Chapter 10: Imaginary Journeys: The Lojban Space/Time Tense System

5. Interval sizes: VEhA and ZEhA

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

ve'i    VEhA    short space interval
ve'a    VEhA    medium space interval
ve'u    VEhA    long space interval

ze'i    ZEhA    short time interval
ze'a    ZEhA    medium time interval
ze'u    ZEhA    long time interval

So far, we have considered only events that are usually thought of as happening at a particular point in space and time: a man biting a dog at a specified place and time. But Lojbanic events may be much more “spread out” than that: “mi vasxu” (I breathe) is something which is true during the whole of my life from birth to death, and over the entire part of the earth where I spend my life. The cmavo of VEhA (for space) and ZEhA (for time) can be added to any of the tense constructs we have already studied to specify the size of the space or length of the time over which the bridi is claimed to be true.

✥5.1  le verba ve'i cadzu le bisli
The child [small space interval] walks-on the ice.
In a small space, the child walks on the ice.
The child walks about a small area of the ice.

means that her walking was done in a small area. Like the distances, the interval sizes are classified only roughly as “small, medium, large”, and are relative to the context: a small part of a room might be a large part of a table in that room.

Here is an example using a time interval:

✥5.2  le verba ze'a cadzu le bisli
The child [medium time interval] walks-on the ice.
For a medium time, the child walks/walked/will walk
    on the ice.

Note that with no time direction word, ✥5.2 does not say when the walking happened: that would be determined by context. It is possible to specify both directions or distances and an interval, in which case the interval always comes afterward:

✥5.3  le verba pu ze'a
    cadzu le bisli
The child [past] [medium time interval]
    walks-on the ice.
For a medium time, the child walked on the ice.
The child walked on the ice for a while.

In ✥5.3, the relationship of the interval to the specified point in time or space is indeterminate. Does the interval start at the point, end at the point, or is it centered on the point? By adding an additional direction cmavo after the interval, this question can be conclusively answered:

✥5.4  mi ca ze'ica cusku dei
I [present] [short time interval — present]
    express this-utterance.
I am now saying this sentence.

means that for an interval starting a short time in the past and extending to a short time in the future, I am expressing the utterance which is ✥5.4. Of course, “short” is relative, as always in tenses. Even a long sentence takes up only a short part of a whole day; in a geological context, the era of Homo sapiens would only be a “ze'i” interval.

By contrast,

✥5.5  mi ca ze'ipu
    cusku dei
I [present] [short time interval — past]
    express this-utterance.
I have just been saying this sentence.

means that for a short time interval extending from the past to the present I have been expressing ✥5.5. Here the imaginary journey starts at the present, lays down one end point of the interval, moves into the past, and lays down the other endpoint. Another example:

✥5.6  mi pu ze'aba citka le mi sanmi
I [past] [medium time interval - future] eat my meal.
For a medium time afterward, I ate my meal.
I ate my meal for a while.

With “ca” instead of “ba”, ✥5.6 becomes ✥5.7,

✥5.7  mi pu ze'aca citka le mi sanmi
I [past] [medium time interval - present] eat my meal
For a medium time before and afterward, I ate my meal.
I ate my meal for a while.

because the interval would then be centered on the past moment rather than oriented toward the future of that moment. The colloquial English translations are the same — English is not well-suited to representing this distinction.

Here are some examples of the use of space intervals with and without specified directions:

✥5.8  ta ri'u ve'i finpe
that-there [right] [short space interval] is-a-fish
That thing on my right is a fish.

In ✥5.8, there is no equivalent in the colloquial English translation of the “small interval” which the fish occupies. Neither the Lojban nor the English expresses the orientation of the fish. Compare ✥5.9:

✥5.9  ta ri'u ve'ica'u
    finpe
that-there [right] [short space interval - front]
    is-a-fish
That thing on my right extending forwards is a fish.

Here the space interval occupied by the fish extends from a point on my right to another point in front of the first point.