19.3. Paragraphs: NIhO

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:



new topic



old topic



cancel cmavo assignments

The paragraph is a concept used in writing systems for two purposes: to indicate changes of topic, and to break up the hard-to-read appearance of large blocks of text on the page. The former function is represented in both spoken and written Lojban by the cmavo ni'o and no'i, both of selma'o NIhO. Of these two, ni'o is the more common. By convention, written Lojban is broken into paragraphs just before any ni'o or no'i, but a very long passage on a single topic might be paragraphed before an i. On the other hand, it is conventional in English to start a new paragraph in dialogue when a new speaker starts, but this convention is not commonly observed in Lojban dialogues. Of course, none of these conventions affect meaning in any way.

A ni'o can take the place of an i as a sentence separator, and in addition signals a new topic or paragraph. Grammatically, any number of ni'o cmavo can appear consecutively and are equivalent to a single one; semantically, a greater number of ni'o cmavo indicates a larger-scale change of topic. This feature allows complexly structured text, with topics, subtopics, and sub-subtopics, to be represented clearly and unambiguously in both spoken and written Lojban. However, some conventional differences do exist between ni'o in writing and in conversation.

In written text, a single ni'o is a mere discursive indicator of a new subject, whereas ni'oni'o marks a change in the context. In this situation, ni'oni'o implicitly cancels the definitions of all pro-sumti of selma'o KOhA as well as pro-bridi of selma'o GOhA. (Explicit cancelling is expressed by the cmavo da'o of selma'o DAhO, which has the free grammar of an indicator – it can appear almost anywhere.) The use of ni'oni'o does not affect indicators (of selma'o UI) or tense references, but ni'oni'oni'o, indicating a drastic change of topic, would serve to reset both indicators and tenses. (See Section 19.8 for a discussion of indicator scope.)

In spoken text, which is inherently less structured, these levels are reduced by one, with ni'o indicating a change in context sufficient to cancel pro-sumti and pro-bridi assignment. On the other hand, in a book, or in stories within stories such as The Arabian Nights, further levels may be expressed by extending the ni'o string as needed. Normally, a written text will begin with the number of ni'o cmavo needed to signal the largest scale division which the text contains. ni'o strings may be subscripted to label each context of discourse: see Section 19.6.

no'i is similar in effect to ni'o, but indicates the resumption of a previous topic. In speech, it is analogous to (but much shorter than) such English discursive phrases as But getting back to the point .... By default, the topic resumed is that in effect before the last ni'o. When subtopics are nested within topics, then no'i would resume the previous subtopic and no'ino'i the previous topic. Note that no'i also resumes tense and pro-sumti assignments dropped at the previous ni'o.

If a ni'o is subscripted, then a no'i with the same subscript is assumed to be a continuation of it. A no'i may also have a negative subscript, which would specify counting backwards a number of paragraphs and resuming the topic found thereby.