Chapter 6: To Speak Of Many Things: The Lojban sumti

8. Indefinite descriptions

By a quirk of Lojban syntax, it is possible to omit the descriptor “lo”, but never any other descriptor, from a description like that of ✥7.5; namely, one which has an explicit outer quantifier but no explicit inner quantifier. The following example:

✥8.1  ci gerku [ku] cu blabi
Three dogs are white.

is equivalent in meaning to ✥7.5. Even though the descriptor is not present, the elidable terminator “ku” may still be used. The name “indefinite description” for this syntactic form is historically based: of course, it is no more and no less indefinite than its counterpart with an explicit “lo”. Indefinite descriptions were introduced into the language in order to imitate the syntax of English and other natural languages.

Indefinite descriptions must fit this mold exactly: there is no way to make one which does not have an explicit outer quantifier (thus “*gerku cu blabi” is ungrammatical), or which has an explicit inner quantifier (thus “*reboi ci gerku cu blabi” is also ungrammatical — “re ci gerku cu blabi” is fine, but means “23 dogs are white”).

Note: ✥6.3 also contains an indefinite description, namely “su'o ci cutci”; another version of that example using an explicit “lo” would be:

✥8.2  mi ponse su'o ci lo cutci
I possess at-least three things-which-really-are shoes
I own three (or more) shoes.