Lojban Wave Lessons/7

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Lojban Wave Lessons: Foreword | ← Lesson 6 | Lesson 7 | Lesson 8 →

Lesson 7: NOI

While we're at it, there's another type of subordinate bridi. These are called relative clauses. They are sentences which add some description to a sumti. Indeed, the "which" in the previous sentence marked the beginning of a relative clause in English describing relative clauses. In Lojban, they come in two flavors, and it might be worth distinguishing the two kinds before learning how to express them.

The two kinds are called restrictive and non-restrictive (or incidential) relative clauses. An example would be good here:

My brother, who is two meters tall, is a politician.

This can be understood in two ways. I could have several brothers, in which case saying he is two meters tall will let you know which brother I am talking about. Or I might have only one brother, in which case I am simply giving you additional information.

In English as well as Lojban we distinguish between these two kinds – the first interpretation is restrictive (since it helps restrict the possible brothers I might be talking about), the second non-restrictive. When speaking English, context and tone of voice (or in written English, punctuation) helps us distinguish between these two, but not so in Lojban. Lojban uses the constructs poi…ku'o and noi…ku'o for restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, respectively.

Let's have a Lojbanic example, which can also explain our strange gift-eating behavior in the example in lesson five:

noi = begin non-restrictive relative clause (can only attach to sumti)
poi = begin restrictive relative clause (can only attach to sumti)
ku'o = end relative clause
mi citka lo se dunda ku poi plise ku'o
I eat the gift that (something is) an apple.

Here the poi…ku'o is placed just after lo se dunda ku, so it applies to the gift. To be strict, the relative clause does not specify what it is, which is an apple, but given the context we can safely assume that it means that the gift is an apple. If we want to be absolutely sure that it indeed was the gift that was an apple, we use the word ke'a, which is a sumka'i (a Lojban pronoun, more on them later) representing the sumti which the relative clause is attached to. ke'a is often omitted for brevity when it would be in the x1 place of the relative clause.

ke'a = sumka'i; refers to the sumti, to which the relative clause it attached.
ui mi citka lo se dunda ku poi ke'a plise ku'o
Yay, I eat the gift that is an apple.

To underline the difference between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses, here's another example:

lojbo = x1 reflects Lojbanic culture/community is aspect x2; x1 is Lojbanic.
mi noi lojbo ku'o fanva fo lo lojbo ku
I, who am a Lojbanic, translate from some Lojbanic language.

Here, there is not multiple things which mi could refer to, and the fact that I am lojbanic is merely additional information not needed to identify me. Therefore noi…ku'o is appropriate.

See if you can translate this:

I flirt with the man who is beautiful/handsome.

nanmu = x1 is a man
melbi = x1 is beautiful to x2 in aspect (ka) x3 by standard x4
cinjikca = x1 flirts/courts x2, exhibiting sexuality x3 by standard x4

Answer: mi cinjikca lo nanmu ku poi (ke'a) melbi ku'o

On a more technical side note, it might be useful to know that lo (selbri) ku is often seen defined as zo'e noi ke'a (selbri) ku'o.

Besides, it is also possible to connect two or more relative clauses to the same sumti, by using the relative clause joiner zi'e. It's syntax is "sumti + relative clause + zi'e + relative clause (+ zi'e + relative clause (...))". Here is an example:

penmi = x1 meets/encounters x2 at/in location x3
dasni = x1 wears/is robed/garbed in x2 as a garment of type x3
mi tavla lo nanmu ku poi do penmi ke'a ku'o zi'e noi dasni lo xunre ku ku'o
I talked to the man that you met and which (incidentally) was dressed in red.
... and which wears something red... [literally]
Lojban Wave Lessons: Foreword | ← Lesson 6 | Lesson 7 | Lesson 8 →