11.8. Indirect questions

The following cmavo is discussed in this section:



indirect question marker

There is an alternative type of sentence involving du'u and a selbri expressing a propositional attitude. In addition to sentences like

Example 11.50. 

I know that John went to the store.

we can also say things like

Example 11.51. 

I know who went to the store.

This form is called an indirect question in English because the embedded English sentence is a question: Who went to the store? A person who says Example 11.51 is claiming to know the answer to this question. Indirect questions can occur with many other English verbs as well: I can wonder, or doubt, or see, or hear, as well as know who went to the store.

To express indirect questions in Lojban, we use a le du'u abstraction, but rather than using a question word like who (ma in Lojban), we use any word that will fit grammatically and mark it with the suffix particle kau. This cmavo belongs to selma'o UI, so grammatically it can appear anywhere. The simplest Lojban translation of Example 11.51 is therefore:

Example 11.52. 

mi djuno le du'u
I know the predication-of
ma kau pu klama le zarci
X [indirect-question] [past] going-to the store.

In Example 11.52, we have chosen to use ma as the word marked by kau. In fact, any other sumti would have done as well: zo'e or da or even la djan.. Using la djan. would suggest that it was John who I knew had gone to the store, however:

Example 11.53. 

mi djuno le du'u
I know the predication-of/fact-that
la djan. kau pu klama le zarci
that-named John [indirect-question] [past] going-to the store.

I know who went to the store, namely John.

I know that it was John who went to the store.

Using one of the indefinite pro-sumti such as ma, zo'e, or da does not suggest any particular value.

Why does Lojban require the kau marker, rather than using ma as English and Chinese and many other languages do? Because ma always signals a direct question, and so

Example 11.54. 

mi djuno le du'u ma pu klama le zarci
I know the predication-of [what sumti?] [past] goes-to the store


Example 11.55. 

Who is it that I know goes to the store?

It is actually not necessary to use le du'u and kau at all if the indirect question involves a sumti; there is generally a paraphrase of the type:

Example 11.56. 

mi djuno fi le pu klama be le zarci
I know about the [past] goer to the store.

I know something about the one who went to the store (namely, his identity).

because the x3 place of djuno is the subject of knowledge, as opposed to the fact that is known. But when the questioned point is not a sumti, but (say) a logical connection, then there is no good alternative to kau:

Example 11.57. 

mi ba zgana le du'u la djan.
I [future] observe the predication-of/fact-that that-named John
jikau la djordj. cu zvati le panka
[connective-indirect-question] that-named George is-at the park.

I will see whether John or George (or both) is at the park.

In addition, Example 11.56 is only a loose paraphrase of Example 11.52, because it is left to the listener's insight to realize that what is known about the goer-to-the-store is his identity rather than some other of his attributes.