10.19. Actuality, potentiality, capability: CAhA

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:



actually is



is innately capable of



can but has not



can and has

Lojban bridi without tense markers may not necessarily refer to actual events: they may also refer to capabilities or potential events. For example:

Example 10.138. 

ro datka cu flulimna
All ducks are-float-swimmers.

All ducks swim by floating.

is a Lojban truth, even though the colloquial English translation is false or at best ambiguous. This is because the tenseless Lojban bridi doesn't necessarily claim that every duck is swimming or floating now or even at a specific time or place. Even if we add a tense marker to Example 10.138,

Example 10.139. 

ro datka ca flulimna
All ducks [present] are-float-swimmers.

All ducks are now swimming by floating.

the resulting Example 10.139 might still be considered a truth, even though the colloquial English seems even more likely to be false. All ducks have the potential of swimming even if they are not exercising that potential at present. To get the full flavor of All ducks are now swimming, we must append a marker from selma'o CAhA to the tense, and say:

Example 10.140. 

ro datka ca ca'a flulimna
All ducks [present] [actual] are-float-swimmers.

All ducks are now actually swimming by floating.

A CAhA cmavo is always placed after any other tense cmavo, whether for time or for space. However, a CAhA cmavo comes before ki, so that a CAhA condition can be made sticky.

Example 10.140 is false in both Lojban and English, since it claims that the swimming is an actual, present fact, true of every duck that exists, whereas in fact there is at least one duck that is not swimming now.

Furthermore, some ducks are dead (and therefore sink); some ducks have just hatched (and do not know how to swim yet), and some ducks have been eaten by predators (and have ceased to exist as separate objects at all). Nevertheless, all these ducks have the innate capability of swimming – it is part of the nature of duckhood. The cmavo ka'e expresses this notion of innate capability:

Example 10.141. 

ro datka ka'e flulimna
All ducks [capable] are-float-swimmers.

All ducks are innately capable of swimming.

Under some epistemologies, innate capability can be extended in order to apply the innate properties of a mass to which certain individuals belong to the individuals themselves, even if those individuals are themselves not capable of fulfilling the claim of the bridi. For example:

Example 10.142. 

la djan. ka'e viska
That-named John [capable] sees.

John is innately capable of seeing.

John can see.

might be true about a human being named John, even though he has been blind since birth, because the ability to see is innately built into his nature as a human being. It is theoretically possible that conditions might occur that would enable John to see (a great medical discovery, for example). On the other hand,

Example 10.143. 

le cukta ka'e viska
The book [capable] sees.

The book can see.

is not true in most epistemologies, since the ability to see is not part of the innate nature of a book.

Consider once again the newly hatched ducks mentioned earlier. They have the potential of swimming, but have not yet demonstrated that potential. This may be expressed using nu'o, the cmavo of CAhA for undemonstrated potential:

Example 10.144. 

ro cifydatka nu'o flulimna
All infant-ducks [can-but-has-not] are-float-swimmers.

All infant ducks have an undemonstrated potential for swimming by floating.

Baby ducks can swim but haven't yet.

Contrariwise, if Frank is not blind from birth, then pu'i is appropriate:

Example 10.145. 

la frank. pu'i viska
That-named Frank [can-and-has] sees.

Frank has demonstrated a potential for seeing.

Frank can see and has seen.

Note that the glosses given at the beginning of this section for ca'a, nu'o, and pu'i incorporate ca into their meaning, and are really correct for ca ca'a, ca nu'o, and ca pu'i. However, the CAhA cmavo are perfectly meaningful with other tenses than the present:

Example 10.146. 

mi pu ca'a klama le zarci
I [past] [actual] go-to the store.

I actually went to the store.

Example 10.147. 

la frank. ba nu'o klama le zdani
That-named Frank [future] [can-but-has-not] goes-to the store.

Frank could have, but will not have, gone to the store (at some understood moment in the future).

As always in Lojban tenses, a missing CAhA can have an indeterminate meaning, or the context can be enough to disambiguate it. Saying

Example 10.148. 

ta jelca
That burns/is-burning/might-burn/will-burn.

with no CAhA specified can translate the two very different English sentences That is on fire and That is inflammable. The first demands immediate action (usually), whereas the second merely demands caution. The two cases can be disambiguated with:

Example 10.149. 

ta ca ca'a jelca
That [present] [actual] burns.

That is on fire.


Example 10.150. 

ta ka'e jelca
That [capable] burns.

That is capable of burning.

That is inflammable.

When no indication is given, as in the simple observative

Example 10.151. 


It burns!

the prudent Lojbanist will assume the meaning Fire!