Chapter 17: As Easy As A-B-C? The Lojban Letteral System And Its Uses
Since the first application of computers to non-numerical information, character sets have existed, mapping numbers (called “character codes”) into selected lerfu, digits, and punctuation marks (collectively called “characters”). Historically, these character sets have only covered the English alphabet and a few selected punctuation marks. International efforts are now underway to create a unified character set that can represent essentially all the characters in essentially all the world's writing systems. Lojban can take advantage of these encoding schemes by using the cmavo “se'e” (of selma'o BY). This cmavo is conventionally followed by digit cmavo of selma'o PA representing the character code, and the whole string indicates a single character in some computerized character set:
✥13.1 me'o se'ecixa cu lerfu la .asycy'i'is. loi merko rupnu the-expression [code] 36 is-a-letteral in-set ASCII for-the-mass-of American currency-units. The character code 36 in ASCII represents American dollars. “$” represents American dollars.
Understanding ✥13.1 depends on knowing the value in the ASCII character set (one of the simplest and oldest) of the “$” character. Therefore, the “se'e” convention is only intelligible to those who know the underlying character set. For precisely specifying a particular character, however, it has the advantages of unambiguity and (relative) cultural neutrality, and therefore Lojban provides a means for those with access to descriptions of such character sets to take advantage of them.
As another example, the Unicode character set (also known as ISO 10646) represents the international symbol of peace, an inverted trident in a circle, using the base-16 value 262E. In a suitable context, a Lojbanist may say:
✥13.2 me'o se'erexarerei sinxa le ka panpi the-expression [code] 262E is-a-sign-of the quality-of being-at-peace
When a “se'e” string appears in running discourse, some metalinguistic convention must specify whether the number is base 10 (as above) or some other base, and which character set is in use.