Chapter 19: Putting It All Together: Notes on the Structure of Lojban Texts

12. Parenthesis and metalinguistic commentary: TO, TOI, SEI

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

to  TO  open parenthesis
to'i    TO  open editorial parenthesis
toi TOI close parenthesis
sei SEI metalinguistic bridi marker

The cmavo “to” and “toi” are discursive (non-mathematical) parentheses, for inserting parenthetical remarks. Any text whatsoever can go within the parentheses, and it is completely invisible to its context. It can, however, refer to the context by the use of pro-sumti and pro-bridi: any that have been assigned in the context are still assigned in the parenthetical remarks, but the reverse is not true.

✥12.1     doi lisas. mi djica le nu
    to doi frank. ko sisti toi
    do viska le mlatu
O Lisa, I desire the event-of
    ( O Frank, [imperative] stop! )
    you see the cat.
Lisa, I want you to (Frank! Stop!) see the cat.

✥12.1 implicitly redefines “do” within the parentheses: the listener is changed by “doi frank.” When the context sentence resumes, however, the old listener, Lisa, is automatically restored.

There is another cmavo of selma'o TO: “to'i”. The difference between “to” and “to'i” is the difference between parentheses and square brackets in English prose. Remarks within “to … toi” cmavo are implicitly by the same speaker, whereas remarks within “to'i … toi” are implicitly by someone else, perhaps an editor:

✥12.2    la frank. cusku lu mi prami do
    to'isa'a do du la djein. toi li'u
Frank expresses “I love you
    [you = Jane]”

The “sa'a” suffix is a discursive cmavo (of selma'o UI) meaning “editorial insertion”, and indicating that the marked word or construct (in this case, the entire bracketed remark) is not part of the quotation. It is required whenever the “to'i … toi” remark is physically within quotation marks, at least when speaking to literal-minded listeners; the convention may be relaxed if no actual confusion results.

Note: The parser believes that parentheses are attached to the previous word or construct, because it treats them as syntactic equivalents of subscripts and other such so-called “free modifiers”. Semantically, however, parenthetical remarks are not necessarily attached either to what precedes them or what follows them.

The cmavo “sei” (of selma'o SEI) begins an embedded discursive bridi. Comments added with “sei” are called “metalinguistic”, because they are comments about the discourse itself rather than about the subject matter of the discourse. This sense of the term “metalinguistic” is used throughout this chapter, and is not to be confused with the sense “language for expressing other languages”.

When marked with “sei”, a metalinguistic utterance can be embedded in another utterance as a discursive. In this way, discursives which do not have cmavo assigned in selma'o UI can be expressed:

✥12.3    la frank. prami sei la frank. gleki la djein.
Frank loves (Frank is happy) Jane.

Using the happiness attitudinal, “.ui”, would imply that the speaker was happy. Instead, the speaker attributes happiness to Frank. It would probably be safe to elide the one who is happy, and say:

✥12.4    la frank. prami sei gleki la djein.
Frank loves (he is happy) Jane.

The grammar of the bridi following “sei” has an unusual limitation: the sumti must either all precede the selbri, or must be glued into the selbri with “be” and “bei”:

✥12.5    la frank. prami sei gleki be fa la suzn. la djein.
Frank loves (Susan is happy) Jane.

This restriction allows the terminator cmavo “se'u” to almost always be elided.

Since a discursive utterance is working at a “higher” level of abstraction than a non-discursive utterance, a non-discursive utterance cannot refer to a discursive utterance. Specifically, the various back-counting, reciprocal, and reflexive constructs in selma'o KOhA ignore the utterances at “higher” metalinguistic levels in determining their referent. It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to refer to lower metalinguistic levels. For example, the English “he said” in a conversation is metalinguistic. For this purpose, quotations are considered to be at a lower metalinguistic level than the surrounding context (a quoted text cannot refer to the statements of the one who quotes it), whereas parenthetical remarks are considered to be at a higher level than the context.

Lojban works differently from English in that the “he said” can be marked instead of the quotation. In Lojban, you can say:

✥12.6    la djan. cusku lu mi klama le zarci li'u
John expresses “I go to-the store”.

which literally claims that John uttered the quoted text. If the central claim is that John made the utterance, as is likely in conversation, this style is the most sensible. However, in written text which quotes a conversation, you don't want the “he said” or “she said” to be considered part of the conversation. If unmarked, it could mess up the anaphora counting. Instead, you can use:

✥12.7    lu mi klama le zarci
    seisa'a la djan. cusku be dei li'u
“ I go to-the store
    ( John expresses this-sentence ) ”
“I go to the store”, said John.

And of course other orders are possible:

✥12.8    lu seisa'a la djan. cusku be dei mi klama le zarci
John said, “I go to the store”.

✥12.9 lu mi klama seisa'a la djan cusku le zarci
“I go”, John said, “to the store”.

Note the “sa'a” following each “sei”, marking the “sei” and its attached bridi as an editorial insert, not part of the quotation. In a more relaxed style, these “sa'a” cmavo would probably be dropped.

The elidable terminator for “sei” is “se'u” (of selma'o SEhU); it is rarely needed, except to separate a selbri within the “sei” comment from an immediately following selbri (or component) outside the comment.