Chapter 17: As Easy As A-B-C? The Lojban Letteral System And Its Uses
The rules of c17-§9 make it impossible to use unmarked lerfu words to refer to lerfu themselves. In the sentence:
✥10.1 .abu. cu lerfu A is-a-letteral.
the hearer would try to find what previous sumti “.abu” refers to. The solution to this problem makes use of the cmavo “me'o” of selma'o LI, which makes a lerfu string into a sumti representing that very string of lerfu. This use of “me'o” is a special case of its mathematical use, which is to introduce a mathematical expression used literally rather than for its value.
✥10.2 me'o .abu cu lerfu the-expression “a” is-a-letteral.
Now we can translate ✥1.1 into Lojban:
✥10.4 dei vasru vo lerfu po'u me'o .ebu this-sentence contains four letterals which-are the-expression “e”. This sentence contains four “e”s.
Since the Lojban sentence has only four “e” lerfu rather than fourteen, the translation is not a literal one — but ✥10.4 is a Lojban truth just as ✥1.1 is an English truth. Coincidentally, the colloquial English translation of ✥10.4 is also true!
The reader might be tempted to use quotation with “lu ... li'u” instead of “me'o”, producing:
10.4.5) lu .abu li'u cu lerfu [quote] .abu [unquote] is-a-letteral.
(The single-word quote “zo” cannot be used, because “.abu” is a compound cmavo.) But ✥10.4 is false, because it says:
✥10.5 The word “.abu” is a letteral
which is not the case; rather, the thing symbolized by the word “.abu” is a letteral. In Lojban, that would be:
✥10.6 la'e lu .abu li'u cu lerfu The-referent-of [quote] .abu [unquote] is-a-letteral.
which is correct.