|This page contains discussions of experimental/scientific/philosophical/logical aspects of Lojban that are|
non-official and not for everyday usage. You've been warned.
If you have at least a basic familiarity with Lojban you are likely also familiar with its system for forming noun-phrases. One where verb words are surrounded and transformed into nouns. The words that do this parenthetical surrounding and perform this transforming, called the Gadri, have a confusing and contentious history. Their semantics have changed over time and lack of a clear formulation leaves them the topic of endless debate. This paper will present a framework for unifying the Gadri under a regular semantic system that is mostly backwards compatible, can be readily explained and that empowers communicators.
What the Gadri do
The Gadri are articles that are used to denote the beginning of a noun-phrase or description. In addition to denoting the head of the noun-phrase they also act as a "determiner" that inform how the description should be interpreted. The specific Gadri article used to start the noun-phrase is what determines this interpretation. For example, noun-phrases starting with la denote a name.
In the wider linguistic world, there are many kinds of possible determiners. Those that denote definite or indefinite descriptions, demonstratives which relate to spatial context, possessives, and quantifiers. They all share in the goal of expressing what the speaker intends to reference in their noun-phrases.
Lojban has a number of different types of articles that serve these various determiner roles; the Gadri are just one of them. But what determiner semantics do the existing Lojban Gadri provide today?
The Gadri la and lai both create name descriptions which designate strong or even absolute definite references. la denotes the name of an individual, lai denotes the name of a group.
Masses and Groups
For each of the main Gadri and their associated semantic, there is a alternative form of that Gadri that denotes a description which deals with a group or mass as a whole. Like explained for names, lai is the mass forming version of la. Similarly there is lei for le, and loi for lo.
As defined, le, lei and le'i are all defined as creating descriptions for which the intended referents may not necessarily qualify but are useful in helping the listener identify the intended designation anyway. All other Gadri produce "veridical" descriptions which express that the speaker intends to be understood literally.
Sets are distinguished from Masses in that Sets only ever refer to constituent members once. Otherwise they are typically treated similarly to masses.
One common property of the existing Gadri is that they all assert the existence of definite referents. Behind every description, is some existentially quantified referent.