Lojban Wave Lessons/12

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Lojban Wave Lessons: Foreword | ← Lesson 11 | Lesson 12 | Lesson 13 →

Lesson 12: Orders and questions

Phew, those two long lessons with syntax heavy Lojban gives the brain something to ponder about. Especially because it's so different from English. So let's turn to something a little lighter: Orders and questions.

What the... sit up and focus!

Since the way to express orders in English is to leave out the subject of the clause, why did you assume that it was you I was speaking to, and not ordering myself, or expressing the obligation someone else has? Because the English language understands that orders, by their very nature, are always directed towards the listener - the you, and so the subject is not necessary.

In Lojban, eliding the subject yields zo'e, so that possibility is sadly not open to us. Instead, we use the word ko, which is the imperative form of do. Grammatically and bridi-wise, it's equivalent to do, but it adds a layer of semantics, since it turns every statement with ko in it into an order. Do such that this sentence is true for you=ko! For the same reason we don't need the subject in English sentences, we don't need order-words derived from any other sumti than do.

How could you order one to go far away for a long time (using klama as the only selbri?)

Answer: ko ve'u ze'u klama

(.i za'a dai a'o mi ca co'u ciska lo famyma'o .i ko jimpe vau .ui) - work it out. Note that

ciska = x1 writes text x2 on x3

Questions in Lojban are very easy to learn, and they come in two kinds: Fill in the blank, and true/false questions. Let's begin with the true-false question kind - that's pretty overcomeable, since it only involves one word, xu.

xu works like an attitudinal in the sense that it can go anywhere, and it applies to the preceding word (or construct). It then transforms the sentence into a question, asking whether it is true or not. In order to affirm, you simply repeat the bridi:

xu ze'u zdani do .i ze'u zdani mi, or you just repeat the the selbri, which is the bridi with all the sumti and tenses elided: zdani.

There is an even easier way to affirm using brika'i, but those are a tale for another time. To answer no or false, you simply answer with the bridi negated. That too, will be left for later, but we will return to question answering by then.

The other kind of question is fill in the blank. Here, you ask for the question word to be replaced for a construct, which makes the bridi correct. There are several of these words, depending on what you are asking about:

ma = sumti question
mo = selbri question
xo = number question
cu'e = tense question

As well as many others. To ask about a sumti, you then just place the question word where you want your answer: do dunda ma mi - asks for the x2 to be filled with a correct sumti. You give what to me?. The combination of sumtcita + ma is very useful indeed:

mu'i = sumtcita: motivated by the abstraction of {sumti}

.oi do darxi mi mu'i ma - Oy, why do you hit me?!

Let's try another one. This time, you translate:

ui dai do ca ze'u pu mo

Answer: You're happy, what have you been doing all this long time until now? Technically, it could also mean what have you been?, but answering with ua nai li'a remna (Uh, human, obviously) is just being incredibly annoying on purpose.

Since tone of voice or sentence structure does not reveal whether a sentence is a question or not, one better not miss the question word. Therefore, since people tend to focus more on words in the beginning or at the end of sentences, it's usually worth the while to re-order the sentence so that the question words are at those places. If that is not feasable, pau is an attitudinal marking that the sentence is a question. Contrary, pau nai explicitly marks any question as being rhetorical.

While we are on the topic of questions, it's also appropriate to mention the word kau, which is a marker for indirect question. What's an indirect question, then? Well, take a look at the sentence: mi djuno lo du'u ma kau zdani do - I know what is your home.

djuno = x1 knows fact(s) x2 are true about x3 by epistemology x4

One can think it as the answer to the question ma zdani do. More rarely, one can mark a non-question word with kau, in which case one still can imagine it as the answer to a question: mi jimpe lo du'u dunda ti kau do - I know what you have been given, it is this.

Lojban Wave Lessons: Foreword | ← Lesson 11 | Lesson 12 | Lesson 13 →