gadri — articles/descriptors

This section is currently outdated following the passing (but not the implementation) of the gadri proposal, see BPFK Section: gadri and How to use xorlo for more information.

Lojban gadri are potentially tricky at first. This is an attempt
to explain the exact differences between them all in one place.
The main interest here is the difference between the lo-family and
le-family, and to a lesser extent the differences between mass,
set, and individual; the other articles are mentioned here as well
for completeness however.

First, a list of gadri, with their implicit quantifiers:
individual mass set
named ro la su'o pisu'o lai su'o piro la'i su'o
described ro le su'o pisu'o lei su'o piro le'i su'o
idealized su'o lo ro pisu'o loi ro piro lo'i ro

ro le'e su'o the stereotypical (similar to le family)
su'o lo'e ro the typical (similar to lo family)
su'o li the number
su'o me'o the mexso

There are three main categories of articles, and three main types.
The categories are "Names" (la, lai and la'i),
"Descriptions" (le, lei and le'i), and "Idealizations"
(lo, loi, lo'i).

Names — Articles in the la family refer to something by
name. The name need not have anything to do with what the referent
actually is, and may frequently be lojbanizations of names in other
languages (For example, the lojbanization of my name is "djorden.",
and thus I am referred to via "la djorden.").

Descriptions — A lojban speaker uses description articles of
the le family when they are wishing to convey information about
a thing (group of things, etc) which they have in mind. The gadri
introduces a description, which need not be related to what the
thing actually is (as if the speaker could determine that anyway).

For this reason the le family of gadri are frequently compared
to the English definite article "the". I think this is misleading
because the le family is actually a bit broader than "the".
For example: when an English speaker starts a story about a man,
the first time the man appears he will be described as "a man",
and from then on as "the man". In lojban, because the speaker is
referring to a particular man she has in mind, the first appearance
would be tagged with le.

Idealizations — The lo family of articles are easily the
most confusing to new speakers (or at least, they were to me). The
standard wording of their meaning is "that which really is", which
reflects the fact that unlike the other two main groups of articles
they do not simply describe something, they claim it truly is that
thing. However, this is not the most important difference: the
lo articles have a default implicit inner quantifier of "ro"
(all). So for example, the sumti phrase lo gerku refers to one
or more of all the things which are dogs. The dogs are referred to
indefinitely; meaning, the speaker does not have particular dogs
in mind, but is instead talking about some of all the dogs.

The confusion which can arise from this distinction is what sometimes
leads new speakers to misuse the lo family by modifying the
inner quantifiers. For example, lo re gerku does not mean "Some
of those two which really are dogs" in the way the user probably
intended. Instead, it indicates that there are only two things in
existence which really are dogs. A good general rule is that if
you are modifying the inner quantifier of a gadri in the lo
family, think twice about it, as they are rarely useful with inner
quantifiers other than "ro".

There are also three main forms for each category of gadri.
Individuals, masses, and sets. Do not confuse these with quantification
-- a mass does not mean there is necessarily more than one, and
(more importantly) an individual does not mean there is only one.

Rather, this stuff explains in what manner claims are being made about
a sumti. The differences between masses and individuals is most easily
explained with an example:

le gerku cu mrobi'o
lei gerku cu mrobi'o

The first of these says "The dog(s) became dead", meaning that each of
them died individually. The second also says that "The dog(s) became
dead", but talks about them as a mass: in order for the bridi to be
true, only one of the dogs need actually have died. A mass has the
union of qualities of all of its members. This means that it is possible
to say seemingly contradictory things using mass descriptors, such:

lei gerku cu morsi gi'e jmive

which says that "The dog(s) are dead and alive". The bridi is true
if at least one of the members of the mass is dead AND at least
one of the members is alive.

(( I'll put stuff about about sets in here later, unless someone
beats me to it )).