Why the Book is Right and the ma'oste is Wrong

This page is polemical, and is written by John Cowan

IMAO the cmavo list definitions of vo'a etc. as referring to the sumti of the main bridi, rather than the current bridi (as the reference grammar has it) is bogus. Reflexives are normal and useful. Long-distance anaphora are really

In particular, applying vo'V with the narrowest possible scope, even within
descriptions, allows the creation of reflexive selbri. For example, a
"self-lover" would be le prami be vo'a. This cannot be done with the
current understanding of vo'a.

I will consider dropping my position if someone can find a better way to do
this. Note that this is vaguely related to zi'o; a place vanishes from the
selbri, not just by fiat, but by being identified with another place.
Loglan does it with a bunch of SE-like cmavo that, instead of swapping places, merge them; Lojban didn't inherit this feature because TLI didn't
introduce it until the 1990's.


Another issue unfinalised. *sigh* Just peachy. I think vo'a is communicatively useful in its ma'oste usage, because the dearth of anaphors in Lojban, and the tendency of embedded selbri to share places with matrix selbri, means that long-distance coreference is (a) more frequent than short-distance; (b) more usefully signalled by vo'a, as ri will serve most short-distance references.

A workaround exists for reflexive sumti in selbri exists, of course, and is "sevzi". "sevzi" has seen a bucketload of lujvo use in this function, so the community seems not to have taken short-distance vo'a to heart.

The question then becomes, is there an easy way of expressing the ma'oste version of vo'a? The answer is le no'axiro, I take it. I think it's less hasslesome to make le nei the emergency short-distance reflexive than le no'axiro the emergency long-distance reflexive --- but in most instances, it doesn't much matter.

I vote against you, in any case. I also note that the Refgramm allows a little wiggle room, because it had no embedded bridi illustrations of vo'a, and because 'same bridi' is ever so slightly ambiguous. If this is not resolved soon, I will have to drop vo'a from the lessons too. And I am sick of having to drop stuff because of inconsistent definitions.

-- nitcion.

PS. If this boils down to a straight conflict between The Book and The ma'oste (I hope to God it doesn't), with no further correspondence entered into, The Book wins, and Lojbab should have corrected you in 1997 if he wanted to maintain the 1991 meaning of vo'a.


->Prior usage and discussions of vo'a

I think all counting anaphora in Lojban are unusable. I don't think I am able to work out on the fly (in the spoken language) which selbri or sumti is supposed to be referred to by any of the counting or place anaphora. I do reflexives with sevzi and only use lerfu pronouns, so I don't really have an opinion on vo'a. — mi'e xorxes

But vo'a doesn't count. It refers to a previous sumti by its grammatical position, which is pretty easy to figure out even if you've forgotten what words the first part of the sentence was stated in and only remember the meaning. I think that sevzi is horribly malglico. — adam

[Regarding prior usage]

Here is an example of something that is completely unusable in actual speech. And it was proposed in a Record, no less!


{no'a [xiPA]} This repeats the bridi PA levels up from the place where it occurs. The default {no'a} = {no'axipa} the bridi in which the occurrence is immediately nested. The topmost bridi in the nesting chain (the one to whose sumti {vo'V} refer) is always reachable as {no'axiro}. For counting purposes, a new level begins as soon as a subordinate bridi is guaranteed: at NU or NOI [are there others?]


Humor like this is why I've been steering clear of this discussion. It looks like older usage has decided vo'a goes long-distance. Let's check more modern usage and see how the newer generation has been doing it. Newer usage will have to trump old. --xod

  • Some may consider subscripting evil; but disambiguation by subscripts is long entrenched in Lojban; The Book explicitly advocates them for ke'a, where there is ambiguity (i.e. more than one level of nesting.) Feel free to steer clear of them; but PC is no more guilty of them than Cowan or Lojbab in defining the language. (And, uh, where's the humour?) In the case where there is no ambiguity (single level of nesting), it is of course just le no'a.
  • Looks like long-distance is preferred overall: people do want to be able to say le prenu cu tcidu levo'a cukta
  • Ultimately, this is possibly silly; the real question usage counts addresses is, have people been paying more attention to the ma'oste or the Book? — nitcion.

Well I certainly would have predicted the book more than the ma'oste, and yet usage seems to have reflected the ma'oste? --xod

I would have predicted the ma'oste actually (much handier to leaf through); but even more importantly, anyone that learned Lojban before The Book would have stuck to long-distance vo'a, since that's what the cmavo list and Lojbab were preaching. And that applies to Helsem as much as me. We are not really witnessing spontaneous linguistic evolution here. OTOH, as argued below, and more poorly above, there are Lojban-internal reasons why you'd want to have vo'a behave like this; Lojbab has himself appealed to them. — nitcion.

I've personally had need to use vo'a as defined by the ma'oste, and never any need to do what The Book says. But if I did, I could use lenei, lesenei, etc. And without backcounting (not a pleasent prospect, unless you do leno'axiro (ugly)), there isn't a convinent way to refer to the sumti of the main bridi. And that is where the topic/subject of the sentence is going to be, and that is going to be one of the most commonly repeated sumti, I suspect. --jay

Thank you for saying what I tried to say, much more succintly. (Though I don't think leno'axiro is that much uglier than kujoi). Oh, and as a further P.S.? The fact that some Lojbanists don't actually want a short-distance reflexive (like Jay is saying) is actually pretty interesting linguistically. (Actually no it isn't, it just shows how weird Lojbanists' attitude towards anaphora is, but hey...)

Actually, I'll go further: I didn't keep track, but something like 90% of all instances of vo'a were in fact long-distance - not just of the instances of vo'a within embedded structures. People actually avoided using vo'a when it referred back within the same bridi (including the bridi within a sumti), and sought it out when it would refer outside its bridi to the outermost bridi. Not only do Lojbanists not want a short-distance reflexive; they actively want a long-distance one. There's a paper in this, I'll warrant you nitcion

The prior usage found by nitcion has swayed me over to long-distance "vo'a". I'll now try to use it that way consistently. — Adam

mi'e And:

  • It's no wonder that {vo'a} usage is as it is: it follows what the mahoste says, and most of us rely on the mahoste.
  • IMO There is a use for both "long" and "short" distance. This can be solved by the Criterion of Sayability along the lines stated in identifying no'a antecedents, i.e. the arguments of all bridi that contain the anaphor can be accessed by subscripted vo'a.
  • The next decision is which interpretation bare unsubscripted vo'a has. I'd be inclined to follow usage and tradition and have it as {vo'a xi ro}, i.e. long-distance to main bridi.
  • Yes of course suscripted anaphora are unwieldly, but:
    • We won't know how unwieldy without trying them;
    • The most likely subscripts — xi ro, xi da'a, xi re — are not intellectually taxing, just verbose;
    • A better system of anaphora is most unlikely to emerge so long as the grammar is baselined.
  • Anybody who wants unsubscripted short-distance vo'a can define experimental cmavo with that function.
    • And then not be understood. Use lenei, lesenei, lexenei. They exist, and they're standard. --jay
    • True. Indeed, however vo'a gets defined, it will be a less flexible abbreviation of a nei/no'a expression. (See identifying no'a antecedents.)

See now also http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lojban/message/10005 , for a new proposed interpretive convention, and responses in that thread.

I always have stuck to the Book's short-distance (i.e. reflexive) {vo'a}, because 1) it's the Book's, 2) it seems more "natural"/intuitive to me first of all addicted to natlangs ;-) (I admit that - as it seems - most Lobanists are quite fond of making things complicated...) --aolung

Created by Aolung. Last Modification: Monday 22 of September, 2003 19:52:37 GMT by Aolung.