me lu ju'i lobypli li'u 17 moi

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For a full list of issues, see zo'ei la'e "lu ju'i lobypli li'u".
Previous issue: me lu ju'i lobypli li'u 16 moi.
Next issue: me lu ju'i lobypli li'u 18 moi.

Number 17 - January 1993
Copyright 1993, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031 USA (703)385-0273
Permission granted to copy, without charge to recipient, when for purpose of promotion of Loglan/Lojban.

Lojban International Conversation

New Lojban Writing Project Starts

ju'i lobypli (JL) is the quarterly journal of The Logical Language Group, Inc., known in these pages as la lojbangirz. la lojbangirz. is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of completing and spreading the logical human language "Lojban - A Realization of Loglan" (commonly called "Lojban"), and informing the community about logical languages in general.

la lojbangirz. is a non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Your donations (not contributions to your voluntary balance) are tax-deductible on U.S. and most state income taxes. Donors are notified at the end of each year of their total deductible donations.

For purposes of terminology, "Lojban" refers to a specific version of a logical human language, the generic language and associated research project having been called "Loglan" since its invention by Dr. James Cooke Brown in 1954. Statements referring to "Loglan/Lojban" refer to both the generic language and to Lojban as a specific instance of that language. The Lojban version of Loglan was created as an alternative because Dr. Brown and his organization claims copyright on everything in his version, including each individual word of the vocabulary. The Lojban vocabulary and grammar and all language definition materials, by contrast, are public domain. Anyone may freely use Lojban for any purpose without permission or royalty. la lojbangirz. believes that such free usage is a necessary condition for an engineered language like Loglan/Lojban to become a true human language, and to succeed in the various goals that have been proposed for its use.

Press run for this issue of ju'i lobypli: 150. We now have about 750 people receiving our publications, and 250 more awaiting textbook publication.

Your Mailing Label

Your mailing label reports your current mailing status, and your current voluntary balance including this issue. Please notify us of changes in your activity/interest level. Balances reflect contributions received thru 31 December 1992. Mailing codes (and approximate balance needs) are:

Activity/Interest Level:                        Highest Package        
Received (Price Each)                           Other flags:           
B - Observer     0 - Introductory Materials ($5)  JL JL Subscription   
C - Active Supporter                            1 - Word Lists and     
Language Description ($15)                      (followed by           
expiration issue #)                                                    
D - Lojban Student                              2 - Language Design    
Information ($10)                               * indicates            
subscription prepaid                                                   
E - Lojban Practitioner                         3 - Draft Teaching     
Materials ($30)  LK LK Subscription ($5/yr)                            
                                                R  Review Copy (no     
                                                UP Automatic Updates   

Please keep us informed of changes in your mailing address, and US subscribers are asked to provide ZIP+4 codes whenever you know them.

Contents of This Issue

Important: Your mailing label indicates the last issue of your subscription. If that issue is JL17, we need to hear from you, preferably with money for another year's subscription (US$28 North America, US$35 elsewhere). For overseas subscribers, this is the last grace issue before our subscription policy takes effect for you - we need to hear from you soon if you want to keep receiving JL; we will be far more likely to support a subscription for an interested overseas Lojbanist than a US Lojbanist, but we cannot do so unless you request to keep receiving JL.

This issue features a discussion of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, including a fairly detailed explication of how it is understood and interpreted by linguists by Bruce Nevin. Also featured is a long section on the new effort to start creating an original Lojban literature. We invite all Lojbanists to participate in defining this project, which involves a group writing against a shared common setting which is predesigned. Several writings in both Lojban and English appear in this issue to kick off the project. Not all of the writings are translated into English.

Also included in this issue is a longer story translated by Ivan Derzhanski from a Bulgarian original. Extensive footnotes in commentary are provided, discussing some of the stylistic issues in translating, but also showing how you can get an understandable and interesting story even if some of the details of your language use are not understood as you intended.

Technical discussions include debates on Lojban's suitability as an intermediate language for machine translation, and a discussion of types of ambiguity found in language, and how Lojban avoids them.

As will usually be the case, this issue contains much material derived from the Lojban List computer mailing list on the Internet. Nearly all such material has been edited, revised, and corrected from the original.

Note the new network address below for the Planned Languages Server if you wish to obtain electronic copies of our materials.

                          Table of Contents                            
Brief Glossary of Lojban Terms                                ---3     
  Status of JL, Subscriptions                                 ---3     
  Finances, Athelstan's Status, Bob and Nora's Adoption       ---4     
  LogFest 92 - Activities, Business Meeting, Negotiations with TLI,    
     Forthcoming Books, Baseline Status/Language Design, Next Year     
  Other News - DC Class, Bradford Group, First International           
  Conversation, Phone Game, News from TLI                     ---7     
Language Development Status - gismu, lujvo, Grammar, Morphology, rafsi 
Structural Ambiguity in English and Lojban                    ---9     
Lojban Fluency?                                              ---11     
Lesson from Another Constructed Language                     ---13     
A Lojban Pangram                                             ---13     
An Alternative Orthography for Lojban                        ---14     
Criticisms of Lojban as a Tool for Machine Translation       ---15     
Discussions on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (several pieces, note        
  especially:)                                               ---21     
  Summary of Linguistic Attitudes on Sapir-Whorf, by Bruce Nevin---22  
  Additional Sapir-Whorf Bibliography                        ---29     
The Lojban Kalevala Project                                  ---30     
  Veijo's Summary                                            ---31     
  Condensed Papers - Collected Significant Writings on the Project     
  Text and comments elucidating further description of Scenario #2     
  (Lojban and English texts)                                 ---46     
le lojbo se ciska - Ivan's Translation le lisri be le serti, Nora's    
  Operettina le ci cribe                                     ---52     
Translations and Commentary for ckafybarja writings and le lojbo se    
  ciska                                                      ---57     
  Veijo's First Text (57), Nick's Text (58), Veijo's Second Text (60), 
  Iain's First Text (61), Mark Shoulson's Text (62), Iain's Second     
  Text (commentary only - 64), le lisri be le serti (65)               

Computer Net Information

Via Usenet/UUCP/Internet, you can send messages and text files (including things for JL publication) to la lojbangirz./Bob at: (This supersedes the prior "snark" address.)

You can also join the Lojban List mailing list (currently around 70 subscribers). Send a single line message (automatically processed) containing only:

"subscribe lojban yourfirstname yourlastname" to: listserv@cuvmb.

If you have problems needing human intervention, send to:

Send traffic for the mailing list to:

Please keep us informed if your network mailing address changes.

Compuserve subscribers can also participate. Precede any of the above addresses with INTERNET: and use your normal Compuserve mail facility. If you want to participate on Lojban List, you should be prepared to read your mail at least every couple of days; otherwise your mailbox fills up and you are dropped from the mailing-list. FIDOnet subscribers can also participate, although the connection is not especially robust. Write to us for details if you don't know how to access the Internet network.

A good portion of our materials are available on-line from the Planned Languages Server (PLS). See JL16, or send the messages "help" and "send lojban readme" to the server address:

This is a new address since JL16 was published.

The following explicitly identifies people who are referred to by initials in JL. Note that 'Athelstan' is that person's real name, used in his public life, and is not a pseudonym.

'pc' - Dr. John Parks-Clifford, Professor of Logic and Philosophy at the University of Missouri - St. Louis and Vice-President of la lojbangirz.; he is usually addressed as 'pc' by the community.

'Bob', 'lojbab' - Bob LeChevalier - President of la lojbangirz., and editor of ju'i lobypli and le lojbo karni.

'Nora' - Nora LeChevalier - Secretary/Treasurer of la lojbangirz., Bob's wife, author of LogFlash.

'JCB', 'Dr. Brown' - Dr. James Cooke Brown, inventor of the language, and founder of the Loglan project.

'The Institute', 'TLI' - The Loglan Institute, Inc., JCB's organization for spreading his version of Loglan, which we call 'Institute Loglan'.

'Loglan' - This refers to the generic language or language project, of which 'Lojban' is the most successful version, and 'Institute Loglan' another. 'Loglan/Lojban' is used in discussions about Lojban where we wish to make it particularly clear that the statement applies to the generic language as well.

'PLS' - The Planned Languages Server, a no-charge computer-network-accessed distribution center for materials on Lojban (and other artificial languages). See pg. 2 for email address.

Brief Glossary of Lojban Terms

Following are definitions of frequently used Lojban terms. More complete explanations are in the Overview of Lojban.

cmavo - Lojban structure words
gismu - Lojban root words; currently 1342;
rafsi - short combining-forms for the gismu;
lujvo - compound words built from rafsi;
le'avla - words borrowed from other languages;
brivla - Lojban predicate words, consisting of gismu, lujvo. and le'avla;
tanru - Lojban metaphors, the most productive and creative expression form of the language;
sumti - the arguments of a logical predicate;
selbri - Lojban predicates which indicate a relation among one or more sumti. A selbri is most often a brivla or tanru; formerly called "kunbri" in error in some of our publications;
bridi - Lojban predications, the basic grammatical structure of the language; a bridi expresses a complete relationship: the selbri expresses the relation and the sumti express the various things being related;
selma'o - grammatical categories of Lojban words; the basis of the unambiguous formal grammar of the language. Traditionally and erroneously called "lexeme" in the Loglan community. These categories typically have a name derived from one word in that grammatical category; the name is all capitals, except that an apostrophe is replaced by a small letter 'h'.


Status of JL

Well, I (Lojbab) seem to be late again in getting ju'i lobypli out the door, though not quite as late as last issue. I do have a bit of an excuse. On very short notice, I had to go to Russia to become a father (more on this later). Now back, and somewhat settled down, I've gone back to work, and have taken steps to make it more likely that JL will be able to come out on time in the future. This issue is hopefully out the door around the first of January. I will be preparing JL18 starting on 5 March, with an intended publication date of 1 April. Issue #18 is already more than half done, using material that would not fit in this issue.

JL17 more Lojban text and commentary on the text than previous issues; from now on, the portion of each issue devoted to Lojban text will continue to grow. Starting with this issue, I have adopted a new editorial policy whereby other Lojbanists who have demonstrated competence in the language will be reviewing and editing Lojban text that is submitted. No longer will I (Lojbab) be the bottleneck in getting Lojban text in print. Instead I will putting my time into getting the Lojban books published, and keeping JL coming out consistently on time.

A result of this policy is that published Lojban text may have varying degrees of quality. All text will have been verified by the Lojban parser to assure that it is grammatical. However, we all know that not all grammatical text is easily understood (anyone who has read legal documents or tax forms can testify to this). Instead of me checking all texts for a consistent level of quality, published text will have been approved by two Lojbanists who have demonstrated competence in the written language. This will presumably mean that at least they understood the text. These editors, labelled by Nick Nicholas as "editors de jour", are described in more detail in the ckafybarja papers below.

Because I won't be checking and preparing the text, there will no longer be detailed translations of the sort that I have prepared for Lojban text in JLs prior to now, unless the authors or one of the editors prepares them. We will be trying to include a list of any special vocabulary words, and will include any translations that are provided.

On the other hand, the increased volume of Lojban text, some of it original writings, will hopefully convince more of you to join the ranks of those who have learned enough Lojban to try to read the texts without translations. And maybe those who try to write such texts.


If you are receiving this, then probably you either have returned a subscription form, you have a large balance and were already receiving JL, or you have ordered a package of Lojban materials that includes a sample issue, or you are an overseas subscriber receiving your last grace issue.

If you have paid for a subscription, this is the first issue under the subscription policy, and the issue will have cost you either US$7 (US/Canada) or US$8.75 (other countries). Those receiving JL via Major in Australia are doing so by arrangement with him at a price that he is setting.

If you did not return a subscription form and pay for a subscription, then this issue is being charged to your voluntary balance at a higher price than for paid subscribers: US$9 for US/- Canada and US$10 for other countries. If you were a JL subscriber and had enough balance to pay for this issue at this higher price, then you are receiving it even though you haven't returned the form.

If you did return a form, but did not have enough money in your balance to pay for a subscription, you are receiving this issue anyway, in reward for having responded. We hope that you will eventually contribute to your balance to offset the price. If not, you will probably be switched to receiving le lojbo karni as of issue #18.

Having received only $170 in donations earmarked for the support of those who cannot afford subscriptions, we have allocated some of that money to supporting a few nonpaying volunteers who have been particularly active. Priority was given to people who have shown evidence of having tried to learn Lojban, and to non-US Lojbanists. This money has been allocated in the form of prepaid 2-issue subscriptions. We did not have enough money to support subscriptions for all who requested assistance.

As of the publication date, we have 122 prepaid subscribers, and another 13 are receiving this issue as a grace issue. Since some people did not send money with subscription forms, the number of subscribers will drop to around 100 for JL18 (unless we hear from those listed as expiring this issue), and seems likely to stabilize at around that level until books are published. This is not enough to qualify for reduced postal rates, so our costs are higher than they have been for recent issues. However, US recipients are getting their issue by first class mail and hence probably far more quickly than previous bulk mail issues.


We lost money in 1992, as in previous years, a net loss for the year of around $1300. End-of-year cost savings, including delaying JL17 and LK17 until 1993, reduced this from an earlier deficit of $3000. We will need to have a fund-raising drive in 1993 in order to have money to publish the new Lojban books (as well as to support our continuing operations).

As of the end of December, income for the year was $8646.54 and expenses were $9999.01. This leaves about $2500 in the bank, of which somewhat over $1000 will go for JL17 and LK17. ($5500 of income was donated by Jeff Prothero and Lojbab, and went for legal fees. Thus, actual project income and expenses were only a fraction of previous years', around $3100 and $4500, respectively.)

Our IRS 501(c)(3) provisional status, authorizing us as a tax-free non-profit organization (and making your donations tax-deductible), is up for review as of the end of 1992. We expect that your support has been

sufficient to make our non-profit status permanent.

We are now paying some $30 per month to maintain Master Card/Visa processing capability, though we are looking for a cheaper way to offer this service. Our Master Card/Visa fee to you is being raised to 10% pending our finding an alternative. If finances get any worse and we have not found a cheaper alternative, credit card ordering services will be dropped.

With the successful ending of the legal battle with The Loglan Institute, we are getting close to paying off our legal bills, and expect to do so sometime in 1993. Since Lojbab and Jeff Prothero have been donating funds to cover those bills, the money has not come out of other la Lojbangirz. funds; thus paying the bill off won't really improve our financial situation (though we will have a good credit reference, at least). Legal costs have totalled over $12,000.

Athelstan's Status

There has been a good deal of support and sympathy expressed about Athelstan's accident. Early in December, he completed a course of recuperative therapy, and has moved out from his parents' house, is working part-time, and is starting to rebuild a life of his own. This will take some considerable time, and Athelstan will have to live a fairly structured life for a while to have his best chances for long-term recovery. He also continues to need major dental work, since he has lost nearly all of his teeth.

Athelstan attended the LogFest in August of 1992, for a few hours, and participated in a couple activities, and is doing some studying of the language on his own. However, it is clear that he will not be up to his pre-accident skill with the language for quite a while, and we do not expect him to resume his leadership role in the community at any time soon. Projects that he was working on, including the Lojban mini-lesson, continue to be delayed indefinitely.

Bob and Nora's Adoption

The biggest news out of Bob and Nora's house has little to do with Lojban except to help explain why so little is getting done.

On extremely short notice (an hour after they told me it might take 6 months), the adoption agency called in late August to tell me that they had found a pair of children for us to adopt from Russia, and that they wanted us to travel immediately. All of September was taken up with rushed travel preparations for a trip that seemed continually to be scheduled for "next week some time". These preparations were complicated by previously-scheduled surgery for Nora (who came through quite fine and is fully recovered, but the surgery meant that she could not go to Russia).

Finally I left for Russia on October 2, returning on October 18 with 2 beautiful and healthy children, brother and sister. Angela is 6 1/2 and Avgust is 5. They are energetic, intelligent, and there have been almost no problems in their adaptation. However, from late August until the kids started school in November, we got almost no Lojban work done, hence the delayed appearance of ju'i lobypli.

I've resumed work, but at a somewhat lower pace. It took most of a month then to get caught up on mail and paperwork that had lagged during that time; hopefully the last of the backlogged orders are going out in the mail with this issue. I expect a lag of some 3-4 months in the publishing of Lojban books, but John Cowan, Nick Nicholas and others have made tremendous efforts to keep the ball rolling on book preparation.

These days, we mostly speak Russian at home, despite the fact that neither Nora nor I speak it nearly as well as we speak Lojban. The kids are learning English very slowly (and Lojban even more slowly - they do spontaneously use "coi" and "co'o" to Lojban-oriented guests, though). Being forced to use a language in this way has been a real education in language acquisition, and I have much more recognition of what things help in self-teaching a language.

This will no doubt improve the teaching quality of our materials when they come out. I know that it has certainly changed my ideas what needs to go into the textbook. The proto-textbook that we've been working on won't be affected, and indeed nothing I've written for this draft of the textbook will need significant rewrite, but new sections to be written in the future will incorporate the lessons in language learning that I've acquired the hard way.

Lojban got a bit of a boost from my trip: Ivan Derzhanski did a high quality translation of the Lojban brochure into Russian on short notice (copies available on request); while in Russia, I was able to arrange to have it published in a journal in Russia, probably next autumn; the title is something like the "Transactions of the Society of Eastern and Oriental Languages". This will be the first academic publication about the Loglan project other than book reviews, which don't really count (Scientific American is considered insufficiently academic to have it count in Loglan's favor, and having an academic publication record is important in seeking grants). Special thanks are given to my Russian linguist consultant, Mikhael Maron, of the Institute for Russian Language in Moscow.

On Friday, October 16, I presented a 'seminar' on Lojban (basically a short talk with question-answering) to about 20 people at Moscow State University Dept. of Philology and Linguistics. These included three professors, Mikhail Maron (who arranged the talk with department chairman Professor Polikarpov), and several graduate students who are studying theoretical linguistics and also taking a 'practical English' class (Their teacher saw this as a good opportunity to practice, but the students seemed genuinely interested). A couple of students and the professors as well, especially department chairman Polikarpov, seemed particularly interested, and I made arrangements to continue discussions by electronic mail. There were many regrets that I could not stay longer in Moscow, arrange further discussions and visit laboratories, but the purpose of the trip was primarily for the kids, and they most certainly had to come first in my planning.

I also had discussions with the Academician leading Russia's efforts in machine translation. There was some interest, but his group right now must put financial concerns first - they have to find a way to commercialize (i.e. attract Western money), and there is little likelihood that we are going to be able to help in that.

LogFest 92

The second (and main) LogFest 92 took place the weekend of 14-17 August 1992, and included the annual meeting of la lojbangirz. 16 people attended. As usual, Friday night was arrival night, with socializing and people coming in the door until well after midnight. Lojban-related activities started on Saturday and continued through Monday.

On Saturday, the Lojban community welcomed the return of Athelstan, who was able to attend for a few hours with the assistance of his parents. It will be a while yet before Athelstan can resume the major contributions to the Lojban effort that he was making before the accident, but having him show up at LogFest was a real morale booster for us, and probably also for him.

Athelstan was able to stay and serve as 'critic' while the summer '92 DC Lojban class and John Cowan helped present Nora's operettina "le ci cribe" (text in le lojbo ciska below), for lojbo verba of all ages. As with the previous effort of this kind, Cinderelwood (1989), our low budget, low practice, production group set a new standard for lojbo draci, but aren't about to hit Broadway in the near future. The Lojbanic lyrics went well with the collections of children's songs to which the playlet was set, and some hasty but serious practice efforts before the presentation meant that the actors sang their lines without stumbling. Athelstan the critic gave it a thumbs up before departing; we'll be looking forward to his next visit.

Another Saturday activity was the discussion of the Lojban Kalevala project (see separate article). All in all, we tried to keep Saturday a little bit light, knowing that Sunday's business meeting was likely to be long and emotionally draining (as have all of our annual business meetings). Thus, discussions stayed in English, and ranged over a wide variety of topics related to the Lojban effort.

Business meeting

The business meeting started at 9:30AM Sunday morning. We had several key people missing, as pc had business matters in Arizona to take care of, John Hodges' car broke down at the last minute, and Art Wieners was called back to work from vacation for a crisis that made him unavailable all weekend. However, all of these people had made their positions clear on the issues at hand, and the meeting proceeded surprising well. The following summarizes the results of the meeting:


Nick Nicholas and Colin Fine were elected as the first non-US voting members of LLG. We consider all of the Lojban community to be part of LLG, but we have to have a clearly defined voting membership for legal purposes to manage organizational matters. Also added were David Young, Sylvia Rutiser, and David Twery. Jeff Taylor, who hasn't actively participated for the last couple of years, was dropped as a voting member. To make clear the nature of voting membership, a resolution was passed explicitly stating on the record that voting members should consider themselves as representing the community at-large, and not just themselves, in matters that are decided.

Several bylaw changes were made, all relating to procedures involved in holding members' and Board of Directors' meetings when we are so geographically dispersed and several members cannot be physically present for the meeting, especially the overseas members; we do not want inability to attend LogFest to prevent people from participating in the LLG decision-making, especially such major technical contributors as Nick and Colin. These bylaw changes are an evolving process, as we adapt to LLG's continuing growth and international spread; every year, we seem to need a few more changes to meet new problems that have arisen. Copies of the current LLG Bylaws are available at cost to any member of the community.

Bob and Nora LeChevalier, John Cowan, and pc were re-elected to the LLG Board of Directors, and in a brief meeting of the Board after the members' meeting, Bob was reelected President of LLG, pc as Vice President, and Nora as Secretary/Treasurer.

Negotiations with TLI

The major political issue at the meeting was the determination of LLG policy towards The Loglan Institute and JCB, now that the legal battle over trademark status of the name 'Loglan' is over. There have been some initial efforts towards a negotiation between the two groups, with both sides expressing an interest in reuniting the effort behind a single version of the language.

The efforts haven't gone far, since TLI wants LLG to disband and merge into TLI behind its version of Loglan. la lojbangirz. is committed to Lojban, which is a much superior version of the language, and we have a larger group of people actually doing something with the language. The membership showed extreme distrust towards TLI, voting to insist on two key preconditions to further negotiations:

a) Both organizations must sign a binding agreement preventing legal action resulting from further negotiations; the members want to be sure that TLI's offers to negotiate are bona fide and not an attempt to set us up for a lawsuit.

b) TLI must drop its 'trade secret' protection on all aspects of its design for its version of the language. LLG being committed to the freedom of the Loglan community to freely use the language howsoever they choose, the members felt that a 'secret' grammar is anathema to the concept of a large community of people using a constructed language, especially one intended for scientific research. It is felt that no real progress can be made on possible merger of the two languages while TLI continued to keep theirs secret where neither TLI nor LLG supporters could see the language details and evaluate them on their merits.

The voting membership seems open to negotiations provided that TLI demonstrated bona fide intent by meeting the preconditions. However, there is little sentiment for significant change in Lojban as part of a merger of languages; we collectively believe that the Lojban design is far superior to anything the TLI designers might have come up with in the past couple of years since the last good information about their version of the language.

I proposed a strategy for remerger of the efforts starting with the adoption of alternative ways of writing the two language versions so that they resemble each other in appearance, thus making cosmetic appearance not an issue (as it appears to be for JCB) when the two languages are essentially the same in the structures that determine how the language looks on paper. John Cowan has proposed an alternate orthography for Loglan/Lojban, allowing it to look in print very much like TLI Loglan. (see separate article).

Following such an initial step, each organization would study in depth the two language versions looking for similarities and differences. We would try to convince TLI to adopt our changes into their language, and they presumably would try to convince us to adopt their design where we differ. Vocabulary lists are likely to be the major unresolvable issue under this approach. When the review is completed, the decision of which vocabulary list and which version of any unresolved differences to go with would be voted on by the supporters of each version. If one version wins the vote in both organizations, then the language versions have remerged. Otherwise, the two organizations go their separate ways, but with languages presumably much closer together.

It is the collective belief of the LLG membership that if no merger takes place, that TLI will fade away eventually. LLG members expressed an unwillingness to accept changes in Lojban that in any way detract from the current design - any evolution of Lojban would have to be a positive one, and we have no reason to believe that there are any differences between the two languages wherein changing Lojban to match TLI Loglan would enhance the language.

Faced with lengthy negotiations even if TLI meets our necessary preconditions, the voting membership reiterated its intent that we publish the books defining the Lojban design that are currently in preparation, noting that as each book is published it will further cement us in a position wherein we cannot accept changes to the language in concession to TLI. Thus the ball is in TLI's court and they will have to move fast if they wish to have any significant chance of influencing the direction of a future combined effort.

(Initial signs are not optimistic for further reduction in hostilities. TLI formed a public mailing list similar to Lojban List on the computer networks, but then apparently went to considerable lengths to prevent Lojbab from participating, eliminating the public nature of the list and virtually shutting it down - apparently for fear that some of their trade secrets will get to me.)

Forthcoming Books

There was lengthy and emotional debate on the continuing delays in getting the prototype and baseline books out. Many Lojbanists are waiting for the books, convinced either that they cannot learn the language without the books, or that the language will change after they've learned it, if they learn the language before it is set down in the books. Our very conservative baseline approach does not satisfy these people; only the books will do.

The voting membership thus forced John Cowan and me to more strongly commit to getting the books done as quickly as possible, and to avoid changes to the language definition except insofar as glitches come to light during book writing. We expected to have the proto-dictionary done before the end of the year, with the proto-textbook and introductory book following soon after. (This was before the kids came along, forcing a few more months delay). John Cowan's papers will be assembled into a reference grammar to conclude the initial design documents. We are trying to have all 4 books done within a year, though John's book will be the slowest to be completed.

John believes that after these books are completed, there will likely be no further changes to the language, and we will go immediately into the long-term design-ending baseline. I (Lojbab) continue to intend to produce a real textbook and dictionary (of which the first two books are indeed 'prototypes') that will define the baseline, but John and others doubt that this will happen in a timely manner, and that the proto-books will be the ones used in the baseline. I have agreed that the bottom line on the book publication will be how fast we can get them written, coupled with the finances of publishing, and not my goals to produce more 'perfect' non-proto versions of the books. This, and a renewed commitment to stop fiddling with the language design, mollified some very frustrated and impatient Lojban supporters.

The conclusion is that the community very strongly wants the language to be done, and usable, and does not care whether the language is any closer to perfect than it currently is. I stand on record as recognizing that sentiment of the community as expressed by the membership, that has elected me to lead the effort.

Baseline Status/Language Design

The membership voted to update the grammar baseline as of the proto-dictionary publication, to include changes approved by the technical committee that has been reviewing those changes (which are all considered relatively minor by the members). The rafsi and cmavo lists will also be baselined when the book is published, incorporating the current reviews, and the intent is to baseline the morphology algorithm published in JL16 after updating it for wording errors found when we coded it up - John Cowan wants to have the algorithm fully coded and verified before making a baseline commitment, and we are still working on this. With all of these baselines, the only significant language feature that will not be baselined are the gismu place structures, although it is believed that the simple fact of putting those into the book will effectively baseline them as well (the difference to me is that I don't want to feel obligated to defend a stupidity that we missed in the place structure simply because we made a promise not to change. There are known weaknesses in other aspects of the Lojban design, but no major ones, and those known are not considered open for change because of our baseline commitment to avoid change where possible.

The two gismu proposed in JL16, vukro and slovo, were added to the gismu baseline, along with four new gismu for metric prefixes reflecting their addition to the international metric standard.

As part of the rafsi review in progress, there emerged strong feeling that the gismu for "daytime" as distinct from "day" (= 24 hours) should have good rafsi, which was not possible without severe tradeoffs given the word (dinri) that resulted when the word was generated last year using the word-making algorithm. As was done in the case of "less than", which was changed last year from "ckamu" to "mleca" because of the need for a good rafsi, the membership approved that this word be changed, disregarding the scoring algorithm if necessary. This was considered acceptable only because the word is a new one added just last year and is neither in common use yet nor even reflected in our published lists. To minimize relearning difficulty, John Cowan and I opted to change only a single letter, and the gismu for 'daytime' is now "donri", with rafsi "dor" and "do'i". The membership approved this change.

That was it for the members meeting. We also had two committee meetings, one to correlate the results of the rafsi review, and the other to allocate the $142 received last winter in donations specifically to support active, non-paying Lojbanists who cannot afford to pay for materials. The money was allocated toward 2-issue subscriptions for several people, with the hope that our finances have improved after 2 issues and more money is available to help such people out at that point.

John Cowan has put together a new parser based on the current set of proposed grammar changes, which are expected to be approved, and it will hopefully be tested thoroughly in coming weeks by some key people who write a lot of Lojban text.

Sunday night and Monday were spent in more Lojbanic activities, a little conversation, and going over a writing effort by David Twery. By then everyone was exhausted, as another busy and successful Logfest came to an end.

Next Year

We're not sure what LogFest will be like in 1993, given the patter of little feet around here, and haven't set a date for LogFest 93. We hope that there'll be more in-language activities, and at least one of the books should be out by then. Given the addition to our family, we're hoping others coming to LogFest will bring their families too.

There's a possibility for a weekend gathering in 1993 which will be an all-Lojban affair, with no English permitted. This is an ambitious undertaking - the language is ready for it though. The major factor will be the effect of our kids on our time. At the moment, Nora and my Lojban skills have deteriorated in favor of Russian.

But the critical factor in such a weekend is vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. The summer Lojban class here covered most of the grammar in seven 2-hour sessions, but no one had nearly enough vocabulary command to converse. Hopefully with this weekend gathering as a goal, those of the community who want to see the language brought to life will get to work on their word lists and LogFlash, and try to be here if we can put this weekend together. If we don't manage it in 1993, we will surely try in 1994, when Nick Nicholas has threatened to visit from Australia.

Other News

DC Class

During the summer we held a weekly class in Lojban here in Fairfax. Five students participated, although two of them, Sylvia Rutiser and Tommy Whitlock, were primarily freshening up their skills. Of the other three, two completed the class and have continued actively participating in Lojban weekly conversations.

DC Weekly Group

After the conclusion of the summer class, the DC conversation group resumed weekly meetings, continuing even through Nora's recovery from surgery and Lojbab's trip to Russia. Typically, activities split 50/50 between conversation each session and discussions of texts written by the group members or on Lojban List. When less experienced Lojbanists are present, we assign one-on-one "mentors" who aid them by coaching them in what people are saying, and helping them say what they would like in the language. Thus everyone gets to participate.

More recently, since Lojbab's return from Russia, some (rather light-hearted) efforts have been made to introduce our two kids to Lojban; this is necessitated by their domination of everyone's attention until bedtime. We suspended meetings for the December holiday season, partly in order to get the kids better settled so that we can focus more on the language during weekly sessions, and partly to try to arrange a more convenient schedule for participants. After the first of the year, weekly sessions will resume, probably on Monday or Tuesday evenings. Lojbanists in the DC area may contact Lojbab at 703-385-0273 if you would like to visit or start regular participation in this group - you need not have significant skill in the language to gain from participation, but you should in that case be planning some self-study at other times during the week.

Bradford Group

Colin Fine has started a study group in Bradford, England, the first regularly meeting Lojban group outside of the US. I don't have many details on numbers of participants, but the group has produced a significant amount of Lojban text.

First International Conversation

I am pleased to report a major milestone in the Lojban project - a most surprising one indeed at the time it happened.

One Monday evening in September, I received a telephone call. I had been studying Russian about 10 hours straight at the time I got this call. And what do I hear on the line but a collection of traji cizra (superlatively strange) beeps and clicks and this unusual bunch of words coming at me. They weren't Russian (and this itself was baffling, because I'd already gotten 2 calls today from people with heavy Russian accents who were offering me information and advice related to my forthcoming trip, in response to a computer network posting).

It finally dawned on me that someone was talking Lojban at me. Except for intermittent sentences in an otherwise English conversation, no one has ever spoken conversational Lojban to me on the telephone except Nora, and she was sitting next to me.

Alas, I was attempting to understand, and my Lojban totally failed me, partly from shock, and partly from the fact that as I attempted to form Lojban sentences, Russian words kept creeping into them in my mind, and this hodgepodge of jborusko (Lojbanic-Russian) just wouldn't be communicative; but I couldn't tune out the Russian. Finally I asked the other end of the line to repeat, and I made out the words nik. nikolas. and sralo, and I suddenly understood all the clicks and beeps. The first international telephone call in Lojban, and I was talking to Nick Nicholas in Australia.

I'm afraid we never got more than a couple of sentences exchanged - my brain just would not click into Lojban mode. But I can testify that Lojban now has people who have demonstrated conversational competence with the spoken language on two continents. There is no doubt in my mind that the sralo accent on the other end of the line was speaking quite good Lojban, and at a fluency that would stand him well in our weekly sessions in Washington DC. (Nick has promised to visit us in 1994, when he completes his degree work in college.)

After the shock slowly ebbed from my mind, I got enough presence to suggest that this would have worked better if the call had been the following night, when the weekly DC group met. So I was told that I should prepare people for just such a call.

Here is Nick's recollection of the actual conversation, with commentary:

Robert LeChevalier? Yah. [Lojbab: A good answer in all three languages.] .i mi'e nitcion. nikolas. i mi fonxa tavla ra'i la australias. mu'i lenu rinsa do pu lenu do cliva la rusko.

(The "cliva" is wrong, obviously, and "ra'i" isn't very smart, but hey, I'd been walking a lot :)

Thereupon Goodman LeChevalier said "... a couple of words of that sound vaguely familiar; please repeat." I did; this time I was la nik. nikolas, ra'i la sralo...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Robert has learnt his cmavo well: his ".ua" was as good as any exclamation James Brown (let alone James Cooke Brown) could come up with :) Duckcall-like, in fact :)

I started chuckling ("hehehehe"), then quickly corrected myself: ".u'i.u'i.u'i"

A good thing too that Bob's brain wouldn't click into Lojban mode, because, as I said to him (er... four times, the fourth in English :), mi na djuno da poi mi bilga lenu cusku ke'a (once more, in writing that would be a "ledu'u mi bilga lenu cusku dakau", but whatever).

Stunned silence followed, then a bit of small talk, then I talked to Nora, and it went a little bit like this:

coi coi noras .i ?xu do kanro [an IDIOT question in Lojban, but cut me slack already, I'm new at speaking the damn language :) ]

.i mi kanro .i ?xu DO kanro

.i pe'i go'i

[I really aspirated them apostrophes; I can't remember if Bob or Nora did.] .i mi jinvi lenu do xagmau mi lenu cusku [I think it was "cusku"; I remember at being surprised, not so much at the lujvo, as at the fact that it was followed immediately by a pronoun, without a preposition. Two years of written Lojban, and now I notice the absence of "than"?!] .i .u'i ?xu go'i .i mi ruble go'i

[I'm trying to be a smartass in Lojban, and it's not quite working. The word I was looking for was "ru'e".]

Mind you, the bad acoustics and my lack of familiarity with spoken Lojban meant that I had to search a bit to determine what was being said (by Bob, at least). From what I remember though, I got through all right.

Lojbab, I believe, farewelled me with a "co'o" (ah yes, he does aspirate them heavily), and I responded with a "co'osai". I didn't mean by that that I was glad to be rid of you, honest! :)

We'll have to have something to talk about for me to be convinced that we can converse intelligibly. I can see why the differences between Washington and net Lojban exist though: good phrasing just doesn't come to you spontaneously, much less good bracketing. I'm not going to let this worry me about the future of the language yet, mind you...

The kind of halting Lojban I was getting from Fairfax reminded me of the Esperanto beginners I occasionally tutor. The kind of Lojban I was getting out of myself reminded me of the aplomb with which I used to face Esperanto when finding myself in a position of linguistic expertise, but minus the actual expertise... :)

Oh yeah, that's the other thing I said, when he mentioned the Russian on the mind: "Ya ne gavaryu pa-ruskii" :)

The following night, Colin Fine joined in the act, calling about an hour before Nick made his second call (which was considerably more communicative than the first one. Thus in one night we had three continents speaking Lojban. Again, international beeps and whistle gummed up the conversation, but Colin was quite understandable (if a bit briefer than Nick, who seemed to be feeling rich to want to talk so long). I have to say that Nick has a jump on Colin in fluency of speech, but nothing a little practice won't make up for, and Colin does have some people local to him to practice with.

[On aspiration of ': in some words I heavily aspirate it, like co'o, and other vowel pairs with matching vowels. In others I aspirate a bit less. Nick enunciates his vowels far more clearly than most of us speaking the language.]

I didn't feel so bad at not parsing Nick's sentences after he confessed the mistakes he made. I am particularly bad at correcting others' errors in spoken Lojban, especially at conversational speed. This is one major failing I have at teaching the language. If you screw up, I don't understand you, because I am parsing in my head, translating to Lojbanized English and then understanding. The wrong cmavo, or even one no one has used in speech to me before (which Nick did several of), brings the parser in my head to a screeching halt, but Nick kept going. (I have the same trouble with spoken Russian: I hear a word I don't recognize right off, and I completely lose the next 2 sentences trying to figure it out.)

Colin Fine offered that any Lojbanist who wanted to try a call was welcome to call him. His telephone number is currently (+044) 0274-503168. Nick Nicholas noted that those with access to the Internet can effectively practice conversational Lojban by computer, using a software system called "IRC" (Internet Relay Chat). For those with such access, it might be useful practice; the speed of conversational typing is far less than the speed of talking, and not as prone to errors in hearing. Contact us by e-mail at the address on page 2 if you are interested in IRC 'conversation and have access to that service on the networks.

Phone Game

The "phone game", a computer network Lojban activity described last issue, made it through three rounds, but then stalled on the fourth round - one person who signed up dropped out after the game started, and several of the more experienced people participating in previous rounds had other activities to occupy them in summer. By the end of August, we decided to suspend the game, since a replacement activity, the Lojban coffeehouse project described below, had captured everyone's imaginations. We may start new rounds at some future time when we get some new people interested in participating.

The Loglan Institute

After our victory in the appeals court in LLG's trademark dispute with The Loglan Institute (see last issue), there remained the possibility that TLI would continue the legal battle. We are happy to report that this seems not to be the case, and the trademark issue is dead. People may use the word "Loglan" freely in talking about all aspects of our 37 year old project, including Lojban, without needing permission from TLI. Indeed, it seems that both organizations will now be able to turn away from the legal system as a method of resolving our disagreements over the course of the Loglan Project.

Preliminary discussions have led to a "truce" in our disputes, with a possibility that there will be future interest in negotiating an active reconciliation and remerger of our efforts. Unfortunately, at this time both sides remain far apart on how such a reconciliation might be accomplished.

Details on la lojbangirz. policy with regard to negotiations were discussed at LogFest and can be found in the article on that meeting.

We intend to continue to fairly report on what we hear from TLI, and hope that our non-hostile demeanor will cause TLI's people to more actively seek reunification within the Loglan community.

Language Development Status


Six gismu were added at LogFest, as described in the article on that meeting. Other than these changes, there have been no new gismu proposals, and indeed, the draft set of revised place structures has generated little criticism. Thus, we consider the gismu list stable enough for book publication.


Nick Nicholas has spent a lot of time in the last 6 months doing a thorough review of some 2700 lujvo that have been used or proposed for use in Lojban text. He has analyzed these by origin, indicated their quality (and occasionally proposed better replacements), and analyzed them to determine probable place structures based on analysis and actual usage. As a result, the proto-dictionary will likely have many more entries than we had originally planned, since I intend to incorporate as much of Nick's work as possible.


The grammar is of course baselined and frozen until we make updates and republish it in the Lojban books. Because we want the books to reflect the grammar after the books are done, we do our writing based on that next revision of the grammar. Indeed, most of the change proposal come out of the detailed analysis that John Cowan does in writing his reference grammar essays.

There are now 27 minor changes planned for that revision, all but 5 being extensions to the language. Because of the delays in publishing books and the fact that many active Lojbanists are incorporating new features in their Lojban writings, JL18 will include a revised E-BNF and a complete summary of all the changes since the last baseline. John Cowan believes that only a couple more changes of even this minor scale are likely prior to baselining for book publication; his estimates are reasonable, since he is the one who has proposed almost all of the ones in this set of changes. Of the changes listed, only one was considered by experienced Lojbanists to be important. However, even that change was easily taught to students last summer within one class session.


Last issue, we printed the draft Lojban formal morphology algorithm. Nora has been working to implement and text the algorithm in software, and has found several errors in the algorithm as printed in the issue. The problems are not with Lojban, but rather are errors in the way various steps are worded. The dictionary/reference book will have a version of the algorithm that passes Nora's software analysis. Meanwhile, we print a short discussion that gives a simpler, plain-English rendition of the algorithm:

And Rosta asks:

Has anyone conducted an experiment to verify that word-boundaries are identifiable, even if you don't know what the words mean? If I were to hear a recording of rapid spoken Lojban, could I, equipped only with the word segmentation rules, identify all the word boundaries?

Yes you could. Ideally a computer could. If you cannot, it is due to human limitations in analysis, not to ambiguity in the algorithm. These limitations might prove to be real, since there are some obvious ways to concoct utterances that will lead a listener down a primrose path:

mi viska le prenu is a valid sentence /miVISkalePREnu/ miviskaleprenus is a name /miVISkalePREnus/

but you can't distinguish them till the end.

No we haven't tested the algorithm in any rigorous or experimental sense. There have been informal analyses, and of course we have people conversing who have no problems.

The short form of the algorithm is:

  1. Pauses are word breaks.
  2. Identify names by going backwards from 'consonant + pause' to preceding "la" or "doi" or "lai" or word break/start of text.
  3. Among remaining text, start from the left looking for consonant clusters which mean that you are in a brivla (predicate word). Any number of leading CV and CVV syllables fall off a permissible initial cluster, each forming separate cmavo. In a brivla, find the stressed syllable, then, since that is penultimate, take one syllable more, ending in a vowel.


The analysis of Lojban rafsi, mentioned in the discussion of LogFest above, was not completed until just before publication of this issue, primarily due to Bob's travels. We intend to publish a lengthy article and the revised list with JL18, so that all people can switch to the new baseline at that time.

Structural Ambiguity in English and Lojban

by Dan Maxwell and John Cowan

[Dan is an Esperantist, linguist, and programmed on the DLT machine translation project. John Cowan is an LLG leader, and responds to Dan with the indented notes.]

It is obviously true that words which never change their form are easier to handle than ones which do change their form, but at the level of the sentence it is often the case that the forms of words are useful indicators of the relationships between the words. Here are some examples of structural ambiguity in English, some of which could be solved by more "signposts" on the words.

Here are various Lojban translations, showing how Lojban resolves the ambiguities of the English examples. Lojban words never change in form for grammatical purposes, although many root words have shortened forms for use in making compounds (the underlying roots can be uniquely reconstructed from the compound).

1. I saw the linguist with the binoculars ('with the binoculars' can be taken with either 'saw' or 'linguist'.). This problem comes up quite often, although context or the meanings of the words often serve to disambiguate for human beings but not for computers.

1.1) mi viska le banskeju'o sepi'o le reldanvistci
     I see the language-science-knower using the two-far-see-tool.
1.2) mi viska le banskeju'o pe sepi'o le reldanvistci
     I see the language-science-knower which-is using the two-far-see-tool.
In 1.1, the prepositional phrase (tagged sumti, in Lojban jargon) is attached to the entire predication. In 1.2, the relative-phrase particle "pe" glues the prepositional phrase to the preceding noun phrase. Of course, other interpretations are possible, each with its Lojban expansion:
1.3) mi viska le banskeju'o joi le reldanvistci
     I see the language-science-knower joined-with the two-far-see-tool.
This denotes seeing the two objects jointly.
1.4) mi viska le banskeju'o poi kansa le reldanvistci
     I see the language-science-knower who accompanies the two-far-see-tool.
Here the linguist is "with" the binoculars in the sense of carrying them or being near them, not using them.

2. Old men and women ('old' can be taken with either 'men' or 'men and women'). This is perhaps the second most frequent type of structural ambiguity in languages like English. Signposts on the words can solve some classes of this problem, i.e if the two nouns are singular and the adjective when taken with both is plural.

Since Lojban is a predicate language, I will recast this example as a predication, which involves changing the "and" to an "or", thus: "The soldiers are old men or women." Using "and" would limit the soldiers to such individuals as are both old men and women; since no individual is both a man and a woman, that translation would be incorrect.
2.1) le sonci cu to'ercitno nanmu ja ninmu
     the soldiers are-anti-young men or women
2.2) le sonci cu ke to'ercitno nanmu ke'e ja ninmu
     the soldiers (are-anti-young men) or are-women
2.3) le sonci cu to'ercitno bo nanmu ja ninmu
     the soldiers are-anti-young-men or are-women
Normally, logical connection binds more tightly than simple modification in Lojban, so 2.1 means "old (men or women)". To change this rule, we may use the explicit parenthesis words "ke" and "ke'e" as in 2.2, or the high-precedence infix marker "bo" as in 2.3. Lojban often allows both forethought and afterthought forms of expression; parentheses are more general but require more preplanning and may be more difficult to use in colloquial speech.

3. Army demands change (Is 'demands' a noun or a verb?). This problem comes up in all languages in which words do not have different forms for different parts of speech or a given marker like English 's' is ambiguous.

I would star this example as dubious English: it is really "headlinese" and depends on omitting the article. But even after revision to "The army demands change", it is still ambiguous. The Lojban versions are:
3.1) le jenmi cu cpedu lo nunbinxo
     the army requests an event-of-change
3.2) le jenmi se cpedu cu binxo
     the army-type-of requested-thing changes
"binxo" signifies a transformative change, as when ice changes to water. A mere change in the amount or intensity of a property, on the other hand, is "cenba".
"cpedu" is "A requests/demands B" and "se cpedu" is "B is requested/demanded by A", so "se cpedu" is needed in 3.2 to refer to that which is requested rather than the requester.

4. Flying planes can be dangerous (Does 'flying' modify 'planes', or is 'planes' the object of the gerund 'flying'?).

4.1) lo vofli vinji ka'e ckape
     some flyer-type-of airplanes can-be perilous
4.2) lenu vofli be lo vinji ka'e ckape
     the event-of flying some airplanes can-be perilous
Lojban's careful distinction between concrete and abstract arguments pays off here.

5. The hunting of the tigers (Are the tigers the hunters or the hunted?).

5.1) lenu le tirxu cu kalte
     the event-of the tiger(s) hunting
5.2) lenu le tirxu cu se kalte
     the event-of the tiger(s) being hunted
These may be collapsed to compounds:
5.3) le nuntirxykalte
5.4) le nuntirxyselkalte

6. The picture of the student that I liked (Does the relative clause go with 'picture' or 'student?') Languages with inflected relative pronouns might be able to avoid this type, at least if the two nouns are not in the same class.

6.1) le pixra be le tadni poi mi nelci ke'a
     the picture of (the student such-that I like him)
6.2) le pixra be le tadni be'o poi mi nelci ke'a
     the (picture of the student) such-that I like it
Note that Lojban relative clauses are of the Hebrew type, with a marker at the beginning of the clause ("poi") and a pronoun within the clause referring back to the relativized argument ("ke'a").
6.1 and 6.2 differ by the presence of the right-bracket word "be'o". An omitted right-bracket word acts as if it appears as far to the right as possible; thus 6.1 is equivalent to:

6.3) le pixra be le tadni poi mi nelci ke'a be'o

In both 6.2 and 6.3, the "be"..."be'o" construct indicates the subordinated argument of the subordinated predication "is a picture of". In 6.1/6.3, the argument is "the student such-that I like him" whereas in 6.2, the argument is merely "the student" and the subordinated argument is then cut off, leaving "such-that I like it" to modify the whole (top-level) argument.

Sentence 1 would not be ambiguous in Esperanto, since there happen to be two different prepositions ('kun' and 'per') in this case. But this general type of ambiguity is found in Esperanto as well.

As I show above, the 'per' interpretation is possible even if "linguist" is taken to be the attachment point, giving something like "I see the linguist who is doing something with (using) the binoculars".

Sentence 2 would indeed be ambiguous in Esperanto, at least in the most usual translation. Sentence 3 would definitely not be ambiguous, because different parts of speech are marked by different endings. Sentence 4 would also not be ambiguous, because participles have different endings than nominalized verbs. In 5, it depends on how careful the speaker is being. There is a tendency to use the same preposition in both cases, but there is also a commonly used alternative for the subject reading. The translation of 6 would be ambiguous in Esperanto as well.

As shown above, none of these are ambiguous in Lojban, and all of the Lojban forms given above are natural unstrained forms.

Inflection-based grammar developed in historical times; it is probably an example of the way the human mind seeks complexity. Any language, including Esperanto, that developed prior to the emergence of Information Technology, is 'historical' in this sense. The formal grammar and agreement present in such pre-computer-era languages has proved to be almost impossible to process.

Esperanto, especially our modified version of it in DLT, was much easier to parse than English, due largely to the ways of avoiding ambiguity in sentences like the ones mentioned above, among others, even though English is presumably less inflection-based than some consider Esperanto to be. Actually, Esperanto is not inflection-based in the sense that Latin, Russian, and German are. There are certain morphemes which are written as one word with the root, but these morphemes do not vary according to noun class, etc. and the form of the root never changes. So it would be more accurate to say that Esperanto is an agglutinative language like Turkish or Japanese. The essential difference between Esperanto and Glosa [ed.: another artificial language] is that in Esperanto many of the signposts are written as part of the same word, whereas in Glosa they are always written as a separate word. But in both languages the signposts have exactly one form.

Lojban function words may be written free or compounded as a mere matter of orthography. Lojban content words (predicates) may be compounded and taken apart again unambiguously, but the compounds are not identified with their underlying word sequences, although there is naturally a close semantic relationship.

Parsing algorithms started out with a simple L-R sequential approach, because this is the way language works, at its basic level.

I guess it's usually true that programming languages operate sequentially, but they also have braces and so on to tell us what goes with what.

Lojban has braces of various sorts, but achieves naturalness (unlike most programming languages) by a systematic mechanism for eliding right terminators where no ambiguity (as rigorously tested by a parsing algorithm) can result.

Function words in natural languages are not generally as specific as the devices used by programmers. "that" (if you know it's not the pronoun) tells us that a new clause is beginning, but doesn't tell you what this clause goes with or where it ends. I think this kind of problem can be found to varying degrees in any constructed language invented so far.

Except Lojban, where there is never any doubt.

This is nevertheless not a serious problem for speakers, because they have context and meaning to help disambiguate (most of the time). But if we are constructing languages which can be used by computers as well as humans, then we have to make our signposts more explicit or we have to wait until computational linguists like me, the AI people who work on human language, and our programmer colleagues find ways to make computers understand meaning and context as well as humans do. These are the real stumbling blocks for computers much more than complex declensions and conjugations.

Agreed. Lojban provides an unambiguous syntax to clear away questions of syntax early, thus allowing the effort to be spent on semantics, the true heart of language.

[In response to further comments that English and Esperanto can also make disambiguations parallel to the Lojban versions, it was explained that the key point is that not only are the Lojban versions unambiguous, but that these are the simple and natural expressions to be used and that furthermore there are NO versions of these sentences in Lojban that DO express the ambiguities of the original sentences.]

Lojban Fluency?

Ken Miner (a linguist at the University of Kansas) made the following comment about Lojban on the computer news-group "sci.lang". Lojbanist Ivan Derzhanski, also a linguist, responded [indented]:

A friendly comment: this project [Lojban] ought also to be of interest to linguists concerned with universals.

It ought, oughtn't it?

It would be of interest if human beings could learn to speak and understand it fluently; it would be of even greater interest if children could acquire it from their parents.

If it is true that natural (and planned but natural-like, such as Esperanto) human languages are learnable only because they are built upon a hardwired structure (Universal Grammar), then Lojban should not be learnable in the natural way, as it violates much if not most of what is currently thought of as being universal. I'm afraid that we won't get away with running an experiment, though, as its side effects may include a few language-impaired kids, if my expectations are correct.

I dunno - consider A. N. Prior, a guy who has written a lot on tense logic: he uses symbolic logic in the Polish notation, which is sort of like Japanese syntax backwards. With a little practice, you can start thinking in it in a sense - you become "fluent" in it, as he is. (You have to, to read his works.)

No natural language has a syntax like an SOV language backwards (go ahead, somebody, pounce; note that it wouldn't be like the rare VOS type at all). Yet you can learn to process it. Ditto for master programers. All that's lacking is a spoken form...

Certainly you can learn to think in it (and you can become fluent in it), but the kind of learning it takes is quite different, isn't it, from a child's acquisition of his first language. I'm not convinced that you could have learned symbolic logic in your mother's lap, using the same miraculous language acquisition mechanism that you used to learn English ("for although we've been talking since we were three, / how anyone can is a big mystery"). Neither am I convinced that you couldn't; I'm just wondering.
And it just might be the case that you must use the first few years of your life to acquire some natural or natural-like language, and if you don't, you'll never be able to learn any later on. I'm not sure that a child whose only native language is symbolic logic won't grow up as a live computer, fluent in that system, but unable to deal with natural language. Again, I'm not sure of the opposite either. Project "Mowgli", anyone?

Maybe some people have learned to speak Lojban fluently. That alone would be interesting. It certainly ought to be worth fooling around with.

So far all of those who can generate and understand Lojban text have learnt it as a foreign language, moreover, as an incarnation of predicate logic, to which all have had a prior theoretic exposure. That's not how we learnt our respective first languages.

[Bruce Gilson then noted that Lojban is not actually spoken fluently by anyone, even by Lojbab. Ken commented:]

That's a very interesting datum. I wonder if anyone or any group became fluent in the earlier Loglan? When you consider that this project has been around since 1955, and that some of its primary goals sort of depend on this very thing...

I'd like to hear more about this. Does LeChevalier himself say he does not really qualify as fluent, or is that your judgment, and if the latter, roughly what criteria for fluency were you applying?

[I responded with the following:]

Bruce is correct that no one is fluent in Lojban, and that I am the most fluent in the language, but not really 'fluent' in the sense that linguists use the term.

The state of the art improves all of the time, of course. I can state rather categorically that there was no real fluency in any previous version of Loglan. Indeed, Lojban is the first version to really support the needs of conversation. JCB reports having had conversation sessions back in the late 70s, but I've talked to participants in those 'conversations', and I think heard some tapes once or was told about them. Basically a lot of dead silence with sounds of paper shuffling, because no one other than JCB had enough vocabulary solid to even make a sentence without looking up one or more words in a word list. There was 'conversation' only that there was no resort to English. The bulk of the sessions was groping, in Loglan, to find the right words that someone could understand.
That was 15 years ago.
In 1987, after only 6 months, my wife and I reached the same point with the then-budding Lojban version. On our honeymoon, without word lists, and each of us knowing around 300 words (but often not overlapping), we were able to 'converse' for about an hour with no word lists, using repetition, pointing, and paraphrase to get across the words we didn't know. It seemed very much like the process whereby one might learn a language my total immersion. But we tried it only once.
In 1989, 5 of us sustained conversation, with word lists, for about 4 hours. By that time I knew the vocabulary well enough that I rarely used the word list. A couple of months later, we had several such sustained conversations, while driving from Washington to Boston, but with Nora and I both not using word lists. Early in 1991, we started having weekly conversation sessions in Lojban, typically 1-2 hours, in which relatively little use of word lists occurred by the 4 main participants. However, we usually had at least one less skilled person present, and not using word lists did not mean that people didn't have to stop typically once or twice in each sentence to think of the word they wanted, and repeat things once or twice for those who missed something. These conversations lasted until one of the 4 was injured in an auto accident last Feb., leaving us with only 3 regulars, which we have found makes for too sparse a conversation. We have just finished a new Lojban class, which will add another couple of conversation participants to the weekly group for fall 1992.
Basically the reason why there is no fluent Lojban speech yet is two-fold:
1) for almost no one is there an opportunity to use the language often enough to gain fluency; only here in DC have we gotten people to even try to sustain conversation, much less do so regularly. My wife and I probably could run our household in Lojban and quickly become fluent, but I have some specific reasons for avoiding this - I don't want our usage, already rather dominating in the community learning the language, to become a de facto idiom; instead I want several people able to speak the language and write in it, thus developing a more natural idiom, even if it takes longer. There is also the emotional and mental drain to be considered - I'm already putting most of my time into the language, and I need a break once in a while, at least until others have gotten up to the level where I am at.
2) because there has been relatively little advanced usage, Lojban remains a pidgin. We have about 2000 solid vocabulary words, which is enough to converse and communicate, but not to converse fluently. We have the means to make any additional words for concepts that we need, but making up words is not a fluent language activity. I am quite skilled at coming up with communicative and productive usages on the fly, but not at fluent speeds. Hence my working vocabulary is 2000 words, though I probably have used perhaps 3000-4000 different words in my Lojban speaking career. These words are going to have to be recorded in dictionaries, and in written usages for the mass of Lojbanists (most of whom are not local to me) to learn about. In addition, I suspect that vocabulary level needs to reach more like 5000-10000, with most of the words on spontaneous recall, before fluent conversation will be sustainable. Given the great amount of technical and specialized vocabulary that pervades most conversation that I experience (and which is necessary to keep a conversation going for hours - you can only say so much about the weather today zo'o), I could not comfortably talk for hours without having such a vocabulary on tap. English speakers vocabularies are estimated as being much larger than this, of course, but Lojban gains some considerable efficiency from its predicate structure wherein words serve as nouns, verbs, and adjectives interchangeably.
The obvious question is "why is it taking so long?" The answer is that it hasn't been a high enough priority for very many people. Secondary reasons for this include the geographical dispersion of Lojbanists (our best writers are Nick Nicholas in Australia, Ivan Derzhanski in Scotland, Iain Alexander and Colin Fine in England, Veijo Vilva in Finland, John Cowan in New York, and myself in Washington DC).
But another key point is that there are no fluent speakers because there are no fluent speakers to learn from. Those of us bootstrapping the language are the examples for everyone else, but who do we learn from. In writing we can learn from each other, which is why Lojban writing has progressed far beyond speech in skill level, but until we have a cluster of people in one location who are willing to make the commitment to use Lojban at a much higher level than 1 hour a week, we won't achieve fluent speech.
We are in the process of publishing the first books about Lojban, and when those are available, I suspect that there will be people willing to make that commitment. So this situation may change within the next year or two. Our experience 5 years ago on our honeymoon has convinced me that there is no reason that Lojban itself is insufficient or incapable of being spoken fluently.
(By the way, to avoid the inevitable comparison, I should note that Esperanto also did not catch on until there was a book to learn from. It grew much faster because its vocabulary is so strongly derivative of the European word stock, whereas Loglan/Lojban by intent must not be so derivative. Even so, I have heard that the watershed moment when Esperanto really 'succeeded' did not come until something like 1904, when people at their international conference discovered to both pleasure and surprise that the language was finally well enough known to such a degree that the meeting could be conducted in spontaneous and fairly fluent Esperanto. That was 17 years after Zamenhof's book, and I've heard that Esperanto was in formation for at least 8 years before the book was published. While Lojban has recaptured all of the research benefits of the earlier Loglan developments, we basically started the language definition process from scratch in 1987. I don't think we will be waiting 17 years for spontaneous fluent speech.)

[Ken responded, leading to the following exchange:]

... I ... probably will have further reaction, but for the moment: while comparisons with Esperanto (which I have spoken fluently since my youth, but not natively) are indeed inevitable, a better comparison would be with Volapk, Esperanto's predecessor, which while naturalistic was less so than Esperanto, having I think more case endings than Finn-ish yet allowing Germanic-type compounding.

This whole area of how new languages "get going" is fascinating. It relates to modern Israeli Hebrew as well. Re what you said about not wanting a small group to fix usage too soon: that seems to be what happened to Esperanto, maybe on a larger scale. I don't know whether you're an Esperantist but I and others have often been impressed by the extent to which Esperanto became "a real European language" when it had the potential, and the theoretical underpinnings, to develop along completely different lines. I see that as the problem with Lojban. You need speakers, early in the game, with diverse linguistic backgrounds. Otherwise it's going to develop along the lines of "standard average European."

Exactly, and even worse, given that I myself have been monolingual English speaker (whereas Zamenhof and his associates were predominantly polyglots to start with), I recognize that relying on my usage to set the patterns is particularly risky for cultural neutrality.
In written usage, we seem to be meeting your goals. With the major people writing in the language including a Greek-Australian, a Finn, and a Bulgarian polyglot with professional linguistics training, our stylistics is developing somewhat independent of myself. Further, by recognizing the importance of cultural neutrality, I am very forward about indicating which of my usages are tentative, and in screening myself for cultural bias. "malglico" (damnably-English-like) was one of the first compounds to gain widespread use, and I'm proud of having coined and pushed it.

Lesson from Another Constructed Language

[The following, translated from Esperanto by Don Harlow from the referenced article, indicates the dangers of uncontrolled change and/or change in a constructed language controlled by "people who were linguistically very undisciplined". Novial was a major artificial language invented by one of the most noted linguists of his time, and for a while attracted a significant following (it basically supplanted Ido, the major splinter from Esperanto), but it apparently died from uncontrolled change.]

The following comes from Carlevaro, Tazio: "Mondlingvaj akademioj", in Haupenthal, Reinhard (ed.): "Li kaj ni", Antwerp-La Laguna: Stafeto, 1985, pp. 389-390:

The well-known Danish linguist Jespersen, who had already collaborated in the creation of Ido, in 1928 proposed a new neo-Latinoid language project Novial (Nov International Auxiliari Lingue). In 1929 a handful of ex-Idists joined it, along with the otherwise well known Ido magazine Mondo. In 1934 Jespersen decided to radically reform the language to bring it nearer to Occidental. But it became obvious that the Novialists were people who were linguistically very undisciplined, and for this reason, and perhaps also because Jespersen didn't have the time to get very deeply occupied in his project, the Lingual Jurie del Novalistes was founded (1937) and proposed new improvements and changes. This did not, however, reduce the linguistic chaos in the movement itself, because this committee's decisions were not mandatory but only indicative. Novial, together with its language committee, disappeared during the second world war.

A Lojban Pangram

[Mark Shoulson issued a challenge on Lojban list for a Lojban 'pangram', a sentence as short as possible that contains all of the letters of the Lojban alphabet. Examples from English include "The quick brown fox slyly jumped over the lazy dog." and "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs." Mark wrote:]

Here comes the quest for the Lojban pangram. Guidelines should be:

  • No cmene or le'avla. Cop-out.
  • All Lojban symbols except "," (which only happens in cmene and le'avla) must appear (not counting such optionals as ";" or ":", but counting ".", even though it's optional. "." may only be placed at a required pause, though.)
  • It must be a grammatical utterance.
  • No fair using zoi (non-Lojban quotes) or lo'u/le'u (ungrammatical text quotes) to throw in nonsense to get tough letters.
  • No experimental or unknown cmavo, of course.


  • It should be a bridi (a complete Lojban sentence), not just a bare sumti or a string of exclamations.
  • It should not have sumti in undefined places, if possible (e.g. nothing in the x6 place of "prenu" or whatnot, even though that parses).
  • It should have some sort of comprehensible meaning, though it may be nonsense (i.e. the meaning needn't be reasonable, but it should be capable of being understood in some fashion).
  • It should be as short as possible.
  • It shouldn't use letterals just to get letters in cheaply. In fact, avoid letterals if you can, except maybe to get "y".
  • lujvo should be used sparingly, and if used, should make sense somehow. You can get "y" using hesitation or letterals, but don't turn down an otherwise good sentence because of a lujvo.

The desiderata are roughly in order of importance. I'd imagine it's a little easier to find a pangram in Lojban than in English, although finding a good one (where "good" is defined something like above) isn't easy in almost any language.

Have fun with it!

[Colin Fine responded with the following admirably-complete analysis:]

Assuming Mark's rules, but avoiding letterals or hesitation:

There are 17 consonants and only 5 vowels. All brivla are more consonant-rich than all cmavo. So use as many brivla as possible.

Ignoring, ".'y", the best ratio you can get in a sentence with gismu only is 3 consonants/2 vowels; 17 consonants requires 6 words, for a total length of 30. Using 2 CV cmavo instead of one gismu improves this to 29.

dzipo gluta fe re baxso ckini jmive
(They're) antarctic gloves of two Malay-relative living things.

To add the missing symbols:

"." uses up one or two vowels - either [selma'o] I or UI

"'" uses up two vowels. We can combine these in UI, or in a cmavo or lujvo.

"y" requires a lujvo (if we are not using letterals or hesitation).

1) Minimising use of lujvo:

Two strategies suggest themselves for this goal. Either use a (single) consonant-rich lujvo of the form "CVCyCCV" and use UI for the other two. Inserting (a single instance of the form) ".V'V CVCyCCV" covers 4C, 4V at a cost of 11 characters altogether, or use a (single) CVCyCV'V-form lujvo and a V cmavo: ".V CVCyCV'V" covers 3C, 4V at a cost of 10 characters altogether. The latter approach is shorter, but since the total number of different consonants is 2 mod 3, would require two cmavo, giving a total length of 34, against 33 for the first strategy. Therefore the minimal solution with only one (two-element) lujvo is of form ".V'V CVCyCCV CV gismu gismu gismu gismu" (with the order of these elements completely free)

.e'u zadyfra pa baxso ckini jmive gluta (33 characters)
Let's react more to a Malay-related living thing's glove!

2) Allowing free use of lujvo CVC rafsi have the highest consonant/vowel ratio possible in the language, so the answer is clearly going to involve one or more long lujvo with lots of CVC's. An obvious strategy is (CVC)n-CV'V = 2n+1 consonants, n+2 vowels, Thus with ".i" at the beginning (we can't use any other V word unless we have some sumti), and one juncture requiring "y", we get:

.i cabjagnixtulroskazdempafyva'i
The currently-resulting girl's-leg prose has the quality of dense father value" (or something)

Once you've got the structure, they're easy to concoct, and I've no doubt somebody can come up with better ones.

[The challenge to the community is to propose some better pangrams using any of these forms. I know of at least one Lojban poet (Michael Helsem) who will probably have a field day with this kind of challenge. We will print the best submittals in a future issue of JL.]

An Alternative Orthography for Lojban

by John Cowan

[Editor's note: This is an optional alternative to the current Lojban writing system, not a change or replacement. In short, this proposal is a way to write Lojban so that it looks more like any other version of Loglan, and hence be more palatable to JCB.

I don't think that any Lojbanist considers the alternative more desirable than what we do now - we made the current Lojban orthography in order to better reflect the way people will learn and speak the language (although the use of doubled consonants for syllabics might actually be an improvement if used throughout the language - TLI Loglan uses this convention only for syllabic consonants in borrowings, and not in lujvo.)

However, having an orthography that looks more 'normal' to JCB is an advantage in trying to reach a long term solution to our differences - something that we have long sought. By having a set of standard mappings between the two orthographies, it becomes relatively trivial for someone to write a program that can convert text written in one orthography to the other form. Thus TLI Loglanists would have to do a minimum of relearning to be able to start participating in the Lojban community, should such an orthography option be part of the resolution of our differences.

The alternate orthography is thus a mapping from Lojban back to the original orthography of Loglan, with a couple of things that JCB added after the split like the doubled letters for syllabic consonants. Thus, JCB used "ao" for the diphthong that we write in Lojban as "au". JCB doesn't use apostrophes in non-diphthong VV pairs. (He has never addressed the problem that we resolved through the devoiced glide). He uses 'h', but 'x' as a distinct phoneme is found only in names, whereas historically, Loglan considered our 'x' to be an allophone of 'h'.]

NOTE: This document is not an official policy of the Logical Language Group and has not been endorsed by the LLG or its Board (to which, for my sins, I belong). Still less is it endorsed by any other non-profit organization concerned with the development of logical languages.

This note proposes an alternative orthography for Lojban. The orthography here described is not intended to replace the existing standard orthography. Nothing in this note is intended as a proposal for change either in Lojban's orthography or its phonology. The purpose of the alternative orthography is to provide a way of writing Lojban which visually resembles the conventions used by earlier versions of the Loglan language, including the version proposed in the 4th edition of Loglan 1 (1989).

The standard Lojban orthography makes use of 23 letters of the Roman alphabet, viz. a b c d e f g i j k l m n o p r s t u v x y z, plus the three signs:

apostrophe "'" for a voiceless intervocalic glide roughly similar to English /h/;

comma "," for a voiced intervocalic glide;

period "." for a pause or glottal stop.

Capitalization is used to represent abnormal non-penultimate stress in names: the syllable to be stressed is capitalized in its entirety.

The letters i and u are used in three ways: as full vowels, in the falling diphthongs ai ei oi au, and in the rising diphthongs ia ie ii io iu ua ue ui uo uu. The rising diphthongs appear only as stand-alone words and in names and borrowings.

The letters r l m n are used as normal consonants and as syllabic consonants (in names and borrowings only).

Double letters are never used for any purpose.

The alternative orthography [approximating the TLI system] makes the following substitutions.

  1. The letter "x" is replaced in all uses by "h". It is useful to emphasize here that this does not represent a change in pronunciation.
  2. The diphthong au is replaced by ao.
  3. The apostrophe, which in the standard orthography is used only between vowels, is replaced in the following ways:
    1. In a'a a'e a'u e'a e'e e'o e'u o'a o'e o'o o'u, it is dropped, producing aa ae au ea ee eo eu oa oe oo ou.
    2. In a'i a'o e'i o'i, it is replaced by comma (symbolizing the syllable break that accompanies the glide) producing a,i a,o e,i o,i.
    3. In i'a i'e i'i i'o i'u u'a u'e u'i u'o u'u, it is dropped, producing ia ie ii io iu ua ue ui uo uu; except that when these diphthongs appear standing alone (as cmavo of selma'o UI), or in names and borrowings, it is replaced by comma, producing i,a i,e i,i i,o i,u u,a u,e u,i u,o u,u.
  4. Capitalization is used for the first letter of names, and for the cmavo ".i", which is written "I".
  5. Periods before words are dropped.
  6. Periods after words are replaced by comma. This comma cannot be confused with the comma of 3b and 3c, because that cannot appear at the end of a word. However, periods at the end of names are dropped.
  7. Syllabic r l m n are written rr ll mm nn, and need not be set off by comma.
  8. Other uses of comma are retained. When doubt arises whether a comma represents a voiced or a voiceless glide, the voiceless glide is preferred.
  9. Stress is indicated by an apostrophe following the vowel of the stressed syllable.

Obviously, the alternative orthography is much more "context-sensitive" than the standard orthography. Two consecutive vowels in the standard orthography always represent a diphthong; in the alternative orthography, they may represent a diphthong, two syllables with a voiceless glide, or two syllables with a voiced glide, depending on the particular two vowels and on the kind of word in which they appear. On the other hand, the difference between syllabic and consonantal r l m n is clearly marked in the alternative orthography.

Here is a passage of Lojban (written by Nick Nicholas) in both orthographies:

mi na certu le se zajbrnatleta .iku'i mi co'a jimpe lenu mi poi xelso cu no'e snada tu'a le la olimpik. nunjvi pe vi la tokios. .isa'unai mi nu'o zmadu zo'epeca'aku leni snada .iti'e le mulno nizyji'a cu te zmadu mi le gugdrkore'a kuce'o le gugdrnafganistana kuce'o le gugdrkenia kuce'o le gugdrtrinidada kuce'o le xanto denci xaskoi gugde .iku'i mi zmadu .u'a le gugdrlixtenctaine .i lenu go'i cu pluka nuzba .i zmadu pluka fau le nu'o nu le gugdrlixtenctaine cu se nunjvi la olimpik.

mi na certu le se zajbrrnatleta I kui mi coa jimpe lenu mi poi xelso cu noe snada tua le la Olimpik nunjvi pe vi la Tokios I saunai mi nuo zmadu zoepecaaku leni snada I tie le mulno nizyjia cu te zmadu mi le gugdrrkorea kuceo le gugdrrnafganistana kuceo le gugdrrkenia kuceo le gugdrrtrinidada kuceo le xanto denci xaskoi gugde I kui mi zmadu u,a le gugdrrlixtenctaine I lenu go,i cu pluka nuzba I zmadu pluka fao le nuo nu le gugdrrlixtenctaine cu se nunjvi la Olimpik

Criticisms of Lojban as a Tool for Machine Translation

[Rick Morneau posted some criticisms of Lojban as a language for machine translation (MT). John Cowan responded to these, which led Rick to try to clarify his objections. John Cowan then responded to the clarifications. The result is an excellent summary of a number of the most common criticisms of Lojban, and the arguments that we believe refute them.]

Here are the reasons why I feel that Lojban is poorly suited for use as an interlingua in machine translation:

1. Lojban claims that its words are self-segregating. Obviously, this feature is not needed for the analysis of written language, but it can greatly simplify the analysis of continuous speech. Unfortunately, Lojban requires the use of pauses in certain places in order to fully implement this feature. Enforced pauses are unnatural and, should Lojban ever attain a community of native speakers, these pauses will be one of the first things to disappear.

Lojban pauses need not be the kind of pauses used by separated-word speech recognizers; a glottal stop is a sufficient equivalent of pause. The two main uses of pauses are after names and before words beginning with a vowel. In the first case, nothing will be able to do much better; existing speech-recognition systems simply punt on names in general, unless the name has been hard-wired into the system as a word.
Glottal stops before words beginning with a vowel are common enough in the world's languages: consider German, which does not notate such glottal stops but whose speakers (of the standard dialect, anyway) invariably produce them. Not everybody speaks like anglophones - "English is the language you speak without moving your mouth", as my mother (native German, near-native English) used to say.
In some cases this is true, especially when one word ends in a vowel and the next starts in a vowel. However, there are some cases where a glottal stop will not work:
1. if a word ends in a voiced nasal and the following word starts in an unvoiced fricative, stop or affricate.
2. if a word ends in an unvoiced fricative and the following word starts in an unvoiced fricative, stop or affricate.
In these situations a glottal stop will either be impossible to detect, or will be eliminated through normal phonological processes. If, however, these juxtapositions can not occur in Lojban then I withdraw my criticism.
These juxtapositions can occur only if the first word is a name, and (as I said earlier) names are notoriously intractable. They can violate the phonotactics of the language in which they are embedded in random ways, and existing word-based speech processors simply punt on them.
Lojbab adds: This item seems irrelevant to the issue that Rick says he is arguing. If he is solely concerned in his criticism with Lojban's suitability as an interlingua for machine translation of other languages, then recognizability of pauses in a Lojban speech stream is irrelevant because a machine translator would not be processing Lojban speech. Mandatory phonemic pauses affect how humans speak the language and not on how difficult it is to translate it.
Answering the issue for the case of a machine attempting to understand spoken Lojban, I note that our statement is that a glottal stop is a sufficient allophone of the phoneme "pause". If phonological processes cause a glottal stop to disappear, then under those circumstances a Lojban speaker will need a more exaggerated 'pause'. A proper Lojban speaker will have sufficient pause in his or her dialect to separate the words. But errors in speech will occur. To say that such errors in speech are a burden on the machine is a truism; we can also say that it is a burden on the machine if the speaker lisps, slips in voiced consonants that are unvoiced, or speaks with stops that are insufficiently distinguished, all things that often happen in natural human speech.

2. Lojban syntax is too complex. Regardless of the syntactic formalism you swear by (transformational grammar, government/binding theory, generalized phrase structure grammar, lexical functional grammar, home-brew grammar, ad nauseam), a natural language minus its idioms and irregularities can be represented with an equivalent of fewer than three dozen production rules. If I remember correctly, Lojban syntax requires about ten times that number. Lojbanists claim that it is machine-parsable, and I'm willing to take their word for it. However, an MT interlingua (IL) should have a syntax that is as simple as possible. A simple syntax not only makes it easier to parse the IL, but more importantly, it makes translating from the source language to the IL much easier.

As simple as possible, but no simpler. The Lojban grammar is a phrase structure grammar - it does not have any transformation (T) rules or their more modern equivalents. Chomsky introduced T rules, way back in Syntactic Structures, because he didn't want to have to deal with phrase structure grammars with (by guesswork) 104 to 105 rules. Lojban's 600-odd rules look pretty simple by comparison.
The existing parser generates a complete parse of a 1600-word short story (with some pretty hairy grammar - it's a deliberately complex translation of a Saki short story) in about 15 seconds on a '386 machine. The existing program is not optimized for speed worth a damn - I concentrated on maintainability. On a 'Real Computer', parsing effort will be absolutely negligible.
Your response puzzled me. A fast computer is not adequate justification for creating inefficient code, especially when the MT application itself will be grasping greedily for every cpu cycle it can get. Also, Lojban's 600-odd rules (twice as many as I thought!) is still almost twenty times as much as needed. So, compared with a syntax designed explicitly for an MT IL, Lojban's parser requires only 20 times as much code as minimally necessary. This is quite a selling point!
600 rules is for the full language. A pure interlingua application would be unlikely to generate the full language. A "core subset" could be constructed that would be far more rigid but far smaller, and yet truly be a subset.
However, I would also point to an argument given in The Elements of Programming Style. A tricky way of initializing a identity matrix in FORTRAN is given, and the text explains why it works. However, it then points out that the time taken to initialize such a matrix is always insignificant. In a program with small matrices, the time is insignificant in an absolute sense; in a program with large matrices, the time is insignificant relative to the time spent in all other matrix operations, which are typically n2 to n3 expensive.
Furthermore, for IL applications there is no real need to keep the Lojban in text form; the conversion from tree form to text form is absolutely trivial. (Lojban has no "obligatory transformations" in the sense of early Chomsky, so you print out the tree and strip the parentheses.)
[Lojbab adds: Rick is making a big issue out of rule counts that are specific to the format in which they are presented - the language of input to the YACC processor that verifies their unambiguity. Another rule format describing the same language, the E-BNF included with this issue of JL, has only about 80 rules. Of the E-BNF rules, 15 are associated with the grammar of mathematics (MEX), and 12 are associated with the tense system (described in John Cowan's paper that accompanied JL16), leaving perhaps 50 to cover the whole remainder of the grammar.
By comparison, Rick in a separate posting gave a sample E-BNF set of rules for what he considered an extremely "simple" grammar for a constructed language which has at least 40 E-BNF rules, but not specifying any MEX or tense grammar, even though all language has at least some rudiments of each.
For an interlingua translation system, mathematical text would be translated notationally, not in words, and hence MEX would not need to be part of a machine translation system. Thus MEX is an example of John's statement that machine translation using Lojban would implement only a subset of the Lojban grammar.
Tense is an example of one of the many features of natural language that are not easily represented in a very simple language. You might end up with an optimal language for internal data processing, but it is so cumbersome to use for humans that they cannot significantly input or read the internal texts. Lojban tenses, expressing relationships in space and time about the referents of the sentences they occur in, could easily be expressed using expanded predicates (and the conversion from tense to predicate is probably trivial for most cases that would occur in natural language), but the resulting text would be longer and no easier to convert to the tense structure of another language.
Clearly. Lojban is not "20 times what is needed", but rather is probably fairly close in size to Rick's 'minimal' grammar.
Rick also misinterprets John's statement that he did not design the parser for speed, and he jumped to a false conclusion. John's parser was designed for maintainability, to minimize programming time, which is our critical resource these days. "Inefficient code" has plenty of "excuse" when it gets the job done without affecting critical resources. But Lojban can have faster processing: Jeff Taylor's earlier parser, limited in text capacity, could do 1/4 of Saki in about 5 seconds on a much slower 286 machine.
Finally, of course, Lojban has the advantage of being usable both for internal processing as well as by the linguists/natural language processing people who are building the knowledge engine (see our DARPA proposal in JL16).

3. Lojban's predicate logic is not very "logical" in the way it is used to represent natural language. (It may be "logical" for testing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but this has no bearing on its use as an MT IL.) It's assignment of place structures is too arbitrary and inflexible for use as an MT IL. In most natural language processing applications, a sentence is represented using case frames or a close equivalent. (In brief, case frames are a practical and elegant implementation of basic X-bar theory, which, in my opinion, gives tremendous credibility to its claim of crosslinguistic applicability.) Lojban's inflexible place structures and [selma'o] BAI bandaids are not only counterintuitive, but they force the computer to treat language structures differently when they are essentially the same. Each predicate, in effect, has a built-in irregularity which requires extra processing by the computer.

The present list does not do the fact justice, but there are in fact cross-predicate patterns of place structures. Furthermore, it was believed to be more important to get each word as nearly right as possible than to shoe-horn the words into some existing framework. There is simply a lot more complexity in the Real World (TM) than typical Schankian frames allow for; lots and lots of idiosyncrasy. Still and all, 1300 place structures is simply not a whopping amount: even given that we don't believe it's possible to derive the place structures of compounds algorithmically from the place structures of the underlying roots, those roots do constrain the resultant place structures to a marked degree.
John interpreted my use of "case frames" as synonymous with Schankian scripts. Actually, the two are not related at all. My mention of X-bar theory should have clarified the matter, except, of course, to those who are unfamiliar with X-bar theory. My apologies.
In a case frame representation, each node can be represented by a head and its modifiers. This is the essence of X-bar theory. Thus, a frame representing a noun phrase would have the main noun as its head and the modifiers as adjuncts that follow the head in the frame. (A modifier can also be a complete relative clause, in which case it would be represented by the equivalent of a separate sub-frame). A sentence would have the main verb as its head, and noun phrases that are arguments of the verb would, in effect, be its modifiers. These structures, of course, are recursive. Note that, syntactically, all elements in a frame that modify their heads are treated equally. Note also, that these case frames are simply an easy way to represent syntactic trees in a computer. Lojban predicates and their designer-selected, pseudo-thematic place structures force arguments to be treated differently when they are essentially the same. In other words, some branches of the tree will require different code to handle than other branches. Nothing is gained except counter-productive complexity.
So, although Lojban's predicate structures do not make the job impossible, they do make it much more difficult than it has to be.
I do not understand this argument. There seems to be a shift between talk of syntax and talk of semantics. The arguments of a Lojban predicate are syntactically all equal; semantically, each one plays a specified role. Which role can be determined by looking in the dictionary, or if the word is a compound which is not in the dictionary, by applying a set of heuristics. (Despite several efforts, those heuristics have not yet been defined.)
To take an English example, "I see the dog" involves a predicate "see" and two arguments "I" and "the dog". The definition of "see" determines which of these is the seer and which the seen, but Lojban treats them as syntactically identical.

4. Lojban's list of concept primitives (gismu) is inadequate and lacks semantic motivation. Now, I've read hand-waving arguments claiming that the gismu are not semantic primitives. Yet that is exactly the way they are used. The fact is, an awful lot of work has been done in both computational and theoretical linguistics in the search for a meaningful set of semantic primitives. A few examples are Silvio Ceccato's semantic hierarchies (circa 1950-1960), Yorick Wilks semantic primitives (circa 1977), Roger Schank's primitive ACTs (circa 1977), Donald Fass's comprehensive genus classification (mid 1980's), Anna Wierzbicka's semantic primitives (1970-1980), and, most recently, Kathleen Dahlgren's knowledge representation work (1989). Any one of these systems could be used as is, or modified for use in the design of an AL. And any one of them would have provided a solid foundation for the semantics of an AL. Now, I realize that Loglan got its start before most of the work I mentioned above. However, Loglanists and Lojbanists have been modifying and repairing their languages since then, and, as far as I'm concerned, if something is broken it should be fixed. This is especially true if Lojban is to be suitable for use as an MT IL, and if its semantics are to be as "logical" as its other features.

The best indication that none of these "semantic primes" systems is fully adequate for mapping the real world is the very fact that there are so many of them. The empirical derivation of the gismu list is admitted. Some of the words do not belong in any list of semantic primes, and others exist for historical reasons only. We do repair things, but only when they are demonstrably broken; there has been no effort to reduce the number of gismu en masse. We in Lojbanistan (he said) simply do not believe that there exists any truly comprehensive semantic system for mapping the immense variety of real-world predicates into a categorical or hierarchical system. Instead, the gismu are meant to blanket semantic space, ensuring that what needs to be expressed can be expressed. Even so, large areas of semantically "shallow" but "broad" space are underserved: foods, cultures, materials, living organisms. These semantic areas will be covered by borrowings from natural languages.
Of course there isn't a system, otherwise linguists wouldn't be working on it. What I failed to make clear was that there's no need for a comprehensive, unchallenged theory on which one could base the design of an AL. Keep in mind that linguists are trying to develop a theory that will correctly describe and explain the totality of human language. An AL designer needs only a single, simple system that can be applied rigorously and that is sufficiently robust to allow any human language statement to be accurately converted into the AL.
"A single, simple system [of semantics]" - ah, there's the rub. How can you be sure that your "single, simple system", presumably designed a priori, really does cover everything? Lojban's gismu list is a posteriori and merges semantic lists from several different sources. It may not be the most tractable possible list, but it is a usable list in a deep sense. Furthermore, the same consideration mentioned under syntax applies here. There is no reason to suppose that the IL generator will have sufficient smarts (or resources) to generate text that involves every one of the 1300-odd root words.
[Lojbab adds: That there is no semantic theory in our selection of basic roots need not be a failing - one has to show that some semantic theory is universally enough true to give a better result. But since we contend to be able to express most any concept within Lojban, it doesn't really matter what our set of roots are.]
If you're still not convinced, then consider this: there is not yet a single comprehensive theory of syntax. Did this lack of a comprehensive theory prevent the Lojban designers from designing a rigorous, machine-tractable syntax?
The history of the Loglan Project shows that the rigorous machine-tractable syntax was not actually achieved until a systematic re-design of the grammar was undertaken using YACC as an indispensable tool. I do not mean that the language was changed to make YACC-ing easier; the only changes made were those forced by the goal of "0 shift-reduce, 0 reduce-reduce conflicts found".
If the theory and practice of LALR(1) parsing was not so well understood, I doubt that Lojban would have a "rigorous, machine-tractable syntax". There is simply nothing comparable in the semantic domain for checking the correctness and completeness of a design.

5. Lojban's process of creating compound words from its set of primitives seems to depend on contextual disambiguation for proper understanding. In other words, it is as "illogical" as the same process in natural languages. (I believe that Jim Carter has criticized Loglanists for this lack.) In computer translation, the computer will often run into a situation where a compound word in the IL does not have a counterpart in the target language. In this situation, the computer must be able to break up the word into an equivalent phrase or clause. In other words, the computer must be able to generate a paraphrase of the relationship between the more primitive components of the compound. You can, of course, put this information in the dictionary, but this solution is not at all practical if you want to keep your dictionaries simple, and if you want to have one dictionary per natural language usable for both source and target translation. I could say much more on this extremely important topic, but to do so would take more time than I have, and this thing is already too long. In summary, though, an IL designed for use in MT must be maximally and reversibly compositional.

There are two separate points to sort out here: the mapping of compounds to phrases, and the explication of phrases. Every compound can be mapped to a phrase, and potentially every phrase to a compound, unambiguously and reversibly. What is left ambiguous is the precise set of compositional rules. Does "blanu zdani" (blue house) mean a house that is blue, a house part of which is blue, a house for inhabitants who are blue, a house that is blue in the appropriate way for houses, a house for people who are slowly turning blue,... Since the first requisite of Lojban is that it be speakable (it is a human language, not a code), not all ambiguity can be weeded out. Lojban works on removing structural ambiguity so that the real problems of semantic ambiguity can be openly faced.
lo cimni ka satci cu se jdima
lo cimni ni valsi
the-thing-which-is-an infinite type-of quality-of preciseness has-as-price the-thing-which-is-an infinite type-of quantity-of words
The price of infinite precision is infinite verbosity.
I failed to make clear that such a compromise can be achieved along with the reversible compositionality that is needed in machine translation. For example, the English compound "houseboat" can be decomposed as "boat which functions as a house". The compound "windowpane" can be decomposed as "pane which is part of a window". In a machine translation application, the relationships "which functions as" and "which is a part of" must be explicitly stated in the compound word. This can always be done with the addition of a single morpheme which would, in effect, link the component morphemes and indicate the relationship that exists between them. This would normally mean an additional syllable (and, of course, an appropriately designed morphology), and apparently many people would object to this for esthetic reasons. However, one additional syllable is a small price to pay when the potential reward is so high.
Without this simple "sacrifice", your AL will be useless as an IL.
Lojban compounds (whether closed or open) are by design semantically ambiguous. However, there are always paraphrases which disambiguate them. An IL generator would presumably not generate ambiguous compounds.

6. Finally, a logical language is inherently unsuitable for representing natural language. Lojban is called a logical language for good reason. It forces a speaker to express himself according to various rules of logic. Natural languages do not require a speaker to be logical in the same way. As a result, when translating from a natural language into Lojban, the computer will often have to fully understand what the speaker is saying (to "fill in the gaps", so to speak), which is well beyond the capabilities needed for normal disambiguation. It is also well beyond the capabilities of computers.

But is it "well beyond the capabilities needed" in all cases? It seems to me that given two languages A and B, and three meanings a, b, c, that language A expresses a and b with an ambiguous sentence, whereas language B expresses b and c with an ambiguous sentence. If meaning b is intended, then translating ambiguity with ambiguity is a safe procedure - but in translating a from A into B, or c from B into A, the ambiguity must be tackled and resolved. A system that does not "fully understand what the speaker is saying" will inevitably make blunders of this type.
The neutral framework of predicate logic which Lojban employs, being equally foreign to all natural languages, forces ambiguity to be squeezed out before a correct translation can be generated. (I am not referring here to the problem of translating intentional ambiguity, as in poetry, which is surely far beyond the state-of-the-art of any computer-based technique.) If all languages without exception deviated from predicate logic in the same ways, then the need for a neutral medium would not exist - but they don't. For example, Lojban can be neutral among languages that affirm a negative question with "No" (like English), with "Yes" (like Russian), and that repeat the negated verb (like Irish).
How can "being equally foreign to all natural languages" be anything but an impassible barrier? An interlingua designed for use in machine translation must be, as much as humanly possible, a reductive and fundamental distillation of the essential features of natural language. Not even the slightest degree of "foreignness" can be tolerated.
"The" essential features? Which are those? Unless you have a theory (or at least a set of heuristics) telling you the essential features, your project will be inherently parochialized by the particular case you choose to debug it with. Lojban is intended to provide a framework which minimizes metaphysical assumptions; thus S/W is assumed as a hypothesis (its falsity is the null hypothesis to be rejected). Therefore, the assumptions of the original must be spelled out in the Lojban version, which can then be interpreted and reduced by the process that composes the translation.
John wrote the Lojban for "The price of infinite precision is infinite verbosity."
This is such a simple statement in English (and equally simple in Swahili and French and Indonesian and how many others?), yet how complex and convoluted it is in Lojban! I shudder at the thought of designing software that is smart enough to know that "infinite precision" must be paraphrased as "the-thing-which-is-an infinite type-of quality-of preciseness", and that "infinite verbosity" must be paraphrased as "the-thing-which-is-an infinite type-of quantity-of words". I'm not even sure it's possible. The degree of understanding needed to generate these paraphrases may be required by natural language understanding systems, but not by machine translation systems.
It is an aphorism of Lojbanic culture (such as it is), making use of the full resources of the Lojban language. The literal gloss is complex and convoluted, but that is because Lojban is not encoded English.
Somewhere or other, Jespersen has translations of "First come, first served", an aphorism which is simple and terse in English, into French and Danish. The French isn't bad, but the Danish is incredibly verbose and downright baroque. I can just imagine what the Danish (Swahili, Bahasa Indonesia, ...) for "The more the merrier, but the fewer the better fare" looks like!
Anyhow, I meant to use the aphorism rather than mentioning it; I was pointing out that if Lojban is confined to fully explicit semantic forms, it will be unspeakable because too verbose. Even your glosses like "boat which functions as a house" are not really enough. Precisely which of the "functions" of the house are provided by the houseboat, and which are not? For example, one of the functions of a house may be to serve as a recipient of mail, but a houseboat typically does not. So you need something like "boat which functions as a house in that it provides shelter and a fixed platform for engaging in normal domestic behavior". Each word in this expansion itself requires further expansion; in particular, "fixed" with respect to what? Obviously not the shore of the river!
[Lojbab adds:] In case the motivation for John's last point isn't clear, I want to point out that there may not be a word corresponding to "houseboat" in every natural language - or that might be more than one, with significant minor denotation differences based on exactly which functions are performed. Would the Chinese word for the boats that people live on in the rivers and ports of China be an accurate translation for English "houseboat" in every instance of the latter's occurrence.
I'm not sure that a successful machine translation system can be anything less than a full-featured natural language system, unless you intend to have substantial human translator verification of every single word choice made.
In summary, I feel that an interlingua for use in machine translation must be as close as we can come to the elusive "universal grammar". In attempting to provide a test for the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Loglan designers have had no choice but to go in exactly the opposite direction.

By the way, most of the claims I've heard about Lojban's suitability for use as an MT IL seem to be based on its underlying predicate structure. Now, many (most?) linguists and logicians are of the opinion that predicate logic is not suitable for representing natural language. Some, however, disagree and have created a school of semantics usually called Montague semantics (other names and minor variations are model-theoretic semantics, truth-conditional semantics and possible-worlds semantics). These linguists are attempting to do what Loglanists claim to have already done; i.e., developing a formal and unambiguous method for representing natural language. So, if you do in fact make this claim, then you might want to test it on the people who count the most - the Montague semanticists. Show them how predicate logic and its accessories can be used to represent natural language. If it means learning their lingo (and it probably will if you want to get their attention), then do it! The burden of proof, however, is on you.

[Lojbab responds: pc studied semantics under Montague at UCLA, and is quite capable of speaking the lingo. But Loglan does not claim to unambiguously handle semantics of natural language; indeed I claim that semantics is impossible to handle unambiguously because it is dependent on the whole of the speaker's and listener's background experiences as well as on the current context, and thus a virtually infinite amount of data is needed to capture the "total" meaning of a statement.]

In summary, I do not feel that Lojban (or Glosa, or Esperanto, or Vorlin) is suitable for use as a machine translation interlingua, in spite of claims to the contrary. Most importantly, I see nothing in Lojban that would facilitate the most difficult aspect of machine translation: translating from a natural language to the interlingua. What I do see is an AL that has so little in common with natural languages, that translating between it and a natural language will be considerably more difficult than translating directly between natural languages. And this does not surprise me at all, considering that Loglan/Lojban was designed to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Such a language, by its very nature, would be the antithesis of what is needed for an MT IL, no matter how "logical" it is.

Finally, I realize that much of what I've said is potentially flammable. However, I'd like to make it clear that I have no intention of angering anyone, and, if I have, please accept my apologies. I can even admit the possibility that I've misunderstood some of the features of Lojban that I've criticized (although I doubt it). Also, please keep in mind that I've only criticized one aspect of Lojban - its claimed suitability for use as a machine interlingua. In most other respects I find Lojban to be a fascinating language, and, if I were not committed to learning other languages as part of my MT hobby, I would probably be studying Lojban (in spite of its ugly consonant clusters :-).

Lojbab: I would not be angry with Rick Morneau for what appears to be an honest difference of opinion. Nor do I say that Rick's arguments are ones that cannot or should not be raised. I believe that some of them do not apply to Lojban, some do not apply to Lojban as it would be used in an MT application, and some are simply irrelevant, or at best matters of opinion.
In some matters of opinion, there is not always an 'ironclad' method of refuting them. The rule-counting game is an example, since comparing rule counts is so dependent on how they are stated, and what features of the language are included in the not-yet-designed Lojban machine translation system. Which rules would be used is going to be determined by the MT system designer based on factors that are not knowable now.
Lojban features such as the tense system each reflect things that occur in natural languages, and to eliminate one means that the translator will have to use software to simplify or paraphrase in translation into Lojban, though it might then simplify the processing out of Lojban thereafter, when the Lojban has to be processed.
Indeed in writing this last sentence, I realize that I believe the opposite of Rick. The basis of an interlingua-based MT system is to minimize language-specific processing for source and target languages, which processing expands at a higher degree polynomial of the number of languages in a non-interlingua system. An interlingua which is ultra-simplified requires that the source language be paraphrased in an ultra-simplified manner which may lose significant information that could be important to the translation.
For example, the English phrase "ship which is faster than light", which may also be expressed as "faster-than-light ship". Does an interlingua for MT need the capability to separately distinguish the two forms, which probably mean almost identical things, if not totally identical in meaning? This is a design decision, not a theory decision. If the target language offers equivalent forms to the two English variations, then preserving the form of the original is valuable in achieving a natural-seeming style in the output of the translation. If merely the information is to be transferred, then such stylistic preservation is wasted. Lojban has rules that support both forms. An MT system designer that did not care to support both forms could easily leave out one rule from the Lojban interlingua. But in a 10-language system, this potentially means that you must write 10 input processors to decide that such ordering information is to be simplified out into the single remaining Lojban (or other interlingua) form, and then you need 10 output processors that will decide based on some criteria which of two or more output forms in the target language will reflect the single Lojban form. Clearly, in such a situation, an oversimplified Lojban or other interlingua increases the processing required. The better interlingua is the one that can convey the maximum amount of complex information across the language boundaries.
As an example of one of Rick's claims that is an irrefutable argument, look at the claim that natural languages are too complex to be modelled by a logical language. If there is more that I am missing, I apologize. But this is an argument by assertion, since Rick has not posed any specific natural language feature that cannot be modelled by a logical language - he has merely argued from assumptions. That these assumptions are plausible does not mean that they are correct. While Rick states that logical analysis has failed in the case of Montague grammar semantics, another poster noted that Montague grammars have been used in MT systems.
Whether natural languages are too complex to be modelled by a logical language is probably indeterminate. For every example Rick poses, I may be able to find a counter, but this does not stop him from claiming that there are many more that I have not covered.
Since Lojban does not embed any particular semantic theory into its design, attacking Montague grammars doesn't say much about Lojban anyway. To say that our design is inadequate, you have to show how it fails. Rick has not. I would contend that he cannot, without getting much deeper into the Lojban design than he probably cares to.

Discussions on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

In a discussion of Sapir-Whorf on the Linguist List linguistic mailing list "", Lojbab wrote:

Michael Kac says:

On the basis of unsystematic observation and impressionistic judgements which are confirmed by all other linguists I've consulted, it would appear that the view that one's world view is determined by the language one speaks is nearly universally accepted by educated people who aren't linguists.

I'll concur, as well, and my primary interaction is with such people. The exceptions to this are correlated with politics, with some people (usually 'left') considering linguistic relativism to be racist. However, even these people are inconsistent, since the arguments about gender and pronouns/language-gender (including the recent one on Linguist List) inherently assume some form of language effect on world-view, or it wouldn't make any difference. Note that the occasionally emotive arguments in this latter discussion shows that even linguists may to some extent assume what they claim they don't.

Factors in the continuing belief include:

a) what people mean by 'world view' and 'determined' is different. Sapir-Whorf is generally understood to have strong and weak versions, with the strongest form almost certainly false because translation IS possible, and the weakest form true to the point of triteness.

b) the field of semiotics is heavily dependent on assuming linguistic relativism, and most educated people are more exposed to literary criticism than linguistic theory.

c) the continuing identification of political issues with the linguistic relativity assumption. As such, people are continually exposed to the assumption in daily life without it being explicitly identified as a hidden assumption.

d) I believe certain areas of anthropological linguistics still accept Sapir-Whorf to some extent, especially where the researcher is in the anthropology department rather than the linguistics dept. My source of this is Reed Riner at U. of No. Arizona, but I think I heard something similar from John Atkins who was at U. of Washington.

I've used the phrase 'linguistic relativity' because when actually pinned down, many people will say that they aren't sure whether language determines world-view or vice versa, but that there is obviously a relation.

I guess I don't find that particularly strange (a lot of my friends, however, consider ME extremely strange for being skeptical on this point);

The Loglan (artificial language) project has the goal (among others) of testing the 'Sapir-Whorf hypothesis'. Those of us working on the project, linguists or not, are assumed by many to 'believe in' the SWH, though we are predominantly agnostic or skeptical like you. I think it is again an unquestioning assumption that the concept holds, with little analysis of the implications, that leads to this assumption.

I do find it somewhat odd that people who accept this view seem to think that it is (a) obviously correct, and (b) profound, a contradiction in terms. I welcome further data and insights.

Again, I think people assume the concept to be obviously correct in some 'weak' form and also intuitively realize that it breaks down in some stronger form.

The profundity is due to the never-ending political and philosophical implications of the assumed-true concept. That the hypothesis isn't even well stated means that none of the tests conducted in the 50s truly settled the issue. Supporters of the hypothesis seem to think that linguists abandoned the issue either because they could not prove it one way or the other, or because the idea became unfashionable or even non-P.C. with the rise of Chomsky's ideas.

If unambiguously true, the hypothesis itself is uninteresting. Until the bounds of its truth are explored, the philosophical implications will continue to be profound.

I think there is some considerable correlation in attitude on linguistic relativity and language prescriptivism. In the latter area as well, linguists tend to have a considerable disagreement with the educated-populace-at-large, who consider it a truism that there is a right way to speak and use a language and other usages are wrong. This assumption is also considered 'obvious', and when its fallacies and philosophical implications are pointed out, also considered profound.

A lively debate ensued, partly in response to these comments.

Niko Besnier, Department of Anthropology, Yale University <UTTANU@YALEVM.BITNET> replied:

The reason why linguistic anthropologists "still" believe in some version of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (SWH) is not that they know less about language than mainstream linguists (many fields have much to say about language, and it is a delusion to think that any one field has a monopoly on the subject), but that they focus on language in a different way from linguists. The prototypical anthropological paradigm focuses on diversity, on the particular, and builds theory on the particular, looking at, for example, relational patterns between the particular in language and the particular in society and culture. This contrasts with the avowed universalism extant in most linguistic paradigms. Having been "brought up" in the latter paradigm, to then move to some version of the former, I am at a loss to decide that one is "better," more intellectually worthwhile, etc., than the other. I doubt that mud-slinging ("butterfly collector!" "universalist-schmuniversalist!") will get either field very far.

There is room for the SWH in a particularistic approach to language. But what it has to be grounded on is a careful reading of poor Whorf, who must be on the most misread (unread?) thinkers of the century. Interpretations of Whorf extant amongst mainstream linguists have little to do with what Whorf actually wrote, and this had led linguists to call the man by all sorts of names (e.g. "weekend linguist" - Geoffrey Pullum in NLLT). It is telling, for example, that in my linguistic training at two institutions I was never required to read a single original text by Whorf. To a certain extent this is understandable, since Whorf wrote in an opaque, dense style.

John Lucy ("Whorf's view of the linguistic mediation of thought," in Semiotic Mediation, ed. by Elizabeth Mertz & Richard Parmentier, Academic P, 1985) shows that one of the important aspects of the SWH missing from laypersons' accounts (i.e. accounts by those who have not read Whorf) is that Whorf is not talking about determinism by all of language of all aspects of world view. Rather, fashions of speaking determine habitual thought. Fashions of speaking are broad patternings of grammatical categories and discourse strategies in a language, across what Whorf calls overt and covert categories. Areas of language where one should seek "weak" determinism (the strong version of determinism was never advocated by Whorf, but by subsequent linguists who never seem to have read Whorf) are in fact very different from areas that Whorf is usually said to have claimed to be deterministic. I'd point to work like that of Elinor Ochs as example of where determinism is to be found between language and habitual thought: the shape of, even the presence/absence of baby talk in a speech community, provides a pretty strong deterministic "lesson" to language acquirers about the relationship between structure (= institutions) and agency (= person) extant in the society, i.e. about the type of things that social theorists worry about.

This posting is already too long, but I'd like to point to Alan Rumsey's (1990) paper, "Wording, Meaning, and Linguistic Ideology," American Anthropologist 92:346-361, for an excellent discussion of where Whorfianism works.

Summary of Linguistic Attitudes on Sapir-Whorf

[Bruce Nevin gave a very detailed and informative discussion of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. He has given us permission to publish the entire text which is part of a longer work-in-progress. The I, II, and III perspectives listed in the text are not his but as cited. Following is Bruce's relevant background.
Bruce Nevin received his AB and AM degrees in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969 and 1970. From 1970 through 1974 he did extensive fieldwork on Achumawi, a Hokan language spoken in the northeastern corner of California. He resumed PhD matriculation at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, intending to use the Achumawi material in the dissertation. He has been employed as a writer by Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) in Cambridge, Massachusetts since 1982.
The following is Copyright 1991 by Bruce Nevin, <>.]

I want to outline the views of Sapir and of Whorf on linguistic and cultural relativism as I understand them and survey some of what has been done with these ideas, both as deriving explicitly from their writings and as arising from less clearly articulated cultural and intellectual antecedents that it is difficult for any of us not in some measure to share as we grapple with universals and idiosyncrasies of language and culture.

These ideas arose for Sapir in the context of his work on language typology on the one hand and psychology on the other. In the background lay social Darwinism, or at least the pervasive evolutionist perspective of 19th-century anthropology, and in this respect Sapir's interest here was a continuation of Boas' restitution of "primitive" languages as on an equal footing with the languages of familiar literate cultures, and an all-important entree into "the network of cultural patterns of a civilization," which "In a sense ... is indexed in the language which expresses that civilization." (1929:162)

In his conception of the relation of language, personality, culture, and "the world," Sapir distinguished between social reality:

"Language is a guide to `social reality.' ... it powerfully conditions all our thinking about social problems and processes ... the world of social activity as ordinarily understood"[1]

and objective reality, as had Durckheim and others, and affirmed of the former that:

"No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached."

It was in this sense that he made his famous assertion "The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group." (Preceding quotations all loc. cit.)

The core of the matter for Sapir, however, was an identification of language, specifically grammatical categories, with thought:

"I quite frankly commit myself to the idea that thought is impossible without language, that thought is language." (In a letter of 8 April 1921 keeping Lowie abreast of progress on the manuscript of Language; quoted in Darnell 1990:99.)

In other places, Sapir severely divorces language from culture, but in this he appears to mean material culture, the "inventory" of cultural artefacts. The correlation of these things with associated vocabulary he regarded as trivial.[2]

Whorf may have been a Theosophist. His philosophical interests attracted him to Sapir and to linguistics, and his fascination with the "hidden metaphysics" of languages remained always the central thing for him, for which the tools of linguistics were subordinate means. From the point of view of an emerging profession, then, he was quite literally eccentric, in that specific sense. His ideas began to crystallize with preparation to teach a course at Yale during Sapir's leave in 1937-38. His intention was to "excite [students'] interest in the linguistic approach as a way of developing understanding of the ideology of other peoples" (letter to Spier). He would focus on "a psychological direction, and the problems of:

"meaning, thought and idea in so-called primitive cultures," aiming to "reveal psychic factors or constants" and the "organization of raw experience into a consistent and readily communicable universe of ideas through the medium of linguistic patterns" (to Carroll; both quoted in Darnell 1990:381).

Whorf developed his ideas about linguistic relativity during Sapir's illness and elaborated it after his death, so Sapir never had a chance to comment. Whorf died in 1941 at the age of forty-four, leaving less sympathetic colleagues to pursue the implications of his work. (Darnell 1990:375)

Sapir had confined the constitutive role of language to social reality. Whorf went farther, and developed the claim that:

"It is the grammatical background of our mother tongue, which includes not only our way of constructing propositions but the way we dissect nature and break up the flux of experience into objects and entities to construct propositions about." (1956:239)

The identification of language and thought takes an adversative twist:

"[T]hinking ... follows a network of tracks laid down in the given language, an organization which may concentrate systematically upon certain phases of reality, certain aspects of intelligence, and may systematically discard others featured by other languages. The individual is utterly unaware of this organization and is constrained complete within its unbreakable bonds." (256)


"if a rule has absolutely no exceptions, it is not recognized as a rule or as anything else; it is then part of the background of experience of which we tend to remain unconscious.

In the background always is Theosophy, as in The Voice of the Silence:

The mind is the great slayer of the real." (Quoted on p. 253)

His views were recast in terms more acceptable to prevalent conceptions of operational test and verification, as by Eric Lenneberg in 1953, summarized by Roger Brown (Reference: In Memorial Tribute to Eric Lenneberg, Cognition 4:125-153):

I. Structural differences between language systems will, in general, be paralleled by nonlinguistic cognitive differences, of an unspecified sort, in the native speakers of the two languages.

II. The structure of anyone's native language strongly influences or fully determines the world-view he will acquire as he learns the language. (p. 128)

Behind this was the assumption (presumably "part of the unconscious background" of every student in the Boas-Sapir tradition, and indeed of virtually everyone as has been argued on the LINGUIST list) that:

III. Languages, and hence cognitive systems, can vary without constraint.

Proposition II has generally been presumed to be untestable because of the identification of language and any means of communicating one's world-view. Attempts to verify or falsify the hypothesis have concerned themselves either with I or III (with indirect evidence for II sought from III). It would be interesting to see a resumption of attention to II; e.g. employing techniques developed for study of non-human communication.

A conference organized by Robert Redfield in 1953 drew together a relatively small number of linguists and anthropologists with the aim of defining problems related to the hypothesis, reviewing work undertaken and plans for future work relating to it, and attempting to establish a minimal framework of institutional support for these research interests. Their proposals concerned mostly methods for getting at I. Their conclusions were cautious, as noted above, in keeping with the temper of the times.

Kay and Kempton (AA 86:66), perhaps somewhat parochially but truthfully as regards empirical research, claim that most of this research has been in the domain of color. They give citations of work bearing on III beginning about the time of the Redfield conference (Ray 1952, Conklin 1955, Lenneberg and Roberts 1956, Gleason 1961, Bohannan 1963), and probably the best known study, their own (Berlin and Kay 1969). They remark that "studies before 1969 tended to support III; those since 1969 have tended to discredit III" (loc. cit.) They accept the finding of Kay and McDaniel (1978) explaining universal constraints in color classification in terms of the neurophysiology of human color vision, and discrediting III with respect to color. They affirm of course that research into II and III is an open matter for domains other than color perception, in particular domains (they mention religion) where characteristics of peripheral neural mechanisms like those of color perception have no bearing.

A parallel tradition of research into aspect I of the hypothesis has been carried out primarily by psychologists, and Kay and Kempton (1984) is a continuation of this. They cite Brown and Lennebert 1954, Burnham and Clark 1955, Lenneberg 1961, Lantz and Stefflre 1964, and Stefflre, Castillo, and Morely 1966. This line of research seeks a correlation between a linguistic variable (codability and communication accuracy) and a nonlinguistic cognitive variable (memorability) within a single language, and is thus a weak form of I.

After initial claims of success in finding a positive correlation between the memorability of a color and its value on a linguistic variable, Rosch showed that both memorability and the combined variable of codability and accuracy of communication is determined universally by focality or perceptual salience. The assumption that the linguistic variables of codability and communication accuracy differ across languages (III again) was falsified by this research, and therefore any correlation between memorability and a linguistic variable was not relevant to the hypothesis. Lucy and Shweder determined that the problem of focality or salience was an artefact of how the color chips were presented, and devised an array by repeatedly re-randomizing chips from the initial array so that there is no relation between focality and findability. By this means they have reinstated the earlier correlation in favor of I with respect to color categories. There remain problems of interpretation and relevance to the broader aims of the enterprise, as unfortunately often happens in narrowly empirical work.

Research of a broader sort has gone on in many fields. In social and cultural anthropology it is difficult to find anything that is absolutely irrelevant to the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, though the latter can be made irrelevant to some forms of anthropological work essentially by legislating a rather narrowly realist, anti-constructivist perspective for science. Among clearly relevant issues I name questions of symbolism, including especially money and symbols of political and/or religious stature, magic and cargo cults, studies of kinship systems and their role in the construction of interpersonal and social relations, and work in social categories. To this must be added work of more obviously linguistic nature, such as projection of prehistoric cultures from reconstructed proto-languages, Studies of the bases of prejudice, of stereotyping, and of national character in a more genuine sense (as pioneered by Gregory Bateson) ... the list is seemingly endless.

The fields of ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics, themselves extremely broad and diversified (and themselves polarized rather as the right and left hemispheres of the brain of the archetypal anthropological linguist), have obvious bearing on the hypothesis. Hymes has urged a reinterpretation of the hypothesis, investigating patterns of language use rather than of language structure per se.

The perhaps contentiously named field of cognitive linguistics has a strong constructivist bent. Work in psycholinguistics in general often has clear bearing, though the direction of interest (and funding) to linguistic universals has tended to obscure investigation of linguistic idiosyncrasies that might correlate with cognitive differences.

From Bateson's work on communication and learning and in particular the discovery of the double bind in relation to these have developed lines of clinical research that have developed practical techniques of reframing and use of metaphor, and an understanding of human systems in cybernetic terms, as therapy (particularly the field of family therapy).

Lastly, I must mention the resurgence of feminism in all its many forms, especially as a scholarly concern in anthropology.

I will describe in a little more detail a new test of aspect I of the hypothesis devised by Kay and Kempton (1984) so as not to be so restricted in interpretive scope as the previous communicability/- codability studies had been. Speakers of Tarahumara (a Uto-Aztecan language of northern Mexico) lack the basic lexical distinction between green and blue (as do various other languages, including Achumawi). Aspect I of the hypothesis predicts that speakers of English will polarize their perceptions near the border of green and blue, but speakers of Tarahumara will not.[3] In the first experiment, English-speaker's judgements reflected the division of green against blue in 29 trials out of 30; Tarahumara speakers responded even-handedly with 13 out of 24, extremely close to a 50-50 split, vindicating the hypothesis.

These experiments involve discriminating among three chips. In the first experiment, the subject had an opportunity to assign a color name to the intermediate chip, and this may have prejudiced the later step of the experiment, when the alternate comparison was made. The second experiment made the comparisons with the three chips adjacent in a box with a sliding cover that covered the chip on one end. In the setup stage, the subject agrees that the middle chip is greener with respect to one chip, and then that it is bluer than the other. It thus has both names associated with it when the subject is invited to alternate views as often as desired, and judge which difference is greater. In this experiment the polarization effect disappears.

This accords with an interpretation by categorization (experiment 1) versus an interpretation by discrimination (experiment 2). An exact parallel could be made with the fact that people can discriminate differences between sounds with indeterminate fineness (phonetics), but discriminate relevant differences that make a difference in small numbers of categories (phonemes, contrasts, distinctions) and displaying characteristic polarization effects at the boundaries. A culturally/linguistically determined contrast can be repeated, a difference requiring perceptual discrimination can only be imitated.

Kay and Kempton interpret these findings as disconfirming what they call radical linguistic determinism, in which "human beings ... are very much at the mercy of the particular language" (Sapir, quoted previously). Because the polarization associated with naming can be made to disappear simply by not naming, we are not hopelessly at the mercy of our language. To this I would add that it is difficult to do many sorts of things cooperatively with other human beings or with social consequence and recognition without employing the categories inherent in language. The exceptions, it seems to me, are in the realms of art, of religion, of play and creativity. These are the domain of the pleroma in Bateson's terms, the realm of cybernetic explanation, as opposed to the creatura, the realm of forces and impacts dealt with in the conventional categories of one's shared language and culture.

In formal linguistics, Zellig Harris and his co-workers have come full circle to the work on information structures in discourse that opened the whole field of transformational grammar. Harris, Ryckman, Gottfried et al. The Form of Information in Science (1990) develops a representation of the information immanent in a body of texts written over a span of years in the history of a subfield of a science (immunology). Changes in this structure correlate transparently with historically well-documented changes and developmental stages of the science during that period, although the structure was determined by clearly defined formal means and without reference to any knowledge of that historical context. In this way, they have demonstrated strongly that structures found in the sub-language of that science (and not imposed a priori on it) correlate on the one hand with aspects of the social reality of the science and on the other with the structure of the real-world domain which is the concern of that science.

The latter correlation is reflexive, however, in the sense that, as the structure changed, it (and the understanding of the scientists writing the original research reports on which the analysis was done) over time came into closer conformity with a reality whose nature was in process of being discovered. Before that change and that concurrent discovery, certain characteristics of reality could not be stated or thought; afterward, they could. But the discovery and the change in structure were simultaneous (though of course the writing down for publication was not). No better confirmation of Sapir's intuition of the essential unity of language and thought could be offered by one of his students.[4]

To illustrate this point further, I should like to adduce a recent contribution to the enormous literature in the study of kinship categories, always a favorite topic in anthropological linguistics. Wierzbicka, in Semantics and the interpretation of cultures: the meaning of 'alternate generations' devices in Australian languages, proposes a new set of metalanguage terms for discussing the alternate sets of pronouns used in many Australian languages. She urges that the terminology of "generation harmony" and "disharmony" that has become traditional in anthropology is arcane and psychologically arbitrary, does not capture native speakers' meaning and does not make that meaning accessible to people from other cultures, and claims that her new terminology provides a better fit. This work illustrates a Whorfian effect in the sub-language of a specialization within the science of anthropology. With the traditional terminology, aspects of aborigine culture are difficult to come to recognize and understand, and not possible to communicate; she claims that with the proposed new terminology it is.[5]

Thus, while providing an illustration of Whorfian effects within a sub-field of a science, she proposes to overcome such effects by devising a perfect metalanguage for that sub-field. Since the sub-field concerns an area that is by nature a matter of social convention and so in social reality rather than physical reality (to make that Durckheimian distinction again), she may be able to get away with it. I do not doubt the creativity of human cultures, however, and would build in means for the sub-language to evolve.

An abiding interest of Harris, as of his teacher Sapir, has been the question of refinements and possibly extensions of natural language that foster international scientific communication. In his analysis, language-particular characteristics due to the reduction system (extended morpho-phonemics) of one language or another are partitioned from operator-argument structures that `carry' information, which are remarkably uniform from one language to another. This uniformity becomes very close indeed in the grammar of a science sub-language, where classifications and selection restrictions are much more closely constrained than in other domains. But even in nontechnical domains Harris has a great deal to say about linguistic universals,[6] and about the distinctions between what is universal in language and culture and what is idiosyncratic and therefore pertinent to the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis.


  1. Hoijer, in the 1953 conference proceedings, adduces passages of a similar sort in the writings of Boas.
  2. Darnell (1990:434 n) says: Sapir's strongest relativity statement was a brief note titled "Conceptual Categories of Primitive Languages," an abstract of a paper read to the National Academy of Sciences in 1931. This was published only after his death. Her bibliography lists it as appearing in Science 74:578. I have not seen it and cannot comment.
  3. This phenomenon of polarization, by the way, is the reason speakers of English can disagree so strongly about the assignment of marginal colors to either green or blue. A slight difference in idiosyncratic placement of the boundary makes a large difference in categorization. This would provide the basis of an interesting study relating to I.
  4. The confirmation is equivocal, however, since the work clearly demonstrates (as Harris stated at the end of Mathematical Structures of Language (Wiley, 1968)) that language is not identical with thought but instead provides a rather rigid channel for thought. This corresponds precisely to the observation above that the discovery and the language for talking about it co-evolved. By using this term I refer specifically to the common misperception regarding biological evolution that e.g. eohippus evolved into the horse in response to environmental changes, when one must instead acknowledge eohippus and its pre-grasslands environment co-evolved into the horse and its grasslands environment. Synec-doche is fallacious in both cases. The claim, then, is of the unity, but not identity of language and thought.
  5. This is part of Wierzbicka's ongoing work on natural language semantics based, ultimately, on a proposed set of universal semantic primitives, including: I, you, this, someone, something, want, don't want, say, think of, imagine, know, become, part, place, and world (Wierzbicka, Semantic Primitives (1972), Lingua Mentalis (1980). Be it noted that Harris denies there can be a lingua mentalis or any metalanguage external to natural language. For one thing, were there such one would need to account for the grammar and semantics of that metalanguage, and off we go in an infinite regress of grammatical and semantic metalanguages. For another, Harris has demonstrated that the information structures immanent in texts account precisely for the information that the texts report, so that, like LaPlace, he has no need for this additional hypothesis. But Wierzbicka's proposal here, however it may be guided by her broader theoretical interests, concerns only a sub-language of English serving as metalanguage for a sub-field of anthropology, and as such is unobjectionable. The semantics of this sub-language inhere in its informational structures, per Harris, rather than in its use of vocabulary from a supposedly universal lingua mentalis.
  6. See e.g. Language and Information (Columbia 1989) and A Theory of Language and Information (Oxford, 1990), which is a more philosophical companion volume to A Grammar of English on Mathematical Principles (Wiley 1982).

[One of the researchers on color terms mentioned above then posted some additional notes on his research:]

Willett Kempton

I'm a coauthor of the Kay and Kempton study discussed in several earlier messages. (I don't follow this newsgroup regularly, but a colleague passed on the thread.) As pointed out earlier, from the tangled cluster of hypotheses referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, we tested only one question: Do the lexical categories of a language affect non-linguistic perceptions of its speakers to a non-trivial extent? (P. Kay & W. Kempton, "What is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?", American Anthropologist, vol 86, No. 1, March 1984.)

Considering the complexities of prior research efforts, our primary experiment was simple: Present three color chips (call them A, B, C) to speakers of two languages, such that colors A and B are slightly more different in terms of (universal) human visual discriminability, whereas B and C have a linguistic boundary separating them in one language (English) but not the other (Tarahumara, a Uto-Aztecan language). As noted earlier, the English speakers chose C as most different, whereas the Tarahumara chose A or split evenly (there were actually eight chips and four sets of relevant triads).

I'll add a couple of points of interest that were either buried in that article, or have not appeared in print. First, as the speaker of a language subject to this perceptual effect, I would like to report that it is dramatic, even shocking. I administered the tests to informants in Chihuahua. I was so bewildered by their responses that I had trouble continuing the first few tests, and I had no idea whether or not they were answering randomly. In subsequent analysis it was clear that they were answering exactly as would be predicted by human visual discriminability, but quite unlike the English informants.

An informal, and unreported, check of our results was more subjective: I showed some of the crucial triads to other English speakers, including some who had major commitments in print to not finding Whorfian effects for color (several of the latter type of informants were available on the Berkeley campus, where Kay and I were). All reported seeing the same effects. We tried various games with each other and ourselves like "We know English calls these two green and that one blue, but just looking it them, which one LOOKS most different?" No way, the blue one was REALLY a LOT more different. Again, the Tarahumara, lacking a lexical boundary among these colors, picked "correctly" with ease and in overwhelming numbers. The article includes the Munsell chip numbers, so anyone can look them up and try this on themselves.

Some of the triads which crossed hue and brightness were truly unbelievable, as it was perceptually OBVIOUS to us English speakers which one was the most different, yet all the visual discriminability data were against us. (The article did not mention the hue/brightness crossovers for the sake of simplifying the argument in print.)

Our second experiment, like the original visual discrimination experiments, showed only two chips at a time. We additionally made it difficult to use the lexical categories. And we got visual discrimination-based results, even from English speakers. So there are ways to overcome our linguistic blinders. (Which we knew already, or the original visual discriminability work could not have been done in the first place.) I don't feel that the differences across these tasks was adequately explored, and represent a golden opportunity for a research project or thesis.

I didn't expect to find this. The experiment was a minor piggy-back on another project. I believed the literature and the distinguished scientists who told me in advance that we wouldn't find anything interesting. The experiment was going to be dropped from the field research, saved by a conversation at a wine party with a "naive" sociologist (Paul Attewell) who had read Whorf but not the later refutations.

A simple experiment, clear data, and seeing the Whorfian effect with our own eyes: It was a powerful conversion experience unlike anything I've experienced in my scientific career. Perhaps this all just goes to affirm Seguin's earlier quote, as applying to us as both natives and as theorists:

"We have met the natives whose language filters the world - and they are us."

[One linguist on Linguist List added comments to those of Bruce Nevin, specifically noting that Sapir and Whorf did not necessarily believe in the 'Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis'. As noted in JL16, Alexis Manaster-Ramer has become interested in potential linguistics research applications for Lojban. This interest derived in part as a result of these discussions.]

Alexis Manaster-Ramer writes <Alexis_Manaster_Ramer@MTS.CC.WAYN E.EDU>:

In several recent messages there are references to Whorf or Sapir and Whorf together as having originated the idea of "human thinking patterns being relative to the inventory of the available language system" (to quote one contributor). However, like the story of the Eskimo words for snow, this story about Whorf and Sapir is not factually correct.

First of all, it was Sapir who fought against such simplistic language-thought claims of earlier scholars such as Uhlenbeck (one of the guys who claimed that certain "primitive" folks don't have the same perception of action as we do because they speak ergative languages and that some of them also have trouble distinguishing between themselves and their body parts because they speak languages in which possessors of subjects or objects are sometimes treated as subjects and objects).

Second, it is true that Whorf took for granted (as did almost everybody else at the time) the idea that the structure of a language can be taken literally as giving the underlying ontology (not that it causes it, mind you, but that it does reveal it). We know for example that Whorf was much impressed with the claims (I forget whose at the moment) that Chinese has no relative clauses, only things that were rendered as Jack build-ish house (i.e., the house that Jack built).

Third, all of Whorf's claims about Hopi are quite explicitly of this same variety: He does not assert that the structure of the language causes the world view, merely that it reveals it. He also does not claim this connection between the ontology and the language to be a new idea. He presupposes it. That is a big difference, of course, because Whorf is often accused of claiming such a connection without giving any independent evidence about the ontology. But in fact he did not make any such claims, he merely assumed that there was such a connection because everybody around him assumed it also. His contribution (as he saw it) was entirely different: it was to show that the way people view time, events, quantities, etc., can be culture- and hence language-specific.

What I find particularly surprising about the need to reiterate all this is that the relevant writings of Whorf's are all reprinted in a widely available collection, and that Sapir's writings are hardly obscure either.

At another point, Alexis also wrote:

I am very grateful to those who have written in to note that the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was NOT what Whorf (or a fortiori Sapir) maintained. And also to those who have written in reminding us of the results, such the Berlin and Kay ones, that seem in fact to support the Un-Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. However, it should be noted that these results do NOT show a causal relation going from language to cognition. Indeed, the often-noted fact that color terminologies seem to become more and more complex as the speakers' material culture becomes more and more complex would argue for precisely the opposite causality: People find they need to distinguish more colors because of material, nonlinguistic reasons, and then devise the necessary linguistic means to formalize the distinctions.

I would also like to address briefly the question of a connection with Humboldt. As I noted in my first message on the subject of Whorf, Whorf (like most of his contemporaries) PRESUPPOSED the existence of a connection between language and cognition, a connection which Humboldt was one of the first (if not the first) to make. The issue is very simple, really. Before Humboldt and others like him, the standard way of describing languages was in terms of how they would be glossed in some Western metalanguage like Latin or Spanish. This is why people were perfectly happy to describe ergative constructions (in e.g. Greenlandic) or "active" ones (e.g., in Huron and Guarani, see Mithun's recent Language article) without noticing anything odd. They would just say that the subject and the verb had different forms in transitive as opposed to intransitive constructions. People like Humboldt came up with the revolutionary idea of describing languages in their own terms, which meant that the superficial patterns of each language had to be taken at face value.

Hence, Humboldt's argument that Malayo-Polynesian verbs are really nouns, for example. Or later arguments by various people that ergatives are really passives (or other things). But that then made it imperative to explain why exotic peoples say things that we would not, e.g., why do they use "nouns" instead of verbs or "passives" instead of actives. And the explanation, of course, was that they THINK differently from us as well. Whorf, like almost all his contemporaries, was steeped in this way of thinking, but certainly did not originate it. As I noted before, his point to show just HOW EXOTIC languages could get, and this he tried to do by discussing the Hopi treatment of time, events, and quantities.

Alexis provided evidence for his claims in the following:

Since many of the readers of LINGUIST are from Missouri, I thought I would provide some evidence for my recent assertions that Whorf's position has been widely misunderstood.

In "The relation of habitual thought and behavior to language", Whorf says among other things:

"That portion of the whole investigation here to be reported may be summed up in two questions: (1) Are our concepts of 'time', 'space', and 'matter' given in substantially the same form by experience to all men, or are they in part conditioned by the structure of particular languages? (2) Are there traceable affinities between (a) cultural and behavioral norms and (b) large-scale linguistic patterns? (I should be the last to pretend that there is anything so definite as "a correlation" between culture and language, and especially between ethnological rubrics such as 'agricultural, hunting', etc., and linguistic ones like 'inflected', 'synthetic', or 'isolating'."

In a footnote on the same page (p. 139 of the Language, Thought, and Reality book), he says emphatically that "The idea of "correlation" between language and culture, in the generally accepted sense of correlation, is certainly a mistaken one" and he cites some arguments.

Thus, I believe that Whorf made a clear distinction between culture (behavior) and language, but he did not make such a distinction between language and thought. As I said before, he presupposed as did almost everyone else at the time that if people speak a certain way then that reflects the way they think. He took it for granted for example that if the Hopis pluralize the word for cloud (oomaw) the way that they normally pluralize animate nouns, then they must think of the clouds as animate.

Of course, this view is naive, as Joseph Greenberg pointed out in the fifties, since languages make all sorts of arbitrary distinctions (or fail arbitrarily to make them in certain environments) without any apparent conceptual consequences.

Essentially, I think the connection works one way, namely, if a language makes a distinction which cannot be described in purely structural terms, then we must ascribe to the speakers the ability to perceive or imagine or whatever the corresponding distinction in the world. Thus, when Greenberg points out that nothing important hinges on the fact that the French use an ordinal in Napoleon Premier but a cardinal in Napolean Deux, that's OK, because the choice here can be made w/o reference to the world. The rule is purely linguistic. And, of course, this could be the case with the Hopi word for cloud and its plural.

On the other hand, if we find that speakers of Polish systematically use a different genitive ending for place-names in Poland (and other Slavic countries) than they do for other place-names, and do so PRODUCTIVELY, then it IS reasonable to conclude that they are capable of a conceptual distinction between Poland (or Slavdom) and the rest of the world.

The distinction between these two kinds of cases is what seems not to have been entirely clear to Whorf, and that, as far as I can see, is where he came to sometimes came to grief.

It is also quite clear that he was not claiming any originality about the relation of language and thought per se, rather he was trying to show just how different the language/thought of one culture could be from that of another in the case of such basic ideas as that of time, although he points out (p 158) that there is not a comparable difference between Hopi and Standard Average European regarding space.

As to culture, Whorf was faithfully following Sapir in claiming that there is no more than an "affinity" between language and culture, but no "correlations or diagnostic correspondences" (p 159). For, as I noted earlier, Sapir was one of the staunchest critics of the late 19th century and early 20th century linguists who propounded such theories as the "passivity" of peoples whose languages use the ergative constructions, and such like drivel.

Incidentally, much of what I have said about Whorf's intent in bringing the Hopi vs. the SAE treatment of time and matter can also be said about Sapir's work on the psychological reality of phonemes. Today, we emphasize the psychological reality part, but actually in his time, the novelty was the phoneme. Claims about psychological reality about in the second half of the 19th century and later (and we find them in all of Sapir's as well as Bloomfield's early writings). The idea of the psychological vs. the grammatical subject after all originated in that period. And, to take one example our of thousands, when Platt wrote in the 1870's that the Urdu speakers perceive certain constructions in their language as active even though they look passive (these are, of course, ergatives again!), he was expressing himself in a way which was quite typical for the time (though not for the 17 or the 18th century).

Finally Alexis wrote, in a fourth posting:

Setting aside for the moment the question of why so many people continue to insist on attributing to Whorf and Sapir views they did not hold (or at least did not express), I would like to say something about the results which are claimed to support the hypothesis that language and non-linguistic behavior (behavior, for short) exhibit certain close connections (which people seem to want to interpret as involving causality going from language to behavior).

(1) Even if we find certain correlations between language structure and patterns of behavior, this does NOT (as I think I noted earlier) indicate the direction of causality (as indeed Whorf himself noted at one point). The color terminology business shows, if anything, that the complexity of a color terminology seems to depend on the complexity of the culture, there being, for example, no industrial or post-industrial cultures whose languages use two or three color terms. There has also been speculation about the fact that the lateness of terms for 'blue' may be connected with the relative scarcity of blue objects (other than the ubiquitous sky) in nature.

This would suggest very strongly that the linguistic pattern comes second, as a reflection of a culture's need to make certain distinctions.

(2) All the studies that claim to show a connection between language and behavior that I have seen mentioned seem to deal with two or at any rate a small number of languages, e.g., Tarahumara and English. Likewise, I have seen studies by Alexander Guiora on Hebrew and English and other such small sets, which I don't think have been cited on LINGUIST so far. Yet, since the claim being tested is correlation between linguistic structure and nonlinguistic behavior, the relevant population is languages (not individual speakers), and you cannot seriously talk about correlations for populations of two (or three or whatever small number is involved). What we require is a study involving a dozen or a hundred languages that have the Tarahumara color system and a dozen or a hundred that have the English one before we can say anything at all about correlations and things.

Having said this, I would predict that we will find such correlations but I would also predict that at least some of them will turn out to have the opposite causality from that suggested (or a more complex one than either of the simple unidirectional ones).

Is there anybody out there who would like to collaborate on putting together such a mass cross-linguistic study?

Lojbab responded privately to Alexis's last message with the following:

You write:

Setting aside for the moment the question of why so many people continue to insist on attributing to Whorf and Sapir views they did not hold (or at least did not express) ...

Note that when we talk about the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in Lojban writings, we are using the common name for the hypothesis, not in particular attributing the formulation of that hypothesis that we use to either Sapir or Whorf. That formulation is of course more complex than simple 'cultural relativism', and there seems to be no other good name, much less one that is known to people.

From this end of your postings, I'd say that you've made your case that the two did not believe in 'their' hypothesis, at least insofar as it is generally understood by others.

(which people seem to want to interpret as involving causality going from language to behavior).

I agree that this is not evidenced in the writings. I note by the way that Jim Brown, who invented Loglan, also cites F. S. C. Northrop (1946) The Meeting of East and West as proposing a cultural effect of language independently of the presumed interpretation of S and W, but he never cites quotes. I also have read a book in the 80s, The Alphabet Effect, by a follower of McLuhan, that claims cultural effects from orthography. Certainly the concept "the medium is the message" significantly underlies most interpretations of the SWH. Perhaps it should be call the SWMcH %^).

I do not know where John Carroll fits in the historical setting of the SWH, whether he knew Whorf or Sapir, etc. Carroll WAS involved in Jim Brown's formulation of Loglan throughout the 60s and 70s, and presumably found Brown's assertions to not be inconsistent with his own writings on SWH. So I would ask you whether you believe that Carroll has said anything (presumably in his comments on the collection of Whorf's essays or elsewhere) that misinterprets those writings? Although he is retired, I could ask Carroll to respond. It seems that the issue is ripe for such discussion.

(1) Even if we find certain correlations between language structure and patterns of behavior, this does NOT (as I think I noted earlier) indicate the direction of causality (as indeed Whorf himself noted at one point).

Agreed. One reason we are working very hard on Lojban before proposing a specific test is that we want to be able to predict a causal effect of language that is clearly not part of the cultural milieu. The drastic differences between Lojban and natural languages make it more likely that we can identify a way to determine both a relation and a causal effect, if one exists. This may then tell us how to look for confirming data in the natural languages.

The color terminology business shows, if anything, that the complexity of a color terminology seems to depend on the complexity of the culture, there being, for example, no industrial or post-industrial cultures whose languages use two or three color terms. There has also been speculation about the fact that the lateness of terms for 'blue' may be connected with the relative scarcity of blue objects (other than the ubiquitous sky) in nature.

I think that color terminology is the worst place to look for a SW effect, since it seems patently obvious that color recognition is going to be dominated by the basic biological process of recognizing color which would mask more subtle linguistic effects. Indeed, if one presumes that biology was directed by evolutionary requirements, there may be some environmental reason that we are not aware of that causes certain colors to seem more basic or important than others.

This would suggest very strongly that the linguistic pattern comes second, as a reflection of a culture's need to make certain distinctions.

I agree that this also occurs in language, and in constructing new artificial languages, especially a language like Lojban where nonce new word creation is easy and favored, the scope of this direction of response should be easy to measure.

Is there anybody out there who would like to collaborate on putting together such a mass cross-linguistic study?

I obviously would be interested (especially if funding can be obtained) but note that I can't contribute much in understanding of the other languages. I also would like to see such a study, even if it must include colors due to the popular associations of colors with SWH, find one or two other areas of language that are more believably independent of biology. I've heard that kinship terms is another area of comparison that might be considered. My own preference would be an analysis of words for emotions, emotional expressions, and linguistic and para-linguistic ways of expressing emotions, as well as perhaps on time and spatial relations (e.g. do languages with 2 distinctions of distance in demonstratives this/- that have any correlations in culture not found in those having three this/that/that yonder?)

Essentially, I think the connection works one way, namely, if a language makes a distinction which cannot be described in purely structural terms, then we must ascribe to the speakers the ability to perceive or imagine or whatever the corresponding distinction in the world. Thus, when Greenberg points out that nothing important hinges on the fact that the French use an ordinal in Napoleon Premier but a cardinal in Napolean Deux, that's OK, because the choice here can be made w/o reference to the world. The rule is purely linguistic. And, of course, this could be the case with the Hopi word for cloud and its plural. On the other hand, if we find that speakers of Polish systematically use a different genitive ending for place-names in Poland (and other Slavic countries) than they do for other place-names, and do so productively, then it is reasonable to conclude that they are capable of a conceptual distinction between Poland (or Slavdom) and the rest of the world.

This sounds like you would see value in finding out what types of productive distinctions are made in an artificial language where structure and concept are strongly separated and it is relatively easy to recognize native language reflections (pollutions?) because of the drastic structural differences. The obvious question is where you would look for such distinctions.

Lojban is only one language, but perhaps we might detect correlations between native language features and conceptualization in Lojban when those people learn Lojban. Do people with AN structures lose that pattern in a language where the AN distinction is blurred (I find myself in Lojban often expressing things in the form of house-big, as well as big-house, but would not presume to try to find any correlations yet?) My wife and I have devised several possible experiments related to this concept, but have long figured that it will be a while before there's an opportunity to even do a detailed plan, much less conduct the experiments.

Alexis responded:

Thank you for your extensive and thoughtful responses. ... I would love to be in touch with Carroll. He certainly knew Whorf, but is not a linguist. How he interprets Whorf is not always clear from his intro to Whorf's selected writings (which is his only contribution (I mean the only contribution of his) I know on this subject). Let me reemphasize: Whorf and Sapir did NOT argue for a correlation between linguistic and nonlinguistic behavior (although they saw connections) and they simply did not see the question of a correlation between language and thought in the way that we do. This is NOT to say that, like in the case of language and non-linguistic behavior, they held there was no correlation. Rather, they did not see clearly that there was anything to correlate, since they assumed that language and thought go hand-in-hand. And this they almost certainly did because the same idea was generally accepted at the time. So, I would not say that Sapir and Whorf did not believe in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Rather they did not consider it a hypothesis.

[Note: We will endeavor to pass along to the respective authors any comments on the above discussions that readers may send us.]


During the course of the discussion of the Sapir-Whorf Discussion, several references were mentioned, which can be added to bibliographies on Sapir-Whorf, such as those which have appeared in previous issues of ju'i lobypli. I've collected these together, sometimes including the comments of the person who mentioned the work:

John Lucy ("Whorf's view of the linguistic mediation of thought," in Semiotic Mediation, ed. by Elizabeth Mertz & Richard Parmentier, Academic P, 1985).

Alan Rumsey's (1990) paper, "Wording, Meaning, and Linguistic Ideology," American Anthropologist 92:346-361, for an excellent discussion of where Whorfianism works.

There's a nice discussion by Roger Brown of the Brown & Lenneberg work in his old book Words & Things, in 2 different chapters separated by another chapter. There is one article I know of that provides some evidence for the strong version of the hypothesis, by Carroll & Casagrande on object classification by Navaho vs. Boston suburban kids. It's in an early psycholinguistics anthology (Saporta's??)

Berlin & Kay's (1969) study of color-term universals was indeed a real breakthrough, although I also believe again that it attacked what Whorf did not maintain, but rather what was imputed to Whorf. However, there has been work since then which has examined Berlin & Kay (1969) closely, and has come up with some pretty damning evaluations. One of the main problems with the study is the inaccurate data that it used (but then again Whorf has been shown to have misunderstood the structure of Hopi), and the criteria used in determining when a color term is basic and when it's not, and when a color is focal or not. Chapter 4 of Geoffrey Sampson's (1980) School of Linguistics, (Stanford University Press) is one reference that comes to mind.

There are also pretty careful experimental studies on the recognition of and memory for color terms which have come out in favor of both Whorfian relativism and determinism. See:

Lucy, John and Richard Shweder. 1979. Whorf and his critics: Linguistic and nonlinguistic influences on color memory. American Anthropologist 81:581-615.

Lucy, John and Richard Shweder. 1988. The effect of incidental conversation on memory for focal colors. American Anthropologist 81:923-931.

The first paper was critiqued by Linda Garro (reference below), and the second paper is an answer to Garro:

Garro, Linda. 1986. Language, memory, and focality: A reexamination. American Anthropologist 88:128-136.

Another attempt at an empirical test is Alfred Bloom's book The Linguistic Shaping of Thought. He found that Chinese speakers had more difficulty comprehending a text full of counterfactual conditionals than English speakers, and attributed this to the lack of explicit coding of counterfactuals in Chinese. However, Terry Au and Lisa Garbern Liu in Cognition (1985?) replicated the experiment trying to avoid cultural bias, and found no significant difference.

A more recent reference on Whorf and color terms is a paper by Paul Kay and Willet Kempton called What is the Sapir Whorf hypothesis? in American Anthropologist vol. 86, 1984.

Brown, R. L. (1967). Wilhelm Von Humboldt's Conception of Linguistic Relativity. The Hague: Mouton.

Rheingold, H. (1988). They Have A Word For It, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.

Saporta, S. (1960) (Editor) Psycholinguistics : A book or readings, Holt Rinehart.

Newcombe, etc. ?? (1958??) (Editors) Readings in Social Psychology.

Vygotsky, Language and Thought

Kuhn, T. (1960?), Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2nd Edit.).

Aarsleff, H. (1982). From Locke to Saussure. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

G. Pullam's book, The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax, essays by Sir William Jones and by W. D. Whitney, Carter and Nash's Seeing Through Language, Coupland's Styles of Discourse, and Freeborn's Varieties of English, and works by philosophers such as Austin, Searle, Grice, and Stalnaker.

Helmut Gipper, whose office sported an oversized poster of Einstein formulated an explicit link between the principle of relativity in theoretical physics and a similar principle in linguistics (Helmut Gipper, Gibt es ein sprachliches Relativitaetsprinzip?: Untersuchungen zur Sapir-Whorf-Hypothese, Fischer 1972).

The Lojban Kalevala Project

A most exciting project has commenced, starting at the first LogFest this year, crystallizing at the second one, and evolving thereafter on Lojban List.

This project is an attempt to develop a work of coherent original Lojban literature, one which would have the formative and perhaps normative effects on the language and its style that various epic works have had on the languages that they were written in.

For several years, I've used a reference to Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales in describing the context for such a project (Chaucer's work effectively defined the change from the era of 'Old English' to what is now called 'Middle English), though I've also mentioned Shakespeare (whose plays similarly gave birth to Modern English) in the same context.

These might serve as good exemplars of the goal of such a project: to make the Lojban language come 'alive', but it is unlikely and probably undesirable for one single author in one single work to set the norms for Lojban. We are trying to avoid embedding the ideas of only one person or of only one culture as the basis of Lojban.

Thus, when I spotted a better exemplar, I started using it. The Finnish Kalevala, the sagas of the Nordic nations, and the myths of the Greeks, were not written by one person at one time. (Indeed, these stories and poems were not originally written, but probably transmitted for centuries as oral tradition.) Instead, these are collections of stories with a more-or-less common context.

But as with Chaucer and Shakespeare, these collections are more than stories; they are among the oldest works in their respective languages and hence serve to define the earliest memory for most speakers of the language: of how the language was at its earliest known formation.

As a modern example of how collective authorship in a common context can work, the successful science fiction/fantasy series Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin, shows how people can write such stories using each other's characters as well as a common context (later volumes of the series show how editing can weave stories written by many individuals into a seamless novel which bears the stylistic elements of the contributors, but in a way where you cannot clearly tell what pieces were written by which authors).

Lojban would be better off with such a body of stories (indeed it would become, in a sense, alive, at that point), and would be better served by having the stories written by a collective authorship composed of people from as broad a cultural spectrum as possible.

At the August LogFest, a concept for such a project was developed, along with a basis or methodology for common authorship. Lojbab assembled the concept into a proposal, and posted it to Lojban List, getting several people to express active interest.

The project since has taken off on its own, though possibly in some ways changing from what was originally envisioned at LogFest. Lojbab has pretty much stayed out of the discussion since then, except to try to point out the interests of people who had no access to the computer networks, and hence could not defend their own interests. This must be a project of the community, and not his project.

The people discussing the project, have chosen to use more prosaic names that reflect the specifics of the effort, rather than the paradigmatic goals. We will let the project continue with the several names it has acquired, remembering the multi-authored, multi-faceted, multi-cultural spirit in which it is envisioned.

We want all of you who might be interested in this project to speak up. Now! You do not need to be a original, creative, writer - another hallmark of these ancient collections is that many of their stories are retellings of earlier legends and tales, sometimes of a different culture (examples: some scholars think that the Bible story of Noah and the flood is a retelling of an earlier story, that of Gilgamesh, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was obviously built on the legends that the Romans evolved about that leader, and most of his other plays had plots plagiarized from other plays of the Middle Ages - plays since forgotten because they did not have the literary power and influence of Shakespeare.)

But you don't need to be a Shakespeare either in quality or in volume of work, in order to make a contribution. You just need to do the best you can on a piece of the whole - a piece whose size and nature you can determine, whether it be a paragraph, a poem, a page, or a longer work. Indeed, there is some room for contribution from people who haven't yet learned Lojban, in contributing ideas for the common setting. (But we hope that most people who participate will do so with the intention of eventually writing some Lojban text in contribution to the project.)

The following several pages define the state the project has reached in the last few months.

  • First, Veijo Vilva, a Finnish Lojbanist who has taken a leadership role in the project, briefly summarizes what he sees the project to be, its current status, and where he thinks it should go in the future.
  • Then follows a longer compendium, assembled by Veijo (with some additions by Lojbab), that embodies the essential discussions that have taken place in the last several months.
  • Then follows the first submissions for a collection of English language texts written by people to serve as descriptions of the common context for the writings of the project. These may serve as examples of what we'd like to see from people proposing additional descriptions of characters or setting (though please don't feel that you have to match the sometimes elaborate style of these writings).
  • Mingled with the English texts (in the order in which they were originally posted, since some of the stories rely on 'earlier' texts for information, or react to things mentioned in the earlier texts) are the most recent revisions of all Lojban writings written by people in conjunction with this phase of the project. Some of these writings have been attempts to help develop the common context in Lojban rather than in English, some experiments in trying to write within the context as it is known, and of course, all are attempts by the authors to improve their own Lojban abilities in the best way: by writing in the language.

Currently the goal is to define the common context, and we want as many inputs as possible for this. As noted in the longer discussions, we are looking for text (in English, or in Lojban with English translation for those who can't easily read Lojban text yet) that a) further elaborates the common setting of the stories, a 'coffeehouse' that will be defined with rich enough detail that people can tie their stories into the common context by referencing these hooks, and b) to define the major common characters that can be used (so long as nondestructively and consistently with the provided details) by any writer who wants to contribute.

We need you to act immediately and send us your ideas (on paper, diskette, or via email). JL18 (current deadline March 5) will contain as many additional writings and character descriptions, in either language, as we can fit. We will hopefully have more character descriptions submitted than we intend to actual use, in which case there will be a period of comment and voting until JL19 (current deadline June 5). (Additional ideas and proposals may also be submitted for this issue, but they will be at a handicap in any voting.)

Hopefully by the time JL19 comes out with the results of this voting, the dictionary will have been published, and people will have a common language definition with which do begin writing. The extra 6 months and the large volume of Lojban writings that will hopefully be appearing will also help more people learn of enough of the language to be willing to try to write in the language.

There is a proposal for a separate publication to contain only Lojban writings. As this proposal evolved, it grew away from the concept of the Kalevala project, expanding to be a journal of in-Lojban writing. The merits of this proposal are also for the community to decide, but I have taken this proposal more immediately to be a criticism of the excessive backlog in getting Lojban text printed in ju'i lobypli, the relative infrequency of ju'i lobypli, and perhaps a sense that text appearing in ju'i lobypli represents an over-centralized attitude of what the language should be like.

I have thus taken action to change JL's editorial policy to reflect these implied criticisms (as well as get its publication frequency up to the intended quarterly rate). This may make the proposal moot, or may cause it to be a longer-term milestone that will occur only when the Lojban community is large enough that people write enough text to support a separate journal, and enough people are interested in reading such text to make a journal economically viable.

Where this project goes after JL19 is up to the community. A separate publication may be spun off. Someone may choose to try to edit the best writings into a publishable book. Or ... - well, you decide!

Here's Veijo.

Veijo's Summary

The Purpose of The Ckafybarja Project

The purpose of the project is to encourage people to create original Lojban stories which have the following common features:

  • as already stated the stories are original Lojban stories, not translations from other languages;
  • they are closely connected with a coffeehouse which is described in detail in a set of English documentation available to all;
  • the stories either take place or are told in the Cafe.

The proposed Cafe Newsletter would widen the scope of material eligible for publication and make it easier for the beginning Lojban writers to produce something worthwhile.


The project has gone through several stages during the last few months. There were some preliminary postings concerning the lack of Lojban text - especially original text, not translations from other languages. It was noted that actually very few people did produce Lojban text or use Lojban in communicating with other Lojbanists. The ideas culminating in the project were formulated during the summer LogFests and the ensuing discussions on the net.

The Lojban Canterbury Tales

The first [1992] LogFest formulated the idea of encouraging people to write original Lojban stories with some common features. The basic idea was that there would be a place were people would gather to tell stories to each other like in the original Canterbury Tales or in The Decameron. The Finnish national epic Kalevala was also mentioned as a possible source of ideas and there were some discussions concerning the possibilities. The parts of these conversations which affected the development of the Project are included in the Papers. The discussions were at a very general level and nothing concrete was done at this stage. The name 'Kalevala' was used in the headers of most of the postings which gave rise to the first name of the project proper.

The Lojban Kalevala Project -> The Ckafybarja Project

At the second LogFest the Cafe idea was adopted and also the idea of having a detailed description of the locale and the personnel. This description would be in English in order to be readily accessible to everybody. It would serve two main purposes:

1) the stories by various writers would obviously describe the same Cafe;

2) the less creative writers would be able to concentrate on the plot instead of also having to invent the settings.

Three different settings were described but description #2 was the favourite already before the plan was posted and there was actually no further discussion on the net.

There were differences of opinion concerning various aspects of the description. Most of these have been resolved but some are in limbo and some are waiting comment from the non-netters.

The 'Kalevala' was quite soon dropped from the name of the project as there was no actual reason for the reference. I proposed the name 'la jbotur' instead but it was never adopted by anybody else. The name of the Cafe was 'la *jbolaz' for a while but this has turned out to be an invalid form [hence marked with an asterisk whenever it occurs herein].


When the Cafe Project proposal (The Lojban Kalevala Project) was posted on the net there was some disagreement concerning various aspects of the plan. The main reason for this was the fact that none of the most active netters had participated in the initial formulation. Some of the ideas presented on the net contradicted the original plan so some non-netters might feel that the very active netters were trying to dominate. The views of the netters (or of the most vocal of them) are being presented to non-netters in JL17; there has been no response yet. The conversation on the net has quieted down.

The most controversial question was the characterization of the Cafe personnel - especially the proposed national heterogeneity. The main views presented are included in the 'Condensed Papers' [found afterwards] and I am not going to reiterate them here. As far as I can see this question is still open - in all the others at least some kind of a consensus was achieved.

Basic Settings

A more detailed description of the settings is included in the Condensed Papers.

The Cafe - A small cafe in rural surroundings (not visible from the inside). Predominantly Lojbanic clientele gathers there to tell stories. Some netters have already arrived. Nick advises to avoid interaction for the time being (cf. Condensed Papers)

The Personnel - Multinational personnel, Chinese manager and 5 others representing the source languages of Lojban. Detailed characterization isn't available yet so avoid adding details in the stories. All the views presented on the net concerning the characterization ought to be studied most carefully by all potential writers. We need well thought-out characterizations which take into account the views presented by Ivan and others concerning the difficulty of realistically portraying national characteristics and the need to have recognizably non-American characters as desired by Lojbab and some non-netters. Mark pointed out that the characters must be such that later writers can live with them. They are basically background characters but writers may want to use them in their stories. Others may choose to ignore them in which case the characterizations don't really matter very much.

Accumulated Material

English Descriptions - There isn't very much new descriptive material as the project hasn't actually started yet - in spite of the posting of the first preparatory Lojban texts. Nick Nicholas has added detail to the original Description #2 of the locale, David Bowen has described a Cafe manager, and I (Veijo) have proposed a Cafe worker.

Lojban Text - Altogether 6 Lojban stories have been posted - a proper story by Mark Shoulson, a longish 'rant' by Nick Nicholas, 2 short 'etudes' by Veijo Vilva and a 'rant' and a short tale by Iain Alexander. [A 7th piece, a 3-part character sketch by Nick, was posted but Nick has indicated that he intends to substantially rewrite it], Only the stories by Mark and Iain contain storytelling along the lines indicated in the plan, the others are more preparatory.

These stories have resulted in a very active conversation on the net concerning various linguistic aspects - grammar, semantics, and pragmatics. One very challenging task for the future is the collection, editing and publication of the accumulating theoretical material so that the results of these conversations can be used by the whole Lojban community.

The Newsletter Proposal

Nick Nicholas posted a proposal concerning a Cafe Newsletter which would publish all kinds of Lojban text connected with the Cafe. The proposal is included in the Condensed Papers.

The newsletter would actually widen the scope of the Lojban texts compared to the original plan. The original plan called for stories about the Cafe or stories told at the Cafe - the Newsletter would accept all kinds of original Lojban text connected with the Cafe, e.g. small studies like my 'etudes' would be eligible for publication. This would be the first purely Lojban journal - all the theoretical material with English explanations and glosses would be published in ju'i lobypli as would selected Lojban writings not connected with the Cafe.

The main purpose of the Newsletter would be to encourage and help beginning writers. The second raison d'etre would be to show that we have advanced so far that Lojban can be used without English glosses. Perhaps the most advanced stories wouldn't be accessible to everybody but there would probably be a much greater number of easy and intermediate articles. I also think that having the stories without English glosses would be advantageous as the structure of Lojban - especially 'Lojbanic' Lojban - is so different that providing an English version may actually hinder understanding or at least slow down the learning.

To would-be writers

  1. Start writing NOW!
  2. Don't set goals that are too ambitious. Remember that the published stories do not set a standard which you ought to match. Your first stories can be very short and use simple sentences. As an example, my first attempt, after minor corrections, may be found below [page 46].
  3. Start with simple things, do experiments with the language. Try to avoid formulating the ideas in English - otherwise you may have difficulties with astonishingly simple expressions.
  4. You may find to your surprise that it is often actually easier to express something in Lojban because you don't have to cope with the relatively free structure of English. Just drop the words to the proper slots and the unambiguous grammar of Lojban takes care of the rest.
  5. Don't force yourself to invent a story - it doesn't work. The story either comes or not. Pick up something and start writing about it - but do it now.
  6. The story isn't very important at this stage. It may be quite banal or even non-existent - if you find a Lojbanic way of expressing something, write it down.
  7. There is no stylistic tradition, you are completely free - within the dictates of the grammar, of course. If you end up expressing your thoughts in a way which doesn't resemble anything you ever read, it's quite alright.
  8. Don't be afraid of simple sentences. Lojban IS different. Writing a complex sentence which doesn't fall apart doesn't prove you know Lojban well - it is just a trivial exercise. Don't write a sentence which you can't readily understand yourself - even next week. You ought to be able to understand your sentences without parsing/analyzing/translating - at least the structure even if you don't remember all the words you had to pick from the word lists.
  9. It doesn't matter if you can't find a natural English way of expressing the idea of a sentence. Lojban IS different. A tanru, a lujvo, a sumti with attachments, a "ko" at a unaccustomed position may all be very difficult to express naturally in English. Just accept it. Utilize it.
  10. Start writing.

The Condensed Papers

This is a record of the Development of the Ckafybarja Project, the Main Ideas, the Conversations and Differences of Opinion concerning the Characterization of the Cafe Personnel.

This is not a straight record of the conversations on the net. I have deleted a lot of material - either redundant or not essential for the project at the present stage. I have also taken the liberty of making some minor changes to the text following the deletions so that the resulting joints are more natural.

Sometimes only first names appear in identifying comments. Full names for these people are Veijo Vilva, Nick Nicholas (alias la nitcion.), Iain Alexander, Lojbab (Bob LeChevalier), Colin Fine, Mark Shoulson, Nora LeChevalier, Andrew Smith, Ivan Derzhanski. We've tried to spell everyone else's name out in full.

A. Lojbab's original Lojban Canterbury Tales proposal

Lojbab: This LogFest was a fun gathering, and not one for work. Nothing really accomplished except to teach people a bit more of the language, use it a little, and socialize, learning more about each other. One topic of discussion was how to get more people doing something with the language. The topic segued into literature, original Lojban literature. One long thought-about idea that was discussed again was an interactive role playing project of the type often conducted at science fiction conventions, based on a Lojban-related scenario. Learning a little Lojban would give actor/players of the scenario an advantage.

But a better idea surfaced, one that can get more involved.

The germinal start of English as a literary language was Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and someone mentioned that Italian has a similar medieval literary landmark, the Decameron. Perhaps other languages as well. The essence of the Canterbury Tales is that they are a bunch of 1st person tales, rich and colorful, often bawdy. Why not write something similar for Lojban, or at least start to do so. We can get a lot of people involved, who need only commit to writing a single short tale - a page long would be fine. A couple of the more expert Lojbanists - Nick, Ivan, and Mark, for example, might do some longer tales, perhaps about characters that might have a more complex story.

One charm of the Canterbury Tales is the variety of personalities of the characters - we can achieve that by having many authors. Stylistic consistency isn't necessary, since different people have different ways of talking. If you are relatively unskilled, you might want to choose a less-well educated character, but even this might not be a constraint.

The question is how to devise a scenario around which people can write these short-short stories. Canterbury Tales takes place where travellers gather - an inn or bar. Do we tell tales of the people of mythical Lojbanistan? Or do we presume a modern or post-modern society, with people much like the spectrum found in the world today? One possibility proposed would be people on a space station, thus appealing to the SF fans among us - an international space station, wherein people like Ivan and Nick can bring in tales from other cultures. Some could be tales of earth, while others could be high adventure in space.

One rule - if you have a specific story idea, whether you want to write it or not: don't talk about it in English. The stories are to be Lojban stories, and whatever appeal they have, as the first Lojban literature, will be emphasized by their not existing in English first. If you have trouble with the language, you can ask how-to-say-it questions on Lojban List, or send messages privately to Nick, Ivan, Colin, John Cowan, Mark Shoulson, or me.

Less experienced Lojbanists might team up on a story, in which case you can talk privately with each other in whatever language about your story, or if necessary, with one experienced Lojbanist that you interact with from the above list.

Chris Handley: Some points to remember about both Canterbury Tales and the Decameron:

  1. They were written by one person (and a genius at that);
  2. They were written fairly well into the flowering of the language.

In my opinion neither of these conditions apply to Lojban at the moment, which should not stop us doing something. Certainly a collection of stories along a central theme would be a great start to the language.

Another suggestion would be another parlour game. One person starts off and writes part of a story (a para, a sentence, whatever). This is then passed to the next person in the list to continue, and so on. (In the normal version, you stop in mid sentence, but that may be a tad difficult).

Lojbab: I think the continued story idea is a good one, but you need really cooperative people to have it work. We did try it once with Lojban, but a certain person (who shall remain nameless) made a point of striving for truly strange twists in the story at every opportunity - strange enough that there was no possibility that the result could be interesting (as opposed to the process - which can be interesting in spite of strangeness, or because of it).

Randall Helzermann: So is Lojban going to be the first language in which the "classic novel" was defined by a committee?

Before going to the "great lojbanian novel" why not build a lojbanic tradition from the roots up? The first thing that should be written in my opinion is a primer on logical and critical thinking.

Lojbab: This might be nice, but:

  1. people seem to want to write creatively, and I will encourage any writing in Lojban for any reason
  2. I don't know anyone competent to write a primer on logical and critical thinking in English, much less in Lojban. Maybe Lojban will lead to the development of such a genius (if the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is true), but right now all we have is rather normal mostly-English native speakers writing non-fluently in a not quite living language.

Randall: What?!? you yourself must have done an incredible amount of thinking about "logical and critical thinking" when designing Lojban, a language ostensibly made to encourage such.

How about a tractus on elementary logic then?

Lojbab: I did surprisingly little thinking about "logical and critical thinking". Remember that I didn't design Lojban from scratch, but built on the original design by JCB. John Parks-Clifford (pc) and others have contributed significantly to the 'logical' aspects of the language, and pc is probably the most competent in the intersection of logic and Lojban. As for myself, I nearly flunked logic in college, and rely on my wife and others when logic issues come up in Lojban, which frankly isn't often. People have felt almost no urge to use Lojban for logical expression, any more than they feel the urge to use English for it. Usually the ones want to do so use symbolic logic.

I understand your point, but there really is no one who would write the book, and more importantly, probably no one who would read it. It seems like the same kind of idealistic project as the occasionally proposed Lojban dictionary, written entirely in Lojban. Such a book could be written, I think, but would be an exercise to prove a point and would probably not be very good, or much-used. Maybe some day, but not nearly yet.

But thanks for the compliment. I'm glad someone thinks I do things logically and clear-thinkingly around here zo'o.

My main reason for suggesting the Canterbury Tales approach is that we are currently being flooded with translations of a variety of materials from other languages, but almost no one (except Michael Helsem) has attempted significant original writing in Lojban. Since translation always involves some amount of interlingual compromise (as we've seen in the phone game), only original writing in the language will lead to the development of true Lojban stylistics - something near and dear to Nick's heart, if not others'.

By making the length be at the writers' options, we can get people like Nick, who could probably write a good, longer story, but also maybe encourage Chris, who has never posted longer than words and sentences, to contribute something. The advantage of having a common context for the stories, is that it is possible in such a context to tell a little anecdote in as little as a paragraph or two that can form part of the compendium as well as a longer story.

Lojbab (paraphrased): Those who have trouble coming up with plot lines can take stories from the great mythologies, and use their plots as the basis for Lojban stories. There are many little-known such stories. For example, Veijo, could we use stories from the Finnish epic, the Kalevala, as the basis for Lojbanic stories.

Veijo: ... about the possibility of using The Kalevala as a starting point for the Lojban Canterbury Tales. It has taken me a while to sort things out as I didn't want to give a hasty answer. It's been quite a while since I read Kalevala - and not a total edition at that - and I had to do a quick sampling of it. I also read through a few reviews. I feel it's not much use taking an odd plot from Kalevala and trying to elaborate on that as Kalevala covers the whole spectrum of human life and the stories are not very unique.

One outstanding feature of Kalevala is, however, the way mythos permeates everything in an almost pantheistic way. The scale is continuous from an almost imperceptible presence to personified entities - not quite Olympian in power but more on par with the main characters of the story who themselves cannot always be distinguished from the mythos. There is also a strong faith in the power of words - not any single, magic ones but prolonged singing which can drive an opponent up to his armpits into a swamp or build a boat, singing of real men, not mere boys nor of those feeble in body or character. Words do not offer a quick way out of a tight spot and at a crucial moment the vital words may be missing and must be sought for. Words are the key to the duality of the world - or even more as the metalevel of the poems is sometimes quite tightly interwoven with the subject matter. It's a world which is very difficult to portray convincingly in a different language - or even in present-day Finnish which isn't any more so rich in metaphor.

I don't think the way to founding original Lojban literature can be found in emulation. It takes great literary talent to transform an existing story into something worthwhile - not a mere imitation. A literature arises from an existing cultural and linguistic background and the only thing we have at hand is a half-baked language. This is the fact we must start from. If we are to lay the foundations of a literature we must look at the world - the language - we have. What is the world of Lojban like? What sets it apart from the rest? If you take Lojban sans tanru, lujvo and le'avla it presents a remarkably Platonian view of the world. The most distinguishing feature of gismu and many cmavo is that they describe a very ideal world, every word brings out the essence, the underlying principle of a class of phenomena. In most natural languages the general is described in terms which are either alien or complex, in Lojban the opposite prevails. This makes it possible to present a distilled view of the surrounding world without resorting to unnatural expressions and also to contrast the general and the particular in a single utterance or even a single bridi. The avoidance of tanru and lujvo can be thought of as another form of controlled and recognizable ellipsis - only the essential is expressed and the particular is suppressed. Other areas where Lojban excels are the tense system, the attitudinal and emotional indicators and of course the connectives. We have a very rich apparatus offering unprecedented opportunities for expression but do we have something to say?

I think we mustn't hurry. We need the stories, the literature, but we must not push things. We must first try to see the world - a slice of the present, some particular past, the future - through Lojban 'glasses'. The literary world we eventually create must have a distinct Lojban flavour to it, it mustn't be a mere re-representation of some other world. It doesn't suffice to avoid translation, the world must be conceptualized in a Lojban way from the ground up. I don't think the stories need much of a plot, the settings give enough opportunities for fruitful utilization of the language. Even quite ordinary things can form the scaffolding around which the story unfolds. If you read the stories by e.g. Ray Bradbury, quite many of them have a negligible plot. The something hangs in the atmosphere, in many little things. That, of course, takes great talent. I don't know whether any of us can muster that but we ought to be able to utilize Lojban for the necessary special effects - with due constraint. The thing mustn't be overdone, we are not aiming to produce a linguistic fire-works. The language ought to be utilized subtly to produce a mosaic of shadow and sun-light, soft generalizations against which sharp detail can be engraved, the dull monotonous every-day or whatever described in a few, quick indicators and the richer moments of life in ever increasing detail using the full array of tools available for the task. If we don't try to reproduce the world in the way we are accustomed to see it, to use the imagery of our respective native languages - or our secondary languages - but try to see our surroundings through the Lojban glasses I think we may find quite many things worth depicting.

Perhaps we don't need the past or the future to provide the alienating background but can contemplate the present in the stories. It may even be more fruitful to start with something small. I once read a book called 'Writing the natural way' where the author told about a student of hers who had trouble in writing an essay about her home town. She told the student to concentrate on successively smaller and smaller details until finally they were down to an individual brick in the wall of a specific building at which point the student suddenly started to write and produced a quite respectable essay about the brick in no time flat. We may have to take a similar route to get started. But for now - let's start looking around.



I mean that quite sincerely.

I mean, when I bemoan Lojban stylistics, I usually see the trees - the complexities of nesting, the uncertainties of place structures in flux (lujvo and gismu), the markedness of attitudinals. You, Veijo, seem to have struck at the essence. It is absolutely true that Lojban (and any language) sustain their own world (it is also true that one should not be too flashy in pursuing the manifestations of this world, as happens often in Esperanto literature); it is also true that exploring this world is the great task awaiting Lojban literature. And it is even more true that my translations so far have not done any such exploration (interestingly enough, David Twery's ckafyzda diary did - not just because it was original writing, but because it looked at the cafe in the staccato, explicit way we will come to expect of Lojban...).

John Cowan: On substantive matters, I associate myself with everything that Veijo says, and I express my immense admiration for the way that he says it. I, too, believe that language naturally leads to mythology, and that mythologies are not really transferable. (Tolkien started inventing his conlangs for the pure "philological" pleasure of it, and found that they led him inexorably to mythopoetic.)

Lojbab (written in December): Notwithstanding Veijo's excellent points, the idea I intended in raising the Kalevala as an example is that plot ideas for short stories of classic interest are easy to find. Many of the plots of stories in classic literature are not original plots; for example, most of Shakespeare's plays are unoriginal plots, based on either on history, or on retellings of tales that were already set into plays or verse. The intent is not to encourage translation of the untranslatable epic of a national culture, but to point out that anyone who reads can take a story they've seen in another language, in another form, and retell the plot in their own words, perhaps inventing some new characters. For example, one of my kids just brought home a children's book, retelling the classic fairy tale of Jack and the Beanstalk from the first person point of view of Jack (who sees things perhaps a little differently and from a more childlike perspective than the impersonal narrator of the classic version). The story, even while being told in a simplistic children's "see Spot run" manner (and not very well, in my opinion), conveys a sense of Jack's motivations that would seem out-of-place in a third-person narrative.

Thus, one suggestion, for someone who feels that they cannot come up with a plot idea to write about: take a story, perhaps a fairy tale or legend, that you have read or heard, figure out some way that the events of the story, or something akin to them, might take place in a modern or post-modern environment, and attempt to retell it as a first person narrative, conveying some sense of the emotions experienced by the storyteller using Lojban attitudinals.

The story will not be a simple English (or Finnish) story anymore, nor necessarily a mere imitation of the original, because you will have added some original point-of-view. And if the result is not great literature, but merely "a pale imitation" anyway, because your writing skill isn't that great, I say that even a pale imitation of some of the greatest of literature is likely to be a better-than-average yarn.

On the other hand, I am recommending this primarily to people who think they cannot come up with something more "original". Original stories are fine, and indeed are especially encouraged. If you develop a story naturally out of simply narrating in a Lojbanic manner, you will have achieved what we are seeking from this effort, and bring Lojban alive as a language.

Veijo: One of the first things we'll have to do when we start to use Lojban creatively is to chart the most obvious ways of twisting it in our quest for expressive ability. Although a language has an unambiguous grammar and words with but a single meaning, it must somehow allow for linguistic surprise - otherwise something is lost.

The regularity of the language will force us to find the materials for the element of surprise in the choice of words and metaphors - and also in some kind of contrapunctive juxtaposition of syntactical structures, perhaps in a wise choice of modals or imaginative personal tenses. Quantification of expressive power in a language is probably something quite unattainable. Even though we can make sure that the Lojban grammar covers all the necessary aspects and are pretty convinced that tanru and lujvo can expand the vocabulary to the required extent, we cannot have any short term certainty in this respect.

Expression is a two-way process. It is no use having an elegant expression if no one can really feel what you are trying to say. In English - or any other living language - we build our expressions to rest on the solid foundation of the linguistic imagery which forms large parts even of the unconscious mind of the potential readers. In Lojban we have nothing like this available. Even the most advanced of us will have to struggle - probably for years to come - to attain a level of competency where reading is no more an intellectual exercise but a living experience. To really feel the language requires that it flows in you relatively effortlessly. You must have a background against which to contrast the author's way of saying things. Esperanto is so much like the mainstream Indo-European languages that the early literary efforts could build on the existing imagery. Lojban is conceptually so different that we have no such easy way out of our predicament. The imagery will have to be different otherwise we may end up using modals to rebuild the alien imagery. At this stage translations may contain seeds of peril as we don't yet have a living tradition to protect the language from the dominance of external influences. I don't implicate that we ought to exclude these influences totally. The language needs the common imagery of the whole mankind and perhaps even large sections of the heritage of the main cultures but this imagery must trickle in in a controlled way, not as an avalanche.

B. The Lojban Kalevala Project => The Ckafybarja Project

Lojbab: On Lojban List, there has been discussion for the last month on what I once called the Lojban Canterbury Tales. Several major cultures trace their earliest cultural and linguistic identity to a collection of stories written in the language. These include Chaucer's Canterbury tales, which basically defined the birth of Middle English, Shakespeare, who did the same for Modern English, the Decameron for Italian, the tales of the Arabian Nights for Arabic. Veijo Vilva's moving comments about the necessary birth of a Lojban stylistics through original literature, written under the subject title of "The Kalevala", seems to have shifted the focus of comparison to that relatively unknown mythic collection. I'll leave it to people to come up with a suitably jingling name to supplant "The Kalevala Project".

With the impending completion of the first Lojban dictionary, it is time for people to write originally in Lojban (rather than in translation from other languages) and hence to explore the unique point-of-view and style that Lojban's unusual nature might bring to narrative (the assumption of the uniqueness of this point-of-view actually assumes Sapir-Whorf is true, but we'll ignore that problem for now).

We had a long discussion at LogFest, and Veijo's comments about basing the story(s) on a uniquely Lojbanic world-view, coupled with Nick Nicholas's identification of what writings seemed to him to best represent a budding Lojban culture, underlay much of the discussion and its current resolution.

The goal is Lojban stories written from a common narrative starting point, written by as many different people as possible, each of varying Lojban skill levels.

Quickly ruled out was a scenario involving medieval times, which would severely restrict the scope of stories that could be told, and a space travel scenario, with people travelling together telling stories of their home worlds. Unfortunately, this type of scenario would require a lot of what SF people call "world-building" - every story would need the added baggage of devising a believable 'world' wherein it takes place, and making that unique world come alive. Even the better SF writers often fail at the 'world-building' game, and it seems too much to ask of the non-expert writers who will be trying to bring Lojban to life, to ask them to bring totally new worlds to life as well.

Still the idea is to bring people together in a situation where they will tend to tell stories, a process that takes time when a lot of stories are to be told. In modern society, people are simply not thrown together in numbers sufficient for such storytelling. There was a suggestion of a scenario involving a story-telling contest of some type, but this didn't fire people's imagination. In retrospect, I think such a competition would have caused problems in that some of the short-shorts that beginning Lojbanists might write won't be in the same story-telling league as longer stories told by more experienced Lojbanists. I'd rather see people write well what they feel comfortable at writing about, and not try to compete with other Lojbanists, better or worse, which I think a competition theme would naturally lead to. The goal is Lojban stories written from a common narrative starting point, written by as many different people as possible, each of varying Lojban skill levels.

We came up with a scenario that allows, and even encourages, a motley collection of stories of varying lengths. We decided to draw on the limited range of 'Lojban culture' that exists today. The first such element identified was the "Jimbob" 'rant' (as David Twery labelled it) that we published in JL16. We talked of the stories that the Jimbobs might tell each other while "working in the sandpits" while the Esperantists climbed their wall and the apes came abseiling down. Several people liked this idea, but others objected violently. To them, the Jimbob allegory makes for a distracting setting for telling a story - it is a story in itself and not a setting; it is also a humorous, indeed ridiculous setting, and might ruin a story with a serious tone.

Then we turned to David Twery's coffee-house (ckafyzda) text [hopefully to be published in JL18], which Nick has identified as the first authentic-seeming "Lojban world-view" text. It also allows Lojbanists, many of whom are SF fans, to get inspiration from a variety of similar ideas used in SF stories, including the "White Hart" tales of Arthur C. Clarke, and the Callahan's Bar tales of Spider Robinson. For a brief while we had the compromise situation of a coffee house on the edge of the sand pits, allowing both indoor and outdoor settings for storytelling, but the anti-pit people eventually came up with a better approach.

We devised an interesting, Lojban-allegorical coffeehouse which is interesting enough to serve as the subject of stories, as well as a backdrop for the telling of stories. The concept is a coffeehouse with an international flavor in which Lojban is spoken. The atmosphere is vaguely contemporary, but somewhat timeless. Indeed, one idea was to leave the outside of the coffeehouse, i.e. its locale, essentially unspecified.

Description #2 below, the current strong favorite, is probably in a rural or mountainous setting, since it suggests that the sandpits are nearby if not immediately present, but unlike our starting premise, the sandpits are not essential to the description (though they clearly inspired the climbing equipment). But people voting for description #2 in many cases specified that they wanted the windows removed from the description, so that the outside remains undefined. What will likely happen is that we will see how things develop from what we have, and add more details as needed by specific authors as the culture of the coffeehouse becomes further defined.

The coffeehouse has 6 employees, each a representative of a culture using one of the source languages for Lojban (There was a lot of debate over whether to use a British or American representative for English, and I would have suggested Australian in honor of Nick, but people settled on American because unfortunately the majority of Lojbanists, who are mostly Americans, may be familiar only with American culture, and we don't want to shut people out of this effort for cultural blindness.)

We were able to identify a number of "roles" to be filled in a coffeehouse: manager, cook, waiter/waitress, busboy, cashier. [clarification: the American English word 'busboy', or perhaps 'bus-person' cleans tables at the end of a meal and prepares them for new patrons.]

But some of these are seen as of a lower, subservient nature as compared with others. Rather than risk association of some culture being seen as stereotypically sub-servient by tying a character of that culture to a particular role (e.g., the Chinese busboy), the workers rotate jobs, giving the job of cook to a different person each night, with the effect that the menu is both international, exotic, and a bit unpredictable. The manager was assigned to the Chinese character, based on Chinese as the most populous of the Lojban languages.

A friend of Karen Stein's who came to LogFest, Phil, wrote up three descriptions based on this concept. Description #2 was favored provided that the windows were removed from the description, and thus the need to describe what is outside the windows.

Meanwhile there is further work to be done, some of which requires knowledge of Lojban, some that requires only imagination. More details of the setting need to be worked out, eventually giving enough information that a detailed floor plan of the coffeehouse can be drawn, with locations of everything marked, so that people writing stories can be consistent in describing the scene wherein the story is told (given that the exterior environment is undefined, there is no particular need for consistency, or even implied truth, in the stories themselves, but it was felt that this collection, being written by a large number of authors of varying styles, needed to have some one thing that all authors could share and rely upon to the finest detail.

Indeed the coffeehouse description will be described and finalized in English, to make sure that everyone understands all the details in a consistent manner. It also allows people to use a variety of Lojban expressions and forms to describe the English-defined setting. Thus the descriptions by various authors will not read exactly the same, yet the place they are describing will obviously be the same place.

We welcome and indeed encourage people to write descriptions in Lojban, recognizing that the description will have to be translated into clear English. But this gives people something to write about in Lojban, and you can if you choose use your Lojban text as a starting point for an eventual story for the collection.

The third phase of the scenario definition is to define the six characters in enough depth that people can include them in the backdrop to their stories and have them recognizably be the same people. The details should range from gender, age, and appearance, to personality, distinctive mannerisms, and outside interests that might serve as jumping off places for a story when the indicated person comes up to the table with a tray of food, or coffee.

This phase will be conducted in the manner of a contest followed by a vote. Write a character sketch of one of the characters, putting as much or as little detail into your description as you care to. The contest will be announced in JL17 (but I'd like to have a couple of samples by then), and thus people have plenty of time to write good descriptions before a voting a couple of months later, with the results of all phases of this introductory work appearing in JL18, I hope. All those who submit any ideas, text, description, or otherwise indicate definite interest in participating in the project will be eligible to vote. Again, character descriptions can be written in Lojban, but we will also need English translations.

However, the polycultural polylinguistic background of the characters has led me to identify a fourth task that the more skilled Lojbanists can start on now, independent of the actual descriptions of the characters (or at least it may be so). Each of our 6 cultural representatives will be a native speaker of their own language - Lojban is the lingua franca that all share, and the lingua franca of those who patronize the coffeehouse as well (hence stories told in Lojban therein). But Lojban has many possible styles, and some of these styles will be dependent on the native language of the speakers. Thus, the Hindi speaker may be prone to SOV-order sentences, the Chinese speaker to strange-to-English-speakers tanru, and the Arabic speaker to flowery metaphor. The Russian speaker may choose lujvo forms that are heavy in consonant clusters, whereas the Chinese speaker will minimize clusters and maximize vowels.

I don't pretend to know enough of the non-English source languages to try to describe them in any detail, but some Lojbanists like Ivan Derzhanski probably do; others might be willing to research. The result will be perhaps a short sample of Lojban "conversation" and of "narrative" styles for each of the six characters (perhaps each of them describing the same scene to make for ready comparison), along with an English language description of the essential linguistic ingredients that comprise the style, so that others can try to emulate the styles when writing. The ideal will thus be, along with distinctive personalities for the 6 characters, a distinctive style of Lojban speech that will identify the characters and also lend authenticity to the style.

Here are the proposed descriptions. For #1, the offending-to-some picture sentences are bracketed. Someone suggested the carpet might be made brown to hide coffee stains.

Description #1

My eyes had to adjust to the difference in lighting. The light in the place came from the twelve stain glass tiffany lamps which hung from the ceiling over a table. Low wattage bulbs cast a pale light around a place which measured some 10 meters in length and some 5 meters across. The tables have four chairs set around each of them, and as I sat down in the green cushioned chair I was shown, I had a chance to survey the rest of this place I found myself. The table settings had white linen napkins with an embroidered design of a type unfamiliar to me. The silverware was of a plain though excellent in quality, in addition there was a set of chopsticks incorporated into the traditional place setting. There were no coffee cups set out on the tables. [Along the walls hung pictures, and many of these were of people whom I did not recognize, and always with the same person, presumably the manager of this establishment.] Each picture had a gold frame, and the expressions in the pictures ranged across every known emotion. The floor was carpeted with a green shag of similar shade to the chairs, as a result the only sounds that one hears is the gentle flapping to the door going into the kitchen, and the whispers of conversations occurring at the nearby tables. [The place was quiet, still, at peace, as the man in all the pictures is approaching me. ...]

Description #2 is the current favorite, having references to existing Lojban texts that might somehow be worked into the stories-to-be-told, possibly with modification. The main objection is to the windows, that would require a description of the outside. (The outside might, but need not, be in a mountainous rural area where rock climbing is done - or sand pits. We didn't want to be stuck with Don Harlow's El Capitan reference of the original Jimbob story - not everyone knows what Yosemite looks like, and who says that the coffeehouse is even anywhere in America.) A possible modification would be to make the windows high up, or frosted so that people can't see through them. This provides the light without the undefined scenery.

[Note: This is not the original text prepared by Phil. The stairs from Ivan's story printed in this issue were originally misunderstood to be a ladder, and a ladder was therefore added to the description. Though we've learned that the ladder in the coffeehouse bears no resemblance to the marble stairs of Ivan's story, the concept in a room furnished in climbing equipment, of using a climbing ladder to access a trap door (presumably leading to the attic, wherein other artifacts may be found that could inspire more stories) fits the scenario even if the specific association with Ivan's story is excluded. Indeed, someone of Ivan's culture might see the ladder, and use it as a lead-in to tell that story. That is the purpose of having detailed decor with potential heavy symbolism - it allows people hooks to hang a story on, either a new story or one from their native culture.]

Description #2

As I walked under the crossed climbing axes, and into the coffeehouse, I felt I was in a place designed to give one the feeling of putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes. [The large arched windows filled the dining area with light, and since all of the booths were lined along the outside, every booth had a superb view of the .] The benches were made of old soft oak, in which many tales and symbols had been carved. On the bench I was seated was the inscription: "Members of the first sandpit expedition to find the first digger, or traces thereof - 198?" The table also bore other marks of former patrons who had drank their selections and transcribed their feelings with pitons. The walls were littered with climbing apparel and debris in what might charitably have been termed a collage. There were the rusting remains of pitons and hooks abutting practically new lengths of the latest high test rope. Opposite the door from which I had entered was a ladder - a climbing ladder, of course. The ladder reached to the ceiling, and a solid-looking trap door that made me wonder of the unknown relics that lay beyond, and the stories they might hold. Underneath these visible artifacts were the dour reminders of the primary business of this establishment-coffee. There were full wooden bins of coffee from just about every place in the world, with or without caffeine. The cook was visible to all and in the process of developing the latest creation on the current menu, and not without some debate about the amount of spice the particular dish required. This happy riot provided the counterpoint to the hissing, and boiling of a near endless stream of coffee beans in response to the always cold, often frustrated, and very determined clientele.

  1. 3 is a distinctly unsavory place, or savory indeed if that is the type of place you like. People seemed to feel strongest about this one, in both positive and negative directions.
Description #3

The current dart game was in progress, with its normally furious dispute about scoring from its very stressed participants. I had walked in for my usual pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain, this being the only place I could get it every day, and I sat down in my usual table, one of the few which had a level table, and reasonably sound chairs. I reviewed the familiar surroundings. Aside from the dart game, which had a wall in which the number of dart holes appeared to compromise the structural integrity of the building, there was the varnished hardwood floor, which was again showing the effects of the heavy traffic of the numbers and shoes of the customers. The place closes for a week once every three years, just so the management can refinish the floor. The other tables were showing their wear from the customers. Some of the tables were still in good shape, but most were worn out from the life that seemed to pour out of the customers and into the furniture, the poor furniture was not designed for this. As a result, these old maple and pine pedestal tables had not only seen better days, they had seen better years. However, like the dart game, the often refinished floor, and the old sunbeam coffee machines, and cast iron cooking utensils I have often seen cleaned, they are irreplaceable. There is an identity to this place, that while the customers may come and go, this place will be what they share in common.

Chinese - Manager; Russian - Cook/Wait/Bus/Dishwasher; American - Cook/Wait/Bus/- Dishwasher; Arabic - Cook/Wait/- Bus/Dishwasher; Hindi - Cook/- Wait/Bus/Dishwasher; Spanish - Cook/Wait/Bus/Dishwasher.
Rotating Menu, With Chinese overtones because of manager
International Menu


Nick: This is a most capital suggestion. I'm for it full throttle. I mean, sure, the unsympathetic outsider would find our scampering for any hint of cultural imagery self-conscious and flimsy. But this project is just perfect for us. We can get cosy in it; we can all write like Twery :), in that detached, detail-seeking chain of sumti I find so endearing; we can concentrate on the tiniest details (Lojban is ideally suited for that tutorial application Veijo mentioned - start writing about a town by writing about a single brick in a building in the town).

We should not be afraid to put into the story that which we are, either. No need to exoticise or aggrandise our late-20th-century mundaneness and splinter interests (the exotic is not unwelcome, of course).

The unsympathetic outsider might also scoff at our attention to detail (the colour of the carpet?!) - but no, this all matters.

It's right to reject Jimbobs as a story basis; a bit too selfconscious, and intended as a cliquey thing. Still, veiled references to current pitwork wouldn't help, and would allow a lot of therapeutic mutual ego massaging :) What with the allegory really being Don Harlow's brainchild, I wonder what reference we make to the Esperantists going up the mountain - and in general, how much we let the outside world (including merko) impinge on the Cafe goings on.

I have a couple of thoughts on the Cafe personnel and the decor; I'll get back to you. My jimbobism makes me go for #2, with #3 as an alternative. Do we go for equal ratios of men and women? Do we have any minorities or "deviations" in the personas, or keep them mainstream? [Clarifying later: Actually, I was thinking sexual minorities. I expect we can also assume homophobia to have been eradicated in Lojbanistan.] Hm. We shall see.

Dang, this WILL be fun :)

The names will have to be native Lojban (rafsi):

.u'isai.u'uru'e mi pu nalmorji lenu cusku lei se stidi cmene. We could have
{cic.} ("Wildman")
{cis.} ("Hot Pants")
{cit.} ("Kid")
{ciz.} ("Wierdo")
{dar.} ("Daredevil")
{dib.} ("Darl")
{din.} ("Moneybag")
{dir.} ("Mr. Kibbitz")
{duk.} ("Worrywart")
{fad.} ("Norm")
{fad.} ("Mr Attitude")
{faz.} ("Dennis the Menace")
{fun./xaufun.} ("Lucky")
(these are all #3 names, eh?)

- or for less unsavoury:
{sax.} ("Harmonia")
{glek.} ("Felicia")
{vir.} ("Carl")
{nol.} ("Adolf")
{tir.} ("Ferris") ...

Ivan: Whoever wants to write a story with Chinese, (Hindu) Indians, or Arabs among the characters had better be very familiar with the corresponding cultures. I wouldn't venture anything of the sort, and therefore make the following

Counterproposal. Don't specify any national identity or cultural background for the characters. Make them representatives of an abstract, undetermined, or fictitious nation. In this case they might be Lojbanis by birth, for example. Assume, for the purpose of the game, that everyone's skin is the same colour.

Otherwise you risk to end up with a story that no Arab (say) would find plausible.

[Later clarifying:] When I proposed that, I was mainly thinking of the stories of Alexander Grin, one of my favourite authors. The events in his stories happen in a country which doesn't exist in the real world, and even no hint is given as to its location on the map (though it is clear that it is a warm area :- )). The characters, natives of that country, are not associated with any of the existing cultures. Yet they are by no means colourless - in fact, they are as colourful as anything - and they are not in the least Russian in culture (that is Grin's own nationality).

[On sexual minorities:] ... Now I'm going to milxe disagree. We aren't going to break all existing conventions at once, are we? We're in an imaginary land, our characters talk in Lojban, that's about enough. I think I could do with three men and three women, all of them heterosexual.

[On staffing:] I don't see why we need the staff to be rotating. That's not how coffeehouses in the real world are anyway.

[Nick: Mmm... OK, don't have 'em rotating shrug. Cuts the numbers down to five.]

Veijo: As a quick first comment I support these opinions. It's better to make these 'background' characters as neutral as possible so that the writers don't get into unnecessary problems. The characters and the storytellers/- observers in the actual stories are another matter. A visitor dropping into the cafe isn't observing the 'common' world when in the cafe. His story or the story he is listening to while in the cafe may describe various ethnic/national/linguistic groups but the narrator's relationship to the cafe ought to reflect his relationship to the Lojbanic culture. He may be a full-blown lojbo or still have one foot in his original culture which will affect the way he describes the settings, the balance between superficial and essential details. Maybe even the male/female dichotomy is superfluous in this context.

Nick: Neutral, yes, but not characterless. Exploring stylistic stereotypes (the sledgehammer JL15 I'm prone to) should be fun. I already had in mind a tanru-ist, an attitudinalist, an anaphorist and an SVO-ist, as well as the obligatory Prolog speaker :)

I think the monomania of exploring every facet of familiar objects in a familiar surrounding (the old brick thing) is highly pertinent to this do. Plots and tales aren't essential; a laidback, look-at-what-everyone-else-is-doing-and-how-that-crack-on-the-wall-runs attitude is just as appropriate here.

In a boisterous environment like #2, given we've taken out the cultural differences, I'd prefer it if the boisterousness were sustained by some heterogeneity amongst the cafe personnel.

Mark: Remember, guys, these are the background characters. It'd be fine to give them some flavor and all, but don't think they're the only ones around, nor the key ones (except perhaps in some rare "Cook's Tale" or something).

... [Gender] doesn't make a whole lot of difference, really. Bear in mind that this is Lojban we're dealing with; you needn't know anyone's sex unless it becomes important. I could see the waiter's sex never mentioned until five stories down the line when somehow it makes a difference. It'd be nice to keep it equal, so bear that in mind if it becomes necessary to specify someone's gender.

Your own characters, that's something else. Remember, these characters are not the ones doing most of the story-telling. The ones doing that are the patrons whom you bring in. They may have their own idiosyncrasies, culture, bias, whatever. In fact, I imagine the chief method of finding out people's sex/color/- accent/whatever might be seeing things from the point of view of a patron who happens to be particularly concerned about such things.

Keep them neutral. I don't think you have to go out of your way to try to convince me they're native lojbananas, and I always feel funny about overusing the rafsi-as-name bit; you just can't trust it. I like the idea of giving them distinct, but distinctly lojbanic, speaking styles, but perhaps it would be better not to go too carefully this route, and play with that in one of your own stories with a few patrons you bring in (if you think you can do it and still make the story work, which Ivan fears wouldn't happen). Remember: If you want something in a character, it can walk in the door. The patrons, over which each writer has more or less complete control, are the ones which make the stories click. The staff is background.

Your plan might be a good idea, Nick, but it may make writing a real challenge for normal folk. Remember, the staff are characters that everyone has to live with. If you want a few characters that you can deal with that have such speech styles, the door's right over there, and here they come. It's unfair to ask a beginning speaker to incorporate such clevernesses into his writings by making characters common to all the stories have these traits.

Tell me, when was the last time you could tell at a glance the sexual orientation of your waiter? Um, badly put (wedding rings are a giveaway). I mean, that's not something anyone would notice or care about unless it chanced to become important in a story. If you want someone with orientation X, have him/her/it/them walk in the front door, under the climbing axes. If you feel a need to attach that kind of info to a staff member, make sure nobody has beaten you to it, and then think twice before doing it.

Remember, though, that when you tweak the background or the staff, you're messing with something that all the writers have to live with. Don't build your world and force everyone else to live in it; bring your world into everyone else's. In fact, if you really need the waiter to be a certain way, you might even consider having a replacement waiter that day, just to be on the safe side.

Nick: Oh, ok. Still, these'll be the people we come home to in every episode; they do have to be "character actors". It seems I missed the point of these characters, nevertheless, for which I duly apologise.

While I want them to be boisterously different from each other, I also want them to have common reference points - I want them, as a mass, to provide a feeling of home (Lojbanistan?) against which the protagonists are foregrounded. Of course, since we don't know what being a native Lojbani would entail, we can't exaggerate this.

... best is to keep [differences in speech] subtle (not whack whack zo'u VSO); since that'll take a lot of finesse (which I'm not sure I have), we might as well play this one down. Still, a vague guideline (this character prefers tanru, this one expands) won't hurt overmuch.

[As for backgrounds,] I won't mess with what's there, but I would like something reasonably explicit there to build on. I am going to describe a particular crack in a wall :)

Lojbab: Ivan asks for several changes, all of which remove detail from the persons and scenery details. To write a good story, the details must be present. If we do not specify the culture of the characters, they will have no culture; i.e. they will be colorless, which is exactly what we don't want.

(Ivan: Not necessarily. They simply won't be identified with any one of the existing cultures.)

Actually they won't be - with mostly Americans in the Lojban community, they will all end up as nondescript American in culture. I would rather attempt and fail to capture hints of a foreign culture than not to attempt at all, and have the result seem too American. We may not succeed in capturing a true Arabic or Hindi culture (but then we might come close), but we will get a somewhat non-American culture. One would expect in any case that with people representing 6 cultures interacting on a constant basis that none of the characters would be 'pure' in representing their culture - after all, they do not live with their own people (at least not likely).

(Ivan: Getting a non-American culture is great, but calling it Arabic or Hindi (by the way, what is Hindi culture? I've never heard of such), without having a close familiarity with the real ones, would be way too bold.)
(Nick: Agreed. But not inappropriate details, which will lead us to embarrassment. Your Hindi-speaking co-owner will either be: US (or Australian) assimilated, to some extent or other (just like all the Hindi-speakers I know), or a caricature. We need some character and colouring in the owners. But talking about cultures we don't know enough about (I mean, gee, what do I come up with as a character trait for a Hispanic?) is plain too risky. Seek diversity elsewhere, in that which we are familiar with, and that which everyone is familiar with. Having them come out Americans is not the ultimate problem (besides, there are enough of us outside the States to avoid that); you don't need to hunt down the exotic. There is little more mundane and more Anglo-cultural than la tuerp.'s [David Twery] or la .andruc.'s [Andrew Smith] writing; and yet their work has the immediate charm of being comfortably Lojbanic that we seek.)

The setting must be well-developed and self-consistent. The stories told indeed must stand on their own, but if we are to have any cohesiveness to a set of stories written by a a variety of people, many with no particular talent for literary writing, we need some common setting that is well enough developed that the stories hang together. Otherwise we just have an anthology of random stories, which loses the joint-ness of the project.

The effort of those who worked hard to come up with the scenario, and the rather inspirational effect it seemed to have as the coffeehouse came together in peoples minds, is just the type of consensus work that we lojbo do well, and I want to see more of it.

Indeed, the better writers can invent stories and worlds of their own, and characters as well. Others may choose to have their story rest in an interaction between patrons and staff in the coffeehouse, which itself is a basis for a lot of powerful story imagery, and, given some preparatory work in character development of the staff, allows people with perhaps less skill or imagination to still tell a reasonable story, concentrating on the Lojban and not on the creative work that not all of us do so well.

The better writers can invent stories and worlds of their own, and characters as well. Others may choose to have their story rest in an interaction between patrons and staff in the coffeehouse, which itself is a basis for a lot of powerful story imagery, and, given some preparatory work in character development of the staff, allows people with perhaps less skill or imagination to still tell a reasonable story, concentrating on the Lojban and not on the creative work that not all of us do so well.

Veijo: There are many facets to creativeness. It is, of course, quite difficult to create truly flesh-and-blood characters. But telling about a person known to everybody may be equally difficult. To be consistent with the characterization without merely copying, to add something or just to express it somewhat differently takes skill at many levels. Actually, it might be much more difficult than making a quick sketch of a stranger or adding depth to some your own creation - even in your own native language. Fitting a limited expressiveness in Lojban to a detailed microcosm may be in fact harder than creating the details on the fly from the bits and pieces of the Lojban you do master.

Brainstorming in English at a LogFest may give you quite a skewed view. There people are using the imagery of their native English to create the ckafyzda and everything flows smoothly. A detailed English plan is, however, a double-edged sword. It helps, as you said, people to visualize this microcosm. On the other hand people must get rid of this visualization not to be hampered by it (jumping from English - or Finnish or what so ever - to Lojban already requires a certain amount of flexibility of mind). It will also be quite necessary to transform the plan into a Lojban plan to help the less experienced Lojbanists to handle the basic premises. I used the word 'transform' quite intentionally instead of the word 'translate' as I feel that a translation isn't sufficient, it is quite necessary to try to remove the 'alien' imagery. At another - simpler - level it is necessary to give the required lujvo and the ways of describing certain quite elementary things: distances, relationships, the way things hang together. It might be useful to have a kind of workshop (on the List) where the novice lojbo would be taught to navigate in this verbal VR (virtual reality). There might be teams of two or more people working on a person or even a table to get it just so.

(Nick: Because I have only vague suspicions about how this might work, I propose that we, as an example, navigate on [Lojban List] around, oh, the leftmost bench nearest the kitchen. I'm not being facetious; I want to see how one would go about this. The tables are made of old soft oak, on which many symbols and inscriptions have been carved.)

This kind of process might help people to find their own voice and to cultivate the innate creativity each one of us is sure to possess.

Nick: And with what you (Veijo) say about characterisation, too, the solution is a broad-brush sketch that allows us room to maneuver in; not too detailed, not too vague. Well, that can certainly be handled.

I think a Lojbanisation of the brush-stroke plan will not be limiting at all; people do really need that help in simply keeping a narrative going.

As the mass of writers becomes more familiar with Lojban, the Cafe will be sketched out in greater detail in the story, and more successfully, with the end result possibly quite distant from what we'd anticipated at the start. The more expert of us reinforce those less expert in the describing.

Lojbab: The plan is that there be 1 coffeehouse, and that the description be suitably refined in English. People will develop refined descriptions of 6 characters (or some other number if we abandon the 6 cultures idea - but I don't think you can have a 'cultureless person' and have the character detail that I think the others want in the shared characters), which will then be voted on, which means the characters must also be defined in English.

(Nick: I think it's perfectly possible, but then, I think we're also looking for different things in character definition. What maketh a Hindi speaking character? I know personally 3 native Hindi speakers Now what do I extract from them to create, say, la jbosanjiv., and what am I missing by virtue of the fact that I talk with these people in English, within an Anglo culture? If these characters aren't assimilated into some medium we're familiar with (regrettably or not, this'll have to be a more or less Anglo cultural medium - leave the "or less" part to us na'e glico) they'll be caricatures. And of course, as background, they don't have to be that detailed anyway.

If we're to avoid a palace coup, sure, keep them Hindi and Arabic in name; but don't expect the character description to be too adamant about their cultural identity. Exoticising these people is unsatisfactory. They will be somewhat assimilated, into be it merko or jbomerko. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Talking about the Arab's fiery temperament or the Russian's cool intellect as cultural traits would be.)

After we have the basic scenario settled, the material can be translated into Lojban, and people can set up teleconferences of whatever kind to help each other in writing, or whatever, but while the project is still in the formative stage, we must make provision for those who want to learn Lojban but haven't yet done so, and for those who do not have net access (which is 90% of the community).

Be that as it may, I recognize that most of the work will be done by people on net, and we should take advantage of the opportunity for rapid communication. But please be considerate of those who want to participate but cannot.

If people think they can develop interesting culture-free characters, I for one will await the first posted character description meeting the challenge.

(Nick: Cool. Veijo's navigation of virtual reality can be done once the description is in place, and the description should not be exhaustive.)

Veijo: I certainly understand those of us who were at the LogFest and now feel that the net-people are trying to take over the whole Project utilizing their technological 'supremacy'. On the other hand, we who are, due to external factors unsurmountable, unable to attend the LogFests and are limited to electronic contacts, which - though fast - cannot compete with face-to-face contacts and classes, feel left out of the initial phase of the Project.

Actually we were left a quite limited say in the formulation of the framework. The views I did present in my previous postings were ones I should have liked to present at the LogFest, I should have liked to have had my say at that time. Perhaps it would have made no difference in the outcome, but I should have felt differently. When I was writing the postings I recognized I was - at least to an extent - writing post facto. The writing was, however, necessary to find out just how much elbowroom I had. These postings (as quite many of my previous ones) must be taken with a pinch of salt. They are in a way a substitute for the process of thinking out loud in a class or a group working on a problem. The postings do contain errors and false starts which in a class would be corrected immediately. I am at least as much talking to myself as to others on the net - but the process only works if I do send the messages out.

I do hope that the people who feel left out of all the fun we on the net do have would try - once in a while - to imagine themselves sitting a couple of thousand kilometers from the nearest active fellow lojbo and having only the messages on the screen and the inevitable problems caused by widely differing time zones - it's like being a semi-cyborg.

I can imagine, on the other hand, the limitations of meeting others only, say, once a week and keeping all the ideas to yourself in the meantime and not hearing from the others or the goings-on (too few of us are still accustomed to writing real letters - and remembering the state of postal services to-day I guess it wouldn't much help). I can think of being without the List (shudder). Of course it is a slightly different matter for me here in the middle of a figurative nowhere. The blip of an arriving message envelope is also a symbol of the contact with you others.

Lojbab: In this case the people in question who are not on-net live 250 miles from here and have no contact with any Lojbanists except at LogFest, and when JL comes out. We may all be in the same country over here, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we are close to each other. On the other hand, I see your point of view too. Your ideas will be presented to them, and the decision process will just take a little longer. I just wanted people to try to think of ways to keep everyone working towards the same goals, when some people are stuck with paper mail rates. This is not intended to stifle the lively and entertaining debate that has occurred.

I don't think that the people off net are necessarily locked into the 6 cultures idea. But they did sound very committed to the idea of these common characters being defined is considerable detail, in English, before people started to write in Lojban. The desire for detail and for English, as well as the clear desire for people to go beyond philosophy and into specific detailed descriptions of people and the coffeehouse itself, is what I was trying to urge.

It was my idea, not theirs, that the best way to show Hindi culture is my having some Hindi-inspired Lojban stylistics, etc. I think the original people posing the idea were thinking more along the lines of having the chef of the day specialize in cooking foods of his/her native culture (for which we would need lots of lujvo and le'avla in order to have the foods recognizable, if then). Thus I thought that stylistics of Lojban would be a more creative way to go, people will recognize the exoticness of the non-standard forms, and maybe even learn a little linguistics about the differences in the languages based on the Lojban forms. But I do not see that we have to go too extreme to bona fide culture, especially if people don't think they can pull it off.

If people don't want to use the 6 culture labels, I suspect this will fly, but only if the characters are defined well enough that people writing feel they 'know' the characters either fully, or in terms of any cultural features/stereotypes/whatever that would be most noticed by your everyday lojbo wandering in for a cup of coffee.

I don't think that there is a 'splintering' between the non-netters and the netters. But my responsibility is to see that one doesn't come about. I fully feel Veijo's isolation in not being able to come to LogFest. But there are plenty of people in the U. S. who feel just as distant as you do, though they may be only 250 miles away instead of 8000.

Veijo: [On] the name of the Project: The Kalevala got to the name of the project more by way of accident than by volition. It is in a way quite fitting as the Kalevala (or the epic poems/songs on which it is based) was created by numerous anonymous people during several centuries. The '-la' at the end of the name corresponds roughly to the '-ia' of 'Lojbania'. Most of the action, however, takes place outside this land/domain of Kaleva which actually remains quite vague and so, in a way, the name tells nothing of the contents - it just kind of sets the reference point. So I think we might as well replace 'The Kalevala' with 'la jbotur.' (lojbo tutra = the domain of Lojban) and call the project 'The Jbotur Project' (le la jbotur. fitpla) or something like that (for the time being). Here I am thinking of tutra in quite a figurative sense, more as a mental territory/domain/sphere of influence than as a geographical territory. I also thought of various other possibilities but none were as concise or descriptive.

Again a couple of figurative names:

la *jbolaz. ( < lojbo lanzu) = the people tied together by Lojban

la jbonat. ( < lojbo natmi) = the people with a Lojbanic cultural background

I can't tell why I prefer 'jbo' to 'loj' in this context. Perhaps it gives the lujvo a certain distance from concreteness. Lojban is something quite concrete and 'la lojnat.' would feel too near to 'Lojbanic nation'. Theoretically, of course, there is no difference and the two are interchangeable. I'll leave it to others to decide whether these particular forms are preferable and whether these names are worth adoption to name the abstract entities in our writings. I think we have/will have the entities.

[Lojbab: "*jbolaz" is an invalid name, because it contains a syllable starting with "la". However, it is permissible, and perhaps even more Lojbanic, to leave the name as a brivla "la jbolanzu". brivla, of course, do not have the "la" restriction. Perhaps we should save name morphology for words Lojbanized from other languages.
Another alternative that works is to use a different rafsi condensation that avoids the problem. In this case "la loblaz." is legal because the "b" before the "la" prevents a morphology problem. This is a solution here, but won't always be possible, so I favor the selbri approach in general.
Since there has been no agreement among the participants as to the name of the cafe, in editing this issue I have left all names, including this invalid one, as stated by the authors. Ideas for names are welcome from all of the community.

C. The Cafe *Jbolaz Newsletter proposal

Nick: Every two months, an electronic and snailmail [i.e regular postal mail] set of Cafe descriptions gets mailed out - this is necessary to allow the off-net participants to keep up to date. For net participants, a month after posting their cafe article on the net, they must submit a revision incorporating all comments made. For those off net, the newsletter editor forwards all comments (net and snail), allowing the contributor to post a revision, say, four months later. The newsletter is all-Lojban, and people (preferably on the net, and preferably grammar-competent) can take turns editing it. The newsletter is cafe only, other literature being forwarded as usual for JL consideration. Cafe articles need not be tales at all - any piece to do with the cafe (like Veijo's navigation or my Fraktur rant) is legit, as is any genre. If we all approve on this, the newsletter can be announced in JL. Some central on-net personage should be nominal editor (forwarding mail to the editor de jour who must commit him/herself to passing all articles through the current parser, and glossing lujvo as appropriate.)

Lojbab: I see no problem with such a newsletter, but feel that it is appropriate after the getting started period of the first two issues of JL, which will serve to give more people a chance to decide to participate who are in the snailmail set.

After the next two issues of JL, I suspect that there will be enough people motivated by the project and skilled enough at Lojban, that there will be more than just Nick and Veijo trying to write stuff that is appropriate, including some people not on net. When the non-netters feel comfortable in participating, then I personally will have no qualms in letting the project go where it will, including letting whatever leaders have emerged at that point assume both control and responsibility. I would hope of course that LLG would be offered first publication rights on the results, as well as to get as much archival data as possible on this, the first organized-and-skilled creative writing effort in what is obviously about to become a living language.

Veijo: The original plan called for stories told at the Cafe. We have already had differences of opinion concerning background details. Now Nick is proposing that we widen the scope to include also other kinds of related literary works. (My srinuntroci or navigations as Nick calls them are just kind of etudes, not meant to be the stories, though widening the scope will make them eligible for publication.) In principle I am for this change of policy as it makes it possible also for the less advanced lojbo to participate in the creative process. It is much less demanding to produce a snapshot of a few lines than to produce something like Nick's Fraktur rant. We could have many more people contributing if this were an acceptable option. I think the non-netters would profit most from this change as longer stories do need more rounds of feedback from others.

The question of the editorship and of a possible editorial board must be solved. Although technical reasons seem to indicate an on-net board, other possibilities must also be considered. The board might also be something quite informal. In practice we would have a wide open peer review system where in principle all the lojbo on the net would be doing the reviewing. For the netters this works fine but I think Nick's proposal concerning the non-netters would require some fine-tuning.

This issue must be handled with the greatest sensitivity.

The division of work between the board and the Lojban Central must be agreed on. There are technical questions like handling of the snailmail if the editors are mainly outside the USA (most of the non-netters are in the USA) and converting source text to text files suitable for e-mail.

Last but not least are the financial questions. I think the ideal would be if we could find independent ways of funding the newsletter and the related editorial mail so that we don't strain the limited resources of the Central. We need some estimate of the volume of the mail and the circulation of the newsletter. This concerns mainly the section of the community which doesn't have net access. An option might be to circulate the newsletter as an appendix to JL.

Nick: In creating a virtual world such as this, we must be afforded full freedom in our ways of exploring it, and full scope for Lojbanists of all interests and capabilities to work with it. Extended narrative is one alternative; others would not only be a relief from what could get a bit stodgy in Lojban, but would also help explore Lojban's capacities more. A catechism or an Encyclopedia reference (I know I've got Joyce's Ulysses in mind here, but bear with me) are just as valid modes of expression, and just as helpful to the language. A fixed kind of narrative is unduly constrictive, and can discourage many would-be participants. In fact, I'd be discouraged from producing a straightforward narrative.

Plus, I think the opportunity of using this as a springboard for some satire of the Lojban movement is too good to pass up :)

Certainly the editorship need not be formal. Let me attempt to refine my proposal: the editor du jour is entrusted with the typographic preparation of the journal, the style preferred in his/her number (namely, subjective minor issues of expression - lujvo phrasing, optional punctuation and spelling, minor grammatical errors - can be left to them). They also do the chasing up of correspondence and editing of discussions eventuating from articles published in their issue, adjusting the work accordingly and resubmitting it on the expiry date to the current editor for publication. What I'm saying is that a given ed du jour is responsible for all articles first published by him. For example: suppose I, Mark, and Colin are eds du jour, and, oh, Nancy Lebovitz (say) submits an article that gets corrected and published during my editorship. I then, and not Mark, follow up any subsequent discussion and correspondence about Nancy's article, I make the suitable adjustments, and hand the finished result, and only the more interesting highlights of the discussion, to Colin (say) for republication. I suppose that means that my norms, rather than Colin's, go for the republished article; but at least work gets shared out that way.

The reviewing of text is of course carried out by all subscribers to the newsletter, on net or off. But one person has to tie all the threads together at the end, and take responsibility for touching up the text in accordance with the criticisms made; let that person be the first publication's ed du jour.

The editor in chief takes care of the editorial; his/her address appears in the newsletter as the address to which all correspondence is directed; has a certain amount of veto as to article content (checking for consistency and so forth), vetts the newsletter just before publication, and reports to the wider community through JL as needed.

I see no reason why stories should not be mailed for submission and entered into text files directly by the editor in chief, who is after all just one address (if this is a forbidding responsibility for an ed in chief, um, I dunno, get the ed a scanner :) Of course, all these proposals are for when the project is off on its own two feet and running. For now, if I understand Lojbab's mail correctly, Lojban Central will still mediate.

The LLG can have all the archival stuff it wants (and with editorship a net activity, there'll be plenty of it). I'm not sure about publication rights though. I envisage a periodical publication, rather than a book-form corpus, that certainly is distributed by the LLG, and sold at a profit to the LLG, but which is produced by a decentralised body, which is not necessarily equivalent to the LLG.

I suppose Lojbab's approach [on finances] will do. I dearly want a periodical publication out of this, not just a corpus of text to be dumped in Fairfax for people to order; but it is fair that the periodical be available by LLG's preorder (and if you preorder enough, by subscription). We'll ask for expressions of interest in the next JL. As for editorial mail... depending on volume, the eds as a committee may have to start pooling resources. Certainly we should use the net to make sure stuff gets snailmailed in the same quarter of the globe, at least; that'll be a big help. One article per newsletter in JL, but I'd like the newsletter to eventually have some editorial independence (once again, that would be excellent PR).

[As to who should be editor, it] basically boils down to who feels like being ed du jour (and handling a lot of grammar and correspondence), and who feels like ed in chief (who will have little grammar, but lots of correspondence, supervision, and consistency checking)? I still nominate Veijo for ed in chief; I'll go ed du jour, and we should have 3 to 5 such eds that we can divide work between; they need to have demonstrated Lojban competence, and that already narrows down the candidates to less than twenty.

Lojbab (originally private to Veijo): I haven't said so, and have been biting my tongue while all the discussion is going on. It sounds like the Lojban "creative writing" movement is about to take off on its own, and be more than mildly independent of "Lojban Central" with its own editor (perhaps you) and publication not much under my control. I think this is good because it shows the language can and will become free of me and of even the concept of a centralized "Central". This also allows me to show that my attitude is entirely opposite from JCB, who when faced with anything like this immediately becomes extremely possessive and controlling. I will not display such an attitude, at all costs; our legitimacy as an organization and a project independent of JCB depends on it.

Still I have some misgivings, in that, honestly, most of the net postings, even in the final draft forms, have tended to be significantly flawed in lots of minor details of the language. The netters catch most things, but not everything, as in the example of your *tosmabru error in your first attempt. Nick is the most voluminous writer we have, and in many ways the best in that he has demonstrated a command of many idiosyncrasies of the language, but I have found that, even after he posts his 3rd or 4th revision he still has multitudinous little errors - things like failing to check the rafsi in a lujvo, errors of place structure, etc. He even has a copy of the parser, but he has told me that he merely checks to make sure that the text parses, and doesn't always check to make sure that it is parsing the way he intends it to be read. Thus, for example, you will find dozens of minor changes between his final posted version of Aesop, and the version I finally printed in JL. (And unfortunately Nick didn't agree with all my changes, but there wasn't time for him to respond before publication.)

Perhaps you can see what my misgiving is, then. Will the proposed new publication have an editor who can and will check the language usage as thoroughly as it needs to be checked? How much authority will the editor have to correct and change misusages without getting author approval. (Nick may have accepted my changes because I am 'of Central' whereas he might be less tolerant of others changing his stuff. But too much editorial/authorial dillying over individual pieces of work will lead to an editor who has to spend an excessive amount of time in correspondence over a relatively small amount of final text. The text being generated in the community now already exceeds what Cowan and I can read and perform such editorial checking on.

And of course if the editor spends too much time editing, he/- she gets to spend little time writing his own stuff (a problem I personally have experienced). Thus, while Nick compliments you by asking you to be editor because you have a natural Lojbanic style, if you actually serve as editor, the community will be deprived of your developing and improving (rapidly) exemplification of such a good Lojban style.

I don't know what the solution is. I want this type of movement to get started, and I want it to succeed. But I worry that it is premature, in that no one, including myself, has the Lojban skill to be an editor of Lojban text, as such an editor needs to be given the present skill level among others in the community. Yet, how will such an editor develop, if no one takes the first step and tries.

Your ideas on this convoluted problem are of interest to me. Please keep this between us for now, since, as I said, I don't want my doubts to stifle debate or the formation of a movement; I write to you, because I sense in your writings and activities of the last month or two that my comments are not going to discourage you. But others have proven very sensitive to this whole silly concept of a "Central" (which concept I wish had never evolved - I don't want to be a figure of authority).

Veijo: Well, I think a 'Central' can have a quite legitimate role - even in the long run. In Finland we have something called 'the language office' which cannot enforce anything but follows the debates about the current usage, comments on it every now and then and is there to answer questions about the correct usage. Given the nature of Lojban I think we'll need a kind of clearing house for changes of grammar, place structures etc. to avoid anarchy before the language has stabilized. Also, I feel that a seal of approval on changes will help to avoid some of the endless and probably fruitless debates raging among the Esperantists. With people like you at the Institute I have no fear of an overtly stifling influence.

I do not see the journal as something completely independent. It will, of course, have an independent editorial policy. It will, however, be a purely literary journal not containing any theoretical material - at least not in English, perhaps in the long run we'll have Lojban articles about stylistics, reviews etc. I think JL will remain the proper publishing channel for the linguistic questions arising on the basis of the submitted stories.

Well, I think we'll never catch all the errors but probably we'll be better off than most natural language journals. I'm modifying the editor program I'm using presently (the one with hypertext capability) to do certain things. At the moment it has vocabulary and rafsi look-up capability (if only I'd remember to use them always) and I intend to add lujvo checking next.

Cf. Nick's posting: The main idea was that the workload would be divided between the ed in chief and the ed du jour. The ed in chief would write the editorial, define the profile of the journal and accept the stories for publication. The ed du jour would do the dirty work of preparing the stories for publication with all the associated fuss. Each issue might have a different ed du jour - the qualified people taking turns - so nobody would be prevented from writing etc. for a prolonged period of time.

It is normal practice in journals that the ed in chief decides what gets published. If an author doesn't want to change his/her text to the extent that it'll pass the editorial board, the text doesn't get published. On the other hand the journal cannot publish something against the authors will. I think the journal ought to have a 'charter' defining the aims, the editorial policy and the editorial procedures. All the reviewing would be public so we'd have less fear of unfair treatment.

Editing detracts from writing detracts from theoretical work detracts from studying detracts from ..., the never ending chain of choices. On the other hand, being forced to read what others have written and to really think about it will give you a better perspective on what you yourself are writing. None of us has a literary Lojbanic background and to find the language and refine our own writing we must try to explore as much of the text being written as possible. Nick's proposal would help a lot.

Being set up as an example may be quite counterproductive. If you, every time you sit down to write, feel that you must be able to create something exemplary, it will - sooner or later - extinguish your creativity. You must be able to allow yourself the luxury of also producing mediocre or even poor text in order to be relaxed enough to produce something worth your while.

At the moment the journal can only succeed as a collective effort, along the lines Nick has pointed out. I think his plan might work - with a few finishing touches. And I think we need the journal to give the community a further reason d'etre as there are very few people who'll remain content to study a language which isn't actually used as a language. The main purpose of the journal would be to encourage people to write in Lojban, to start with simple things (I have even thought that good one-liners might be worth publishing) and gradually to proceed to more demanding forms of expression. After 5, maybe 10 years we might have another journal with more ambitious goals - if the language really takes off - but now we'd be content just to have a journal - 'la jbotur po'u le jbocfi karni pe lei ckafybarja lisri' or what ever it would be called.

The way I see it, we aren't in any particular hurry. First we must present the idea in JL and poll the opinions of the community. If the response is positive, the real work would start, say, in January and we ought to have the material for the first issue prepared by the end of March. I think we'll have enough material by then and ample time for the editing (at the present rate we'll have lots of material even before the end of the year). Preparing this first issue will give us enough experience to define the schedule for the later issues realistically.

[Veijo's times in this paragraph were undoubtedly predicated on the assumption that JL would be on schedule, which it has not been, and that the volume of text that was written in August would continue at that rate, which it also has not.]

Lojbab: I agree that having to be exemplary stifle creativity and productivity. Why do you think I don't wish my job on anyone else? It is a real bear being thought of as the ultimate authority, and having little errors from years ago held up as sanctified rulings. That is why I find "Central" a distressing concept, since 'Central' like the Pope, is never wrong and must always be right. And I am not infallible. First among equals is fine, and indeed you-all who are most active on Lojban List tend to think of me this way. But the masses that are not as active consider me much more of an Authority.

Veijo: I know and I certainly do not envy your position. (It's funny, I was actually considering the phrase 'primus inter pares' in some context in my previous letter but then decided to avoid it as it is sometimes also used to mean 'first among "equals"'.) Many - if not most - people have a need for an authority and this ought to be taken into account. I think we'll have to consider the role and nature of the 'Central' in the future. The way I see it now, we should have a group of experienced Lojbanists (6-12), geographically dispersed, in contact with each other outside the Lojban list. This group would, among other duties, work like the 'language office'. I mentioned giving out statements either as individuals or as a collective. These statements would contain a standard attachment declaring that the statement a) is based on the current parser and/or word list and as such is "objective" or b) is a considered opinion of so and so and as such doesn't constitute an absolute ruling/truth but a recommendation. The main idea is that there would a body to which you could address your questions and have reasonable expectations of getting a correct or at least thoroughly considered answer. Of course you can ask questions on the net but then you may get a multitude of answers from which you must choose or get a single answer from somebody who just thinks he knows - the question and the answer having passed unnoticed by those who would be better qualified to answer - or even no answer at all. But how to avoid the halo of Authority, that is the question.

Lojbab: Which leads me to mention the thing I was talking to Nick about [see below for this text]. One problem I've never seen a solution for is how to communicate with those just short of trying to use the language. You have noticed how little Sylvia and Dave post, and there are several others that could probably post good stuff too, but they:
a) don't try because the debates that ensue are intimidating;
b) don't try because they see this enormous volume of debate on each discussion, and put all their effort into trying to understand it, not always with useful effect.

I think that the tons of stuff on the coffee house has probably intimidated some people from speaking up, simply because the leadership is going at it so fast and furious.

And while I am happy to see yours and Nick's attempts at supporting text in Lojban, they 1) set a standard few feel that they can match, so they don't try and 2) because they are in Lojban, people have to spend the time needed to read and understand (if possible) what has been written to make sure that what they write is consistent with what has gone before. The latter is the reason that I was urging people to keep to English for the most part during the project formation phase. Nick did give an English translation, though colloquial. You didn't, at least that I noticed. The newcomer right now probably hasn't got a clue what is going on, and what if anything has been determined/decided about the project, and what details if any have been added since the initial posting. The latter is why Karen wanted people to write rather lengthy English supporting text - so that people know about what they are writing before they start, and get to save their creativity for the stories.

Veijo: Perhaps I ought to post an explanation of what I'm trying to accomplish with my little stories. There is a qualitative difference between my two little etudes and Nick's rant. Nick's story needs the translation as it adds details to the original English description, my two published stories, on the other hand, actually add nothing to it, so it isn't so essential to understand them.

What I'd like to show to just the people who'd like to post something but feel they aren't advanced enough, is that it is possible to take a small detail (the smell of coffee, an inscribed letteral) and develop a few bridi concerning it. The story may be quite banal, the main thing is to write something in Lojban - preferably without an original in any natural language. My Lojban isn't so advanced that I could take an extended passage from the English description and transcribe it into real Lojban.

This is why I wasn't so concerned about invention - it's no good if I invent a clever story or a detailed description but lack the means of expressing it in Lojban. First I must develop a familiarity with the language - writing little banal first-grader stories if need be. The way I work maybe the reason for the hint of lojbo style in the stories. It's like putting together a puzzle or playing a game of Go. I pick a key piece - an observative, a selbri, a sumti, an attitudinal or maybe a complete bridi from Nick's rant - put it on the board and start attaching other pieces around it. The story/paragraph is like an extended bridi with places to fill - only the places aren't predefined but change all the time I'm developing the story. So it isn't a linear process where I'd have an idea and just started from the beginning - I can't sustain that yet. This way I can add just the kind of pieces I can manage - or change my mind halfway through if the going gets too rough.

We are still waiting reactions to the views I presented concerning the handling of the subject, we have this new idea of starting a newsletter and the related ideas concerning the subject material and, of course, the additions to the English supporting text by Nick and some other people. The adoption of the supporting text will be a problem. It seems to me we are going to need an editor just to select and unify the accumulating material. Some of Nick's material is fine as a literary work but hardly stuff to encourage an apprentice to base a story upon. You know my views and misgivings about this approach and there is no need to reiterate, I guess. I know my limits and I have found a way to cope - at least at this stage.

The 'etudes' I'm writing now do not - or not exactly - fit within the original framework and perhaps it was an error to post them without comments to that effect though at the time I was writing the first one I felt it was better to avoid comments which might be misinterpreted by the non-netters as we still don't have their reactions to the views I had presented earlier.

For me these etudes are a way to learn, to study, and comparable to any other stuff people are posting. If we keep to the original plan they are my way of preparing for the project proper, if we, on the other hand, decide to start the newsletter and change the scope of the material the way I have outlined, they may be eligible for publication.

Lojbab (originally private to Nick): I suspect that you won't see any of the inactive people contributing to the coffeehouse for a while. That effort is doing stunningly well, and has taken on a life of its own independent of "Central" (thank God, since I abhor the concept of a Lojban 'Central' in the first place). But it is suffering from the same problem that has afflicted almost all previous discussions of Lojban text on net. Some few people, in this case apparently you, Veijo, Ivan, Mark, and Colin, are churning out so much text and commentary on text that the others with less time or less confidence cannot be other-than lurkers, because they cannot read what has been written as fast as new stuff is produced. I doubt that you will see much from Sylvia, and you might even see less simply because everyone else is writing more. I printed out your latest 'rant', and we will be going over it in Tuesday-night group next Tuesday, but Veijo's much shorter text was all that we covered last Tuesday, so I suspect they may be working on your text for a few weeks. When we read Lojban texts here, every single word and every single rafsi is looked up, and thus even if you-and-others never made mistakes in these areas, this makes for very slow progress. (Nobody here has any confidence in our ability to read texts in Lojban as opposed to in literal English translation, which in my case I can do in my head. I have long gotten the impression that those of you who pour out commentary on each others texts at high volume and at rapid response rates are doing something quite different than we do when we read these texts, possibly something much better than what we do. Indeed, I find that while I can translate quickly in my head, even the smallest grammatical or rafsi error brings me to a complete halt because I have no error recovery capability - I have to stop and do a detailed word-for-word translation to try to figure out what the speaker was trying to say in English before I can hope to figure out what the Lojban 'should have been'.)

Not sure what the solution to all this is. It is great to see all of this on-line volume, and people seem to be signing up to start learning more actively in the last two weeks since this effort has come to life. But you need to know that those of lower confidence or skill are unlikely to contribute for a while, and I'm not sure I have any ideas how to remedy the situation.

Nick: I still don't know what we can do with beginners. I do note two things, however: there are beginners out there with enthusiasm, who don't blanche at the sight of Lojban sentences (Dryad, for example, saying "if I don't understand a sentence, I'll let you know); and I'd count Andrew Smith and Veijo Vilva amongst the beginners, the only difference being that they have applied themselves to the language. It takes little more than a month to turn from a lurker to a text-writer; barely three to become a Jimbob, given the right background. As for incentive, the Cafe is a great idea, allowing oodles of scope, and if it doesn't get people writing, nothing will.

Lojbab: With regard to the enthusiasm of beginners, I think that there are two or three kinds. Some are inspired by seeing the quantity of text, others are intimidated. I am opposed to the opening up of the coffee house project to 'anything goes', because the worst problem we have around here in getting people to write is that we basically here are not creative writers - we need to be given a subject to write about - an anchor to build a ship around. I can urge all that I want, but the more wide open the subject matter is, the more people here get writer's block because there are too many options and too little creativity - so they go back to translation. If indeed there has been such an opening up of the project, as I understand what you write, those who proposed it may take it back and make a smaller, more restricted sub-project that they are comfortable with, because otherwise they won't write anything. (You will recall from my original posting that Karen Stein, who really took charge here at LogFest on this thing was adamant about the need to fully define the coffeehouse setting and the common characters in English so that everyone understood the common ground before they started to write. She is a creative writer, but she said that she could not write the kind of stories she wants without having this firm structure to build off of - at least not if she wanted to end up with anything that would tie in to what anyone else decided to write. And the group-ness of the enterprise was clearly the thing that excited her about it.)

As for the 'who is writing' question - the people here are totally overwhelmed even by the two pieces of text that have been posted. People here feel the need to digest word-for-word everything that gets written before responding to it. Both Cowan and I, arguably among the most skilled in the language, especially technically, no longer even bother to try to read Lojban text that is posted. It takes too much work; we file it away under the 'someday ...' file, whereupon I eventually pull some of it out when I go to produce a JL issue; Cowan has never done so at all. I suspect that the rest of us here in DC are the same way. We can converse in the language comfortably (that is Nora, Sylvia and I), but we do so by not using lujvo unless the place structures and the rafsi-meanings are rather obvious from the context, because though I can make lujvo in my head, the others have to stop and look them up, which kills conversation. Thus your rather more literary style is an effort to read - we have to check everything thoroughly before we have any idea what you are saying. Since you and others who post to the net are predominantly writers rather than speakers of the language, this stylistic difference is rather difficult at the moment to overcome - you are used to taking the time to analyze stuff on-line that we cannot and do not do. By comparison, I suspect it will take us 2 weeks merely to go through your latest text and understand it as Lojban.

Part of the effect of our different styles of language use is that people who do all their work on-net are tolerant of different types of errors than us conversationalists. I find that your errors caused by not looking up rafsi and gismu bring me to a complete halt, because I cannot error-correct those type of errors quickly. Yet people seem to read and respond to your stuff with comments at a variety of levels quite quickly compared to what we manage here. They seem to concentrate on tanru and lujvo, and kind of absorb the grammar in passing having figured out the meaning by correlating the tanru into a gestalt meaning that dominates the sentence. Meanwhile, we get stuck on the missing "cu" that leads to total nonsense.

The point of this is that if Cowan and Lojbab can be intimidated out of trying to read your stuff, that should tell you something about what happens to David Young, with a gismu vocabulary of 100 after a long summer of LogFlash, and Guy Garnett, who is still stuck at around the 50 level, and has to look up virtually every gismu even after the whole summer of classes. People here, being grossly mono-lingual, get really stuck on lack of vocabulary. Until we get people up to a comfortable vocabulary level, no one will write anything, and people will tend to avoid even trying to read things.

But keep things going. It may not be what people had in mind, but things in Lojban are finally taking on a life of their own, which is the important thing.

Text and comments elucidating further description of Scenario #2

[Translations, where they exist, and commentaries on the language aspects of the Lojban writings will be found in the translations section. A computer-generated English gloss of Veijo's two writings will also be found there. No proper English translation exists for either Veijo's writings or Iain's second writing.]

Veijo's original text, mentioned several times above, was the first attempt to add to the initial description #2 provided as a starting point. Veijo's commentary above indicated that he feels that his text adds no new information to the coffee house description. On the other hand, his attempt to do a simple Lojban writing based on that description may provide some indication of how people will use the descriptions provided. Furthermore, Nick and Iain's writings below reference back to things Veijo says in this piece.

le la vei,on ckafybarja srinuntroci xipa xici

ni'o sriku'a
.i ckafybarja
.i mi zvati le vorstu gi'e terpanci loi ckafi da.uicai
.i mi ca ze'upunai.oi sumne da
.i mi dzukla le jbustu gi'e ctacarna
.i rancindu jubme
.i seldandu lo vrici to'erninda'i noi mi na djuno zo'e ke'a
.i selzvati ji'ipano zutse remna
.i srotanxe loi ckafi lei mudri
.i vrici
.i mi visyfacki fi pa lo poi loi remna na zutlamji ke'a ku'o jubme goi ko'a
.i mi co'a zutlamji ko'a
.i ko'a lamji le nunjupca'u
.i le jukpa cu selviska gi'e jupfinti de.a'ucu'i
.i mi pensi.a'e loi selpinxe co
.i ckafypanci fi mi.ui
.i ckafypanci
.i .ui.o'u
.i sriku'a

Nick: Vilva arrives in the ckafyzda. Finally! It's such a good navigation too, I feel guilty for proceeding to propose some fleshing out of the scenery in English. And of course, the Lojbanisations of our English specs should not be translations, but transformations, as Veijo has rightly pointed out. Here goes [italicized text is from Description #2]:

As I walked under the crossed climbing axes, and into the coffeehouse, I felt I was in a place designed to give one the feeling of putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes.

Veijo speaks of ".ui.o'u"; that's the feeling I want in the cafe too. A boisterous place, sure, with lots of emphasis on the "ka vrici", but also a very "mela'ezo.i'u" place. The door is nothing too fancy; plain, wooden, touch heavy, not pretentious. The climbing axes certainly have been positioned informally (maybe even not perfectly symmetrically?)

The benches were made of old soft oak, in which many tales and symbols had been carved. On the bench I was seated was the inscription: "Members of the first sandpit expedition to find the first digger, or traces thereof - 198?" The table also bore other marks of former patrons who had drank their selections and transcribed their feelings with pitons.

What with the suggested rural setting and the benches, I'm put in mind of soft damp oak, and murky late afternoon light. I don't think the place need be spotlighted, in any case; the can't-look-outside windows will do. There's not just tales and symbols, of course; there's a lot of good old fashioned graffiti (no need to be too solemn about it.) The place is, I suggest, small and intimate, with the "vrici" paraphernalia on the walls haphazard and competing for space, rather than formally set out, museum style. No more than ten benches (reasonably sized, though).

The walls were littered with climbing apparel and debris in what might charitably have been termed a collage.

See? I visualised correctly :) And some of the parts of the collage are downright incongruous. I would not be surprised, for example, if a certain pea on a cushion lies in a corner, with some inscription to do with a Kunstkammer. Several postcards, too (I don't think this is being too explicitly outside-world-bound), from Cafe Cairo, The Loglan Sogrun, Burnley F.A...

There were the rusting remains of pitons and hooks abutting practically new lengths of the latest high test rope. Opposite the door from which I had entered was a ladder - a climbing ladder, of course. The ladder reached to the ceiling, and a solid-looking trap door that made me wonder of the unknown relics that lay beyond, and the stories they might hold.

The ladder stays, but it has nothing to do with "le lisri be le serti"; an imposing marble staircase would be a touch too imposing.

Underneath these visible artifacts were the dour reminders of the primary business of this establishment-coffee. There were full wooden bins of coffee from just about every place in the world, with or without caffeine. The cook was visible to all and in the process of developing the latest creation on the current menu, and not without some debate about the amount of spice the particular dish required.

The menu is on display just to the right of the partition behind which the cook is visible; handwritten, with the le'avla defined at the bottom of the list in the six source languages. The coffee bins are along the walls, I take it? (Beneath the artifacts.) The waiter does some serving, but for the most part sits with the customers and socialises. The cook has most of his/her arguments with the dishwasher, sometimes carrying the arguments outside the kitchen and asking for support in his debates amongst hapless customers, slapstick-style (hm, I'm going against the rotation thing - others may countersupport it); I don't know what a busboy is either; and the Manager (and the sixth man/woman out for the night) sit together and overlook the scene. I don't know if it's worthwhile giving the Manager his/her own table, and a small table rather than a bench at that; but I would like the Manager to be a bit more formal than the rest, a voice of authority amidst the chaos, and somewhat set apart - a big gun in a story, held in reserve.

This might be a biiiiit silly, but maybe a small bookcase of NL dictionaries and Lojban references on the side? And the cafe, I thiiiiink, should be a bit of a bastion of lojbanism, or at least lojbanism-aware - which would give us the opportunity of satirising traits of the current or future community in it. The visitors, of course, don't have to particularly like or think about Lojban - it's by no means an exclusive venue.

This happy riot provided the counterpoint to the hissing, and boiling of a near endless stream of coffee beans in response to the always cold, often frustrated, and very determined clientele. . .

Damn! I knew they were cold and damp! :)

OK. If you all don't blow up at this, we can go navigating some more...

Veijo, on the coffee bins, wrote: ".i patxu loi ckafi lei mudri"

Colin: Why "lei mudri"?
Veijo: I'd say they are wooden but can't be sure these days. (The coffee? :)

Colin: I don't get Veijo's answer to my question here, so probably he didn't understand my question. I was querying "lei" as opposed to "loi".

Veijo: I tried to use 'the mass described ...' instead 'the mass really is ...' to express concisely the idea that the bins looked like wood but might be something else on closer inspection.

Mark on 'ckafyzda': Veijo in [an early version of] his first text used: "ni'o zdani"

I might have thought "dinju" would be a better choice. "zdani" implies some sort of dwelling-place, and you're leading into this with these observatives as "A house. A coffee-house...", where habitation isn't implied. For that matter, is "ckafyzda" malglico? It expands to "ckafi zdani" = "coffee-ish nest/house/- bivouac/dwelling-place". Most coffeehouses aren't inhabited by anyone, they're solely places of business. "ckafyzarci" implies a more of a store where you buy coffee beans to me, so that's no better, and "ckafybriju" is right out. Aha! "ckafybarja"! That's really much better, I think. "barja" even has a place for what's served, which is filled, in the lujvo/tanru, by "ckafi" (though other things may be served as well). I think this is an important change to make, even if "ckafyzda" has acquired some sacredness. It's only a week or two old, and it's broken. Please let us switch to "ckafybarja".

Veijo replies: In this case I definitely wanted the connotation of dwelling or even home-coming. I was thinking along the lines of a cafe where people are not perhaps quite dwelling but spending a lot of time telling stories and having conversations. At least in some parts of Europe cafes (especially student cafes) and like are almost a second home to some people.

Also implied was a cultural dwelling place.

"ckafybarja" is better as a general lujvo (and corresponds to usage in some languages, e.g. Finnish before American English domination) but...

There is nothing sacred about "ckafyzda" but it may match the underlying ideas much better. If we are stacking the place with connotative paraphernalia we may as well tack on a few more connotations.

Mark responds: Sorry, I'm unconvinced. You say you're trying to get warm fuzzy feelings of homecoming by using "zdani", but "zdani" doesn't have that meaning either. The lair of a dragon is a "zdani". A beehive is a "zdani". "zdani" means "place of residence/habitation of....", not implying any hominess nor lack thereof. Even if the manager chances to live in the place, (and thus it may be proper to describe it as a "zdani" incidentally), what we are describing the place as is a tavern or bar or other sort of informal restaurant wherein coffee is served. That is, "le barja zo'e loi ckafi" -> "le ckafi barja" -> "le ckafy-barja". Now, the proprietor(s) of the place, perhaps, might try naming it "la ckafyzda" (note the article), as that would be a tolerable name for such a place, but as a description, it doesn't wash. I don't care how much time people spend there: call it what it is - "lo barja".

Connotations are fine in describing the place, in the objects you put in there, etc., but if you call something by what it isn't, people won't know what you're talking about. "ckafyzda" would imply maybe the home of a coffee grower (rotten lujvo for it, though), or a coffee-colored house (also not so great), or a place where coffee lives (decent lujvo) - yes, that's probably the most likely interpretation. Just as "remzda" is used to mean "house" (i.e. typical habitation of human beings - some cultural bias there, no?), "ckafyzda" seems to conjure up some kind of habitation for coffee (as if it were a living being). Maybe those big burlap sacks that coffee beans are kept in, or a cannister on your shelf. In either case, the word would be very poetic, but more for its implication that coffee "lives" anywhere than for connotations of hominess on "zdani".

Veijo to Colin about the coffee:

I'm not too keen a coffee drinker. The smell came in kind of naturally with the coffee bins and all, perhaps childhood memories of freshly ground coffee at my aunt's shop where I used to hang a lot. If the specs had called for a taverna I'd have thought of something else to fill the first 10 seconds. The sense of smell carries a lot of connotations and brings fore memories... The smell of pezyckafi is the first reminder telling you that you have come (back) to where you belong. You can't put your finger on it during the first few moments but it hits you, sometimes like a sledgehammer. The visual recognition comes later and the images of times long past.

Veijo to Mark about coffee and tea: Used to be a tea-drinker myself but Finland is one of heaviest coffee drinking countries in the world and getting a decent brew of tea turned out to be too much of an effort in the long run so I gave up around the age of 25 and started drinking coffee. I still enjoy properly brewed decent teas, though.

Now about "loi selpinxe ckafi". Does it bring to mind the beverage or the coffee beans/powder the beverage is made of? I had the beverage in mind and I want to have the gismu "ckafi" in a position where I can tack the attitudinal on it. Well, now I have it: "loi selpinxe co". What do you think? Better? Or was it you just couldn't imagine someone thinking more the beverage than the actual act of drinking? Many a time have I been sitting and enjoying the fragrant smell of tea, this being an essential part of the total enjoyment when the tea isn't just something nondescript. Same goes for coffee. There are brews and BREWS. And think of the Japanese tea ceremony, to take an extreme example. In the ceremony the act of drinking is really almost superfluous.

Nick was next to enter the coffee house [A free translation of Nick's text will be found on page 60]:

.i mi se lidne la vei,on. ba'acu'i lenu nerkla le la loblaz. kafybarja .i mi sutra joiku'i.o'a banli cadzu pa'o la'ele cravro noi tilju je jadycau .i lenu mi pu kargau le vorme cu mlirocnandu gi'e sacri'a lenu mi catke .i le te vorme cu se gusni lo lecydo'i[1] milxe gi'e se kufra cmalu .i panomei sa'enai.a'acu'i loi jubme .i mi zutse ne'a lo na'e se tsejbi jubme {poi diklo le kumfa kojna gi'e stula'i le vorme ku'o} gi'e catlu loi zvapre .iza'a la vei,on. zutse vi le ragve kojna gi'enaipe'i zvaju'o mi .i ra zanfri .i'e.o'enai loi panci be loi vi ckafi .i mi zmanei loi tcati gi'e.o'o.aucu'i denpa lenu lo djabe'ipre cu jundi mi .i milxe savru gi'e ruble nungei .iku'i mi cabdei me ®lu .i'inai li'u¯ vau.u'uru'ero'a .i lei bitmu cu se jadni loi carmi bo vrici joi na'e simlanxe be ja'i le tcaci .i le re cpare ka'amru poi simkruca se punji fi le cravro gapru na minrysarxe .u'iru'e .i na go'i fa loi drata ke bitmu se punji ne mu'u lo dembi poi vreta lo kicne ku'o jo'u lo slabu tcityta'o ne secu'u ®lu vi xagrai loi tauzba pe levi tcadu li'u¯ ge'ujo'u lo befydai noi te ciska zo sindereluud. .i mi ca jundi le jbusfe pe mi .i te ciska so'ida ne bau la lojban. e la bangrnesperanto .e le glibau .e.ueru'e le dotco .i le dotco cu se ciska ta'i la fraktur .i mi xebni la fraktur .i mi djica {lenu ciska fi le jbusfe fe ®lu mi la fraktur xebni mi'e kilrois. li'u¯ kei} gi'enai ca ponse lo ve ciska befi loi mudri .i mi ka'e lebna lo cpare ja bisli kilmru le zunle bitmu .i mi co'i morji le xajmi pe lei bisli kilmru jgari relcisyge'upre .iku'i lenu le xajmi cu jboselsku na se snada mi .isemu'ibo mi pensi sanga le se finti be la be'o pe me'e ®lu le la tom. gusta li'u¯ .i lenu go'i cu se dicra lenu lo djabe'ipre noi .uacu'i xindo cu klama mi gi'e cisma bacru ®lu cticpe ?ma doi lojbo ga'icu'i li'u¯ .i mi co'a se spaji catlu le be'ipre .i mi nelci le be'ipre .i mi mutce nelci co se trina le be'ipre ja'e lenu mi na spuda ri .iseki'ubo ri cmila joiku'i milxe bo se fanza bacru ®lu be'ebe'e xaupre zo'o ctidji ja pixydji ?ma li'u¯ .i mi spuda bacru ®lu

je'eki'e pendo .u'u si ba'edo'u.u'u .u'ise'i go'i lo tcati li'u¯ .i le be'ipre goi ko'a cu bacru ®lu go'i lo tcati pe le'a ?ma li'u¯ .i mi ®lu .aicu'i do ?ma stidi li'u¯ .i ko'a ®lu .e'a la kukytcat. noi vi purlamrai terve'u li'u¯ .i mi ®lu .i'e ko bevri le la kukytcat. tcati li'u¯ .i ko'a bacru ®lu baziba'o go'i .oinai li'u¯ gi'e cliva mu'i lenu bevri nagi'e tavla lo drata zutse .ipujecabo lu'i le jukpa kuce le patlu'i lu'u nevi le jupku'a cu cladu joi selzdi dabysnu .i le jukpa cu so'uroi batkla gi'e te jivrei le se casnu fo lei zvati .i.aucai mi na ve preti .i le barjyjatna noi dasni lo jikri'i taurgunma ca tavla la vei,on. .i mi xance rinsa la vei,on. i ko'a spuda rinsa gi'e nupre lenu bazi kansa mi kei mi .i loi cnino cu nerkla gi'e cladu rinsa loi no'e cnino noi na'oca'o te lisri .i mi na .ai cabdei ve lisri .i mi .e'icu'i cabdei xebni la fraktur.

  1. Lojbab: Nick kind of jumped the gun, using the rafsi "do'i" for the new gismu "donri" ("daytime") prior to either being announced publicly or appearing in any lists that people can look up.

Veijo followed up with a second text, in part reacting to Nick's effort. This may show the type of interaction between characters of different writers that may be possible, even if no one goes so far as to initiate a direct dialogue between the characters (a possibility that Nick comments on afterwards) [See page 58 for a computer generated gloss]:

le la vei,on ckafybarja srinuntroci xire xire
ni'o mi penzutse.o'u
.i to'erninda'i fa lemi jubme
.i ciska da le jbusfe .ije mi catlu da.a'u
.i lerfu la fraktur.ue
.i mi morji fi loi lerfu be la fraktur.
.i morji
.i mi puzuki zvati le ckule gi'e caca'a tcidu
.i mi tcidu le cfika be le ze bruna bei la Aleksis.kivis. 
   po'u le natmytercfi
.i le poi le drata be mi cu tcidu fi ke'a ku'o selpapri cu te prina loi lerfu be la antik.
.i lemi selpapri goi ko'a te prina loi lerfu be la fraktur.
.i lenu tcidu de pe ta'i la fraktur. kei pu nandu mi gi'e ca frili
.i mi djica lenu tcidu fi ko'a kei mu'i lenu lemi patfu 
   puzu prina loi lerfu loi ko'a papri
.i lemi patfu ze'u prina
.i lenu ri go'i kei nanca li vobi
.i kiku mi catlu le vi lerfu be la fraktur.
.i lerfu
.i bacru.ue zo coi
.i barjyjatna.a'a
.i la nitcion. co'ava se zvaju'o mi
.i ra xance rinsa mi .ije mi spuda rinsa
.i la nitcion. caca'a xebni la fraktur.

Nick comments: There's going to be a good tale, I think, in an old-timer at the cafe explaining how the devil the Fraktur got there in the first place...

I feel veeery hesitant in any interaction with the staff with their personas still not settled. If people don't like the Manager (and "jatna" does seem to be the only word we have for "boss" or "manager") being imperious, they'll be very unhappy if I portray him like that. So for now, let's not probe into the background characters too deeply.

The even greater danger is in sketching interactions with Real Life people. Veijo and I are about to start talking, and I'd like neither of us to make potentially annoying presumptions about the other's persona. So one should be wary in this kind of thing.

Iain then joined in with the following [a rough translation of the Lojban will be found on page 63]:

la jbolanzu kafybarja

®lu .ie.a'a .ie.o'onairu'e (cu'usa'a mi noi caki vilkla zo'a le vorme fi'o te mlixra le janco ku'o) sera'a ?ma pezyjicla li'u¯ .i mi vi le zdani pu zutse co cando .icabo mi terbei lo notci poi ve cusku le se du'u lu'o la vei,on. joi la nitcion. lu'u goi ko'a noi zvati le kafybarja po'u la *jbolaz. cu djica lenu penmi mi vi ra .i ®lu ?ma ?mo li'u¯ na se spuda .i ko'a jundi casnu la fraktur. .i mi zo'u la fraktur. no'e cinri .i mi co'a zutse ne'a lo jubme poi lamji le me ko'a ku'o gi'e denpa lenu se zvaju'o da no'u ga ko'a gi lo selfu noida'i bevri loi ckafi mi

ni'o lemi jubme cu xekri seja'e loni to'ercitno .i ra ve srakysku zo mi ce'o prami bu ce'o ®lu le cmacrnalgebra li'u¯ .i mi nelci le jubme .i mi de'a morji fi la vei,on. .e la nitcion. gi'e co'a pensi .i mi si'a se cinri so'a klesi be lo sinxa ciste ra'anai ledu'u vo'e ge'ikau te javni mu'u le sucta cmacrnalgebra gi mecritli mu'u loi rarna ja rutni bangu .i la'edi'u mukti lenu mi tadni la lojban. kei noi ki'u ke'a mi zvati la jbolanzu

no'i lo be'ipre cu klama co veirgau lemi selcpe po'u lo barda carmi bo ckafi gi'ebabo nalsirkla mo'ize'oku na'e mo'ifa'a le jupku'a .i .uaru'e simlu fa lenu ko'a ze'apu naje ca zvaju'o mi .i mi'a simxu rinsa .i la'aru'e mi bazi facki le krinu be lenu sutrygau

Nick: Very cool, Iain. I wonder why we got you to the *Jbolaz? Hmmm? :)

[Lojbab: With any luck, the rest of us will find out in JL18.]

[Next follows the first text of the type that was actually asked for - an English elaboration of setting and/or characters. Both David Bowen and Veijo Vilva, whose effort follows David's, have proposed characters for the cafe staff. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to comment on these, possibly suggesting changes or elaborations, or to propose your own - remember that we need a half dozen or so to staff the cafe.

We also need lots more detail on the layout of the cafe, what is located where, what is the size of the various rooms, whether the 'cooking-space' (as it was put in Veijo's first writing) is a separate room, etc.

All submissions (subject to space) received prior to 5 March (15 March if computer-readable - via email or MS-DOS diskette) will appear in JL18, after which will commence voting if we get too many or too-conflicting descriptions.]

David Bowen: The owner and manager [or perhaps just the owner or just the manager] of the Cafe Chalet is a man of mystery. It's easy enough to see him, either hiking among the hills surrounding the village or conversing with the customers as he makes his rounds. But any questions about his life before coming to the village are met with vague replies and a quick shift in the topic of conversation. There are stories that he used to be a climber himself. A climbing accident, so the story goes, which killed his lover while the two of them were attempting a major climb led to his retirement from the sport. It is said that much of the equipment which decorates the interior of the Chalet is his.

In appearance he's a big man, with light brown hair and green eyes. In summer his ruddy complexion turns to a golden tan and his hair lightens to the point where it almost matches his skin color. On the slopes, he is often seen in lederhosen and a green alpine hat. While in the Chalet, these are replaced by conservative gray or navy business suits. Only his bright paisley ties and an occasional brightly colored vest show hints of the boy hidden beneath the serious businessman.

Attempts to determine his background from his speech have been unsuccessful. Though his English shows most of the signs of British English, it shows no signs of any other European accent being mixed in. His German, French and Italian are equally indistinguishable from those spoken by native speakers and he has shown no problems conversing with visitors from other parts of Europe and Asia.

Veijo: This is a description of la xiron, the first co-worker at la jbolanzu - Cafe Jbolanzu. No one knew his real name and the name he had picked for himself after learning Lojban was a kind of pun - if you bothered to play games with names. I don't tell much about the other members of the personnel as I didn't know them so well and, besides, I want to leave the pleasure of describing them to the other patrons of the Cafe. There were quite a few of us literary types spending our evenings there so someone else ought recollect enough of that time to relate about it.

I do not yet know whether xiron will interest you enough to make him a permanent member of the staff. So I shall tell you mostly about the first impressions he made on people and add more details later on if required.

He arrived one dark, windy evening in November. No one noticed him at first. He was just a tall shadow at the doorway, standing there, quietly observing the room. He stood there for a while, motionless, as if half asleep.

There were groups of people sitting at the tables, drinking coffee, chatting with each other. Someone glimpsed at the door, started to turn away but changed his mind and took a closer look. Others noticed his curios gaze and also turned to look. A silence fell. A stranger wasn't too common those days. The man at the door seemed to wake up. He took off his hat, wiped his forehead with a sleeve and started towards the nearest unoccupied table with a heavy step. He hesitated for a moment before sitting down, glanced apprehensively around and threw down the rucksack from his shoulder. His hand was gently stroking the wood of the table and he had again a far-away look on his face. A murmur of voices began to fill the air as people lost their initial interest in the newcomer. Only the most curious ones were stealing glimpses at him every now and then. There was nothing special about the stranger except perhaps his quietness. He seemed to be content just to sit there and observe the other patrons. He was a dark, slim man of indeterminate age and origin, face expressionless but not inscrutable in an oriental way. He had obviously come afoot as his boots were covered with dust but somehow he didn't seem to be an outdoor type. Veins were visible on the backs of his hands but the hands were soft, apparently not used to manual work.

The owner of the Cafe was busy in the kitchen and hadn't noticed the arrival of the stranger. He himself had drifted quite recently into the village and hadn't yet succeeded in hiring anyone to help at the Cafe so he had to serve at the tables in addition to cooking. Presently he lifted the frying pan to the edge of the stove, wiped his hands and started his round among the patrons.

He noticed the stranger almost immediately. The stranger was looking straight at him but gave no sign at all of noticing him. There was no rudeness in the stranger's gaze when he at last noticed the approaching Cafe owner, just quiet waiting, no smile, no irritation. The Cafe owner felt a slight discomfort which reminded him of the times he had had to address the head master at school. Had someone asked he would have been unable to tell what exactly was the reason for this uneasiness.

The stranger was looking at the approaching man. Japanese? No, more likely Chinese. What was he doing in these parts? Well, none of his business. He had been listening to the sound of the locals talking. There was a curious note in their speech and he had been unable to recognize the few words he was able to discern. He just hoped the Chinaman would be able to communicate in some language he knew.

"Good evening, sir. Welcome to Cafe Jbolanzu. Quite chilly outside, isn't it? Would you like to have something hot to drink? Coffee or tea perhaps?"

Something in the appearance of the stranger made the owner choose English instead of Lojban to address him. A slight change in the attitude of the stranger's shoulders seemed to indicate relief. The Chinaman felt easier.

There was an almost imperceptible delay before the man answered. He wasn't actually surprised, it just always took him moment to switch into English. Now he knew he'd be able to cope.

"Oh, yes. Good evening. Yes, it is. Could you bring me some tea, please. Have you got any green teas? Gunpowder? I'd really appreciate that. A whole pot of it."

There was no smile on his face even when he was speaking, just a relaxed softness. He was at peace with himself and had obviously no need to affect others one way or another. The Cafe owner felt strangely at home with the man.

"Well, I think I have got some tucked away somewhere. Isn't much demand for it, you know. Will take a while. Thank you, sir."

The Chinaman left with a slight bow. The man sat waiting, still stroking the table every once in a while, regarding the others absentmindedly. The din of the conversations grew louder and his thoughts wandered.

There had been a time when he had preferred quieter places, much quieter. He remembered a particular one in some provincial capital in the East. It was a large tea-house with tables for more than a hundred people. He had spent many an evening sitting there alone at his table sipping his tea and thinking. There were two other regular customers, the three of them coming there for a year or so a few times a week. Each had his own corner, they never spoke to each other during all the time he frequented the place. The Japanese waitresses sometimes told the latest news of Sensei-san, Teacher, as they called one of the patrons. It was really very discreet, no gossiping at all, they'd say: "Sensei-san is tired today. He's had a rough day." or something like that. And he'd sit there sipping his Japanese tea, eating perhaps a cupful of rice with a slice of cucumber dipped in soy sauce and looking at Sensei-san correcting exam papers. It was a quiet time in his life. Later came more turbulent times but they too had passed into semi-oblivion. He'd been wandering around for years now, observing people, almost always an outsider.

There was a sluggish discussion going on at many tables. Quite many people were just listening to the others and most of the speakers didn't seem to be very fluent. It was as if they had just recently learned the language. A few were narrating a longer story but they were quite often interrupted by one or another of the listeners who seemed to be asking something but curiously there was no change in their intonation. The stranger was perplexed. Where had he stumbled?

The Chinaman returned with a large teapot and a Chinese rice cup. He put the cup in front of the stranger, poured some olive green tea into it and set the pot on the table.

"Here you are, sir. Anything else, sir?"

The man raised the cup to his lips, took a sip and sighed. He then lowered the cup and looked up to the waiting Cafe owner.

"Excellent. Thank you. Maybe in a moment. Tell me, I've been wondering, what is the language these people are talking in? Who are they really?"

The Chinaman paused for a moment before answering. He wasn't quite sure what to tell the stranger. He himself was just beginning to grasp the language spoken here and had to formulate his answer most carefully.

"Well, sir, the language is called Lojban but I guess the name tells you nothing. I myself knew quite many languages before coming here but I'd never heard about it. It is a constructed language not related to any natural language - living or dead. Hard to explain in a few words if you aren't a linguist. These people are practitioners and students of Lojban who gather here to tell stories or just to chat with each other. As a matter of fact, the name of this Cafe is 'la jbolanzu' which means something like 'The Clan of Lojban'. It seemed to be a fitting name as most of my patrons are Lojbanists."

Lojban. The stranger looked around. Not an ethnic language - that explained many things which had been bothering him already before he had reached the Cafe. Lojban. The name brought no recollections what so ever into his mind even though he had been studying linguistics sometime in the remote past. Languages had always interested him and he knew a few words of quite many languages. Some of the languages he had learned while wandering from place to place in search of - well, he really didn't know what. Some he had studied at various schools and colleges during the more quiet epochs of his life.

"I see. Thanks."

He had done many things and studied many subjects during the years since leaving home - some things out of necessity, some out of curiosity. Here was something new. He hesitated. He had intended to continue across the mountains in the morning. He wasn't exactly going anywhere but there were some old cities in the Plains and he had thought he'd spend a few days just enjoying the atmosphere there. It was a long time since he had sat in a Bierstube drinking a proper black draught beer, sweet with the taste of caramel malt. But now he had bumped into something unexpected.

The Chinaman was leaving. Someone had beckoned him to a table across the room. The stranger nodded just slightly.

He was eyeing the other customers with a renewed interest. He raised the cup and smelled the fragrance of the tea while pondering the situation. He'd have to find some employment if he was to stay for more than a few days. Perhaps the Chinaman could help? He was prepared to do almost anything within his capacity for board and lodgings and a reasonable amount of free time. He'd stay till he felt it was again time to go.

The Chinaman had apparently gone to the kitchen which wasn't visible to where the stranger was sitting. The questions would have to wait. An elderly man at a nearby table stood up and approached him...

A year had gone by. He called himself xiron now. There was no specific reason for the name - he had just made it up one night in early June when he was trying to memorize a batch of rafsi. Though names had no inherent meaning you could always play with them, divide them in different ways - even ungrammatically. xi-ro-n, xi-ron, xir-on. The last variant had a Japanese rafsi meaning 'sound' at the end. He would play the games mainly in his thoughts as he wasn't exactly of the playful type. He would rarely venture to play with others and few would have considered him a member of the species Homo ludens, playing man.

He had made few friends during his year at the Cafe and no real enemies though there were people who didn't like him very much. Newcomers often at first thought he was unfriendly as he didn't smile when he greeted them and later on many felt the same uneasiness the Chinaman had felt a year ago. Perhaps it was the initial impression of self-as-suredness and reservedness which only gradually was replaced by a more realistic, more mixed one.

Xiron was mostly very quiet and even later on in the evenings when the staff was mixing with the customers he'd just sit there and listen to others talking, rarely expressing himself. When he did there was a certain finality in what he said. He might err but mostly his facts and opinions had a ring of truth about them which made it hard for the others to disagree. Sometimes he got on his hobbyhorse and then there was no keeping him. Luckily the occasions were quite rare.

He seemed to know very much or at least of very many different subjects though if you poked deeper you might find that sometimes he knew just a handful of key facts, nothing more profound. He didn't often volunteer the information. It was almost as if he had considered many things not worth mentioning without a specific reason. Just knowing wasn't enough.

The Chinaman now liked him. Many times they had sat late at night quietly sipping tea, not talking much, each deep in reverie. Both had seen a lot of world and contemplated many things with a certain polite amusement. Not many words were needed to convey ideas and somehow Lojban suited their purposes extremely well.

Following are 2 Lojban pieces, the first two 'stories' told in the cafe. A translation of Mark's story will be found in the translation section (pg. 63). Iain's story has not been translated, though there are some comments in the translation section.


ni'oni'o vanci .icabo nalcladu ne'i le ckafybarja .i le bi'u[1] remna cu klama mo'ine'i ra .i ko'a goi ra zutse ne'a lo jubme .i ko'a cpedu loi tcati le kafybarja se jibri .i ba so'o mentu ko'a se dunda loi tcati gi'e co'aru'inai pinxe ri

ni'o ko'a ca lenu ko'a pinxe loi tcati po ko'a cu zgana lenu le bi'u nanmu cu se dunda lei ckafi poi ra pu cpedu ke'a .ije le nanmu goi ko'e cu pencu le kabri poi se nenri lei ckafi ku'o le degji gi'enai pinxe lei ckafi .ije mu'i zo'epela'edi'u ko'e cusku ®lu .o'onai ju'ido'u ko lebna lei vi ckafi gi'ebabo bevri fi mi fe lei je'a glare ku'i ckafi li'u¯ le bevri be lei ckafi be'o goi ko'i
.i ko'i cusku ®lu .u'u .ie ga'inai li'u¯ gi'ebabo lebna le kabri
.i ko'i krefu klama gi'e bevri lei ckafi vau ba so'o mentu .i ko'e krefu pencu le kabri .i ko'e cusku ®lu .i'esai ba'e ti ku'i cu je'a glare ckafi li'u¯ .i ko'e gleki pinxe lei ckafi po ko'e

no'i ko'a zgana la'eso'odi'u .i ba so'o mentu ko'a tavla le bi'unai selpinxe bevri goi ko'i .i ko'a cusku ®lu .ia do pu bevri lei naldrata ckafi ta vau ?xu li'u¯
.i ko'i cusku ®lu go'i .o'unairo'a .u'uro'a li'u¯
.i ko'a cusku ®lu ko .i'i na jikca dunku .i mi puzuze'u se jibri loinu bevri loi selpinxe vi lo gusta .iseki'ubo mi djuno tu'a le do se zukte .i da poi prenu cu genai pinxe lei ckafi gi pencu le kabri gi'e na'e djica tu'a lei ckafi ki'u lo za'i na'e pe'ise'inai glare .ije semu'i loinu da minde mi lenu basti lei ckafi loi glare ckafi kei kei mi lebna lei ckafi gi'e na'o denpa fu'i so'e mentu tezu'e lenu tu'a lei ckafi cu glaryri'a le kabri kei fo lenu krefu dunda lei naldrata ckafi .i za'a do panra zukte .i la'ede'u ve ctuca fu tu'a le slabu lisri be le bebna seljibri ka'u li'u¯
.i ko'i cusku ®lu le lisri ki'a li'u¯
.i ko'a cusku ®lu .ue do punai ?xu ve lisri fu ri li'u¯
.i ®lu noroi ve lisri li'u¯
.i ®lu .ai mi te lisri .i tu'e ka'u da'i puzuki da te bende le re seljibri .i fo'a goi le te bende ca le fanmo be le jeftu cu pleji le se jerna le re seljibri no'u lu'i le prije seljibri goi fo'e ge'u jo'u le bebna seljibri goi fo'i .i le se jerna cu rupnu li panono .ijesemu'ibo fo'a pleji lei jdini be ta'i le pelji jdini fo'e .e fo'i .i fo'e ckire fo'a gi'ebabo cliva gi'e gleki ki'u lenu le jdini cu se vamji li su'orau
.i fo'i na'e gleki .i cusku ®lu .o'onai mi to'e lazni gunka fi'o te bende do ca piro le jeftu .i do pleji levi malpelji .i'enaisai mi .i le'o ko pleji fi mi fe le je'u je'a jdini no'u lo sicni li'u¯ .isemu'ibo fo'a pleji fo'i lo gusminra sicni poi se fepni li mu .iseki'ubo fo'i gleki klama le fo'i zdani tu'u
.i tu'a di'u xe ctuca fi ledu'u jdice nagi'apubo e'ucai zgana .i .ua ri'a je'unai ka'u le sego'i zo "za'a" noi cmavo fi lesi'o zgana ku'o cu rafsi zo zabna li'u¯

  1. Lojbab: This text uses "bi'u" and "bi'unai" which are not on any published word lists yet with the current meaning. They are used to discursively to mark pieces of the sentence as 'new information' or 'old information'. New information is that which the speaker is trying to communicate to the listener, while old information is that which the speaker assumes that the listener knows from background or context. Normally this distinction is conveyed in natural languages through word order (putting new information either at the beginning or the end of the sentence, typically, depending on the language and the situation), but people want to have the option in Lojban of using word order for other purposes including simply expressing the place structures in numerical order. Marking a "le" description sumti as new information on its first occurrence in text, for example, means that the speaker has a specific and definite someone/- something in mind, but that he doesn't expect the listener to know which someone/something is being referred to at that point. Without "bi'u", the listener might wonder why he can't figure out which one the speaker is talking about.


.i bazi lenu mi'a simxu lenu rinsa kuku lo nanmu poi nanca li so'a cu klama pu'e le na'e sirji ne'i le barja gi'e co'a zutse ca'u mi

.i le nanmu goi ko'a cusku le se du'u ri puzi se gunta lo puzu respa pe la'o ly. saurischia ly. .i ®lu .iku'i loi respa pe la'edi'u cu puzu ji'esti li'u¯ se cusku mi

.i ®lu .ila'aru'e go'i .iboku'i simlu fa lenu noda ve cilre la'edi'u fo ra cu'usa'a ko'a

.i lenu mi'a simxu lenu kansa cu nanca li reno

.i mi co'aki kurji ko'e goi le respa ca lenu ri ca'o citno

.i mi jinvi ledu'u le mamta be ko'e cu morsi ba'o lo nanca be li so'o .ije cumki fa lenu ko'e romoi lu'i le jutsi

.i le pendo be mi zu'apu kurji ko'e gi'eku'i puzi co'a speni gi'e gasnu lenu cfari fa lenu lanzu kuku gi'e jinvi ledu'u vo'a na kakne lenu tu'ari xamgu ko'e ca lenu xamgu le lanzu

.isemu'ibo le go'i cpedu lenu mi curmi lenu basti fi lenu bilga lenu kurji ko'e

.i mi je'a curmi .ijeja'ebo kiku nu'i bi'ogi ca la'edi'u gi caku dunda loi cidja .e loi djacu ko'e

.ijebo satre ko'e .ijebo fi lenu cadzu cu kansa fe ko'e

.i ca lo'e vanci mi tavla ko'e so'i klesi be lei te cilre be'o ne mu'u le citri be loi jmive be va'o le terdi be'obe'o .e loi jicmu be le saske bele munje poi vanbi ma'a

.i jetnu fa lenu ko'e na kakne lenu tavla .ijeku'iseki'unaibo mi su'oroi jinvi lenu ko'e jimpe la'e le se cusku be mi li'u¯

.i ®lu .iku'i mu'ima va'o la'e so'odi'u ko'e co'a bradi do li'u¯

.i ®lu

na birti .i noda ru'a jimpe le stura bele menli be lei puzu respa

.i seki'unai la'ede'u mi pupuziki gasnu lenu xendo ko'e

.i mi'a puzi klama zo'a lo bende be lo xanto .ijeseki'ubo mi mu'i lenu djica lenu fanta lenu damba noi cumki fa lenu ke'a se jalge lenu ko'e se xrani cu cusku ®lu ko se kajde fi tu'a le mabru li'u¯

li'u¯ mi'e .i,n.

le lojbo se ciska

le lisri be le serti

by Christo Smirnenski, translated from Bulgarian by Ivan Derzhanski

Over a year ago, Ivan made the following translation from a Bulgarian original. Because Nora and I have been so slow at technical review of Lojban text and because JL has been less than regular, this long promised effort is finally making it to print.

As with some of our other texts this issue, a translation may be found later, along with footnoted commentary on the text. This text is being published without final revision. Ivan's original submission was so well done that Nora was able to translate it and understand it as she received it. Her translation was extensively commented by Ivan, who planned to rewrite the text based on the comments. I think that the text we have is good enough to see print, and the commentary and response from Ivan, with added notes from Nick Nicholas and Lojbab, serve as an excellent study in Lojban stylistics and the problems of translation.

(The excellence of Ivan's work should not be doubted merely because of the number of footnotes. The stylistic discussions in these footnotes consist of Ivan's explanations of subtle distinctions in the original Bulgarian that are not captured in Nora's translation. I felt that presenting these discussions would teach a fair amount about the language, while showing some of the stylistic considerations that go into an excellent translation, considerations that need not apply when, like Veijo or Mark, you write originally in Lojban.)

As with other pieces published in this JL, I am publishing this text with essentially no changes, choosing instead to make my comments in the footnotes along with Nora's, Nick's, and Ivan's. Ivan did such an excellent job; I can scarcely say that my artistic judgement could better than his capture the sense of the Bulgarian text that I've never read.


.i fitfi'i di'e ro lei ba cusku be ledu'u vo'e vo'i na srana

ni'oni'o tu'e

®lu do ?mo li'u¯ preti fi la pacrux. goi fo'a

.i ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai mi bruna

.i .oicai ge le terdi cu to'e melbi gi le remna cu to'e gleki

.i di'u se bacru lo citno nanmu noi se lafti se mebri gi'e denmi se xance .i ri goi ko'a sanli crane le serti .i labyxu'e linji ke blabi roimrmaro ke galtu serti .i ko'a catlu mo'ifa'a le darno ne di'o lepu'u lei grusi kalsygri be leka pindi cu ca simsa be loi ctaru rirxe ke to'ekli boxna ku savri'a .i diklo slilu gi'e febvi fengu gi'e lafti loi to'e plana ke xekri birka .i le nunpante ke suksa sance .e lei fengu nunki'a cu desku le vacri .i le te minra cu simsa be lo darno ke barda terdanti sance ku masno je junri runta .i lei girzu cu banro gi'e klama ne'i loi pelxu pulce dilnu .ije loi sepli ti'otra cu mutcne leka viskli ze'o le kampu ke grusi vanbi

ni'o pa.o'enai to'ercitno cu simsa be lepu'u sisku leri se cirko ka citno be'o ni'akro be fa'a le terdi ku dzukla .i lo cucycau cmaxli cu jgari lera selxaksu taxfu gi'e catlu le galtu serti sepi'o lo tinbe je simsa be le rulnkentaure,a bei leka blanu ku kanla .i catlu je cisma .i loi selpopseltau je grusi je cinla remtra cu trixe dzukla gi'e gunma sanga lo selsno ke mrori'i zgike .i da kercrori'a siclu fi le ctebi .i de noi daski nenri se xance cu cmila sepi'o lo cladu je rufsu voksa .ije lede kanla cu jarco leka fenki

ni'o ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai mi bruna .i .oicai ge le terdi cu to'e melbi gi le remna cu to'e gleki .i .iunai vu gapru .i .o'onai li'u¯

.i di'u se bacru lo citno nanmu noi se lafti se mebri gi'e dukri'a denmi se xance

.i ®lu .io xupe'i do xebni lei vu gapru li'u¯ preti fi fo'a noi ca tcica krori'a le xadni fa'a ko'a

.i ®lu .aisai mi ba vefsfa lei vu mabla nobli joi turni .i mi ri kusru vefsfa seka'i leimi bruna goi ko'u noi simsa be le canre bei leka pelxu ku se flira zi'e noi zmadu be le la gaimast. si'erbi'e bei leni tepri'a ku se cmoni .i ko viska leko'u ®lunbe ke ciblu ve flecu xadni .i ko tirna leko'u cmoni .i .ai mi ko'u venfu .i le'o ko curmi li'u¯

.i fo'a cisma

.i ®lu mi jibri bandu lei vu gapru .ije mi se le'irbai gi'anai lacti'a ri li'u¯

.i ®lu mi ponse no solji .i mi ponse no lo se pleji befi do .i mi pindi je selpopseltau citno .iku'i mi bredi lenu pleji lemi kazyji'e li'u¯

.i fo'a rapli cisma

.i ®lu .e'onai ri zmadu lemi se cpadji .i do'anai ko fi mi dunda leka do sanga'e li'u¯ .i ®lu .ueru'e leka mi sanga'e .i .iefi'i .i .e'i mi noroi tirna di .i .e'i li'u¯

.i ®lu do ranji leka ka'e tirna li'u¯ .i fo'a ko'a papri'a sepi'o di'u gi'e cadzu curmi .i ®lu ko pagre li'u¯

.i ko'a bikla bajra gi'e dzugre ci te serti tai pa nu stapa .i ku'i lefo'a terkre xance ko'a lacpu

.i ®lu banzu .i ko sisti mu'i lenu tirna leiko'u vu cnita cmoni li'u¯

.i ko'a sisti gi'e kerlo jundi

.i ®lu .uesai .i ?ki'uma ko'u suksa cfari lenu to'edri sanga gi'e xalbo cmila li'u¯ .i ko'a krefu ke bikla bajra

.i fo'a ko'a krefu rinju

.i ®lu mu'i lenu do krefu pagre ci te serti kei mi cpadji ledo kanla li'u¯

.i ko'a pa'arcau sliri'a le xance

.i ®lu ku'i va'o la'edi'u mi na ka'e viska ga leimi bruna gi leimi ba se vefsfa li'u¯

.i ®lu do ranji leka ka'e viska

.i mi fi do ba dunda lo drata kanla noi mutce zmadu li'u¯ .i ko'a rapli pagre ci te serti gi'e ni'a catlu jundi .i fo'a rinka lenu ko'a morji

.i ®lu ko viska leko'u ®lunbe ke ciblu ve flecu xadni li'u¯

.i ®lu .uecai .i .u'ecai cizra

.i ?cama binxo lenu ko'u melbi dasni .i ji'a seba'i lei ciblu te xrani ko'u se jadni loi se manci xunre rozgu li'u¯

ni'o vi ro lo cimoi te serti fo'a di'i lebna lefo'a cmalu selpleji .i ku'i ko'a ru'i cadzu

.i ko'a bredi dunda rodi mu'i lemu'e klama tu gi'e vefsfa leivu malplana nobli joi turni .i .uo.ui semaunai pa te serti .i ba su'epa te serti ko'a gapru .i ko'a cabazi venfu leiko'a bruna .i ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai sa'a li'u¯

.i ®lu ju'i. citno nanmu su'epa te serti .i ba su'epa te serti do venfu .i ku'i levi te serti di'i ve pleji le relpi'i jdima mi .i ko fi mi dunda leka do cinmo je morji li'u¯ .i ko'a sliri'a le xance

.i ®lu .ii leka cinmo .i .e'anaicai .i dukse kusru li'u¯

.i fo'a maljgira cmila ra'i le galxe

.i ®lu mi na mela'edi'u kusru .i mi fi do canja dunda lo zabna kazyci'o .e lo cnino kazmo'i .i ga do zanru gi do noroi pagre levi te serti gi'e noroi venfu leido bruna pe lo se flira be le simsa be le canre zi'e pe le se cmoni be le zmadu be le la gaimast. si'erbi'e bei leni tepri'a li'u¯

.i ko'a catlu lefo'a crino je ranxi kanla

.i ®lu ku'i mi ba traji leni to'e gleki .i do lebna ro ckaji be le kazre'a mi li'u¯

.i ®lu to'e go'e .i traji leni je'a gleki .i .e'apei .i ?xu do tugni .i do'anai leka do cinmo je morji li'u¯

.i ko'a cu trati pensi .i lo xekri ctino cu manri'a leko'a flira .i loi xasne ke to'ekli dirgo cu gunro zo'a le se cinje mebri .i ko'a fengu demri'a le xance gi'e bacru pa'o le denci ®lu .ai.e'asai .i ko lebna li'u¯

ni'o ca lenu le xekri kerfa ca biflu'a kei ko'a simsa be le crisa lidbi'e ku fengu pagre le romoi te serti .i ko'a capu snada lemu'e gapru .i suksa cisma gusni leko'a flira .i leko'a kanla cu dirce seci'o le smaji ka se mansa .i leko'a xance cu ®luzbi'o .i ko'a catlu lei pixsalci nobli .i catlu le cnita be di'o lenu krixa je dapma fa le grusi je selpopseltau girzu .i catlu .i ku'i no sluji be leko'a flira cu frati .i ri selgu'i je gleki je selpu'a .i ko'a viska loi salci se taxfu girzu vi le cnita .i lei pu cmoni ca salpemci

.i ®lu do ?mo li'u¯ tcica preti fi fo'a sepi'o lo rufsu voksa

.i ®lu mi nobli ji'u leka cerda .ije lei cevni mi bruna .i .uicai ge le terdi cu je'a melbi gi le remna cu je'a gleki li'u¯


.i di'u se finti la xristoz. smirnensk. gi'e se fanva la .iVAN. derJANSK. fo le banblgaria si'u la nitcion. nikolas. fa'o

le ci cribe

An Operettina with a familiar plot and music, by Nora LeChevalier (As performed at LogFest 92 - No translation exists for this text)

Props: big, medium & little bowls.  Also pot & serving spoon, table & chairs.
       high, medium & low chairs.
       hard, soft & medium beds.

[] = actions
() = extra syllables/words on sung line.

[The 3 bears sit down to eat.]

      Song #1: "mi ba citka" to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?"

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                -------------------------    -------------------------
     mi ba citka
(.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) glare .oi           mi ba citka
(.i) glare .oi      (.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) .e'u mi'o denpa                     (.i) glare .oi          mi ba citka
     le nu ti ba cenba                   (.i) glare .oi     (.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) litru .ai      (.i) .e'u mi'o denpa (.i) glare .oi
(.i) litru .ai [starts leaving]               le nu ti ba cenba  (.i) glare .oi
                    (.i) litru .ai       (.i) .e'u mi'o denpa
                    (.i) litru .ai [starts leaving]         le nu ti ba cenba
                                         (.i) litru .ai
                                         (.i) litru .ai [starts leaving]

[The 3 bears leave.  Along comes Goldilocks]

      Song #2: "mi xagji" to the tune of "The Inky-Dinky Spider"

                 mi xagji gi'e tatpi
                 .i mi ba nerkla ti
 [enters & sniffs]  .i .ue kukte panci
                 da poi cidja vi
                 .ije zangla marbi
                 co se kufra mi
                 .i mi lazni gi'e citka
                 le kukydja bazi

 [Goldilocks sits down at table and starts on Big Bowl contents.]

 Song #3 "ti dukse glare" to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands"

[Sits down at table with bowls]

Verse 1:            GOLDILOCKS
 [tastes from big bowl]  ti dukse glare .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [tastes from medium]    .i dukse lenku .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [tastes from small]     .i prane ni glare
                 .ui ai cai
                 .i mi ba citka piro ti [eats it all up]

 [Goes to chairs]

Verse 2:            GOLDILOCKS
 [sits on high chair]    ti dukse galtu .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [sits on low]   .i dukse dizlo .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [sits on medium]   .i prane ni galtu
                 .ui ai cai
                 .i mi ba stizu zutse ti
 [falls off chair as it breaks.
  Spoken:]       .ue

 [Goes to beds]

Verse 3:            GOLDILOCKS
 [sits on hard bed] ti dukse jdari .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [sits on soft]  .i dukse ranti .i
                 .oi .ai nai
 [sits on medium]   .i prane ni jdari
                 .ui .ai cai
                 .i mi ba sipna cpana ti     [lies down & goes to sleep]

[3 bears return, entering]

 Song #4: "le ci cribe co'u xrutykla"  to the tune of "Oh, How Lovely Is the Evening"

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                -------------------------    -------------------------
le ci cribe
  co'u xrutykla
  le ri lazyzda
gi'e djica          le ci cribe
  le nu gurnycti      co'u xrutykla
  gi'e surla  .i      le ri lazyzda
ctinei              gi'e djica           le ci cribe
cribe                 le nu gurnycti       co'u xrutykla
cimei                 gi'e surla  .i       le ri lazyzda
                    ctinei               gi'e djica
                    cribe                  le nu gurnycti
                    cimei                  gi'e surla  .i

          Song #5: "bredi .au" to the tune of "This Old Man"

Verse 1: [3 bears go to bowls]

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                -------------------------    -------------------------
bredi .au
selcti mi
vi le palta         bredi .au
   barda .ui        selcti mi
.i da citka pi      vi le palta          bredi .au
   so'u le kukte ti    midju .ui         selcti mi
semu'i le ka        .i de citka pi       vi le palta
   vefydji             so'u le kukte ti     cmalu .ui
                    semu'i le ka         .i di citka pi
                       vefydji              ro lemi kukte ti
                                         semu'i le ka

Verse 2: [3 bears go to chairs]

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                ------------------------     -------------------------
stizu co
steci mi
gi'e mutce          stizu co
   galtu .ui        steci mi
.i da zutse le mi   gi'e mutce           stizu co
   stizu .ue puzi      dizlo .ui         steci mi
semu'i le ka        .i de zutse le mi    gi'e milxe
   vefydji             stizu .ue puzi       galtu .ui
                    semu'i le ka         .i di daspypli le
                       vefydji              stizu .ue puzi
                                         semu'i le ka

Verse 3: [3 bears go to beds]

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                -------------------------    -------------------------
ckana co
steci mi
gi'e mutce          ckana co
   jdari .ui        steci mi
.i da vreta le mi   gi'e mutce           ckana co
   ckana .ue puzi      ranti .ui         steci mi
semu'i le ka        .i de vreta le mi    gi'e milxe
   vefydji             ckana .ue puzi       jdari .ui
                    semu'i le ka         .i di vreta le mi
                       vefydji              ckana .ue puzi
                                         gi'e ranji
                                            zvati ti  [points]

[Goldilocks awakes to see three angry bears.  She cowers]

   Song #6 ".ue .o'onai" to Beethoven's 5th Symphony, 1st Movement, starting after the two introductory 4-note groups.

[Play symphony as accompaniment - Wait for introductory bars to end
and start singing.]

   PAPA BEAR                MAMA BEAR    BABY BEAR        GOLDILOCKS
---------------------    ----------------------   -------------------- -           ----------------------
.ue .o'onai
            .ue .o'onai
                         .ue .o'onai
                                      .ii cai
.i .o'onai
            .i .o'onai
                         .i .o'onai
                                      .ii cai
.i .o'onai
                                      .ii cai
            .i .o'onai
                                      .ii cai
                         .i .o'onai
                                      mi cliva [runs out]

[Once again, the 3 bears sit down to eat.  Mama Bear serves afresh.]

 Song #7: "mi ba citka", reprise (to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?")

   PAPA BEAR           MAMA BEAR            BABY BEAR
-------------------------                -------------------------    -------------------------
     mi ba citka
(.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) glare .oi           mi ba citka
(.i) glare .oi      (.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) mi'o na ba denpa                    (.i) glare .oi          mi ba citka
     le nu ti ba cenba                   (.i) glare .oi     (.i) mi ba citka  [eats]
(.i) citka .ai      (.i) mi'o na ba denpa    (.i) glare .oi
(.i) citka .ai [starts eating]                le nu ti ba cenba  (.i) glare .oi
                    (.i) citka .ai       (.i) mi'o na ba denpa
                    (.i) citka .ai [starts eating]          le nu ti ba cenba
                                         (.i) citka .ai
                                         (.i) citka .ai [starts eating]

[curtains close]

Note: Three Alternate songs available for Song #3 (Goldilocks tries food, etc.):

A: "ti cu dukse glare" to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain When She Comes"

ti cu dukse glare cidja .ue .aunai
.i ti dukse ji'a lenku .aunaisai
.i ti glare prane cidja
.i mi kazyxagji citka
ze'apu le nu se tisna
.a'o .ai

ti cu dukse galtu stizu .ue .aunai
.i ti dukse ji'a dizlo .aunaisai
.i ti galtu prane stizu
.i mi djica le nu mi cu
zutse surla vi le pritu
.a'o .ai

ti cu dukse jdari ckana .ue .aunai
.i ti dukse ji'a ranti .aunaisai
.i ti jdari prane ckana
.i do kakne le nu zgana
le nu mi cu sipna cpana
.a'o .ai

.i mi na vreta ti
.i ti dukse .uu ranti
.i .a'o ta xagmau ti
.i .ui .ai cai
mi vreta sipna .ui vi

B: "ti dukse glare .ainai" to the tune of "For the Beauty of the Earth"

ti dukse glare .ainai .i
mi na ka'e citka ti
.i dukse ji'a lenku .uu
.i ta va cu xagmau ?xu
.i ti glare prane .ui
.i mi citka piro ti

ti dukse galtu .ainai .i
mi na ka'e zutse ti
.i dukse ji'a dizlo .uu
.i ta va cu xagmau ?xu
.i ti galtu prane .ui
.i mi stizu zutse ti

ti dukse jdari .ainai .i
mi na ka'e sipna vi
.i dukse ji'a ranti .uu
.i ta va cu xagmau ?xu
.i ti jdari prane .ui
.i mi sipna cpana ti

C: "ti cu dukse .uu glare" to the tune of "Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen"

ti cu dukse .uu glare
.i mi na citka ti
.i ti dukse .uu lenku
.i .a'o ta xagmau ti
.i .ui .ai cai
mi citka piro ti vi

ti cu dukse .uu galtu
.i mi na zutse ti
.i ti dukse .uu dizlo
.i .a'o ta xagmau ti
.i .ui .ai cai
mi stizu zutse .ui vi
ti cu dukse .uu jdari

Translations and Commentary for ckafybarja writings and le lojbo se ciska

Following are computer-generated glosses for the first of Veijo's two Lojban texts. In addition to providing help for those who are attempting to read the texts, they also serve to show the current capability of the Lojban glosser program that Nora is working on. As it is, it produces word-for-word interlinear translations, substituting an English keyword for each Lojban word (and some compounds). But as you can see, a word-for-word gloss can be nearly unreadable if you do not know the grammatical function of each Lojban word, and appropriately adjust the meaning of the keyword to reflect the function of the word in the Lojban grammar of the sentence.

Veijo's First Text

 ({<le  [(la veion) (ckafybarja    {srinuntroci          <[xi    pa]  
    the      veion   coffee+tavern  story+event-of+tries   -sub- 1    
[xi    ci]>})]>}                                                      
 -sub- 3                                                              
ni'o  {<[({<[({<[({<[({<[sriku'a   ] i [ckafybarja   ]>               
    _                    Story+room  .  Coffee+tavern                 
i <mi   [(zvati      {<le  vorstu   >}) gi'e (terpanci                
.  Me     present at   the door+site    and   3rd-place-of+odor       
{<[loi             ckafi ] [da           ui       cai                 ]>})]>}                                                               
   the mass of all coffee   something #1 (Wheee!) (-intense emotion!) 
i {mi   <[(ca               {ze'u                <pu                  
.  Me      at the time (of)  for an eon (during)  before              
[nai  oi   ]>}) sumne  ] [da          ]>})                            
 -not (Oy!)     smeller   something #1                                
i (mi   {<dzukla     [(le  jbustu    )]> gi'e <ctacarna        >})]   
.  Me     walks+goes   the table+site    and   looks-at+rotates       
i [(rancindu jubme)]>                                                 
.   Soft+oak table                                                    
i <seldandu          [(lo   {<vrici         to'erninda'i           >  
.  2nd-place-of+hang   some   miscellaneous opposite-of-+new+object   
<noi     [mi   ({na       djuno} {<zo'e      ke'a     >})]>})]>}      
 , which  me     not true knows    something he/she/it                
i {selzvati                <[({ji'i          pano}) (zutse remna)]>}) 
.  2nd-place-of+present-at     approximately 10      sits  human      
i (srotanxe   {<[loi             ckafi ] [lei         mudri]>})] i    [vrici        ]>                                                      
.  Stores+box    the mass of all coffee   the mass of wood       .    Miscellaneous                                                         
i <mi   [visyfacki       ({fi  <[pa] [lo   ({poi  <[loi               
.  Me    sees+discoverer   x3=   1    some   that   the mass of all   
remna] [(na       zutlamji     ) (ke'a     )]> ku'o} {jubme <goi      ko'a>})]>})]>}                                                        
human    not true sits+adjacent   he/she/it    ,      table  alias    it-1

i {mi   <[co'a        zutlamji     ] [ko'a]>})
.  Me     on starting sits+adjacent   it-1

i (ko'a {lamji    <[le  nunjupca'u          ]>})]
.  It-1  adjacent   the event-of+cooks+space

i [(le  jukpa) cu        ({selviska         } gi'e {jupfinti
.   The cooks  (is/does)   2nd-place-of+sees  and   cooks+inventor

<[de           a'ucu'i          ]>})]>
  something #2 (Not interested!)

i <mi   [(pensi     a'e         ) ({loi
.  Me     cogitates (I'm alert!)    the mass of all

<selpinxe            co      [ckafi  au       ]>})]>}
 2nd-place-of+drinks of type  coffee (I want!)

i {ckafypanci  <[fi  (mi   ui      )]>}) i (ckafypanci )] [
.  Coffee+odor   x3=  me   (Wheee!)      .  Coffee+odor

i ui       o'u             ]> i <sriku'a   >})
. (Wheee!) (Ahh! Relaxing!)   .  Story+room

Commentary on Veijo's first text

le la vei,on ckafybarja srinuntroci xipa xici

ni'o sriku'a .i ckafybarja .i mi zvati le vorstu gi'e terpanci loi ckafi da.uicai[1] .i mi ca ze'upunai.oi sumne da[2] .i mi dzukla le jbustu[3] gi'e ctacarna[4] .i rancindu[5] jubme .i seldandu lo vrici to'erninda'i noi mi na djuno zo'e ke'a .i selzvati ji'ipano zutse remna .i srotanxe loi ckafi lei mudri .i vrici .i mi visyfacki fi pa lo poi loi remna na zutlamji ke'a ku'o jubme goi ko'a .i mi co'a zutlamji ko'a .i ko'a lamji le nunjupca'u[6] .i le jukpa cu selviska gi'e jupfinti de.a'ucu'i .i mi pensi.a'e loi selpinxe[7] co .i ckafypanci fi mi.ui .i ckafypanci .i .ui.o'u .i sriku'a

1. Mark: "I am-at the door-place [doorway] and am-a-smell-receptor-of [smell-emitted-by] mass-of coffee [smell being] x1"

Whoa! Took me a long while to work out how that works. The sentence seems to be redundant, but somehow manages actually to sensibly bind "da", making an existential claim at the same time. Confusing, but very clever, and rather uniquely lojbanic.

2. Mark: I believe that "da" gets unbound between sentences (except at ijeks [I+JE]), so you should either have an ".ije" there or use some other sort of anaphora to get the smell. You could probably just ellipsize it entirely and get the meaning across fine.

Veijo responds: Didn't think of that (being too smug having put together the previous bridi). ".ije" is actually quite good here.

Didn't want to ellipsize. Definitely not. The smell was the thing.

3. Colin: "jbustu" - I guess I understand, but I don't find it obvious. ?xu zo jbustu cu sinxa le pagbu be le dinju be'o poi stizu lo jubme

Veijo responds: go'i

4. Mark: Not sure what "ctacarna" really implies, but I get the gist.

Veijo responds: Did a lot of word juggling to arrive at "ctacarna". Not much physical turning, except perhaps the head, a quick wandering look takes in the scene (or an almost stationary stare, the scanning being done mainly mentally).

5. Colin asks: loi rancindu ki'a (Don't understand "soft oak") Veijo responds: The original Description #2 from LogFest/Lojbab called for that.

6. Mark: "event-of-cooking volume"? Maybe "jupkumfa"? It is a room, after all, isn't it? Not sure the "nun-" is necessary, but it's not badly placed.

Veijo: First I had "(nun)jupkumfa" but then wanted to have just the space, not to imply separation at this stage. More lojbo :)

Mark: Hrrm. Still seems a little weird to me, but you're probably absolutely right here.

7. Iain: Whether you use "le pinxe" or "le se pinxe", you are still using "pinxe", with all its connotations. "selpinxe" zu'unai is a lujvo, obviously derived from "pinxe", and with a closely associated meaning, but with potentially a definition of its own, which may have a completely different emphasis. So "lo se pinxe" is "something which is drunk", but "lo selpinxe" could well be "a beverage". dikyjvo considerations would give "selpinxe" the same place structure as "se pinxe", no doubt, but the connotations need not be the same. There is still scope for ambiguity, but within a somewhat different range of meanings.

But at the moment, we don't have a full, or even a partial, dictionary. We don't have any lujvo definitions. So while we may guess that someone means something slightly different by "selpinxe" as distinct from "se pinxe", we can't be sure exactly which facet of the meaning of "pinxe" is intended to be emphasised. These are details which will have to be worked out gradually over a period of time.

Nick: Iain is right. In fact, the place structure subtly changes too (too subtly for dikyjvo). There is a second place of "selpinxe", but it corresponds to the second place of cidja (loi ka'e pinxe), and not of "se pinxe" (lo ca'a pinxe). I think this aspect of lujvo place structures, which we haven't paid attention to in the past, but which is, I feel, coming through in a few of the place structures I'm postulating, in determining which places get turned off (for example, a dinsro (money-store = treasury) has no container important to definition, whereas a dicysro (electricity-store = battery) has no location important to definition, so those respective places are turned off - remember "xo'o" in last October's discussions?), will come back to haunt us when we try to tackle lujvo properly. I don't think that time is quite yet. But thanks to Iain and Mark for pointing it out; we will be wary.

Mark: Aside: I was troubled by the fact that "le na'o se pinxe ckafi" seems to mean "thing-described-as-being: typically: drunk-thing type-of coffee", i.e. something that is typically drunken coffee, with the "na'o" applying to the whole of the following tanru. To my horror, I found that I couldn't restrict the "na'o" to the "se pinxe". I thought of putting ke/ke'e around "na'o se pinxe", but that's not grammatical, and putting it around just "se pinxe" didn't accomplish anything. I suppose I could have done it with "co", but that doesn't seem like a very general answer, and it would change its place-structure.

Lojbab: "na'o" and other tense words are intended to logically apply to a whole bridi and cannot easily be restricted to a part of the selbri. I'm not all that sure what the semantics of such a restriction would be. If you want the effect of "na'o" or some other tense/modal on a part of a selbri, you should do it via tanru, using the gismu/selbri equivalent, in this case perhaps "cnano": "cnano se pinxe ckafi".

For some of these modals, where there may be some question whether the gismu necessarily captures the same sense as a tense would, we are assigning rafsi to the tense cmavo as part of the rafsi retuning. This would also allow you a smaller referent than the whole selbri.

The grammar changes being proposed will eliminate the option to put a separate tense on the part of a selbri after the "co". Allowing that was an error in the grammar implementation, since, as you have noted, there is no non- "co" equivalent, and the purpose of "co" does not include adding new options to selbri, only inverting them for emphasis or place structure convenience.

Iain: I was going to suggest using a gismu, but I couldn't find one that fitted the bill. But you can bind the tense into the selbri with "be":

le se pinxe be na'o ku ckafi

Mark: Yes, that's very good. Thanks, Iain. It's a little clumsy that it has to be preposed like that, but not really. That was what I was looking for.

Iain: When I wrote this, I thought either "ku" or "be'o" was necessary - I'm not sure now - but I suspect it helps human parsers.

Mark: Hmmm. Apparently neither is necessary, though that isn't obvious to the human reader at first glance. Best to keep them in, for a little extra redundancy.

Nick's text with rough translation and commentary

.i mi se lidne la vei,on. ba'acu'i lenu nerkla le la loblaz. kafybarja .i mi sutra joiku'i.o'a banli cadzu pa'o la'ele cravro noi tilju je jadycau .i lenu mi pu kargau le vorme cu mlirocnandu gi'e sacri'a lenu mi catke .i le te vorme cu se gusni lo lecydo'i milxe gi'e se kufra cmalu .i panomei sa'enai.a'acu'i loi jubme .i mi zutse ne'a lo na'e se tsejbi jubme {poi diklo le kumfa kojna gi'e stula'i le vorme ku'o} gi'e catlu loi zvapre .iza'a la vei,on. zutse vi le ragve kojna gi'enaipe'i zvaju'o[8] mi .i ra zanfri

.i'e.o'enai loi panci be loi vi ckafi[9] .i mi zmanei loi tcati gi'e.o'o.aucu'i denpa lenu lo djabe'ipre cu jundi mi .i milxe savru gi'e ruble nungei .iku'i mi cabdei me ®lu .i'inai li'u¯ vau.u'uru'ero'a[10] .i lei bitmu cu se jadni loi carmi bo vrici joi na'e simlanxe be ja'i le tcaci .i le re cpare ka'amru poi simkruca se punji fi le cravro gapru na minrysarxe[11] .u'iru'e .i na go'i fa loi drata ke bitmu se punji ne mu'u lo dembi poi vreta lo kicne ku'o jo'u lo slabu tcityta'o ne secu'u ®lu vi xagrai loi tauzba pe levi tcadu li'u¯ ge'ujo'u lo befydai noi te ciska zo sindereluud. .i mi ca jundi le jbusfe pe mi .i te ciska so'ida ne bau la lojban. e la bangrnesperanto .e le glibau .e .ueru'e le dotco .i le dotco cu se ciska ta'i la fraktur .i mi xebni la fraktur .i mi djica {lenu ciska fi le jbusfe fe ®lu mi la fraktur xebni mi'e kilrois. li'u¯ kei} gi'enai ca ponse lo ve ciska befi loi mudri .i mi ka'e lebna lo cpare ja bisli kilmru le zunle bitmu .i mi co'i morji le xajmi pe lei bisli kilmru jgari relcisyge'upre .iku'i lenu le xajmi cu jboselsku na se snada mi .isemu'ibo mi pensi sanga le se finti be la'o pe me'e ®lu le la tom. gusta li'u¯ .i lenu go'i cu se dicra lenu lo djabe'ipre noi .uacu'i xindo cu klama mi gi'e cisma bacru ®lu cticpe ?ma doi lojbo ga'icu'i li'u¯ .i mi co'a se spaji catlu le be'ipre .i mi nelci le be'ipre .i mi mutce nelci co se trina le be'ipre ja'e lenu mi na spuda ri .iseki'ubo ri cmila joiku'i milxe bo se fanza bacru ®lu be'ebe'e xaupre zo'o ctidji ja pixydji ?ma li'u¯ .i mi spuda bacru ®lu je'eki'e pendo .u'u si ba'edo'u.u'u .u'ise'i go'i lo tcati li'u¯ .i le be'ipre goi ko'a cu bacru ®lu go'i lo tcati pe le'a ?ma li'u¯ .i mi ®lu .aicu'i do ?ma stidi li'u¯ .i ko'a ®lu .e'a la kukytcat. noi vi purlamrai terve'u li'u¯ .i mi ®lu .i'e ko bevri le la kukytcat. tcati li'u¯ .i ko'a bacru ®lu baziba'o go'i .oinai li'u¯ gi'e cliva mu'i lenu bevri nagi'e tavla lo drata zutse .ipujecabo lu'i le jukpa kuce le patlu'i lu'u nevi le jupku'a cu cladu joi selzdi dabysnu .i le jukpa cu so'uroi batkla gi'e te jivrei le se casnu fo lei zvati .i.aucai mi na ve preti .i le barjyjatna noi dasni lo jikri'i taurgunma ca tavla la vei,on. .i mi xance rinsa la vei,on. i ko'a spuda rinsa gi'e nupre lenu bazi kansa mi kei mi .i loi cnino cu nerkla gi'e cladu rinsa loi no'e cnino noi na'oca'o te lisri .i mi na .ai cabdei ve lisri .i mi .e'icu'i cabdei xebni la fraktur.

Free translation of Nick's text into English.

I've been preceded by Veijo in entering Cafe Loblaz. I swiftly and yet grandly make my entrance through the front door, which is heavy and plain. Opening the door took a bit of effort, and made it necessary to push. What is behind the door is illuminated by mild afternoon light, and is comfortably small. There's about ten tables, I dunno. I sit at a table with no one by it, in the corner and next to the door, and look at the people here. I see Veijo sitting in the opposite corner, and I don't think he's noticed I'm here. He's getting high on the coffee smells. I prefer tea, and I'm waiting - not that anxiously - for a waiter to notice me. There's some noise and a bit of merriment. But today, I'm feeling private - uh, sorry about that. The walls are decorated by miscellanies, unharmonious by the usual standards. The two climbing axes above the front door aren't quite symmetrical. Nor are the other objects on the walls - a pea on a cushion, for example, an old signboard saying "Best Tailor in the Whole Town", and a belt with "Cinderelwood" written on it. I look at the table-top where I'm sitting. It's been inscribed with lots of stuff, in Lojban, Esperanto, English, even German. The German stuff is in Fraktur script. I hate Fraktur. I want to write "Kilroy woz here and hates Fraktur", but I haven't got something to write on wood with. I could take an ice-pick or climbing-pick from the wall to my left. I recall the joke about the ice-pick wielding bisexuals, but it doesn't go into Lojban too well. So I start mentally singing Suzanne Vega's Tom's Diner. I am interrupted by a waiter, Indian I suppose, who comes to me and says, smiling: "What'll ya have to eat, Lojban-lover?" I look at the waiter, surprised. I like the waiter. I really like the waiter. I'm so attracted to the waiter, I forget to answer. So s/he says, laughing but a bit annoyed, "Hello? Earth to Goodfellow Lojbanist? What'll ya have to eat or drink?" I answer "I hear you, and thank you, friend (shgeez) - Oh, not shgeez about you, shgeez about not answering; what a klutz I am! :) I'll have tea." "What kind of tea?" "shrug What do you recommend?" "Oh, you could have a Tasty-T; it's our most recent purchase." "OK, get us a Tasty-T." The waiter says "Consider it done", and leaves, not to get it, but to talk to other patrons. While this has been going on, the cook and the dishwasher in the kitchen have been loudly and enthusiastically arguing. The cook occasionally comes out and asks the patrons for their opinion about the topic he's debating. I really don't want to be asked. The manager, wearing a suit, is talking to Veijo. I wave at Veijo; he waves back and promises me he'll be with me in a moment. New people enter and loudly greet those already there, who are typically telling stories. I don't feeling like being told any stories today. Today, I feel like hating Fraktur.

8. Lojbab: You used "zvaju'o" and Sylvia guessed your intent from context. Suggested to use "zgana" or "jundi" as the major basis of the word.

Nick: Possibly, though I think "zvaju'o", or at most "nunzvaju'o", is clear.

9. Lojbab: "He's getting high on the coffee smells" - No one in the Tuesday night group could figure out anything about what you were trying to convey with that attitudinal, even after checking the English. There's no "se'inai", so this is your attitude, and I see no semantic suggestion of "high" even if I assume the "se'inai" was supposed to be there. Explanation?

Nick: The ".o'enai" means I don't empathise, because that's what I take emotional closeness to mean.

[Regarding "high"] The translation was a bit loose? :)

Lojbab: Closeness can be related to empathy, but I'm not sure it is the same thing, at least in the sense that you used, I mean expressed, it. I can feel emotionally close to someone without necessarily sharing their feelings about something else. And emotional distance seems to me rather more like aloofness than an absence of empathy.

10. Mark: I like [this]. Very good use of "me". Not sure what you're repenting of, but you don't have to say.

Nick: I was regretting being such a misery-guts to the audience, instead of getting on with the job of navigating.

Lojbab: "private" - was there a reason for not using "sivni" or a lujvo thereon, which is intended to be associated with this attitudinal.

Nick: I was unaware of it. The word would have to be "sivyci'o", and not "sivni". But I think me+UI is a powerful construct, worth preserving.

11. Lojbab: did you consider "lanxe" vs "sarxe". The English suggests the former and the minra was a bit confusing. Doesn't anyone like "dukti"? (dukti-mapti lanxe/sarxe?)

Nick: "minra" will have to be there because the equilibrium is one of reflection same-ness. "lanxe" is clearly better than "sarxe", and maybe "te minra" rather than "minra", but any expression for symmetrical will have to have a wild metaphor.

Veijo's Second Text

 ({<le  [(la veion) (ckafybarja    {srinuntroci          <[xi    re]  
    The      veion   coffee+tavern  story+event-of+tries   -sub- 2    
[xi    re]>})]>}                                                      
 -sub- 2                                                              
ni'o  {<[({<[({<[({<[({<[({<[mi   ({penzutse       o'u                
    _                        Me     cogitates+sits (Ahh! Relaxing!)   
i [to'erninda'i            ({fa  <le  [mi   jubme]>})]>               
.  Opposite-of-+new+object   x1=  the  me   table                     
i <ciska     [(da           {le  jbusfe       })]>} { ije  } {mi      
.  Inscriber   something #1  the table+surface        ; and   me      
<catlu    [(da           a'u        )]>}) i (lerfu  {<la [fraktur ue  ]>})]                                                                 
 looks at   something #1 (interest!)      .  Letter       fraktur (What!)                                                               
i [mi   (morji     {<fi  [loi             (lerfu  {be <la fraktur>})]>})]>                                                      
.  Me    remembers   x3=  the mass of all  letter  of     fraktur     
i <morji    >} i {mi   <[({<pu       zu         > ki} zvati     )     ({le  ckule })]                                                       
.  Remembers   .  Me        before , a long time  :   present at        the school                                                            
gi'e [({ caca'a      } tcidu )]>})                                    
and      currently is  reader                                         
i (mi   {tcidu  <[le  (cfika   {be <le  [(ze) bruna  ]> <bei [(la     
.  Me    reader   the  fiction  of  the   7   brother    of           
{aleksis kivis}) (po'u     {le  natmytercfi                })]>})]>})]                                                           
 aleksis kivis    which is  the ethnos+3rd-place-of+fiction           
i [(le  {<poi  [(le  {drata      <be mi  >}) cu        (tcidu         
.   The   that   the  other than  of me      (is/does)  reader        
{<fi  ke'a     >})] ku'o> selpapri         }) cu                      
  x3= he/she/it     ,     2nd-place-of+page   (is/does)               
({te           prina  } {<loi             [lerfu  (be {la antik})]>})]>
  3rd place of printer    the mass of all  letter  of     antik

i <[le  (mi   {selpapri          <goi   ko'a>})] [(te
.   The  me    2nd-place-of+page  alias it-1       3rd place of

prina  ) ({loi             <lerfu  [be (la fraktur)]>})]>}
printer    the mass of all  letter  of     fraktur

i {<le  [nu       (tcidu  {<de           [pe  (ta'i
.   The  event of  reader   something #2  of   in form

{la fraktur})]>}) kei]> <[(pu     nandu    ) (mi  )] gi'e
    fraktur       ,        before difficult   me     and

[(ca               frili)]>})
  at the time (of) easy

i (mi   {djica   <[(le  {nu       <tcidu  [(fi  ko'a)]> kei}) (mu'i
.  Me    desires    the  event of  reader   x3= it-1    ,      because

{le  <nu       [(le  {mi   patfu }) ({<pu     zu           > prina  }
 the  event of   the  me   father      before , a long time  printer

{<[loi             lerfu ] [loi             (ko'a papri)]>})]>})]>})]
   the mass of all letter   the mass of all  it-1 page

i [(le  {mi   patfu }) ({ze'u                prina  })]>
.   The  me   father     for an eon (during) printer

i <[(le  {<nu       [ri   (go'i      )] kei> nanca   }) (li {< vobi>})]>}
.    The   event of  it    , the same   ,    in years    the number 48

i {<[ki ku] mi  > <catlu    [(le  {vi        <lerfu  [be (la fraktur)]>})]>})
.    :      me     looks at   the  here (at)  letter  of     fraktur

i (lerfu )] i [(bacru  ue     ) ({zo             coi  })]>
.  Letter   .   Utters (What!)    quote-unquote: hello

i <[barjyjatna     a'a             ]>}
.   Tavern+captain (I'm attentive!)

i {<la nitcion> <[(co'a        va        ) (se
.      nitcion     on starting there (at)   2nd place of

zvaju'o         )] [mi  ]>})
present-at+knows    me

i (ra   {<xance rinsa  > <mi  >})] [ ije  ] [mi   ({spuda    rinsa })]>
.  It     hand  greeter   me         ; and   me     responds greeter

i <[la nitcion] [({ caca'a      } xebni) ({la fraktur})]>})
.      nitcion      currently is  hater       fraktur

Commentary on Veijo's 2nd text

le la vei,on. ckafybarja srinuntroci xire xire

ni'o mi penzutse.o'u .i to'erninda'i fa lemi jubme .i ciska da le jbusfe .ije mi catlu da.a'u .i lerfu la fraktur.ue .i mi morji fi loi lerfu be la fraktur. .i morji .i mi puzuki zvati le ckule gi'e caca'a tcidu .i mi tcidu le cfika be le ze bruna bei la .Aleksis.kivis. po'u le natmytercfi .i le poi le drata be mi cu tcidu fi ke'a ku'o selpapri[1] cu te prina loi lerfu be la antik. .i lemi selpapri goi ko'a te prina loi lerfu be la fraktur. .i lenu tcidu de pe ta'i la fraktur. kei pu nandu mi gi'e ca frili .i mi djica lenu tcidu fi ko'a kei mu'i lenu lemi patfu puzu prina loi lerfu loi ko'a papri .i lemi patfu ze'u prina .i lenu ri go'i kei nanca li vobi .i kiku mi catlu le vi lerfu be la fraktur. .i lerfu .i bacru.ue zo coi .i barjyjatna.a'a .i la nitcion. co'ava se zvaju'o[2] mi .i ra xance rinsa mi .ije mi spuda rinsa .i la nitcion. caca'a xebni la fraktur.[3]

1. Nick: We are going to see a lot of preposed relatives, I predict, simply because they kill off a lot of the worry about terminating them when postposed. They are not just an affectation.

2. Nick: Nice to see one's dikyjvo picked up :)

3. Nick: Brilliant ending. I mean... so wonderfully deadpan. You're getting quite good at this :)

Iain's first text, with rough translation and commentary

®lu .ie.a'a .ie.o'onairu'e (cu'usa'a mi noi caki vilkla zo'a le vorme[4] fi'o te mlixra le janco ku'o) sera'a ?ma pezyjicla[5] li'u¯ .i mi vi le zdani pu zutse co cando .icabo mi terbei lo notci poi ve cusku le se du'u lu'o la vei,on. joi la nitcion. lu'u goi ko'a noi zvati le kafybarja po'u la *jbolaz. cu djica lenu penmi mi vi ra .i ®lu ?ma ?mo li'u¯ na se spuda .i ko'a jundi casnu la fraktur. .i mi zo'u la fraktur. no'e cinri .i mi co'a zutse ne'a lo jubme poi lamji le me ko'a[6] ku'o gi'e denpa lenu se zvaju'o da no'u ga ko'a gi lo selfu noida'i bevri loi ckafi mi

ni'o lemi jubme cu xekri seja'e loni to'ercitno .i ra ve srakysku zo mi ce'o prami bu ce'o ®lu le cmacrnalgebra li'u¯ .i mi nelci le jubme .i mi de'a morji fi la vei,on. .e la nitcion. gi'e co'a pensi .i mi si'a se cinri so'a klesi be lo sinxa ciste ra'anai ledu'u vo'e ge'ikau te javni mu'u le sucta cmacrnalgebra gi mecritli mu'u loi rarna ja rutni bangu[7] .i la'edi'u mukti lenu mi tadni la lojban. kei noi ki'u ke'a mi zvati la jbolanzu

no'i lo be'ipre cu klama co veirgau lemi selcpe po'u lo barda carmi bo ckafi gi'ebabo nalsirkla mo'ize'oku na'e mo'ifa'a le jupku'a .i .uaru'e simlu fa lenu ko'a ze'apu naje ca zvaju'o mi .i mi'a simxu rinsa .i la'aru'e mi bazi facki le krinu be lenu sutrygau[8]

"OK, OK!", I say, barging through the door, bruising my shoulder, "What's all the fuss about?" I was sitting at home quietly, when I got a message saying that Veijo and Nick, who are at the Cafe *Jbolaz, want to see me there. "What's up?" - no reply. They are deep in a discussion about Fraktur. Me? I can take it or leave it. I sit down at a table next to theirs and wait for someone to notice me, either them or one of the people serving who might bring me some coffee.

My table is dark with age. On it is carved "I", a heart, and "algebra". I like this table. I forget about Veijo and Nick and start to ponder. I too am interested in all kinds of symbolic system, whether formal ones like abstract algebra, or more flexible ones such as natural and artificial languages. That's the reason I'm studying Lojban, which is why I'm at the "*Jbolaz".

A waiter comes and takes my order for a large, strong coffee, and wanders off, not heading for the kitchen. Ah, it looks like they've spotted me at last. We say hello. Perhaps now I'll find out the reason for all the rush.

4. Colin: "le vorme" - I am still not clear whether "vorme" means a bit of wood etc., or a hole, or both. We often use it as if it means the first - if so, then "le vorme" is certainly not what you mean here!

Nick: I believe "vorme" is a doorway, rather than a piece of wood. I don't see why the piece of wood can't be a "vrogai" (doorway lid).

Lojbab: It is the doorway that is intended in the gismu, but not in the sense of "door frame". The new place structure for "vorme" has a place structure suggestive of route, emphasizing the two sides it connects, while noting that it is also within some larger structure, and hence not just any route. By comparison, "canko" emphasizes the wall in which it is found. I like "vrogai" and "vroca'o" and "vroge'u" for the cover and opening and frame, respectively. The gismu list has been clarified to reflect this.

5. Nick: I'd prefer something more explicit than "pezyjicla", like "raktu" or "cuntu".

Lojbab: I agree. This smells malglico, since there is no clear implicature as to what is being 'stirred up' in the context. Transferring figurative uses between languages, if you must do so, should be confined to situations where the reader/- listener can clearly identify the figurative values for the place structure of the 'figure' - in the case of "jicla" (stir), the agent/force doing the stirring, the 'fluid' being stirred, and the utensil/implement doing the stirring. For the context given, it isn't really even clear to me that Iain wants "jicla" as opposed to "terjicla"

6. Colin: I felt sure there was something wrong with "le me ko'a", but I think you have actually invented a new idiom with which we will now doubtless be plagued.

Mark: It's actually an attempt at a sort of metonymy. I think "le me ko'a" is not the way to go, I greatly prefer "zo'epe ko'a". I sort of think of "zo'epe" as almost like a LAhE word (of course, with different grammar) that introduces metonymy for the sumti it's on. "le me ko'a" seems dangerously close to just plain "ko'a".

Nick: "le me ko'a" is the solution to metonymy - so much better than my "zu'i pe ko'a".

Iain: I've been reprimanded in the past for using "zo'e" with a relative clause, and told to use "da". Admittedly, I think it was a "poi" relative clause, which may make all the difference. Neither "zo'epe ko'a" of "da pe ko'a" seem to express the definiteness that I wanted. I could use "le" with a sumti, provided I insert an explicit quantifier "le pa da pe ko'a", which is starting to get out of hand for a simple concept like "theirs". The voting is still open on this one.

Mark: Well, you have a good point. "zo'e pe" is specifically anti-definite. It's good for metonymy in which you're really not trying to be specific, but are willing to be elliptical. For something like this, "da pe" would be better, but still likely wouldn't get the definiteness across. There's "da voi srana", but that's not really worth considering as a general solution. Too long. "le pada pe ko'a" doesn't seem all that bad to me, but then, in your shoes I would probably say to hell with definiteness and stick with "zo'epe". Not that that's necessarily the right thing to do. I'm still less enthusiastic about "le me ko'a" than Nick is.

Lojbab: I think "le me ko'a" is fine for original Lojban, but would probably have used "le ko'a co'e" as a translation for English "theirs" which more matches the 'possessive' implicature of the English. The "me" version is more vague, and could extend to include "ko'a" as well as things belonging to "ko'a".

On the other hand, I suspect that "la'e" and "tu'a" between them handle metonymy fine, and I think better than "le me ...". It would not be very English-like to handle "theirs" as a "la'e" or a "tu'a", but it might be very lojbanic to do so.

7. Lojbab: Iain translates this sentence as:

I too am interested in all kinds of symbolic system, whether formal ones like abstract algebra, or more flexible ones such as natural and artificial languages.

There was much debate about this sentence on the net, with Iain eventually deciding to use "ra'anai". Not proposed in the discussion, and I think better and more lojbanic, is a logical connective approach. I also think that "all kinds of" is better expressed using a massifier gadri, since he is not really interested in the categories, but in the things comprising the various categories (or maybe he is a taxonomist):

.i mi si'a se cinri piso'a loi sinxa ciste ju gu'a te javni be mu'u le sucta cmacrnalgebra be'o gi mecritli be mu'u loi rarna ja rutni bangu

The two "be" clauses might be more readable as parentheses:

.i mi si'a se cinri piso'a loi sinxa ciste ju gu'a te javni (to mu'u le sucta cmacrnalgebra toi) gi mecritli (to mu'u loi rarna ja rutni bangu toi)

8. Nick: Perhaps "mukti", and "sutrybai".

Lojbab: Iain has to decide: Does he want an explanation for the summons, or does he really want to know the motive. Having multiple words for "why" makes you really need to think about what is really sought after.

Translation of Mark Shoulson's Text and Commentary

ni'oni'o vanci .icabo nalcladu ne'i le ckafybarja .i le bi'u remna cu klama mo'ine'i ra .i ko'a goi ra[9] zutse ne'a lo jubme .i ko'a cpedu loi tcati le kafybarja se jibri .i ba so'o mentu ko'a se dunda loi tcati gi'e co'aru'inai pinxe ri

ni'o ko'a ca lenu ko'a pinxe loi tcati po ko'a cu zgana lenu le bi'u nanmu cu se dunda lei ckafi poi ra pu cpedu ke'a .ije le nanmu goi ko'e cu pencu le kabri poi se nenri lei ckafi ku'o le degji gi'enai pinxe lei ckafi .ije mu'i zo'epela'edi'u[10] ko'e cusku ®lu .o'onai ju'i do'u ko lebna lei vi ckafi gi'ebabo bevri fi mi fe lei je'a glare ku'i ckafi li'u¯ le bevri be lei ckafi be'o goi ko'i .i ko'i cusku ®lu .u'u .ie ga'inai li'u¯ gi'ebabo lebna le kabri .i ko'i krefu klama gi'e bevri lei ckafi vau ba so'o mentu .i ko'e krefu pencu le kabri .i ko'e cusku ®lu .i'esai ba'e ti ku'i cu je'a glare ckafi li'u¯ .i ko'e gleki pinxe lei ckafi po ko'e

no'i[11] ko'a zgana la'eso'odi'u[12] .i ba so'o mentu ko'a tavla le bi'unai selpinxe bevri goi ko'i .i ko'a cusku ®lu .ia do pu bevri lei naldrata ckafi ta vau ?xu li'u¯ .i ko'i cusku ®lu go'i .o'unairo'a .u'uro'a li'u¯ .i ko'a cusku ®lu ko .i'i na jikca dunku .i mi puzuze'u se jibri loinu[13] bevri loi selpinxe vi lo gusta .iseki'ubo mi djuno tu'a le do se zukte .i da poi prenu cu genai pinxe lei ckafi gi pencu le kabri gi'e na'e djica tu'a lei ckafi ki'u lo za'i na'e pe'ise'inai[14] glare .ije semu'i loinu da minde mi lenu basti lei ckafi loi glare ckafi kei kei mi lebna lei ckafi gi'e na'o denpa fu'i so'e mentu tezu'e lenu tu'a lei ckafi cu glaryri'a le kabri kei fo lenu krefu dunda lei naldrata ckafi .i za'a do panra zukte .i la'ede'u ve ctuca[15] fu tu'a le slabu lisri be le bebna seljibri ka'u li'u¯ .i ko'i cusku ®lu le lisri ki'a li'u¯ .i ko'a cusku ®lu .ue do punai ?xu ve lisri fu ri li'u¯ .i ®lu noroi ve lisri li'u¯ .i ®lu .ai mi te lisri .i tu'e ka'u da'i puzuki da te bende le re seljibri .i fo'a goi le te bende ca le fanmo be le jeftu cu pleji le se jerna le re seljibri no'u lu'i le prije seljibri goi fo'e ge'u jo'u le bebna seljibri goi fo'i .i le se jerna cu rupnu li panono .ijesemu'ibo fo'a pleji lei jdini be ta'i le pelji jdini fo'e .e fo'i .i fo'e ckire fo'a gi'ebabo cliva gi'e gleki ki'u lenu le jdini cu se vamji li su'orau .i fo'i na'e gleki .i cusku ®lu .o'onai mi to'e lazni gunka fi'o te bende do ca piro le jeftu .i do pleji levi malpelji .i'enaisai mi .i le'o ko pleji fi mi fe le je'u je'a jdini no'u lo sicni li'u¯ .isemu'ibo fo'a pleji fo'i lo gusminra sicni poi se fepni li mu .iseki'ubo fo'i gleki klama le fo'i zdani tu'u .i tu'a di'u xe ctuca fi ledu'u jdice nagi'apubo e'ucai zgana .i .ua ri'a je'unai ka'u le sego'i zo "za'a" noi cmavo fi lesi'o zgana ku'o cu rafsi zo zabna li'u[16]¯

Mark's translation uses Lojban pronouns to preserve the gender-free qualities of his Lojban[17]:

It was quiet in the coffeehouse one evening, and a person (ko'a) came in. ko'a sat at a table and ordered tea from the cafe employee. After a few minutes, ko'a was given some tea and began sipping intermittently at it.

As ko'a was sitting drinking ko'a's tea, ko'a saw a man being given the coffee which he'd ordered. The man touched the cup that contained the coffee, but didn't drink the coffee. So he said, "Hey! Take this coffee back and bring me some hot coffee!" to the waiter (ko'i).

"Yes sir, sorry..." And ko'i took the cup away.

A few minutes later, ko'i returned carrying the cup. He (the man) touched the cup again, and said "Ah! Now that's some hot coffee!" and happily drank his coffee. ko'a had seen all this happen, and several minutes later was talking to the waiter. ko'a said, "You brought that guy the same coffee, didn't you?"

"Um... yeah, I did..."

"Don't worry. I used to work as a waiter in a restaurant, so I know what you did. There are people who don't drink the coffee, they just touch the cup and don't want the coffee because they think it's not hot enough. So when they tell me to get them some fresh coffee, I just take the coffee and wait a few minutes until the coffee warms the cup and bring them the same coffee back again. And I see you've done the same. That's really the moral of the old story about the foolish laborer."

"What story?"

"You never heard it?"


"OK, I'll tell it then. Once upon a time, there was a manager (fo'a) with two workers. At the end of the week, he paid his two workers: the wise worker (fo'e) and the foolish worker (fo'i). Their salary was $100, so he paid them with paper money. fo'e thanked fo'a and left, happy because he was paid so well.

"fo'i wasn't happy. "Look! I worked hard for you all week, and now you're paying me with this dumb piece of paper!? You better pay me with some real money, with coins!" So fo'a paid fo'i with shiny coins, worth 5 cents, and fo'i went happily home.

"This all teaches that you have to look closely before passing judgement. In fact, that's why "za'a", which represents the idea of observation, is also an affix for "zabna"/favourable."

9. Lojbab: I'm wondering why Mark waited till this sentence to assign ko'a. It makes things unnecessarily more difficult on the reader to have done so, since he ends up with two "ra"s with different values only a few words apart. I don't frown on this so much with "ri" which is fairly strictly confined to the next previous sumti, but "ra" is loosely enough defined that one has to stop and think about whether it might or might not mean the same as the previous usage.

Since he is dealing with a 3rd person narration section of a story, assigning with "le ... remna goi ko'a" in the previous sentence is only fair.

10. Nick: zo'epela'edi'u is more accurate here than ".isemu'ibo", but it's still a mouthful. I'm not confident about the usage of "ku'i".

Mark: I thought ".isemu'ibo" wasn't quite right, since after all, it wasn't his touching the cup, but rather what he felt that made him refuse. I'm glad you saw that too. "zo'epela'edi'u" is a bit much to say, but not impossible. Note my "zo'epe" metonymizer.

I was actually proud of the "ku'i" there. "Bring me some hot coffee (as opposed to this tepid stuff)."

Lojbab: How about "tu'a la'edi'u"?

11. Colin: Can anybody explain "no'i" to me, please?

Mark: Not me. I don't know what it is either. I threw it in because I've pretty much never seen it before and figured it deserved some exposure, and this seemed like a possible usage. I'm going back to "ko'a", so it's sort of an old topic... isn't it?

Lojbab: The purpose is to allow you to change topics ("ni'o"), and possibly even contexts, but then to resume the old context at will with "no'i" ("ni'o" and "no'i" can be subscripted, I believe, if you are dealing with many contexts). Context is typically defined in terms of a certain space-time tense reference and possibly a set of anaphora assignments.

Major intended uses are for a story-within-a-story (for which the concept was invented - I've been working on an Arabian Nights translation for a few years now, and that collection nests stories several levels deep, as characters in a story tell a story with characters who in turn tell stories, etc., continually popping from level to level with stories stopping, starting, and being interrupted for metalinguistic comment or action at a higher story level), for comparison between two situations, and a whole bunch of oddball things that happen in stylistics of longer narratives.

The conventions of switching anaphora assignments (i.e. the definition of ko'a, ko'e, da, de, etc.) or tense reference (the value assigned with "ki" are not well established because "no'i" has not been used much used.

Other applications are certainly possible, and will have to be developed through usage. Hopefully they will be generally consistent with the originally intended purposes.

12. Mark: I don't like the way "di'u" only means "the last utterance". It's bringing number considerations into Lojban where it never had them before. I'd have expected it to mean "the last utterance(s)", with optional number, like everything else. You can't always use tu'e/tu'u, sometimes it's used in afterthought. I had to use that hideous "la'e joigi di'ugide'u" [in the original draft of this story], counting on "de'u" to be non-number-specific. Had to use forethought because otherwise "la'e" would stick only to "di'u" and not the whole thing.

Iain: In the latest version of the grammar, LAhE applies to a whole sumti, with an explicit optional LUhU terminator, so you could use afterthought.

Why not "[le] re di'u" - the previous two utterances, "so'o de'u" - several recent utterances, etc.

[Mark liked this approach and incorporated it in the printed version.]

Lojbab: I ask you: What is an 'utterance'? In Lojban, an utterance can be more than a single sentence, a paragraph even, or whatever. I would think this would be familiar to net people from Cowan's method of net quotation on Lojban-List: "la lojbab. cusku di'e", where "di'e" is the forward counting utterance equivalent of the back-counting "di'u".

Thus, the 'utterance' to which "di'u" refers is not that well defined, and may indeed refer to multiple sentences. Grammatically, the construct labelled 'utterance' is a single sentence or partial sentence. However, it has generally been agreed, for example, that ".ije" joining, or ".ibo" joining gives a logical unit (as does ".itu'e ...tu'u", as you noted). Thus the concept utterance extends to be what is labelled an "utterance-string" in the grammar, or perhaps even to the construct labelled "text-B", which can include multiple paragraphs. Now the usage default convention of 'utterance' has tended to be a single sentence, but it need not always be so. If context suggests a longer utterance is intended, fine.

A possibility to consider when you are dealing with a range of sentences and don't want to count, would be to use di'upezi/- di'upeza/di'upezu to indicate relative length of referenced utterance.

13. Mark: I also replaced a lot of "lenu"'s with "loinu"'s, though this is not common practice. I did this because of the article by JCB that was posted here not long ago, in which he pointed out that a lot of our "lenu"'s are really massified: you're not waiting for a specific event of a cab's arriving, you're waiting for a manifestation of the mass of such events. I thought JCB had a very good point there.

14. Colin: I don't think you can use "pe'ise'inai" in the way that I think you are trying to. It reads "didn't want to drink the coffee because it was not (I think but it's not my issue) hot." It seemed to me that you were trying to make it "... it was not (in their opinion) hot", which you cannot do with attitudinals.

Mark: I'm not so sure about this. I'm not 100% positive about what "se'i"/"se'inai" do. Somewhere in the past someone said they could be used in this way, to tag attitudinals explicitly as belonging to the speaker or not. Oh, I remember. It was when Nick and I were discussing whether attitudinals on "du'u" in the x2 of "djuno" applied to the speaker or to the x1. Actually, we were discussing it with reference to "kau" then, but this was when "kau" was still evolving. Lojbab said you could use "kause'i" and "kause'inai" to distinguish who was "knowing" (remember, at the time we were considering "kau" as mostly just "known!"), since "se'i" always made things apply to the speaker. I fear you're probably right anyway, but I hope you're wrong, since your second reading, the one I intended, is such an elegant way to say it....

[Later ...] I didn't change ..., e.g. Colin's objection to "pe'ise'inai" for "in their opinion", since last I heard the jury's still out on what it should mean, and I like the way it sounds.

Lojbab: Mark's usage is fairly consistent with what we had in mind for "se'inai", but is vague as to who actually holds the opinion other than the narrator. Lojban intentionally makes specifically attributing emotions to others difficult (as do many natural languages), and I would prefer such comments to be metalinguistic discursives using "sei". In this case, "sei da jinvi", or "sei vo'a jinvi", or even probably "sei jinvi" says the same thing, but makes the attribution of opinion a claim rather than an empathic understanding/attribution of emotion (which is what I see as the proper meaning of "se'inai" modifying an attitudinal).

15. Mark: I had trouble getting across the meanings of "this is illustrated by the old story" and "the moral of this is..." Places of "ctuca" have done the job, and reasonably well, but maybe not very well.

16. General Comments:

Mark: I could use some better use of UIs, I think. My grammar gets very complex sometimes.

Nick: Hm, this one is... sober. That's ok, though. We were about due for sober :) The grammatical complexity (and I presume the same is the case for my work) means that you have to read the piece slowly, but that's not impossible.

Colin: Your grammar is not complex compared to some of us ... - but you let it get quite embedded, which is a little hard to read; but it's good that we are seeing a variety of different styles. Keep it up.

Some of your UI's are very good, and others I disagree with.

Lojbab: Of the writings generated so far for this project, Mark's has by far the lowest density of lujvo, and he is sparing in the use of the more arcane cmavo, too. I think that simplicity of vocabulary, especially when there is no dictionary, more than makes up for a little complexity in the grammar. After all, if a sentence is a little complex, you can always bracket things more clearly by including a few optional terminators. But if you can't figure out what a couple lujvo in the sentence mean, you may be completely lost.

17. Lojbab: On the other hand, Mark specified one gender where it doesn't seem that his story needed it: why did the person who ordered the coffee have to be a man? He could have used "prenu", or "remna".

Commentary on Iain's 2nd Piece (no translation available)

.i bazi lenu mi'a simxu lenu rinsa kuku lo nanmu poi nanca li so'a cu klama pu'e le na'e sirji[18] ne'i le barja gi'e co'a zutse ca'u mi .i le nanmu goi ko'a cusku le se du'u[19] ri puzi se gunta lo puzu respa pe la'o ly. saurischia ly. .i ®lu .iku'i loi respa pe la'edi'u cu puzu ji'esti li'u¯ se cusku mi .i ®lu .ila'aru'e go'i .iboku'i simlu fa lenu noda ve cilre la'edi'u fo ra cu'usa'a ko'a .i lenu mi'a simxu lenu kansa cu nanca li reno .i mi co'aki kurji ko'e goi le respa ca lenu ri ca'o citno .i mi jinvi ledu'u le mamta be ko'e cu morsi ba'o lo nanca be li so'o .ije cumki fa lenu ko'e romoi lu'i le jutsi .i le pendo be mi zu'apu kurji ko'e gi'eku'i puzi co'a speni gi'e gasnu lenu cfari fa lenu lanzu kuku gi'e jinvi ledu'u vo'a na kakne lenu tu'ari xamgu ko'e ca lenu xamgu le lanzu[20] .isemu'ibo le go'i cpedu lenu mi curmi lenu basti fi lenu bilga lenu kurji ko'e .i mi je'a curmi .ijeja'ebo kiku nu'i bi'ogi ca la'edi'u gi caku dunda loi cidja .e loi djacu ko'e .ijebo satre ko'e .ijebo fi lenu cadzu cu kansa fe ko'e .i ca lo'e vanci mi tavla ko'e so'i klesi be lei te cilre be'o ne mu'u le citri be loi jmive be va'o le terdi be'obe'o .e loi jicmu bele saske bele munje poi vanbi ma'a .i jetnu fa lenu ko'e na kakne lenu tavla

.ijeku'iseki'unaibo mi su'oroi jinvi lenu ko'e jimpe la'e le se cusku be mi li'u¯ .i ®lu .iku'i ?mu'ima va'o la'e so'odi'u ko'e co'a bradi do li'u¯ .i ®lu na birti .i noda ru'a[21] jimpe le stura bele menli be lei puzu respa .i seki'unai la'ede'u mi pupuziki gasnu lenu xendo ko'e .i mi'a puzi klama zo'a lo bende be lo xanto .ijeseki'ubo mi mu'i lenu djica lenu fanta lenu damba noi cumki fa lenu ke'a se jalge lenu ko'e se xrani cu cusku ®lu ko se kajde fi tu'a le mabru li'u¯ li'u¯ mi'e .i,n.

18. Nick (on an earlier version of this): [Iain wrote:] "lo nanmu poi nanca li so'a cu klama fo le na'e sirji ne'i le barja gi'e co'a zutse ca'u mi"

What isn't straight? The two axes? Not that obvious in context.

Iain: No, it was meant to be the route (or the manner) by which he came in which wasn't straight. It sounds like this doesn't work. Perhaps I could try pu'e le na'e sirji.

Lojbab: I actually thought that the original was clear, and the modified version seems less so. The x4 of klama is a route, and a non-straight route is obviously an indirect one that is not the shortest from point a to point b. It is less clear to me what a non-straight process of going is. Perhaps meaning that he stopped to talk to people on the way. I would have used "lo" instead of "le" though, since it isn't clear to the reader listener which indirect route/means is the one intended. "le" should normally be something specifically identifiable to the listener, and if not, the speaker should be prepared to answer the clarifying question "leki'a" (which?).

19. Lojbab: Note that "du'u" refers to a fact or truth, something known or knowable, while "se du'u" refers to expressions of such a fact or truth. This is being clarified in the dictionary cmavo list.

20. Lojbab (on Iain's final draft text submission for JL17): [Iain wrote:]

.i le pendo be mi zu'apu kurji ko'e gi'eku'i puzi co'a speni gi'e gasnu lenu cfari fa lenu lanzu kuku gi'e jinvi ledu'u vo'a na kakne lenu tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e *gicabo le lanzu

This sentence is currently ungrammatical at the point indicated by an asterisk. "gi" does not bind with a tense like that - it is only a place holder. When you go from afterthought expression: "ko'e .ecabo le lanzu" to forethought, we don't currently have a way to express both logical and tense connective at the same time. If we did allow it, it might have to be attached to the connective, as "gecabo", and not to the place-holder word "gi". After all, the idea of a forethought connective is to let the listener know the relationship between the connectands before expressing them.

The easiest expression that I think captures your intended meaning is to scrap the connective and use an expanded tense clause. I made only this minimal change to make the result grammatical, but also discussed this with Nora. You might also consider expressing the final clause as:

vo'a na kakne lenu roroi ku tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e gi le lanzu

or maybe:

vo'a na kakne lenu paroi ku tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e gi le lanzu

or to express the negation as a tense:

vo'a noroi kakne lenu paroi ku tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e gi le lanzu
vo'a ca noda kakne lenu paroi ku tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e gi le lanzu

We also played with trying to move the negation down a level (which is very un-English), but I'm not sure that the semantics stays intact.

vo'a kakne lenu roroi ku tu'ari xamgu ganai ko'e ginai le lanzu
vo'a kakne lenu noroi ku tu'ari xamgu ge ko'e gi le lanzu

John Cowan will be looking at this area for a possible grammar change to allow some or all of the possible constructions of this type. It is perhaps useful for the community to note that most of the 2 dozen or so changes in the grammar are like this one would be; a minor expansion to allow something that no one ever tried before, but which seems plausibly understandable when it is tried in an actual writing.

21. Nick (on an earlier version): [Iain wrote:] .i ®lu na birti .i ?ma paunai jimpe le stura bele menli be lei puzu respa

I'd rather "no prenu cu jimpe", myself...

Iain: Wot, no rhetorical questions in Lojban?

Lojbab: I note that the final version uses "noda" with no restriction. So Iain has actually broadened his meaning beyond Nick's assumed "No person understands" to "Nothing understands". Of course, it may be implicit to most people that the x1 of jimpe is itself sufficiently restricting.

Iain's original method of expressing a rhetorical question seems valid, though at times one might want to put the "paunai" either at the front of the sentence to forewarn the listener of the rhetoric nature of the question, or to delay it, appending it to a "vau" on the end of the sentence, so that the listener starts to seriously think about the question and answer, before being told that no answer is expected.

I suspect that the attitudinal system offers a variety of other ways to convey rhetorical statements of this type, including probably some that don't easily translate to English.

Translation and Commentary on le lisri be le serti

Nora's translation follows in italics. Where Ivan intended a different translation, that is given on a third line in a different font, or in the footnotes commenting on Nora's translation.

le lisri be le serti
The story of the stairs.
"The Tale of the Stairs"

.i fitfi'i di'e ro lei ba cusku be ledu'u vo'e vo'i na srana
Offered is the following to all who say it doesn't pertain to them.
(Epigram:) "Dedicated to all those who will say: `This doesn't pertain to me!'" ('doesn't apply to me', 'has nothing to do with me'.)

ni'oni'o tu'e (non-translatable) ®lu do mo li'u¯ preti fi la pacrux. goi fo'a
"What are you doing/What are you?" asks Evil-Spirit.
`Who art thou?' asked the Devil.[22]

.i ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai mi bruna
.i .oicai ge le terdi cu to'e melbi gi le remna cu to'e gleki li'u¯
"I'm a peon by birth, and all the poorest are my brothers. Alas! The earth is ugly and the people are miserable."
"I'm a plebeian by birth, and all the tatterdemalions/- ragamuffins are my brethren. Oh, how ugly is the earth and how miserable are the people!"

.i di'u se bacru lo citno nanmu noi se lafti se mebri gi'e denmi se xance .i ri goi ko'a sanli crane le serti .i labyxu'e linji ke blabi roimrmaro ke galtu serti
This was uttered by a young man, with raised brow[23] and dense (thick?)[24] hand. He stands in front of the stairs. Pink-lined, white marble, high stairs.
Thus spoke a young man with lifted forehead (showing proud unwillingness to conform) and clenched fists. ... a high staircase of white marble with pink veins[25].

.i ko'a catlu mo'ifa'a le darno ne di'o lepu'u lei grusi kalsygri be leka pindi[26] cu ca simsa be[27] loi ctaru rirxe[28] ke to'ekli boxna[29] ku savri'a .i diklo slilu gi'e febvi fengu gi'e lafti loi to'e plana ke xekri birka .i le nunpante ke suksa sance .e lei fengu nunki'a cu desku le vacri
He looks, his gaze moving-towards [somewhere] far, where the gray mobs of poor are, like tide-river unclear-waves, making noise (clamoring?). Shifting/agitated and boiling anger and lifting of meager, black arms[30]. The yelps (?) of protest and the cries of anger shake the air.
His gaze was directed towards the far-away, where the grey mobs of misery were clamouring... They were agitated/in a state of ferment... The outcries of protest ...

.i le te minra[31] cu simsa be lo darno ke barda terdanti sance ku masno je junri runta[32] .i lei girzu cu banro gi'e klama ne'i loi pelxu pulce dilnu .ije loi sepli ti'otra cu mutcne[33] leka viskli ze'o le kampu ke grusi vanbi
The vantage-of-reflection, like a far artillery (?) sound, slowly and gravely dissolves (don't quite get this sentence). The groups grow and go inside yellow-dust clouds. And the separate shadow shapes vary widely in visibility as they get further from the common gray surroundings.
... and the echo faded away slowly, solemnly, like distant cannon fire sounds ... and individual silhouettes were emerging more and more clearly against the common grey background".

ni'o pa.o'enai to'ercitno[34] cu simsa be lepu'u sisku leri se cirko ka citno be'o ni'akro be fa'a le terdi ku dzukla[35] .i lo cucycau[36] cmaxli cu jgari lera[37] selxaksu taxfu gi'e catlu le galtu serti sepi'o lo tinbe je simsa be le rulnkentaure,a bei leka blanu ku kanla[38] .i catlu je cisma
An old one, like a searcher for his/her lost youth, walks stooped to the ground. An unshod little girl grasps someones/ somethings worn-out clothes and looks at the high stairs with obedient[39], cornflower-blue eyes. Looking and smiling.
Some old man was coming, stooped to the ground, as though he was looking for his lost youth ... was holding his [sc. the old man's] ragged/tattered garment (in order not to get lost in the crowd)...

.i loi selpopseltau je grusi je cinla remtra cu trixe dzukla gi'e gunma sanga lo selsno ke mrori'i zgike .i da kercrori'a siclu fi le ctebi .i de noi daski nenri se xance cu cmila sepi'o lo cladu je rufsu voksa .ije lede kanla cu jarco leka fenki
Rag-covered, gray, thin forms walked behind and sang together slow, funereal music (dirges?)[40]. Someone ear-splitting-ly whistled from the lips. Someone, with hands in pockets, laughed in a loud, rough voice. His eyes showed insanity.
... Someone was whistling sharply. ... insanity was burning in his eyes.

ni'o ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai mi bruna .i .oicai ge le terdi cu to'e melbi gi le remna cu to'e gleki .i .iunai vu gapru .i .o'onai li'u¯
"I am a peon by birth, and all the poorest are my brothers. Alas! The earth is ugly and the people are miserable. The high-ups - I spit on them![41]"

.i di'u se bacru lo citno nanmu noi se lafti se mebri gi'e dukri'a denmi se xance
This was uttered by a young man, with raised brow and agonizingly dense hands[42].

.i ®lu .io ?xupe'i[43] do xebni lei vu gapru li'u¯ preti fi fo'a noi ca tcica krori'a le xadni fa'a ko'a
"Sir, do you hate the high-up?" asked Evil-Spirit, who slyly bowed to him[44].
`You hate those up there?' asked the Devil and leaned towards him.

.i ®lu .aisai mi ba vefsfa lei vu mabla nobli joi turni .i mi ri kusru vefsfa seka'i[45] leimi bruna goi ko'u noi simsa be le canre bei leka pelxu ku se flira zi'e noi zmadu be le la gaimast. si'erbi'e bei leni tepri'a ku se cmoni[46] .i ko viska leko'u lunbe ke ciblu ve flecu xadni .i ko tirna leko'u cmoni .i .ai mi ko'u venfu .i le'o ko curmi li'u¯
"I will have revenge on those damned royalty. I will wreak upon them a cruel vengeance on behalf of my brothers, with sand-yellow faces and who moan with more than a December-blizzard worth of scaring. See their bare, bleeding bodies. Hear their moans. I will avenge them. Just you allow it![47] Oh, I will take vengeance on those princes1 and princes2[48]. ... who moan in a more ominous/- sinister way than the December blizzards.

.i fo'a cisma
The spirit smiles.

.i ®lu mi jibri bandu lei vu gapru .ije mi se le'irbai gi'anai lacti'a ri li'u¯
"My job is to defend the high-up[49]. I am fined (?)[50] if I am traitorous to them."

.i ®lu mi ponse no solji .i mi ponse no lo se pleji befi do .i mi pindi je selpopseltau citno .iku'i mi bredi lenu pleji lemi kazyji'e li'u¯
"I have no gold. I have nothing to pay you. I am a poor and rag-covered youth. But, I am prepared to pay with my life[51]."

.i fo'a rapli cisma
The spirit again smiles.

.i ®lu .e'onai ri zmadu lemi se cpadji .i do'anai ko fi mi dunda leka do sanga'e li'u¯
"Ah, no. It is more than my get-desire(??). Give me but your hearing."
"Oh, no, I don't want that much! ..."

.i ®lu .ueru'e leka mi sanga'e .i .iefi'i .i .e'i mi noroi tirna di .i .e'i li'u¯
"What?![52] My hearing? Take it. I'll never be free[53] to hear anything. Not free ..."
"My hearing? With pleasure..."

.i ®lu do ranji leka ka'e tirna[54] li'u¯ .i fo'a ko'a papri'a sepi'o di'u gi'e cadzu curmi[55] .i ®lu ko pagre li'u¯
"You'll continue to be able to hear." The spirit calmed him with this and let him walk. "Go through[56]."

.i ko'a bikla bajra gi'e dzugre ci te serti tai pa nu stapa .i ku'i lefo'a terkre xance ko'a lacpu
He whippingly(?) ran[57], and walked through 3 steps with one stride. But the spirit's hairy hand pulled him.

.i ®lu banzu .i ko sisti mu'i lenu tirna leiko'u[58] vu cnita cmoni li'u¯
"Enough. Stop to hear their moans far beneath."
"Stop to hear how thy brethren moan down there!"

.i ko'a sisti gi'e kerlo jundi
He stopped and listened.

.i ®lu .uesai .i ki'uma ko'u suksa cfari lenu to'edri sanga gi'e xalbo cmila li'u¯ .i ko'a krefu ke bikla bajra
"Well! What made them suddenly start singing happily and laughing lightly?" He again whippingly ran.
`Strange: why did they so suddenly <...>?' And he rushed again[59].

.i fo'a ko'a krefu
rinju The spirit again restrained him.

.i ®lu mu'i lenu do krefu pagre ci te serti kei mi cpadji ledo kanla li'u¯
"To go another 3 steps, I want your eyes."

.i ko'a pa'arcau sliri'a le xance
He hopelessly shook (wrung?) the hand.
... desperately waved[60] ...

.i ®lu ku'i va'o la'edi'u mi na ka'e viska ga leimi bruna gi leimi ba se vefsfa li'u¯
"But in that case I can see neither my brothers nor my targets[61]."

.i ®lu do ranji leka ka'e viska[62] .i mi fi do ba dunda lo drata kanla noi mutce zmadu li'u¯
"You will still be able to see. I give to you other eyes, which are much more."
"... other, much better eyes!"[63]

.i ko'a rapli pagre[64] ci te serti gi'e ni'a catlu jundi[65] .i fo'a rinka lenu ko'a morji
He again went through 3 steps and looked down. The spirit reminded him:

.i ®lu ko viska leko'u lunbe ke ciblu ve flecu xadni li'u¯
"See their bare, bleeding bodies."

.i ®lu .uecai .i .u'ecai cizra .i ?cama[66] binxo lenu ko'u melbi dasni .i ji'a seba'i lei ciblu te xrani ko'u se jadni loi se manci xunre rozgu[67] li'u¯
"Wow! Amazing! When did they become beautifully dressed? And instead of the bloody injuries they are adorned with wondrous red roses."
"My god! But this is so strange: when did they manage to dress so well! ..."

ni'o vi ro lo cimoi te serti fo'a di'i lebna lefo'a cmalu selpleji .i ku'i ko'a ru'i cadzu .i ko'a bredi dunda rodi mu'i lemu'e klama tu gi'e vefsfa leivu malplana nobli joi turni .i .uo.ui semaunai pa te serti .i ba su'epa te serti[68] ko'a gapru .i ko'a cabazi venfu leiko'a bruna
At each 3rd step, the spirit regularly took his little payment, but the youth went on walking. He readily gave everything to get there and get revenge on those fat royalty. Finally! Not more than[69] 1 step [left]. After only one step he'll be above. He will then avenge his brothers.

.i ®lu mi to'erno'i ji'u leka cerda .ije ro le pidrai sa'a[70] li'u¯
"I am a peon by birth, and all the poorest..."

.i ®lu ju'i. citno nanmu su'epa te serti .i ba su'epa te serti do venfu .i ku'i levi te serti di'i ve pleji le relpi'i jdima mi .i ko fi mi dunda leka do cinmo je morji[71] li'u¯
"Hey, young man[72]. Only 1 step. After only 1 step you can avenge. But, for this step I regularly[73] charge double price. Give me your emotions and memory."
"Young man, only one step more! ..."

.i ko'a sliri'a le xance
He shakes (wrings?) the hand.

.i ®lu .ii leka cinmo .i .e'anaicai .i dukse kusru li'u¯
"Oh, no! Emotion - heaven forfend. Too cruel."
"The heart? No! This is too cruel!"

.i fo'a maljgira cmila ra'i le galxe
The spirit haughtily laughs from the throat.
The Devil gave a guttural, authoritative laugh:

.i ®lu mi na mela'edi'u kusru .i mi fi do canja dunda lo zabna kazyci'o .e lo cnino kazmo'i .i ga do zanru gi do noroi pagre levi te serti gi'e noroi venfu leido bruna pe lo se flira be le simsa be le canre zi'e pe le se cmoni be le zmadu be le la gaimast. si'erbi'e bei leni tepri'a li'u¯
I am not thus cruel. I trade with you for a fine emotion and a new memory[74]. Either you approve[75] or you'll never get through this step and never avenge your brothers with the sandy faces and the moans more fearful than the December blizzard."

.i ko'a catlu lefo'a crino je ranxi kanla
He looks at the spirit's ironic green eyes.

.i ®lu ku'i mi ba traji leni to'e gleki .i do lebna ro ckaji be le kazre'a mi li'u¯
"But I will be a most unhappy person. You take all humanity from me."
But I shall be the most unhappy one. Thou takest from me everything that is human[76].

.i ®lu to'e go'e .i traji leni je'a gleki .i .e'apei .i ?xu do tugni .i do'anai[77] leka do cinmo je morji li'u¯
"Just the opposite - the most truly happy man. Allow me. Do you agree? Your emotion and memory, please?"

.i ko'a cu trati pensi .i lo xekri ctino cu manri'a leko'a flira .i loi xasne ke to'ekli dirgo cu gunro zo'a[78] le se cinje mebri .i ko'a fengu demri'a le xance gi'e bacru pa'o le denci
He tries[79] to think. A black shadow covers his face. Cloudy drops of sweat roll off the wrinkled brow. He angrily clenched[80] his fist and said through his teeth:

®lu .ai.e'asai .i ko lebna li'u¯
"Go ahead. Take [them].
" "So be it! (Let it be! Soit! etc.) Take them!"

ni'o ca lenu le xekri kerfa ca biflu'a kei ko'a simsa be le crisa lidbi'e ku fengu pagre le romoi te serti .i ko'a capu snada lemu'e gapru .i suksa cisma gusni leko'a flira[81] .i leko'a kanla cu dirce seci'o le smaji ka se mansa .i leko'a xance cu luzbi'o .i ko'a catlu lei pixsalci nobli .i catlu le cnita be di'o lenu krixa je dapma fa le grusi je selpopseltau girzu .i catlu .i ku'i no sluji be leko'a flira cu frati .i ri selgu'i je gleki je selpu'a .i ko'a viska loi salci se taxfu girzu vi le cnita .i lei pu cmoni ca salpemci
With his black hair fluttering, he, like a summer thunderstorm, angrily passes through the last step. He has now succeeded in getting above[82]. There is a sudden smile illuminating his face. His eyes radiate, emoting the silent satisfaction.[83] His hands loosen[84]. He looks at the toasting nobility[85]. Looking underneath to the crying and the cursing of the gray, ragged crowd. Looking, but not a muscle in his face reacts. It is illuminated and happy and pleased. He sees a crowd dressed for celebration below[86]. What were moans are paeans[87].

.i ®lu do ?mo li'u¯ tcica preti fi fo'a sepi'o lo rufsu voksa
"What are you?" slyly asks Evil-Spirit with a rough voice.
"Who art thou?" slyly and hoarsely asked the Devil.

.i ®lu mi nobli ji'u leka cerda .ije lei cevni mi bruna .i .uicai ge le terdi cu je'a melbi gi le remna cu je'a gleki[88] li'u¯
"I am a noble[89] by birth, and the gods are my brothers. Ah!, but the earth is truly beautiful and the people are truly happy."

The End.

.i di'u se finti la xristoz. smirnensk.[90] gi'e se fanva la .iVAN. derJANSK. fo le banblgaria si'u la nitcion. nikolas.
This was written by Christo Smirnensk, and translated by Ivan from Bulgarian aided by Nick Nicholas.


22. Lojbab: "do mo" is elegant, but a bit vague to expect a useful answer with no context in advance to make it clear what is meant. Given the answer that was given (which is presumably the information that the Devil wanted to hear), I would ask the question as "do ?mo prenu" ("You are a what-kind-of-person")

23. Nora: Not quite sure what this is. I presume it means he had a "high" brow. Perhaps "clani se mebri" (longly be-browed)?

Ivan: "with lifted forehead" (showing proud unwillingness to conform)".

Lojbab: I am one who believes in making cultural metaphors explicit in translations, especially to a supposedly culture-neutral language (I expect that you will call me on this regularly in return, Ivan, when I fail to make my own cultural metaphors clear.)

Thus, if the lifted forehead signifies pride, include 'pride' in the tanru: "jgira ke seke se lafti mebri", or twisting it around for clarity in the relative clause context: "lo citno nanmu noi lafti le mebri seci'o leka jgira"

Ivan: I thought a lifted forehead as an expression of pride was universal, not culturally sensitive, but maybe I was wrong. Ditto for clenched fists as an expression of aggressive impatience.

Lojbab: You may be right about the universality of the physical expressions - I have no idea. But there is cultural significance in the way each is described, which may vary between languages, and there is more than one emotion that could be symbolized. In (American), phrases like "head held high" suggest self-esteem/- personal pride, while "nose in the air" suggests hauteur. But "eyes lifted on high" suggests worship. All three of these could also be described as having a lifted forehead, but I've never heard the forehead mentioned in an English metaphor suggesting any of them.

24. Nora: I later figured out that this was "clenched", but it took a while. Perhaps "denmi se polje se xance" (densely-foldedly be-handed)?

Lojbab: "fist" has been expressed before as "ball-hand", so "fengu bolci se xance" (possibly making the whole or some portion into a lujvo - 'clenched-fist' for se fegbolxa'e, 'angry fist' for fengu se bolxa'e, or 'anger-clenched hands' fegboi se xance). Again, I favor making the emotional implication (which I am assuming is correct) explicit in the tanru/lujvo.

"denmi" used this way in tanru will probably not catch on quickly with English-speaking readers, since we don't often use the word in its literal sense in metaphor. The validity of the tanru using denmi is thus hard to evaluate before we have a few usages of this type in the dictionary (and a few other English words besides "dense" to trigger people's consideration.) Other than that, I think "denmi" is fine especially if the "fengu" is also present, and I would not make much of the fact that no one picks up the metaphor right away.

Nick comments further on this metaphor in a later footnote.

25. Lojbab: If the order of the terms in the translation is important to you, use "co" and grouping words to emphasize it: galtu serti co blabi joi labyxu'e bo linji roimrmaro (high stairs of-type white-with-pink-lines marble) is one such approach.

Ivan: I confess I never acquired the habit to use "co".

26. Nick: Will "kalsygri be leka pindi" by itself imply that it's a group of people? If you accept that, then leave "prenu" out.

27. Lojbab: This kind of long-complex "be" is why "co" is in the language "cu ca savri'a co simsa loi ctaru rirxe ke to'ekli boxna" is much clearer, and also seems to match the order of your intended translation better.

28. Lojbab: Does the sound of murky waves of a tidal river differ from the sound of any other kind of waves of a tidal river, or any other river?

Ivan: The waves are murky because of the appearance of the mobs, and the river is tidal because of their numbers. The observation that these things (especially the first one) don't affect the noise is correct, so maybe I'll extract this description from the tanru and attach it to the mobs, like so: "lei grusi kalsygri be leka pindi bei <like> loi ctaru rirxe ke to'ekli boxna ca savri'a". How's that? [Lojbab: Better, but see my answer in the next footnote.]

29. Ivan: Bulgarian has the same word for `wave' and `worry', and since the mob is something like a sea made of people, it is not clear whether this is meant in a physical or emotional sense, or both.

Lojbab: Then coin a lujvo based on "worry-wave" (dunku boxna) or "anxious-wave" (xanka boxna), possibly with a "joi" in between the terms. It won't translate to English, but will accurately reflect the dichotomy of the Bulgarian. Actually, I think the image, in this case, would translate, even if the word did not.

Combining this with the previous comments, I propose:

lei grusi kalsygri be leka pindi ca mutce savri'a gi'e simsa loi to'ekli dukyjoibo'a be loi ctaru rirxe

30. Ivan: Used to be a "forest of dry, black arms".

Lojbab: You could get the image of "forest" in there with "grana foldi co lafti loi to'e plana ke xekri birka", paralleling the image of "forest" = "ricfoi" ("tree-field"), which is the lujvo that has been most used.

31. Nick: I'd use "sanselminra". "te minra" (where something is reflected to) means "echo" less than does "se minra" (that which is reflected).

32. Lojbab: Again a place where "co" would make the text easier to understand. I also would use "canci" instead of "runta"; I cannot figure out what might go in the places of "runta" for an echo dissolving: "... cu masno je junri canci co simsa loi darno ke barda terdanti sance". (I also put a "loi" here on the cannon sounds.) I don't know about the original Bulgarian, but "solemn" to me can imply "somber/gloomy/sad" at least as much as "serious", or at least both. Perhaps "jurdri"? in place of "junri".

33. Nick: Given that "zenba" is now intransitive, replace "mutcne" with "zenba".

Lojbab: If "zenba" were still transitive, you would want "zmabi'o" or "tcebi'o", based on "binxo" instead of "cenba"

34. Ivan: The ".o'enai" was intended to cater for him being "some [old man]", whom no one knows or cares for.

Lojbab: Ivan originally used "slabu". "slabu" is defined as the "old" which is opposite of "new", and not as the opposite of "young". This has caused a lot of people writing in Lojban to change to "to'ercitno". This works but it seems clumsy to define "old" as an opposite. I think that with the proper value for the places, "slabu" can serve both meanings, but have apparently not been convincing. How about "ji'ecla" (alive-long) or "ma'ucla" (mature-long) or "revycla" (survive-long), with the latter or zatcla/za'icla (exist-long), or teicla/temcla (time interval-long) serving for non-living things that have been in their current state for a long time?

Ivan: I wouldn't replace "to'ercitno" with anything else. It doesn't matter that the man has lived long. It matters that he is not young any more.

35. Lojbab: Again, a "be" that should be made into a "co". In addition, I think the old man is like a seeker, and not like a seeking and the "pu'u" should go away (though Nora figured out your intent), while what he is seeking is probably the state of his being young, and not the property. Putting all this together might give: "... cu dzukla co ni'akro be fa'a le terdi be'o simsa lo sisku le selcri za'i vo'a citno".

36. Ivan: That is "lunbyseljma", but I chose to go for the alliteration and brevity of "cucycau". I trust it is understood as meaning the same.

37. Nora: I wasn't sure which referent to use for "ra". The possible referents are: the earth, the old one (via "ri" in "leri se cirko"), his lost youth, the lost youth of the old one, the process of searching for the lost youth, and (finally) the original reference to old one himself. I didn't initially pick up the "ri" (in "leri se cirko") as a countable sumti because I missed it (real easy to miss when it's compounded with the "le").

Ivan: The old one was what I wanted. The wee lass is "ri", and the earth, the youth and the process have no garments for her to cling to.

Nora: I think I'd have been more comfortable with picking up the original reference at the beginning of the paragraph using "ru".

Ivan: How would that work? I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

Lojbab: Since this is a new paragraph, "ru" should not go back any further than the beginning of the paragraph. The first sumti of the paragraph is the original reference to the old one, and the obvious referent of "ru". In addition, counting minimally based on your text would give "ra" to the earth and "ru" to the "ri" of "leri".

On the other hand, a far more clear back-reference would have been "le go'i" which clearly picks up the x1 of the previous sentence, the old man.

Note that since this anaphoric reference is occurring in the middle of an extremely picturesque set of metaphors, grasping the clothes of the earth is quite imaginable as a metaphor. Meanwhile, since Nora translated from your original text, which had "lo slabu" instead of "pa to'ercitno", she interpreted the old ones as plural (you had just been talking of masses and the Lojban gave no hint of sudden focus on individuals ("to'unai" or "su'anai" might have discursively indicated this change of detail level). Thus it might be that one girl is holding a mob of old peoples' clothes, or even a mob of unshod little girls is holding onto the clothes of the old people. In comparison to these images, grasping the "worn-out clothes" of the earth does not seem that far-fetched.

All of this makes it clear that "ra" and "ru" have rather limited usefulness unless you are dealing with simple sentences where back-counting is easy.

38. Lojbab: Nora was particularly pleased with herself for figuring out "cornflower blue", whatever that is.

Ivan: Just bright blue. Cornflowers are often mentioned in Bulgarian literature. The reader is expected to have seen many of them, which I (being a urban boy) haven't, but I know what colour they are. The reader is also supposed to guess that bright blue as an eye colour suggests innocence. This is not the case in all cultures (and in particular, not in traditional Bulgarian culture - in our folklore all eyes must be black), but that's how the author meant it.

Lojbab: Thus adding a modifying term to the tanru and grouping terms would make the meaning clear to those who do not know the cultural implication: "<innocent- (cornflower-bo-blue)>-eyes"

Nora said that the context suggested "cornflower", and sure enough, you had used the genus name for cornflower in your le'avla.

Ivan: The full name of the plant is Centaurea cyanus. It is not all blue (the stem and leaves are green), but I hope I still can use it in this way.

Lojbab: Certainly, since the author did so. If there was doubt, you could specifically add "flower" after the le'avla, but I suspect that the flower is the plausible referent whenever a flowering plant is used as the basis for a color. On the other hand, if you used cauliflower/- broccoli as the basis for a color description, you'd have to be more specific - indeed, I think I have seen both vegetables used to describe colors in English.

39. Ivan: Or "mild" or "meek" (eyes).

Lojbab: I might have tried "cumla" (humble), "fegycau" (anger-without), or "nalvli" (non-powerful).

40. Ivan: Just a funeral song, which they were singing in a choir.

41. Ivan: "Oh, ye up there, ye..." (Menace.) He's not really going to talk to them, therefore I spared the "doi".

Lojbab: It seems to me that a vocative that is not meant for the referent is expressible by "ju'inai". An alternative would be to use a prenex to achieve an impersonal topicalization. Perhaps something like: "levu [mal]gapru .iunai zo'u do .au ve sputu .o'onai"

42. Ivan: No, "threateningly clenched fists", "fists clenched in menace".

Nick: Maybe "kajde" should be in that tanru?

The tanru with denmi doesn't seem to be working. What about "ja'itra denmi xance" - grasp-form dense? ("jgari" alone implies that the youth is "ca'a" grasping "da poi se jgari"

Lojbab: If not "kajde", then perhaps "capti'i" (peril-suggesting), though "capyjde" might be better still (peril-warning).

43. Ivan: It is a rhetoric question (indeed, the behaviour of the youth leaves little doubt). Maybe "pei" (`don't answer') instead of "pe'i" (`I think you do')? The ".io" was a faint attempt to cater for the fact that this is the only occurrence of the formal pronoun in the tale. It doesn't really have to mean anything, and "Sir" is just a little bit too polite for its use here to be fair.

Nick: Hang on, "pei" is the attitudinal interrogative, "pe'i" the opinion. What you currently have translates to me as "You do, don't you." I think the ".io" should stay.]

Lojbab: "paunai", generally before the sentence, is the marker for a question not to be answered; i.e. a rhetorical question. In this case, you could also just omit the question word and start off with "pe'i do xebni ...". I think such direct statements or rhetorical questions serve to make the ".io" rather a lesser mark of respect than it might be. Note that, in American English at least, "Sir" is commonly used to address someone you don't know the name of in a non-insulting manner, and doesn't necessarily convey a lot of respect, so don't make too much of Nora's choice of the word.

44. Ivan: "and leaned towards him", certainly not "bowed to him".

Nick: Hm. I was thinking of "kroxadjbi", but I don't think "krori'a" need be taken as "to bow" - that's more "xadykro rinsa".

Lojbab: You might need a "mo'i" on that "fa'a" to get the motion, and I think the "ko'a" can then be ellipsized. "noi ca tcica xadmu'u le stedu mo'ifa'a". As a sumti tcita, I tend to like "zo'i" more than "fa'a", though I don't think you can ellipsize the "ko'a" in that case, since the default referent of "zo'i" is the speaker/narrator.

45. Ivan: Wrong BAI, it seems. He wants to avenge his brethren, not necessarily on their behalf (maybe they don't even know who has caused their misery). "venfu" wants one more argument place, therefore I went for "vefsfa", but by doing so I lost another argument place.

Nick: Let's get that place back for you. There's really no reason why "vefsfa" should not have a place for "le se venfu"):

s1 avenges s2 by doing s3
p1 punishes p2 for doing p3 by doing p4.

s1=p1. s3=p4. p3=tu'a s2. Leaving out p3, we have:

vefsfa: x1 punishes x2 avenging x3 by doing x4.

Of course, you could just say "venfu be lei bruna be'o sfasa"

46. Lojbab: rearrange more clearly as: "zi'e noi selcmo co zmadu le la gaimast. si'erbi'e leni tepri'a"

"zi'e noi" could be simply "gi'e" since you are using the same kind of relative clause (noi) with the relativized sumti in the first position in both cases. But there is nothing wrong with the way you have it.

47. Ivan: Ought to have been "Let me pass!", but I didn't make it clear what the Devil was supposed to curmi.

48. Ivan: (Bulgarian has two words which are equally glossed `prince' in English, the first referring to a son or other close relative of a king, the other to a ruler of a principality.) "mabla" corresponded to a certain form of the Bulgarian demonstrative pronoun, which suggests contempt.

49. Ivan: "I am a guard[ian] of those up there..." It is certainly not his only job, but he means that he is serious about defending their privacy.

Lojbab: Perhaps remove the "jibri", and replace by ".ei" or ".e'i". This also parallels what I think the following sentence should be ...

50. Ivan: Contrariwise. "... and without a bribe I won't betray them." That is, "either I will be payingly compelled (i.e. bribed) or I won't betray them".

Nick: "gi'anaibabo" to be polite. I still think "le'irbai" is sound. "le'irselmukti"?

Lojbab: I like using attitudinals, and "le'ixlu" for bribe: ".ije mi se le'ixlu .ei gi'a na.e'i lacti'a ri

I somehow feel that "lacti'a" has the wrong emphasis. Since the Devil intends to deceive the plebeian, he should avoid mentioning deception. Maybe a nice ambiguous tanru like "sidju cliva ri"?

51. Ivan: Lit. "... to lay my head".

52. Ivan: The surprise in the English is too strong.

53. Ivan: I don't get the "free" here. "Let me never hear anything, let me..." I don't know how to say `let ... happen' in Lojban, though.

Lojbab: Nora was undoubtedly trying to interpret the ".e'i" (constraint), and did so as the negation of ".e'inai" (freedom). I would normally use ".e'a" for permission, and the reiteration of the request is even stronger, a petition: ".ie fi'ido'u mi noroi.e'a tirna di .i.e'o"

54. Ivan: For a more straightforward way to say "Thou wilt still hear", I'm thinking of trying "do co'unai ka'e tirna".

55. Ivan: Lit. "made him way", i.e. "moved aside and let him pass".

56. Lojbab: I don't know how to pass through stairs.

Ivan: This may be a malbaublgaria. By passing a set of steps I mean climbing them. They are seen as obstacles, because one has to pay for each set of three. Hints as to how else I could put it are welcome.

Nora: "pagre" isn't really the right word, unless you are doing it for the analogy of "passing through" stages (in which case something based on "pruce" might be used). I'm not quite sure what to use in place of it, though.

Ivan: No, I'm doing it for want of a better bet.

Nora: Maybe "klama mo'i zo'a ci te serti" (went motion-tangential 3 steps)?

Ivan: Maybe. (Not that it sounds good enough to me.)

Lojbab: I think I would use "bancu", and I'd soften the imperative to reinforce that it is a permission and not a command: ".i ®lu .e'a ko cpare bancu li'u¯"

57. Ivan: "He rushed/dashed [forward]". Probably "ko'a co'i [mo'ica'u] bajra".

Nick: Remember, Lojbab, the primary raison d'etre of "bikla" is to denote "a whip-like motion", not a whip.

Lojbab: I have no real problem with the use of "bikla". Any confusion in my mind is due to the repetition of the motion with different words: whipped forward, ran, walk-passed-through, for as short a motion as three steps. I would use "suksa", though, and perhaps phrase it like: ".i ko'a suksa ke bajra bancu tai pa nunstapa co cimei te serti"

58. Ivan: Bulgarian has fewer personal pronouns than Lojban, so my "ko'u" corresponds to "my brethren" or "thy brethren" as appropriate.

What will happen if I say "leiko'u ni'avu cmoni"?

Lojbab: Seems as good, and indeed resolves a tanru, though it is one that isn't really misunderstood. The main differences between your translation and Nora's is your "how", which isn't present in the Lojban, and the interpretation of "vu", which rather overstates the distance - it is after all only 3 steps at this point. How about: "ko sisti mu'i lenu tirna leika ko'u ni'ava cmoni"

59. Ivan: Rhetorical question. The last sentence may become ".i ko'a di'a bajra".

Lojbab: I'm not sure I understand how this is merely a rhetorical question. The attitudinal you inserted indicates surprise - thus he doesn't know the answer. He probably would like to know, even if he doesn't necessarily expect an answer. Thus "paunai", the unask-the-question marker of a rhetorical question, seems out of place. If he asks the question, he really would like an answer. If you feel that he doesn't really expect to know but just thinks of it as an unsolvable and possibly irrelevant mystery, I would avoid the question-word entirely and merely use the attitudinal for strangeness and an observative to indicate what it is he finds so unquestionably strange. (This comment applies to later questions in the story of this 'rhetorical' type.)

I would have used a different attitudinal, ".i'unai.u'e" (mystery+wonder), instead of ".ue" (surprise), based on your translation of it as "Strange". I would not have put a strength indicator on the attitudinal, which marked the attitude as particularly strong. Otherwise, this seems fine.

Ivan: It is a rhetorical question inasmuch as the youth doesn't expect the Devil to answer him. Of course he wouldn't mind being told, but he's not addressing anybody with this question, just wondering aloud. Your suggestion of attitudinal is good.

60. Lojbab: For this meaning I would choose something like "tcudu'u" (need-anguish), which in turn suggests a different kind of hand oscillating.

61. Ivan: The Bulgarian contained the rather long "those on whom I go (in the literal, "la'e zo klama" sense) to take vengeance".

Lojbab: You should be able to capture this with "leimi se vefsfa terkla".

62. Ivan: Again [see footnote above regarding loss of hearing], I'll try "do co'unai ka'e viska".

63. Ivan: The Devil slyly fails to specify in what sense they will be better (i.e. in what property they will zmadu).

Nick: Would "zmadu befi zo'e" be too obvious?

Lojbab: I think it would! It would make the Lojbanic point, but if the plebeian had heard it put like that, he might have guessed what he was in for. However, it would be clearer to readers, if the Devil had use "xagmau" (better) instead of "zmadu" (more), while retaining a similar ellipsis of comparison while adding one regarding the nature of "good" (Better than what? By whose standard?)

64. Lojbab: You again need to deal with the "pagre" here. In this case, I suggest something like "krefu muvdu co bancu ci te serti". "krefu" is better than "rapli" for "again", though the latter is better for multiple repetitions, as occurs later in the story.

65. Ivan: Ought to be "mo'ini'a ...", or "... le cnita".

Lojbab: I prefer "catlu le cnita". "mo'ini'a", like the similar moving gaze early in the story, seems to ask for misunderstanding, though I suspect fluent Lojbanists might appreciate the usage more than us novices.

66. Ivan: No answer to the question is really expected, so "pei ?cama ko'u co'a melbi dasni".

Lojbab: You mean "paunai" instead of "pei". I disagree, as stated in my earlier comment on these kind of rhetorical questions. I think the unsolvability of the question is better conveyed by 1) dropping the ".uecai" (which obviously prompted a different image in Nora's mind), and adding ".i'enaicai" after "cizra".

67. Ivan: Odd as it may be, Smirnenski called them "manci xunre rozgu" `wondrously red roses', rather than "manci ke xunre rozgu". Don't ask me why.

Lojbab: The reason seems obvious to me, if indeed the difference between the two groupings is that striking in the Bulgarian: The left grouping indicates a surreal quality about the redness of the roses, a clue to the nature of these new eyes, whereas the right grouping just says that they are especially nice roses without suggesting a surreal quality. Pretty roses are a wonder, but they need no special eyes to be found; but roses that are a red color that is wondrous must indeed be an unusual red, since most roses are a fairly distinctive red color.

Ivan: Congratulations on your reading of the "wondrously red roses". It is very interesting, if not accurate. They were more likely roses of an unusual (yet real) red colour. We often call rare things 'surreal'.

68. Ivan: I'm not quite sure about "ba [pa te serti]" here - steps are not times. Maybe "ba tu'a pa te serti".

Nick: To be strictly correct, yes.

69. Nora: The "semaunai" isn't necessary. "pa te serti" actually means "exactly one step".

Ivan: I wanted to emphasise the fact that it is really only one step. All of these sentences ended with an exclamation mark in the Bulgarian original. What would be a way to put it back?

Nick: "ba'epa", "ba'esu'epa" will do it for me.]

Lojbab: Also, on the 'only one step' sentence, add "ba'acai" to show intense anticipation, certainly worth an exclamation point.

Indeed, you can add attitudinals in each sentence to spice up the emotional level, though without strength indicators until the final two sentences. I suggest "fu'ese'inai" on the "ni'o" to show that the emotions that follow are empathic attributions to the plebeian (you may wish to mark this earlier in the story if you are attributing attitudes elsewhere in the story), "ba'u" or ".ianai" on "cmalu" to show that the payments were not really 'little', ".a'i.a'a" on the "ru'i" before "cadzu", ".e'i.u'o" on "dunda" (or perhaps ".u'ucu'i"), ".ai" on "klama", ".o'inai" on "vefsfa", ".o'onai" on "malplana". By now the emotions are flowing almost as fast as the words, and the last few sentences need only one attitudinal per sentence, but with intensity. ".ua.a'ocai ba'upa" then on the "one step left" (instead of your ".uo.ui", which seems premature), "ba'acai" on the following sentence, and finally a starburst at the end of the final sentence like ".au.ei.uo.u'a.uiri'ecai".

This may be overkill, far more than you would like to do. Or I may be missing the exact feelings intended in the original, but you have to admit that it puts the exclamation points back in the paragraph.

70. Lojbab: This word is the Lojban editorial bracket [e.g., I'm adding this discursive note later, and it is not part of the original text or quote in which it is embedded]. To get the effect you want, it needs to be attached to something discursive that indicates the ellipsis, since you don't really want to delete the "pidrai" that it currently marks. I would make it vausa'ake'unai, which ends the sentence with any appropriate ellipsis supplied (the formal meaning of "vau"), indicates that the "vau" isn't really said, and then indicates continuation (which is covered by the "sa'a" since it is attached to it in the manner of indicators).

Actually, "mi'unai" might make a better word for open-ended ellipsis, though it isn't currently in the word list, since I think we have a difference discursive intent for "ke'unai": to indicate at the start of a block of text that you are continuing a thread after repeating something for emphasis.

Other choices for open-ended ellipsis might be ".isa'a.isa'a.isa'a" or ".itu'esa'atu'u" (which would become legal under a recently proposed grammar change).

71. Ivan: I'll probably split this into "ledo ka cinmo .e ledo ka morji". The original had "thy heart and thy memory", but the heart ("risna") is in Lojban, as in many natural cultures, only a pump for blood. I'm not sure whether the youth implies that he will die if his heart is torn out of his chest (which is true with respect to his natural heart), or that he doesn't want to live without being able to have feelings.

Lojbab: It must be the latter, since he has indicated that he is willing to die in return for achieving his goal.

I would replace "heart" by either "emotion-source" or "emotion-organ".

72. Ivan: The "hey" sounds somewhat rude to me.

Lojbab: We have generally found that putting in the "doi" tends to soften the harshness of the vocative, making for a more polite phrase like "Attend my words, O young man". Another possible vocative to consider is "ta'adoi", especially since the Devil is interrupting the reverie of the preceding sentence.

73. Nora: "di'i" is "regularly" as in how a clock ticks, that is "at regular intervals". I think "na'o" ("typically") might work better.

Ivan: Yes, well, it is not "typically" either, because he does it every single time when someone gets to this step.

Lojbab: Then maybe "roroi" to so quantify the situation.

74. Ivan: Or "I will give thee instead..." The original had literally "lo solji risna".

75. Ivan: That is, "If thou consentest not, thou shalt never..."

Lojbab: This sounds like "tugni" or "curmi", or maybe something else, instead of "zanru". This literally translates to something like "ganai do na curmi", a double negative equivalent of what you chose.

76. Lojbab: This sounds more like "do lebna ro selkai be loi remna mi

77. Ivan: "On the contrary - the most happy one!... But - ? Dost thou agree: only thy heart and thy memory?" I have no idea what "do'a" means; I used "do'anai" for `only' here. (I didn't intend it to be interpreted as "please".) The "je'a" is for symmetry (to replace the "to'e").

Nick: "do'a" - "generously"; "do'anai" - "parsimoniously". I think here "do'anai" would here mean "I'm not asking for too much", but generosity is associated with giving, isn't it? But I can find no better UI.

Lojbab: We better clarify this one well. It came across entirely backwards. Intended to be discursive rather than emotive, "do'a" is supposed to mean that you are generously conceding or allowing a dubious point "even if this were so", possibly in conjunction with "da'i". "do'anai" therefore means that you are refusing to give in even a little, which is probably why Nora translated it as an officious and insistent 'please' (rather than a polite request).

I presume that the word can be used emotively, though I hadn't thought of it that way.

We addressed the question of how to express "only" on the net at great length, a discussion that I couldn't fit into JL17. Unless you are intending that "only" mean that the Devil is trying to express that he is being generous to require as little as the heart and memory (which would be a knowingly false emotive expression, something I don't much like in the Lojban attitudinal system - though I guess, if anyone can lie about emotions, the Devil can), you need one of the more elaborate logical paraphrases of "only" like "... and nothing else"

78. Ivan: "Turbid <...> rolled along his wrinkled forehead."

Lojbab: I think you wanted "mo'ire'o" instead of "zo'a".

79. Ivan: No! "He became thoughtful /fell to thinking."

Lojbab: Nora got caught here by the faulty memory that afflicts those of us who are long time Loglanists - "trati" means "taut" in Lojban, in older TLI Loglan meant what "troci" now means ("try"). A rare case where she didn't actually look the word and place structure up, I guess.

80. Nora: This is when I finally figured this metaphor out; I think the "angrily" helped.

81. Ivan: "And suddenly a smile shone on his face."

Lojbab: I don't think a smile can illuminate someone's face in Lojban in any literal sense of the relation.

Ivan: The original uses an intransitive verb which usually refers to the sun coming out from behind a cloud, something like `[and suddenly] a smile "co'a" [shine; be a source of light] on his face'. Clearly Smirnenski didn't want to just say `he smiled', but as his alternative wording doesn't affect the meaning, I'm not sure how to account for it. I am open for suggestions.

Lojbab: How about something like "suksa cisma co ka leko'a flira cu panra le solgu'i poi ba'o dilzu'i ku leka co'a to'ercanci"? (This uses the proposed grammar revision for relative clauses; the baseline grammar requires "ku'o" where "ku" is.)

82. Ivan: Ought to be "He was already on the top". I reckon I've been having trouble saying `already'.

Lojbab: I can see two interpretations of "already" given only the English word, so don't feel bad. Given that his memory has changed in the way it has, he may not remember the climbing, and thus is already at the top (This might be "ba'anai cpana le gapru"). Or, in the sense that you suggest with "snada", he is in the aftermath of climbing the last step ("ba'o cpare fi le gapru").

83. Ivan: He enjoys his belief that he is a prince by birth, and has always been one.

84. Ivan: His fists, actually. But it is the same thing.

85. Ivan: "He looked at the feasting/banquetting princes."

86. Ivan: `crowds' wearing holiday garments, such as are worn only on special days (e.g. Sundays).

87. Ivan: Literally. "the moans were already hymns". The "pu" is my addition.

Lojbab: Shades of our classic example of "le": "le nanmu cu ninmu". Of course they are still moans, but he doesn't know that. Maybe a "pe'i" to make this clear.

Thus you might want "rolo" instead of "le", to clarify which reality the author prefers to assume.

Remember that Lojban's simple tenses are aorist; i.e. saying that they were moans in the past with "pu" makes no claim about their current status at "ca" - they may still be moans.

88. Ivan: Exclamation. "Oh, how beautiful is the earth and how happy are the people!" Again, the "je'a" is for symmetry, in the place of what was "to'e" but a while ago. In the original ".oicai" and ".uicai" were the same interjection.

89. Ivan: Lit. "a prince".

90. Ivan: The author's pen name is Smirnenski (I lojbanised it by cutting off the "-i", which only indicates that he's a man).