Chapter 15: “No” Problems: On Lojban Negation

9. Affirmations

There is an explicit positive form for both selma'o NA (“ja'a”) and selma'o NAhE (“je'a”), each of which would supplant the corresponding negator in the grammatical position used, allowing one to assert the positive in response to a negative question or statement without confusion. Assuming the same context as in c15-§8:

✥9.1  xu na go'i
Is-it-true-that [false] [repeat previous]?

or equivalently

✥9.2  xu la djan. [cu] na pu klama
    la paris. .e la rom.
Is it true that: John [false] previously-went-to
    [both] Paris and Rome.]

The obvious, but incorrect, positive response to this negative question is:

✥9.3  go'i
[repeat previous]

A plain “go'i” does not mean “Yes it is”; it merely abbreviates repeating the previous statement unmodified, including any negators present; and ✥9.3 actually states that it is false that John went to both Paris and Rome.

When considering:

✥9.4  na go'i
[false] [repeat previous]

as a response to a negative question like ✥9.2, Lojban designers had to choose between two equally plausible interpretations with opposite effects. Does ✥9.4 create a double negative in the sentence by adding a new “na” to the one already there (forming a double negative and hence a positive statement), or does the “na” replace the previous one, leaving the sentence unchanged?

It was decided that substitution, the latter alternative, is the preferable choice, since it is then clear whether we intend a positive or a negativ sentence without performing any manipulations. This is the way English usually works, but not all languages work this way — Russian, Japanese, and Navajo all interpret a negative reply to a negative question as positive.

The positive assertion cmavo of selma'o NA can also replace the “na” in the context, giving:

✥9.5  ja'a go'i
(John truly-(previously went-to) [both] Paris and Rome.)

“ja'a” can replace “na” in a similar manner wherever the latter is used:

✥9.6  ja'a go'i
John indeed previously went-to [both] Paris and Rome.

“je'a” can replace “na'e” in exactly the same way, stating that scalar negation does not apply, and that the relation indeed holds as stated. In the absence of a negation context, it emphasizes the positive:

✥9.7  ta je'a melbi
that is-indeed beautiful.