Chapter 7: Brevity Is The Soul Of Language: Pro-sumti And Pro-bridi

7. Indefinite pro-sumti and pro-bridi: the zo'e-series and the co'e-series

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

zo'e    KOhA    zo'e-series the obvious value
zu'i    KOhA    zo'e-series the typical value
zi'o    KOhA    zo'e-series the nonexistent value
co'e    GOhA    co'e-series has the obvious relationship

The cmavo of the zo'e-series represent indefinite, unspecified sumti. The cmavo “zo'e” represents an elliptical value for this sumti place; it is the optional spoken place holder when a sumti is skipped without being specified. Note that the elliptical value is not always the typical value. The properties of ellipsis lead to an elliptical sumti being defined as “whatever I want it to mean but haven't bothered to figure out, or figure out how to express”.

The cmavo “zu'i”, on the other hand, represents the typical value for this place of this bridi:

✥7.1  mi klama le bartu be le zdani
    le nenri be le zdani
    zu'i zu'i
I go to-the outside of the house
    from-the inside of the house
    [by-typical-route] [by-typical-means]

In ✥7.1, the first “zu'i” probably means something like “by the door”, and the second “zu'i” probably means something like “on foot”, those being the typical route and means for leaving a house. On the other hand, if you are at the top of a high rise during a fire, neither “zu'i” is appropriate. It's also common to use “zu'i” in “by standard” places.

Finally, the cmavo “zi'o” represents a value which does not even exist. When a bridi fills one of its places with “zi'o”, what is really meant is that the selbri has a place which is irrelevant to the true relationship the speaker wishes to express. For example, the place structure of “zbasu” is

actor x1 makes x2 from materials x3
Consider the sentence
Living things are made from cells.

This cannot be correctly expressed as:

✥7.2  loi jmive cu se zbasu [zo'e] fi loi selci
The-mass-of living-things is-made [by-something]
    from the-mass-of cells

because the “zo'e”, expressed or understood, in ✥7.2 indicates that there is still a “maker” in this relationship. We do not generally suppose, however, that someone “makes” living things from cells. The best answer is probably to find a different selbri, one which does not imply a “maker”: however, an alternative strategy is to use “zi'o” to eliminate the maker place:

✥7.3  loi jmive cu se zbasu zi'o
    loi selci
The-mass-of living-things is-made [without-maker]
    from the-mass-of cells.

Note: The use of “zi'o” to block up, as it were, one place of a selbri actually creates a new selbri with a different place structure. Consider the following examples:

✥7.4  mi zbasu le dinju loi mudri
I make the building from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
I make the building out of wood.

✥7.5   zi'o zbasu le dinju
    loi mudri
[without-maker] makes the building
    from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
The building is made out of wood.

✥7.6   mi zbasu zi'o
    loi mudri
I make [without-thing-made]
    from-some-of-the-mass-of wood.
I build using wood.

✥7.7   mi zbasu loi mudri zi'o
I make the building [without-material].
I make the building.

If ✥7.4 is true, then Examples 7.5 through 7.7 must be true also. However, ✥7.3 does not correspond to any sentence with three regular (non-“zi'o”) sumti.

The pro-bridi “co'e” (which by itself constitutes the co'e-series of selma'o GOhA) represents the elliptical selbri. Lojban grammar does not allow the speaker to merely omit a selbri from a bridi, although any or all sumti may be freely omitted. Being vague about a relationship requires the use of “co'e” as a selbri place-holder:

✥7.8  mi troci le nu
    mi co'e le vorme
I try the event-of
    my [doing-the-obvious-action] to-the door.
I try the door.

The English version means, and the Lojban version probably means, that I try to open the door, but the relationship of opening is not actually specified; the Lojbanic listener must guess it from context. Lojban, unlike English, makes it clear that there is an implicit action that is not being expressed.

The form of “co'e” was chosen to resemble “zo'e”; the cmavo “do'e” of selma'o BAI (see Chapter 9) also belongs to the same group of cmavo.

Note that “do'i”, of the di'u-series, is also a kind of indefinite pro-sumti: it is indefinite in referent, but is restricted to referring only to an utterance.