7.3. Demonstrative pro-sumti: the ti-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:




this here, a nearby object




that there, a medium-distant object




that yonder, a far-distant object

It is often useful to refer to things by pointing to them or by some related non-linguistic mechanism. In English, the words this and that serve this function among others: this refers to something pointed at that is near the speaker, and that refers to something further away. The Lojban pro-sumti of the ti-series serve the same functions, but more narrowly. The cmavo ti, ta, and tu provide only the pointing function of this and that; they are not used to refer to things that cannot be pointed at.

There are three pro-sumti of the ti-series rather than just two because it is often useful to distinguish between objects that are at more than two different distances. Japanese, among other languages, regularly does this. Until the 16th century, English did too; the pronoun that referred to something at a medium distance from the speaker, and the now-archaic pronoun yon to something far away.

In conversation, there is a special rule about ta and tu that is often helpful in interpreting them. When used contrastingly, ta refers to something that is near the listener, whereas tu refers to something far from both speaker and listener. This makes for a parallelism between ti and mi, and ta and do, that is convenient when pointing is not possible; for example, when talking by telephone. In written text, on the other hand, the meaning of the ti-series is inherently vague; is the writer to be taken as pointing to something, and if so, to what? In all cases, what counts as near and far away is relative to the current situation.

It is important to distinguish between the English pronoun this and the English adjective this as in this boat. The latter is not represented in Lojban by ti:

Example 7.11. 

le ti bloti
the this boat

does not mean this boat but rather this one's boat, the boat associated with this thing, as explained in Section 8.7. A correct Lojban translation of Example 7.11 is

Example 7.12. 

le vi bloti
the here boat

the nearby boat

using a spatial tense before the selbri bloti to express that the boat is near the speaker. (Tenses are explained in full in Chapter 10.) Another correct translation would be:

Example 7.13. 

ti noi bloti
this-thing which-incidentally is-a-boat

There are no demonstrative pro-bridi to correspond to the ti-series: you can't point to a relationship.