13.13. Miscellaneous indicators

Some indicators do not fall neatly into the categories of attitudinal, evidential, or discursive. This section discusses the following miscellaneous indicators:


metalinguistic confusion


metalinguistic negator


metalinguistic affirmer


omitted text (quoted material)


material inserted by editor/narrator


true-false question


question premarker

rhetorical question


figurative language

literal language


new information

old information


non-specific indicator

The cmavo ki'a is one of the most common of the miscellaneous indicators. It expresses metalinguistic confusion; i.e. confusion about what has been said, as opposed to confusion not tied to the discourse (which is .uanai). The confusion may be about the meaning of a word or of a grammatical construct, or about the referent of a sumti. One of the uses of English which corresponds to ki'a:

Example 13.90. 

mi nelci le ctuca
I like the teacher.
.i le ki'a ctuca
The which teacher?

Which teacher?

Here, the second speaker does not understand the referent of the sumti le ctuca, and so echoes back the sumti with the confusion marker.

The metalinguistic negation cmavo na'i and its opposite jo'a are explained in full in Chapter 15. In general, na'i indicates that there is something wrong with a piece of discourse: either an error, or a false underlying assumption, or something else of the sort. The discourse is invalid or inappropriate due to the marked word or construct.

Similarly, jo'a marks something which looks wrong but is in fact correct. These two cmavo constitute a scale, but are kept apart for two reasons: na'inai means the same as jo'a, but would be too confusing as an affirmation; jo'anai means the same as na'i, but is too long to serve as a convenient metalinguistic negator.

The next two cmavo are used to assist in quoting texts written or spoken by others. It is often the case that we wish to quote only part of a text, or to supply additional material either by way of commentary or to make a fragmentary text grammatical. The cmavo li'o serves the former function. It indicates that words were omitted from the quotation. What remains of the quotation must be grammatical, however, as li'o does not serve any grammatical function. It cannot, for example, take the place of a missing selbri in a bridi, or supply the missing tail of a description sumti: le li'o in isolation is not grammatical.

The cmavo sa'a indicates in a quotation that the marked word or construct was not actually expressed, but is inserted for editorial, narrative, or grammatical purposes. Strictly, even a li'o should appear in the form li'osa'a, since the li'o was not part of the original quotation. In practice, this and other forms which are already associated with metalinguistic expressions, such as sei (of selma'o SEI) or to'i (of selma'o TO) need not be marked except where confusion might result.

In the rare case that the quoted material already contains one or more instances of sa'a, they can be changed to sa'asa'a.

The cmavo xu marks truth questions, which are discussed in detail in Section 15.8. In general, xu may be translated Is it true that ... ? and questions whether the attached bridi is true. When xu is attached to a specific word or construct, it directs the focus of the question to that word or construct.

Lojban question words, unlike those of English, frequently do not stand at the beginning of the question. Placing the cmavo pau at the beginning of a bridi helps the listener realize that the bridi is a question, like the symbol at the beginning of written Spanish questions that looks like an upside-down question mark. The listener is then warned to watch for the actual question word.

Although pau is grammatical in any location (like all indicators), it is not really useful except at or near the beginning of a bridi. Its scalar opposite, paunai, signals that a bridi is not really a question despite its form. This is what we call in English a rhetorical question: an example appears in the English text near the beginning of Section 13.11.

The cmavo pe'a is the indicator of figurative speech, indicating that the previous word should be taken figuratively rather than literally:

Example 13.91. 

mi viska le blanu pe'a zdani
I see the blue [figurative] house.

I see the blue house.

Here the house is not blue in the sense of color, but in some other sense, whose meaning is entirely culturally dependent. The use of pe'a unambiguously marks a cultural reference: blanu in Example 13.91 could mean sad (as in English) or something completely different.

The negated form, pe'anai, indicates that what has been said is to be interpreted literally, in the usual way for Lojban; natural-language intuition is to be ignored.

Alone among the cmavo of selma'o UI, pe'a has a rafsi, namely pev. This rafsi is used in forming figurative (culturally dependent) lujvo, whose place structure need have nothing to do with the place structure of the components. Thus risnyjelca (heart burn) might have a place structure like:

x1 is the heart of x2, burning in atmosphere x3 at temperature x4

whereas pevrisnyjelca, explicitly marked as figurative, might have the place structure:

x1 is indigestion/heartburn suffered by x2

which obviously has nothing to do with the places of either risna or jelca.

The uses of bi'u and bi'unai correspond to one of the uses of the English articles the and a/an. An English-speaker telling a story may begin with I saw a man who .... Later in the story, the same man will be referred to with the phrase the man. Lojban does not use its articles in the same way: both a man and the man would be translated le nanmu, since the speaker has in mind a specific man. However, the first use might be marked le bi'u nanmu, to indicate that this is a new man, not mentioned before. Later uses could correspondingly be tagged le bi'unai nanmu.

Most of the time, the distinction between bi'u and bi'unai need not be made, as the listener can infer the right referent. However, if a different man were referred to still later in the story, le bi'u nanmu would clearly show that this man was different from the previous one.

Finally, the indicator ge'e has been discussed in Section 13.8 and Section 13.10. It is used to express an attitude which is not covered by the existing set, or to avoid expressing any attitude.

Another use for ge'e is to explicitly avoid expressing one's feeling on a given scale; in this use, it functions like a member of selma'o CAI: .iige'e means roughly I'm not telling whether I'm afraid or not.


indirect question

This cmavo is explained in detail in Section 11.8. It marks the word it is attached to as the focus of an indirect question:

Example 13.92. 

mi djuno le du'u dakau klama le zarci
I know the predication-of somebody-[indirect?] goes to-the store.

I know who goes to the store.