Chapter 7: Brevity Is The Soul Of Language: Pro-sumti And Pro-bridi
1. What are pro-sumti and pro-bridi? What are they for?
Speakers of Lojban, like speakers of other languages, require mechanisms of abbreviation. If every time we referred to something, we had to express a complete description of it, life would be too short to say what we have to say. In English, we have words called “pronouns” which allow us to replace nouns or noun phrases with shorter terms. An English with no pronouns might look something like this:
✥1.1 Speakers of Lojban, like speakers of other languages, require mechanisms of abbreviation. If every time speakers of Lojban referred to a thing to which speakers of Lojban refer, speakers of Lojban had to express a complete description of what speakers of Lojban referred to, life would be too short to say what speakers of Lojban have to say.
Speakers of this kind of English would get mightily sick of talking. Furthermore, there are uses of pronouns in English which are independent of abbreviation. There is all the difference in the world between:
✥1.2 John picked up a stick and shook it.
✥1.3 John picked up a stick and shook a stick.
✥1.3 does not imply that the two sticks are necessarily the same, whereas ✥1.2 requires that they are.
In Lojban, we have sumti rather than nouns, so our equivalent of pronouns are called by the hybrid term “pro-sumti”. A purely Lojban term would be “sumti cmavo”: all of the pro-sumti are cmavo belonging to selma'o KOhA. In exactly the same way, Lojban has a group of cmavo (belonging to selma'o GOhA) which serve as selbri or full bridi. These may be called “pro-bridi” or “bridi cmavo”. This chapter explains the uses of all the members of selma'o KOhA and GOhA. They fall into a number of groups, known as series: thus, in selma'o KOhA, we have among others the mi-series, the ko'a-series, the da-series, and so on. In each section, a series of pro-sumti is explained, and if there is a corresponding series of pro-bridi, it is explained and contrasted. Many pro-sumti series don't have pro-bridi analogues, however.
A few technical terms: The term “referent” means the thing to which a pro-sumti (by extension, a pro-bridi) refers. If the speaker of a sentence is James, then the referent of the word “I” is James. On the other hand, the term “antecedent” refers to a piece of language which a pro-sumti (or pro-bridi) implicitly repeats. In
✥1.4 John loves himself
the antecedent of “himself” is “John”; not the person, but a piece of text (a name, in this case). John, the person, would be the referent of “himself”. Not all pro-sumti or pro-bridi have antecedents, but all of them have referents.