19.5. Questions and answers

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:



truth question



sumti question



bridi question



number question



sumti connective question



forethought connective question



bridi-tail connective question



tanru forethought connective question



tanru connective question



attitude question



place structure question



tense/modal question



question premarker

Lojban questions are not at all like English questions. There are two basic types: truth questions, of the form Is it true that ..., and fill-in-the-blank questions. Truth questions are marked by preceding the bridi, or following any part of it specifically questioned, with the cmavo xu (of selma'o UI):

Example 19.13. 

xu do klama le zarci
[True-or-false?] You go-to the store

Are you going to the store/Did you go to the store?

(Since the Lojban is tenseless, either colloquial translation might be correct.) Truth questions are further discussed in Section 15.8.

Fill-in-the-blank questions have a cmavo representing some Lojban word or phrase which is not known to the questioner, and which the answerer is to supply. There are a variety of cmavo belonging to different selma'o which provide different kinds of blanks.

Where a sumti is not known, a question may be formed with ma (of selma'o KOhA), which is a kind of pro-sumti:

Example 19.14. 

ma klama le zarci
[What-sumti?] goes-to the store

Who is going to the store?

Of course, the ma need not be in the x1 place:

Example 19.15. 

do klama ma
You go-to [what-sumti?]

Where are you going?

The answer is a simple sumti:

Example 19.16. 

le zarci

The store.

A sumti, then, is a legal utterance, although it does not by itself constitute a bridi – it does not claim anything, but merely completes the open-ended claim of the previous bridi.

There can be two ma cmavo in a single question:

Example 19.17. 

ma klama ma

Who goes where?

and the answer would be two sumti, which are meant to fill in the two ma cmavo in order:

Example 19.18. 

mi le zarci
I, [to]-the store.

An even more complex example, depending on the non-logical connective fa'u (of selma'o JOI), which is like the English and ... respectively:

Example 19.19. 

ma fa'u ma klama ma fa'u ma

Who and who goes where and where, -respectively?

An answer might be

Example 19.20. 

la djan. la marcas. le zarci le briju
John, Marsha, the store, the office.

John and Marsha go to the store and the office, respectively.

(Note: A mechanical substitution of Example 19.20 into Example 19.19 produces an ungrammatical result, because * ... le zarci fa'u le briju is ungrammatical Lojban: the first le zarci has to be closed with its proper terminator ku, for reasons explained in Section 14.14. This effect is not important: Lojban behaves as if all elided terminators have been supplied in both question and answer before inserting the latter into the former. The exchange is grammatical if question and answer are each separately grammatical.)

Questions to be answered with a selbri are expressed with mo of selma'o GOhA, which is a kind of pro-bridi:

Example 19.21. 

la lojban. mo
Lojban [what-selbri?]

What is Lojban?

Here the answerer is to supply some predicate which is true of Lojban. Such questions are extremely open-ended, due to the enormous range of possible predicate answers. The answer might be just a selbri, or might be a full bridi, in which case the sumti in the answer override those provided by the questioner. To limit the range of a mo question, make it part of a tanru.

Questions about numbers are expressed with xo of selma'o PA:

Example 19.22. 

do viska xo prenu
You saw [what-number?] persons.

How many people did you see?

The answer would be a simple number, another kind of non-bridi utterance:

Example 19.23. 


Fill-in-the-blank questions may also be asked about: logical connectives (using cmavo ji of A, ge'i of GA, gi'i of GIhA, gu'i of GUhA, or je'i of JA, and receiving an ek, gihek, ijek, or ijoik as an answer) – see Section 14.13; attitudes (using pei of UI, and receiving an attitudinal as an answer) – see Section 13.10; place structures (using fi'a of FA, and receiving a cmavo of FA as an answer) – see Section 9.3; tenses and modals (using cu'e of CUhE, and receiving any tense or BAI cmavo as an answer) – see Section 9.6 and Chapter 10.

Questions can be marked by placing pau (of selma'o UI) before the question bridi. See Section 13.13 for details.

The full list of non-bridi utterances suitable as answers to questions is:

At the beginning of a text, the following non-bridi are also permitted:

Where not needed for the expression of answers, most of these are made grammatical for pragmatic reasons: people will say them in conversation, and there is no reason to rule them out as ungrammatical merely because most of them are vague.