an ideal language in which every truth could be expressed without recourse to relational properties. If you could describe all the properties of substances, you could deduce any relational truths you liked, but they would give no new information about reality. For instance, if you knew the weights of two objects, the assertion that one was heavier than the other would add nothing. It would merely be a vaguer way of describing one particular aspect of the facts from which it was derived.

Computers. Leibniz imagined a machine in which binary numbers were represented by marbles moving by gravity, governed by a sort of punched cards. Modern computers replace marbles with pulses of electrons, but otherwise they run just as Leibniz envisioned in 1679.

Quijada about Lojban

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Have a question about how to say a phrase Lojban?

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Kidding of course.

Deep blue sea

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blanu je condi xamsi - Blue deep sea

(simple non-emulating translation)

But we can imitate Ithkuil language, known as allegedly the most precise language in the world.

"Deep Blue Sea" - in English

"xwaléix oípřai'lîň olfái'lobîň" - in Ithkuil

"blanu je condybarda je candydjacybracanlu" -

in Lojban


(something) is blue and deep-large and is an inactive water-large-volume (i.e. the sea).

Well, in ordinary speech we can just say

blanu je condi xamsi - blue and deep sea

The parsing of the emulated phrase

1. blanu - blue

2. je - "and simultaneously"

3. condybarda - great in the aspect of depth

4. barda - large compared with the standard

5. condi (-cond-) - deep

6. je - "and simultaneously"

7. candy-djacy-bra-canlu - inactive, water, large, volume

cando (-cand-) inactive

djacu (-djac-) water

canlu (-canl-) volume

barda (-bra-) large

Zlango picture language

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menli melbi bangu - "mind beauty language" in Zlango symbolic language.


Thought - Beauty (swan) - Speak

John Clifford

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John E. Clifford: "Semantic Primes: aUI to Esperanto with Stops Along the Way"

Abstract: Semantic primes are units of meaning, presumably relatively few in number (relative to the OED anyhow), in terms of which "all" other meanings can be defined. That there must be such things has been known since defining began to be studied and they were early involved in created languages (histories always offer up typographical horrors from the 17th century, e.g., Urqhart's). We will look at how this notion plays out in a few modern created languages: aUI, in which it is of central importance, informing word construction as well as semantic; toki pona, in which the notion is not explicit but is clearly active in vocabulary choice; Lojban (and Loglan), in which the notion is rejected in favor of semantic primitives, a larger list which are still meant to allow defining everything else, but which may themselves also be defined; and Esperanto, in which the notion plays almost no role at all. We shall also look at the notion in the context of scientific linguistics, where the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) program is attempting to find the semantic primes of various languages in the hope of developing a list which works for all languages. This search is obviously an empirical one, while many created languages use an apriori (or intuitive) approach to selecting primes. These approaches as well as the limitations on techniques for forming definitions using primes are topics we take up. Along the way we will look at how vocabulary is related to meaning units, at some problems that proposed systems of primes run into, and at an emreging set of primes and definition techniques.

Bio: John E. Clifford (Parks-Clifford -- whence his sobriquets in Loglan and Lojban, pc and pycyn -- for the duration of one wife) received a BA from Michigan State, then spent a year at Princeton before settling in at UCLA for a decade. In that time he acquired an MA in Linguistics and a PhD in Philosophy (dissertation on natural language tense and tense logic). He spent 33 years in the Philosophy Department of the University of Missouri - St. Louis, teaching Logic (from Critical Thinking through Goedel), Asian Philosophy, and Philosphy of Religion , and occasionally other things that needed teaching. He was an Esperantist from his second year at Exeter, though mainly lapsed. He first worked with Loglan in 1960 (after the Scientific American article) as a contribution to the machine translation program at RAND. When Loglan reemerged in 1975, he reupped, becoming the first editor of The Loglanist, a member of the board of The Loglan Institute and eventually Vice-President, then President. He joined the Logical Language Group in the mid-80s and has participated actively in the development of Lojban, mainly advocating more logic in keeping with his early exposure -- under Carnap and the like -- to the notion of a logically perfect language. He was involved with aUI while sabbaticating on Iowa and has recently taken up toki pona and a good old Logical Positivist examination of NSM. He is still looking for an empirically testable hypothesis that comes close to the informal proposals of Sapir and Whorf.

"A beautiful cat is sleeping." Imitating nominative sentences using Lojban

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jibni je melbi je mlatu je sipna je cabna "A beautiful cat is sleeping."

Literally 5 predicates equally interconnected with "and" conjunction ("je" in Lojban)

Something that is near and is beautiful and is a cat and is sleeping.

ko'a corresponds to "it/he/she" in English.


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JBO: Xenduktygau

ENG: Unhate!

RUS: Перестань ненавидеть!

"Unhate" means to change your hatred to the opposite feeling.

In Lojban

xebni - to hate (short root is -xen-)

dukti - contrary, opposite (-dukt-)

gasnu - to cause (-gau-)

To cause the opposite of hatred

'Xebni dukti gasnu" or in short "xenduktygau"

mi prami do

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JBO: mi prami do

ENG: I love you

RUS: Я люблю тебя

ENG:Zlango, the symbolic language. This is a sentence that can be understood by anyone without translation.

RUS:Символьный язык Zlango. Это понятная без перевода фраза.

One of the longest place names in the world.

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One of the longest place names that is in daily use today is the informal name of the hill (305 m above sea level) on the North Island, New Zealand. This name is composed of 85 letters, and translated from the Maori language as "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one."

As it's just a curiosity, we will not emulate it's name in Lojban. Although we could.

What people say about Lojban? Justin Gagnon

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Justin Gagnon (for whom mother tongue is English) is studying Latin, Esperanto, tokipona, German, Gaelic, Icelandic and American Sign Language.

Wabi-sabi in Japan

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Wabi-sabi is the ability to see the beauty of something incomplete [in the picture: Garden "Ryōan-ji"].

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese ability to perceive beautiful objects in their natural simplicity, asymmetry or roughness.

A list of wabi-sabi examples:

Japanese gardens, Zen gardens and bonsai (tray gardens)

Ikebana (flower arrangement)

Japanese tea ceremony

Japanese poetry, particularly haiku

Japanese pottery, notably Hagi ware

Honkyoku (traditional shakuhachi music of wandering Zen monks)

Wabi-sabi is hard to explain using Western terms.

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) literally comes from words "wabi", the loneliness of living in nature, and "sabi", chill, lean or withered.

Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West. [Koren, Leonard]

If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi. [Juniper, Andrew]

And it nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. [Powell, Richard R.]

We suggest translating this term to Lojban as

nalmulnymle - from "na'e mulno melbi", beautiful in the aspect of incompleteness.

Comment:Some say that one can perceive it not being Japanese.

E.g. to see it in the crack on Campana Reina or in absence of hands and head in the Victory of Samothrace statue.

Feminine logic and Lojban.

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All peacocks are beautiful - ro lo pavmora ku melbi

"Balance of female and male thinking in Lojban."

There are assumptions that the modern languages bear a shade of male thinking and aren't suitable for women.

This skew leads to the conflicts when men justify "But I told only..." And women are compelled to reply "You told this, but you meant that...". It is possible to tell a lot of things using intonation, gestures that aren't taken into consideration by both sexes.

The solution is available in some languages of American Indians that possess emotional indicators.

Those indicators find their their full embodiment in the system of Lojban language.

Do we have a right to say "All peacocks are beautiful" if they aren't pleasant to someone?

This is a trait of European languages. Postulates are given without mentioning whose opinion it is.

Let's recall uncountable slogans of politicians and advertizing.

"This medicine is the best!"

"This mop is the most durable!"

But who says that? Whose opinion is it?

Let's add an attitudinal indicator to the title of this article.

pe'i ro lo pavmora ku melbi - In my opinion all peacocks are beautiful

ru'a ro lo pavmora ku melbi - I postulate that all peacocks are beautiful

ju'a ro lo pavmora ku melbi - I state (without proofs) that all peacocks are beautiful

Now you are talking! We get understanding immediately.

Lojban gives balance of pure logic and live empathy of events.

One of Lojban symbols are two rings. Dark blue denotes pure logic, and violet denotes feelings.

P.S. One of our readers replied:

ru'a ji'a ro lo nanmu ku ka'e cinmo

.i ru'a ji'a so'u lo ninmu ku ka'e pensi

What others say about Lojban.

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ENG:What others say about Lojban.

"I'm sure that the ability to understand, the live interaction is what the future will demand of people. Among other instruments of achieving this I can see Lojban, the language that allows carrying thoughts at ease and faultlessy".

Konstantin Boyandin, Russian science fiction/fantasy/ horror writer.

What people say about Lojban? Dm. Lichargin

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What people say about Lojban?

I have continued the development of the Palmer's concept of "Open and Talk" tables. These tables allow you to speak a foreign language without preliminary knowledge of words or rules. While developing the tables, I repeatedly appealed to examples from the Lojban Reference Grammar. It helped me make the method more efficient. (Dmitry Lichargin, Krasnoyarsk, Russia)

Dmitry Lichargin, Krasnoyarsk (Ph.D. in engineering linguistics), is studying how natural languages are generated. He is also developing oGiro, the language of the semantic transcription that among other applications allows recording non-terminal symbols of Chomsky's generative grammars.

Life is beautiful without the marker of future tense

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Life is beautiful without the marker of future tense (and how it is related to Lojban language)

Studies have shown that the languages in which the future tense marker is optional

have an enormous impact on people's lives.

In languages such as German, Finnish, Chinese, you can talk about the future without a special marker.

for example by saying literally

"Tomorrow morning is cold" instead of

"Tomorrow morning will be cold."

Families that speak languages without obligatory future tense marker have shown to be

+ 13% less obese.

+ In these families, people are healthier during life.

+ On average they keep 30% more savings for the future.

Language affects people's lives.

The opportunity to talk about the future like of present makes people think about their future more often.

They perceive their future as it was within reach.

So let's start speaking a language that is free from limitations and let's live a happy life!

"lo bavlamdei cerni ku ka solri - Tomorrow morning *is* sunny!"

More on this subject (in English): (or

See also

The feeling of unity

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JBO:cecmu jbini se cinmo

Ithkuil:âpkal eqöerxh

Loglan: munbitfio


ENG:The feeling of unity.

RUS:Чувство единства.


Largest thinkers in the field of semantics in known history.

John Quijada - the author of Ithkuil

James Cooke Brown - the author of Loglan

Suzette Haden Elgin - the author of Laadan

Ivan A. Ruban about Lojban.

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"I'm sure that the knowledge of Lojban will help understand and realise semantics structures and advance the theory of extraction, storage and convertion of data.

As a result this will bring closer the creation of artificial intelligence."

Ivan A. Ruban, was born in Pyatigorsk, Russia where he graduated from Kavminvodsky Service Institute (a branch of SRSUES) in "Information systems and technology." After completing graduate studies he became a postgraduate student in SRSUES Shakhty in "Information systems and processes."

Main interests: Programming, Psychology, Methods and tools for extraction and representation of meanings.

The research topic was originally called "Psychonetic functions", but so far it has expanded to the study of the structure of meanings.

The author's article (in Russian) on the theory of fuzzy meaning:

"Do you want tea or coffee? - Yes."

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This striking answer shows the power of Lojban, the logical language.

There is nothing wrong in this answer. Indeed, may be the man in the picture doesn’t care what to drink.

However, from logical point of view there is an important distinction from questions that ask for a choice.

In Lojban the word {jonai} means “either this or that”. E.g.

Xu do djica tu’a lo tcati jonai lo ckafi? - Do you want tea or coffee?

The answer can be either {go’i} (“Yes, I want tea or coffee”) or {na go’i} (“No, I don’t want tea or coffee”).

However, if we want to ask what the listener would like to choose from we need a different word - {je’i}. It’ll be translated to English exactly the same.

Xu do djica tu’a lo tcati je’i lo ckafi? - Do you want tea or coffee?

However, the answer will be different.

{je} - “Both” (both tea and coffee)

{naje} - not the first one but the second one (i.e. coffee)

{jenai} - the first one but not the second one (i.e. tea)

{najenai} - none (neither the first nor the second).

{jonai} - “either tea or coffee but not both”

This is how things work in our brains. But in order to correctly understand and express them we have to use a better language.

Start this journey today!

[Note: some languages do work a bit like Lojban. E.g. Chinese employ the Lojbanic form of such connective question.

The Chinese sentence “ni3 zou3 hai2shi pao3 - You walk [or?] run?”

means “Do you walk or run?”, and is exactly parallel to the Lojban:

“do cadzu je'i bajra - You walk [or?] run?”

However, Chinese does not use similar logical connectives that we discussed here when replying to such a question, so it’s still doesn’t fully reflect what we can do in Lojban.]

Question mark in Spanish

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Question mark in Spanish is put not only in the end but also in the beginning of the sentence in a special reverse form.

"¿Te gusta el verano?" = "Do you like summer?"

"Te gusta el verano." = "You like summer."

But why having two symbols? In a long sentence this helps to understand that this sentence is gonna be interrogative.

Interestingly, in sentences that are both declarative and interrogative, the clause that asks a question is isolated with the starting-symbol inverted question mark.

For example:

“En el caso de que no puedas ir con ellos, ¿quieres ir con nosotros?” = “In case you cannot go with them, would you like to go with us?”

What about Lojban? How can we show in the beginning of the sentence that it's interrogative? Of course all punctuation marks are absolutely optional in Lojban. Everything is expressed in pronounceable words.

And indeed the word we need exists. It’s {pau}.

{pau do nelci lo crisa vau xu} = "¿Do you like summer?"

{pau} explicitly marks the sentence as interrogative. And the real interrogative particle {xu} is put after the sentence is closed with {vau}.

Of course we can just say

{xu do nelci lo crisa} = literally “¿Do you like summer”. The meaning will be the same.

Or we can exchange the two words and say

{xu do nelci lo crisa vau pau} = "?Do you like summer¿"

Although the question word {xu} is in the beginning but in long sentences we might forget that there was a question. But {pau} at the end will remind us that the question is to be answered .

Isn’t it nice to have such optional flexibility?

Topic and comment in different languages.

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In many languages it is possible to declare some general information and then say some details about it.

E.g. in English we can say

“As for fish, sea bream is most delicious”

Here “As for fish” is the topic of the sentence, and “sea bream is most delicious” is the comment.

However, there are languages that enforce speakers to use such structure wherever possible. Japanese uses two special words: “wa” to mark topic, and “ga” to mark subject of comment.

Interestingly, subject is kind of a small topic inside the big one.


“Sakana-wa tai-ga oishi-i desu.”


“Fish: sea bream delicious [end of the sentence]”

Can we do that in Lojban? Sure.

Here we go.

{lo finpe zo’u lo kantaro cu kukte}.

Here {lo finpe} (“fish”) is separated from the rest of the sentence with {zo’u} that delimits topic from comment.

We can go even further and detach {lo kantaro} (“sea bream”, by the way, this word sounds just as in Italian!). And we get

{lo finpe zo’u lo kantaro zo’u kukte}.

So we have one big topic ("fish"), then a small one ("sea bream") and then the rest of the sentence that says that it is delicious.

Now it sounds structurally much like in Japanese.

Isn’t it cool?

New words in Lojban and why ancient languages here?

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x1 remembers experience x2 (li'i)

{x1 lifri x2} is implied. See also {morji}, {lifri}. Proposed short rafsi {-ve'i-}.

{vedli} is distinct from {morji} in that your own experience is a special type of memory.

Let's compare

1. I remember that Columbus discovered America ({morji}, remember facts like e.g. scientific facts).

2. I remember how I fell down the stairs ({vedli}, remember direct experience including your sensation).

This second experience-memory is the ability to "replay", in some sense, past experiences. A phone number and a kiss are two very different things to remember, which is why Lojban distinguishes between them in this case.

Interestingly, such clear distinction between memories-of-feelings (to wit) and memories-of-facts (to remember-know) existed in ancient languages like Sanskrit, Old English or Old Russian.


{da mi se vedli gi'e fi do se skicu}

What I wist I told to you.

("wist" is the past form of the verb "to wit")

The unique Voynich manuscript

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sei zgana lo munje - Watching the world.

The unique Voynich manuscript, written in an unknown alphabet in a mysterious language more than 600 years ago shows it has a genuine message inside.

For any given language content-bearing words tend to occur in a clustered pattern, where they are required as part of the specific information being written. When the topic is changed it leads to the shift in the patterns of words that carry meaning (not words that are only syntactically meaningful).

Dr Montemurro in the University of Manchester has found that the text of the Voynich manuscript reveals precisely such patterns. It's now clear that the text is not a hoax. And this is the first serious justification of the authenticity of the manuscript as a meaningful book.

Dr Montemurro believes it unlikely that these features were simply "incorporated" into the text to make a hoax more realistic, as most of the required academic knowledge of these structures did not exist at the time the Voynich manuscript was created.

What can hide itself in the text of the manuscript? Major crimes, buried treasures worth millions or a new understanding of the history of science?

Cracking the meaning of the text is in the lap of the future.

The original research published on June 21 is available at

Say "cheese"!

Since in other countries while being photographed people are asked to say words other than "cheese" the comparison makes believe that French word "ouistiti" produces the best smile.

So I suggest that in Lojban we say {.ui} while being photographed.


Bezhta language

In Bezhta language spoken in Dagestan "mi" means "you" and "do" means "I". In Lojban vice versa!

lo banku'apu zo'u: zo'oi mi se smuni do ije zo'oi do se smuni mi

Words for sensory feelings

There are actually natural languages that function somewhat similarly to the classifying languages in part of their lexicon. It’s relatively common among many Papuan languages to have a small group of highly generic verbs such as “do”, “say” and “hit” and to build loads of more specific predicates from these by adding nominal adjuncts to them or serialising them with other verbs.

An extreme case is Kalam which reportedly has less than 100 verb stems in the whole language and has to build most of its actually used complex verbs with the help of nominals and serialisation. For example, the generic verb glossed as “perceive” appears in the following constructions among others:

  • consume perceive = taste
  • take perceive = feel
  • eye perceive = see
  • ear perceive = hear
  • thought perceive = think
  • thought many perceive = worry
  • thought good perceive = like
  • liver perceive = be sorry
  • arm break perceive = count (such languages go up the arm after they finish with the fingers and hand for counting higher numbers so “perceive a piece of the arm” makes sense shifting to “count”.)

These aren't very predictable at all and you absolutely have to learn them as independent lexical tokens. Some of them, like “be sorry” and “count”, are very culturally dependent and quite far from the nominal meaning of the generic verb at the base. The system can’t be understood to represent any objective classification of the world.

Sense words can either express experiencing the sensation or expressing an action being taken to acquire a sensation. In English, these are:

Active Passive
look see
listen hear
touch feel
sniff smell
taste taste

In Lojban, there are few dedicated gismu:

Active Passive
sight catlu viska
sound tirna
touch pencu
scent sumne
generic zgana ganse

xorxes proposed the follwoing. There are two options of lujvo. Naming based on the sensory organ gives:

Active Passive
sight kalzga kalga'e
sound kerzga kerga'e
touch pilzga pilga'e
scent zbizga zbiga'e
taste tacyzga tacyga'e

Naming based on the thing being sensed gives:

Active Passive
sight vinzga vinga'e
sound snazga snaga'e
touch te'uzga te'urga'e
scent panzga panga'e
taste vu'izga vu'irga'e

My name is ...

Lojban allows to see the differences between expressing yourself in different languages more clearly.

Let's take the most common phrase: "My name is ..."

The Lojban verb cmene literally means x1 is a name of x2 used by x3.

For example,

zo gleki cmene mi lo pendo
"Gleki" is my name used by friends.
zo tsani cmene lo pendo mi
"Tsani" is a friend's name used by me.

Now let's see how other languages work.


lo mi cmene cu du zo gleki
My name is Gleki.
My name is equal to "gleki" [literally]


fe mi te cmene fa mi fi zo gleki
Me llamo Gleki.
Me [I] call "gleki" [literally]
fe lo nei te cmene fa ra fi zo tsani
Se llama Tsani.
Self [he/she] calls "tsani" [literally]


fe mi te cmene fi zo gleki
Меня зовут Gleki.
me [they] call "gleki" [literally]

Laputa Island

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We next went to the school of languages, where three professors sat in consultation upon improving that of their own cou ntry.

The first project was, to shorten discourse, by cutting polysyllables into one, and leaving out verbs and participles, because, in reality, all things imaginable are but norms.

The other project was, a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health, as well as brevity.

(Gulliver's Travels)

Lojban particle around the world

ma = what?

ma has generally the same meaning as in Lojban in Khoisan, Afroasiatic, Kartvelian, Dené–Caucasian languages. In Amerind languages the word mana has the same meaning.

Wishes, hopes and optative mood

The optative mood is a grammatical construct that indicates a wish or hope.

In Lojban the interjections da'i for hypothetical situations, au for desire and .a'o for hope can give us optative meaning.

English has no explicit optative, but there are various constructions with optative meaning. Let's looks at them with their translation to Lojban:

a'o do ba ze'u jmive
May you have a long life!
(hope!) you will for a long time live [literally]

Another uses the phrase if only with a verb in the past or past subjunctive, e.g.

au do ca ricfu
If only I were rich!
(desire!) you now are rich [literally]

Different language have specific constructs to express optative mood.

In Ancient Greek the optative expressing a wish is on its own or preceded by the particle εἴθε (eithe):

au do renro
Εἴθε βάλλοις = Eíthe bállois = If only you would throw.

The optative expressing potentiality is always accompanied by the untranslatable particle ἄν in an independent clause and is on its own in a dependent clause:

mi gleki da'i fau lo nu do litru
Χαίροιμι ἂν, εἰ πορεύοισθε (Chaíroimi àn, ei poreúoisthe) "I would be glad, if you could travel.

General Semantics and The 12 Steps To Semantic Modeling

Semantics is an important part of constructing languages. However, people usually use the semantics from their native languages. Here is a way to understand semantics better, and it gives us a way to build semantic models rather than using the semantics from our native languages. For those of you familiar with Alfred Korzybski, this is a way of abstracting reality. Alfred Korzybski talked about "consciousness of abstraction" with his work in general semantics. With practice of semantics, we can develop our minds to become conscious of the semantics behind the words which is the “consciousness of abstraction” that Alfred Korzybski talked about. There are not too many people that know how to do this in the world, so practicing and studying this will give you a great mental power that few people have. A student of Alfred Korzybski constructed a language called E-prime to deal with the ambiguity and semantic problems of the verb "to be".

  1. Identification. This is how we identify the phenomena which can include the word, some identifier, a symbol, our observations, and/or sensory/perception pattern recognition. In most cases, this would be the word or symbol in our native languages.
  2. Measurables. Many call these properties or attributes in semantics and philosophy/ontology, but that is often an error. The word 'color' represents a measurable from light that reflected off an object which means the light is not a property of the object itself; the light frequency, which is the color, is reflected and what is measured when we use the word 'color'. In simple terms, we can just list the properties and attributes for our semantic models in this step.
  3. Inheritance. This refers to the generality/specificity relationships in semantics. For example, the semantics of the words "man" and "woman" are specific classes of the more general semantic class that we use with the word "human". In Spanish, we use the words "hombre", "mujer", and "humana", but the semantics underneath those words are equivalent to the semantics of "man", "woman", and "human". That means the semantics underneath the words in both languages have the same generality/specificity relationship. For another example, we have the semantics of "car" and "truck" being more specific classes of "vehicles". We can call them a subclass of vehicle.
  4. Composition. Here we list the components in the phenomena for the semantic model that we are building. If we are building a semantic model of a rose, we would need to know it's components such as the leafs, thorns, stem, and pedals. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" - Shakespeare
  5. Arrangement. The shape or form common to this the phenomena we are modeling. This is usually more of the surface measures than the depth we find in composition. For example, Doric, Ionian, and Corinthian orders each refer to a different forms of column that come from ancient Greece.
  6. Creation. This step is about including and modeling, to some extent, the cause of creation. For example, the semantic model of the word "forgery" is connected to a false cause of creation. In other contexts, it's about modeling the process of creation which we can do with the question "what causes the phenomena to come into existence?".
  7. Causality. With this step you can refer to Aristotle's Four Causes if you need help. In the preceding steps, we addressed some of those causes already. We can look at what causes it to behave the way it does. What causes it to start, stop, change, and others. We can look at what cause was it created for, it's intent or purpose. Causality is a large area of study since it is connected to everything. Additionally, we can use it to validate truth. If you are interested in going in depth on causality, then let me know.
  8. Spaces (environments, scopes, situations, events). Phenomena exists in various environments or situations (spaces). Notice that some words change meaning (change semantics) based on the context. That context is a situation which is a chunk or slice of space in space-time. For each phenomena that we make words for, we have to look at the scope in which they operate. That scope, that space, may be bounded. Different types of fish are bound by water, oceans, rivers, and other geographical locations. So for this step, we list the common environments, situations, scopes or events for the phenomena of our semantic models.
  9. Relationships. Organisms have relationships to other organisms, objects are related to other objects by distance in an environment, and some objects are related by how they are touching one another, adjacency. There are many other classes of relationships between objects in environments. You will find that most prepositions have a semantic model of a relationship. Try it! Go through a list of prepositions and see how the preposition refers to a relationship between other items.
  10. Change. Transitions, states, life-cycle, and various other changes common to the phenomena being modeled. Be careful not to model the changes of the components in this semantic model. For each component, you have another semantic model with the change to that component kept in that component's semantic model.
  11. Actions. We can enumerate actions initiated by the phenomena or coactions which are actions in which the phenomena is used, and we can model them to some extent. In this step too, be careful not to list the actions or coactions of each component. For example, a human can perform the action of shaking ones hand which is an action done by the whole human. Moving a finger is an action connected to a component of a human, a finger amongst other parts. Keeping actions of components with the components own semantic model will give your semantic models clarity by connecting actions to their proper scope.
  12. Complexity. This is an interesting and, sometimes, difficult step. In the previous step, we discussed actions. Notice the following words: operation, function, action, reaction, interaction, and process. Each word is used often with semantics that are equivalent other than a change in complexity. We usually use the word "operation" when it is simple (few steps), and we use the word "process" when it is more complex and has many steps involved. In other words, the difference in the usual semantics of the words in that list goes on a level starting from the simple "operation" and increasing in complexity to the semantic of "process".

Scalability and backward compatibility of languages

In what ways can any given language be better or worse than any other?

  1. Scalability.
  1. Backward compatibility. Обратная совместимость. (Далее - BWC)

Scalability means that new constructs of a language such as new syntax, lexicon, affixes must be easily addable to the language if they become required by new demands imposed by the current situation

If a language is too stiff scalability is low. With a high scalability the language can also absorb features of other languages.

Backward compatibility means that new constructs of a language should not annule or conflict with the old rules.

Colors in different languages

Most ancient languages didn't have words describing spectral colors. This is why Homer describes iron, fir of lambs and sea as all having the color of wine. This is nothing strange here since all of those objects might have had the same hue or texture or other properties similar to which wine has.

Only since 19th century mankind (primarily in Europe and USA) started to develop a color system based on spectrum (or colors of rainbow) in their languages.

Many languages had no words for "green" and "blue". Instead, both of them were described using the same word:

  • in Thai "khiaw" means "green" or the color of the sky or the sea
  • in Korean "purueda"
  • in Chinese "qīng"
  • in Japanese "ao" means both "green" and "blue". In 20th century in Japan the word "midori" denoting a greenish shade of "ao" became more popular due to the influence from the Western civilization.


In Hurdu the word for vegetable "sabzi" is synonymous with "green", in English we use the term "greenery".

The concept of redness, that vivid region of the visual spectrum that we associate with fire, strawberries, blood or ketchup, is something that most cultures share.

In ancient languages: First language adopted words for lightness, the words for black and white, then for red, then for green and yellow, then for blue.

To the Dani people who live in the highlands of New Guiniea, objects comes in just two shades: "mili" is for the cooler shades, from blues and greens to black, and "mola" is for the lighter shades, like reds, yellows and white.

Pirahã tribe of the Amazon doesn't have any specialized color words at all, they use prototyping instead.


The linguistic distinction between blue and green may heighten the perceived difference between them.

In 2006, a study led by Aubrey Gilbert made a rather surprising discovery. Imagine that you’re a subject in their experiment. You’re asked to stare at the cross in the middle of the screen. A circle of colored tiles appear. One of the tiles is different from the others. Sometimes it will be on the left, and other times on the right. Your task is to spot whether the odd-color-out is on the left or on the right. Keep your eyes on the cross.


Well, sometimes you’ll also get a picture that looks like this.


See the difference? In one case, English speakers have different words for the two colors, blue and green. So there’s a concept that builds a wall between them. But in other cases like above, the two colors are conceptually the same.

If you have a word to distinguish two colors, that makes you better at telling them apart. It takes less time to identify that odd blue square compared to the odd green one. This makes sense to anyone who’s ever tried looking for a tennis ball in the grass. It’s not that hard, but I’d rather the ball be blue. In once case you are jumping categories (blue versus green), and in the other, staying with a category (green versus green). This usually works only for the right part of your visual field, however, since word language is usually encoded in the left part of our brains which operates the right part of visual field.


For Korean To the left of the dotted line is yeondu, and to the right chorok. Is it still as easy to spot the odd square in the circle?

We rely on our experience, rather than recognize the color outright.

More reading: Guy Deutscher - Through the language glass.

Free word order

Some languages like English are more of a strict word order. First you put a subject, then a verb, then an object:

I saw a big dog yesterday.

However, in some languages like Russian words are always marked for their role in a sentence so you can literally say:

Большую вчера увидел я собаку.
Big yesterday saw I dog. [literally]

Chinese is similar to English in that it has a strict word order, however, the helping verb 把 (bǎ) being placed in front of the object of a sentence, allows for the object of the sentence to be placed before the verb:

他把刀放在桌子上 (tā bǎ dāo fàng zài zhuōzi shàng)
He put the knife on the table.
He bǎ knife put at table top [literally]

In Lojban we have the particles of FA series that can change from strict word order to free word order thus allowing for greater flexibility in complex sentence constructions, for greater expressivity when packing information and for following the advantages of different languages.

Friends of both genders in Spanish

In Spanish AMIGOS means 'male friends', AMIGAS means 'female friends'.

But how to say 'friends' in general? Earlier 'amigos' was used for that. However, recently a new style has appeared. In e-mail conversations AMIG@S is used when addressing friends of both genders.

Linguistic relativity. A brief explanation

In 1940 Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think. In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like "stone") and actions (like "fall"). For decades, Whorf's theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims:

  • that Native American languages instill in their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein's concept of time as a fourth dimension
  • that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew.
  • if a language has no future tense, for instance, its speakers would simply not be able to grasp our notion of future time.

However, when you ask, in perfectly normal English, and in the present tense, "Are you coming tomorrow?" do you feel your grip on the notion of futurity slipping away?

Do English speakers who have never heard the German word Schadenfreude find it difficult to understand the concept of relishing someone else's misfortune?

The renowned linguist Roman Jakobson said: "Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey." This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

Suppose I say to you in English that "I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor." You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it's none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn't have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisine; Nachbar or Nachbarin. These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.

On the other hand, English does oblige you to specify certain types of information that can be left to the context in other languages. If I want to tell you in English about a dinner with my neighbor, I may not have to mention the neighbor’s sex, but I do have to tell you something about the timing of the event: I have to decide whether we dined, have been dining, are dining, will be dining and so on. Chinese, on the other hand, does not oblige its speakers to specify the exact time of the action in this way, because the same verb form can be used for past, present or future actions. Again, this does not mean that the Chinese are unable to understand the concept of time. But it does mean they are not obliged to think about timing whenever they describe an action.

When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time.

Languages like Spanish, French, German and Russian not only oblige you to think about the sex of friends and neighbors, but they also assign a male or female gender to a whole range of inanimate objects quite at whim. What, for instance, is particularly feminine about a Frenchman’s beard (la barbe)? Why is Russian water a she, and why does she become a he once you have dipped a tea bag into her? When I speak English, I may say about a bed that “it” is too soft, but as a native Hebrew speaker, I actually feel “she” is too soft. “She” stays feminine all the way from the lungs up to the glottis and is neutered only when she reaches the tip of the tongue.

A German bridge is feminine (die Brücke), for instance, but el puente is masculine in Spanish; and the same goes for clocks, apartments, forks, newspapers, pockets, shoulders, stamps, tickets, violins, the sun, the world and love. On the other hand, an apple is masculine for Germans but feminine in Spanish, and so are chairs, brooms, butterflies, keys, mountains, stars, tables, wars, rain and garbage. When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more “manly properties” like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant. With objects like mountains or chairs, which are “he” in German but “she” in Spanish, the effect was reversed.

In a different experiment, French and Spanish speakers were asked to assign human voices to various objects in a cartoon. When French speakers saw a picture of a fork (la fourchette), most of them wanted it to speak in a woman’s voice, but Spanish speakers, for whom el tenedor is masculine, preferred a gravelly male voice for it. More recently, psychologists have even shown that “gendered languages” imprint gender traits for objects so strongly in the mind that these associations obstruct speakers’ ability to commit information to memory.

In order to speak a language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life.

In order to speak a language like Guugu Yimithirr, you need to know where the cardinal directions are at each and every moment of your waking life. You need to have a compass in your mind that operates all the time, day and night, without lunch breaks or weekends off, since otherwise you would not be able to impart the most basic information or understand what people around you are saying. Indeed, speakers of geographic languages seem to have an almost-superhuman sense of orientation. Regardless of visibility conditions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, whether outside or indoors or even in caves, whether stationary or moving, they have a spot-on sense of direction. They don’t look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before they say, “There’s an ant just north of your foot.” They simply feel where north, south, west and east are, just as people with perfect pitch feel what each note is without having to calculate intervals. There is a wealth of stories about what to us may seem like incredible feats of orientation but for speakers of geographic languages are just a matter of course. One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.

How does this work? The convention of communicating with geographic coordinates compels speakers from the youngest age to pay attention to the clues from the physical environment (the position of the sun, wind and so on) every second of their lives, and to develop an accurate memory of their own changing orientations at any given moment. So everyday communication in a geographic language provides the most intense imaginable drilling in geographic orientation (it has been estimated that as much as 1 word in 10 in a normal Guugu Yimithirr conversation is “north,” “south,” “west” or “east,” often accompanied by precise hand gestures). This habit of constant awareness to the geographic direction is inculcated almost from infancy: studies have shown that children in such societies start using geographic directions as early as age 2 and fully master the system by 7 or 8. With such an early and intense drilling, the habit soon becomes second nature, effortless and unconscious. When Guugu Yimithirr speakers were asked how they knew where north is, they couldn’t explain it any more than you can explain how you know where “behind” is.

But there is more to the effects of a geographic language, for the sense of orientation has to extend further in time than the immediate present. If you speak a Guugu Yimithirr-style language, your memories of anything that you might ever want to report will have to be stored with cardinal directions as part of the picture. One Guugu Yimithirr speaker was filmed telling his friends the story of how in his youth, he capsized in shark-infested waters. He and an older person were caught in a storm, and their boat tipped over. They both jumped into the water and managed to swim nearly three miles to the shore, only to discover that the missionary for whom they worked was far more concerned at the loss of the boat than relieved at their miraculous escape. Apart from the dramatic content, the remarkable thing about the story was that it was remembered throughout in cardinal directions: the speaker jumped into the water on the western side of the boat, his companion to the east of the boat, they saw a giant shark swimming north and so on. Perhaps the cardinal directions were just made up for the occasion? Well, quite by chance, the same person was filmed some years later telling the same story. The cardinal directions matched exactly in the two tellings. Even more remarkable were the spontaneous hand gestures that accompanied the story. For instance, the direction in which the boat rolled over was gestured in the correct geographic orientation, regardless of the direction the speaker was facing in the two films.

Psychological experiments have also shown that under certain circumstances, speakers of Guugu Yimithirr-style languages even remember “the same reality” differently from us. There has been heated debate about the interpretation of some of these experiments, but one conclusion that seems compelling is that while we are trained to ignore directional rotations when we commit information to memory, speakers of geographic languages are trained not to do so. One way of understanding this is to imagine that you are traveling with a speaker of such a language and staying in a large chain-style hotel, with corridor upon corridor of identical-looking doors. Your friend is staying in the room opposite yours, and when you go into his room, you’ll see an exact replica of yours: the same bathroom door on the left, the same mirrored wardrobe on the right, the same main room with the same bed on the left, the same curtains drawn behind it, the same desk next to the wall on the right, the same television set on the left corner of the desk and the same telephone on the right. In short, you have seen the same room twice. But when your friend comes into your room, he will see something quite different from this, because everything is reversed north-side-south. In his room the bed was in the north, while in yours it is in the south; the telephone that in his room was in the west is now in the east, and so on. So while you will see and remember the same room twice, a speaker of a geographic language will see and remember two different rooms.

It is not easy for us to conceive how Guugu Yimithirr speakers experience the world, with a crisscrossing of cardinal directions imposed on any mental picture and any piece of graphic memory. Nor is it easy to speculate about how geographic languages affect areas of experience other than spatial orientation — whether they influence the speaker’s sense of identity, for instance, or bring about a less-egocentric outlook on life. But one piece of evidence is telling: if you saw a Guugu Yimithirr speaker pointing at himself, you would naturally assume he meant to draw attention to himself. In fact, he is pointing at a cardinal direction that happens to be behind his back. While we are always at the center of the world, and it would never occur to us that pointing in the direction of our chest could mean anything other than to draw attention to ourselves, a Guugu Yimithirr speaker points through himself, as if he were thin air and his own existence were irrelevant.

For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like "John broke the vase" even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say "the vase broke" or "the vase was broken". Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.

In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford, speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone got a surprise memory test: For each event, can you remember who did it? She discovered a striking cross-linguistic difference in eyewitness memory. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. Mind you, they remembered the agents of intentional events (for which their language would mention the agent) just fine. But for accidental events, when one wouldn't normally mention the agent in Spanish or Japanese, they didn't encode or remember the agent as well.

In another study, English speakers watched the video of Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" (a wonderful nonagentive coinage introduced into the English language by Justin Timberlake), accompanied by one of two written reports. The reports were identical except in the last sentence where one used the agentive phrase "ripped the costume" while the other said "the costume ripped." Even though everyone watched the same video and witnessed the ripping with their own eyes, language mattered. Not only did people who read "ripped the costume" blame Justin Timberlake more, they also levied a whopping 53% more in fines.

Beyond space, time and causality, patterns in language have been shown to shape many other domains of thought. Russian speakers, who make an extra distinction between light and dark blues in their language, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue. The Piraha, a tribe in the Amazon in Brazil, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities. And Shakespeare, it turns out, was wrong about roses: Roses by many other names (as told to blindfolded subjects) do not smell as sweet.

(source, source)