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

12. Tenses as sumti tcita

So far, we have seen tenses only just before the selbri, or (equivalently in meaning) floating about the bridi with “ku”. There is another major use for tenses in Lojban: as sumti tcita, or argument tags. A tense may be used to add spatial or temporal information to a bridi as, in effect, an additional place:

✥12.1    mi klama le zarci ca le nu
    do klama le zdani
I go-to the market [present] the event-of
    you go-to the house.
I go to the market when you go to the house.

Here “ca” does not appear before the selbri, nor with “ku”; instead, it governs the following sumti, the “le nu” construct. What ✥12.1 asserts is that the action of the main bridi is happening at the same time as the event mentioned by that sumti. So “ca”, which means “now” when used with a selbri, means “simultaneously-with” when used with a sumti. Consider another example:

✥12.2    mi klama le zarci pu le nu
    do pu klama le zdani
I go-to the market [past] the event-of
    you [past] go-to the house.

The second “pu” is simply the past tense marker for the event of your going to the house, and says that this event is in the speaker's past. How are we to understand the first “pu”, the sumti tcita?

All of our imaginary journeys so far have started at the speaker's location in space and time. Now we are specifying an imaginary journey that starts at a different location, namely at the event of your going to the house. ✥12.2 then says that my going to the market is in the past, relative not to the speaker's present moment, but instead relative to the moment when you went to the house. ✥12.2 can therefore be translated:

I had gone to the market before you went to the house.
(Other translations are possible, depending on the ever-present context.) Spatial direction and distance sumti tcita are exactly analogous:

✥12.3    le ratcu cu citka le cirla vi le panka
The rat eats the cheese [short distance] the park.
The rat eats the cheese near the park.

✥12.4 le ratcu cu citka le cirla
    vi le vu panka
The rat eats the cheese
    [short distance] the [long distance] park
The rat eats the cheese near the faraway park.

✥12.5 le ratcu cu citka le cirla
    vu le vi panka
The rat eats the cheese
    [long distance] the [short distance] park
The rat eats the cheese far away from the nearby park.

The event contours of selma'o ZAhO (and their space equivalents, prefixed with “fe'e”) are also useful as sumti tcita. The interpretation of ZAhO tcita differs from that of FAhA, VA, PU, and ZI tcita, however. The event described in the sumti is viewed as a process, and the action of the main bridi occurs at the phase of the process which the ZAhO specifies, or at least some part of that phase. The action of the main bridi itself is seen as a point event, so that there is no issue about which phase of the main bridi is intended. For example:

✥12.6    mi morsi ba'o le nu mi jmive
I am-dead [perfective] the event-of I live.
I die in the aftermath of my living.

Here the (point-)event of my being dead is the portion of my living-process which occurs after the process is complete. Contrast ✥12.6 with:

✥12.7    mi morsi ba le nu mi jmive
I am-dead [future] the event-of I live.

As explained in c10-§6, ✥12.7 does not exclude the possibility that I died before I ceased to live!

Likewise, we might say:

✥12.8    mi klama le zarci pu'o le nu mi citka
I go-to the store [inchoative] the event-of I eat

which indicates that before my eating begins, I go to the store, whereas

✥12.9    mi klama le zarci ba'o le nu mi citka
I go-to the store [perfective] the event-of I eat

would indicate that I go to the store after I am finished eating.

Here is an example which mixes temporal ZAhO (as a tense) and spatial ZAhO (as a sumti tcita):

✥12.10  le bloti pu za'o xelklama
    fe'e ba'o le lalxu
the boat [past] [superfective]
    is-a-transport-mechanism
    [space] [perfective] the lake.
The boat sailed for too long and beyond the lake.

Probably it sailed up onto the dock. One point of clarification: although “xelklama” appears to mean simply “is-a-mode-of-transport”, it does not — the bridi of ✥12.10 has four omitted arguments, and thus has the (physical) journey which goes on too long as part of its meaning.

The remaining tense cmavo, which have to do with interval size, dimension, and continuousness (or lack thereof) are interpreted to let the sumti specify the particular interval over which the main bridi operates:

✥12.11  mi klama le zarci reroi le ca djedi
I go-to the market [twice] the [present] day
I go/went/will go to the market twice today.

Be careful not to confuse a tense used as a sumti tcita with a tense used within a seltcita sumti:

✥12.12  loi snime cu carvi
    ze'u le ca dunra
some-of-the-mass-of snow rains
    [long time interval] the [present] winter.
Snow falls during this winter.

claims that the interval specified by “this winter” is long, as events of snowfall go, whereas

✥12.13  loi snime cu carvi
    ca le ze'u dunra
some-of-the-mass-of snow rains
    [present] the [long time] winter.
Snow falls in the long winter.

claims that during some part of the winter, which is long as winters go, snow falls.