Chapter 9: To Boston Via The Road Go I, With An Excursion Into The Land Of Modals

7. Modal sentence connection: the causals

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

ri'a    BAI rinka modal: physical cause
ki'u    BAI krinu modal: justification
mu'i    BAI mukti modal: motivation
ni'i    BAI nibli modal: logical entailment

This section has two purposes. On the one hand, it explains the grammatical construct called “modal sentence connection”. On the other, it exemplifies some of the more useful BAI cmavo: the causals. (There are other BAI cmavo which have causal implications: “ja'e” means “with result”, and so “seja'e” means “with cause of unspecified nature”; likewise, “gau” means “with agent” and “tezu'e” means “with purpose”. These other modal cmavo will not be further discussed here, as my purpose is to explain modal sentence connection rather than Lojbanic views of causation.)

There are four causal gismu in Lojban, distinguishing different versions of the relationships lumped in English as “causal”:

rinka: event x1 physically causes event x2 krinu: event x1 is the justification for event x2 mukti: event x1 is the (human) motive for event x2 nibli: event x1 logically entails event x2
Each of these gismu has a related modal: “ri'a”, “ki'u”, “mu'i”, and “ni'i” respectively. Using these gismu and these modals, we can create various causal sentences with different implications:

✥7.1  le spati cu banro
    ri'a le nu
        do djacu dunda fi le spati
the plant grows
    with-physical-cause the event-of
        you water give to the plant.
The plant grows because you water it.

✥7.2   la djan. cpacu le pamoi se jinga
    ki'u le nu la djan. jinga
John gets the first prize
    with-justification the event-of John wins.
John got the first prize because he won.

✥7.3   mi lebna le cukta
    mu'i le nu mi viska le cukta
I took the book
    with-motivation the event-of I saw the book.
I took the book because I saw it.

✥7.4  la sokrates. morsi binxo
    ni'i le nu la sokrates. remna
Socrates dead-became
    with-logical-justification Socrates is-human.
Socrates died because Socrates is human.

In Examples 7.1 through 7.4, the same English word “because” is used to translate all four modals, but the types of cause being expressed are quite different. Let us now focus on ✥7.1, and explore some variations on it.

As written, ✥7.1 claims that the plant grows, but only refers to the event of watering it in an abstraction bridi (abstractions are explained in Chapter 11) without actually making a claim. If I express ✥7.1, I have said that the plant in fact grows, but I have not said that you actually water it, merely that there is a causal relationship between watering and growing. This is semantically asymmetrical. Suppose I wanted to claim that the plant was being watered, and only mention its growth as ancillary information? Then we could reverse the main bridi and the abstraction bridi, saying:

✥7.5  do djacu dunda fi le spati
    seri'a le nu ri banro
You water-give to the plant
    with-physical-effect it grows.
You water the plant; therefore, it grows.

with the “ri'a” changed to “seri'a”. In addition, there are also symmetrical forms:

✥7.6  le nu do djacu dunda fi le spati cu rinka
    le nu le spati cu banro
The event-of (you water-give to the plant) causes
    the event-of (the plant grows).
Your watering the plant causes its growth.
If you water the plant, then it grows.

does not claim either event, but asserts only the causal relationship between them. So in ✥7.6, I am not saying that the plant grows nor that you have in fact watered it. The second colloquial translation shows a form of “if-then” in English quite distinct from the logical connective “if-then” explained in Chapter 14.

Suppose we wish to claim both events as well as their causal relationship? We can use one of two methods:

✥7.7  le spati cu banro .iri'abo do djacu dunda fi le spati
The plant grows.  Because you water-give to the plant.
The plant grows because you water it.

✥7.8   do djacu dunda fi le spati
    .iseri'abo le spati cu banro
You water-give to the plant.
    Therefore it grows.
You water the plant; therefore, it grows.

The compound cmavo “.iri'abo” and “.iseri'abo” serve to connect two bridi, as the initial “.i” indicates. The final “bo” is necessary to prevent the modal from “taking over” the following sumti. If the “bo” were omitted from ✥7.7 we would have:

✥7.9  le spati cu banro
    .i ri'a do djacu dunda
        fi le spati
The plant grows.
    Because of you, [something] water-gives
        to the plant.
The plant grows.  Because of you, water is given
    to the plant.

Because “ri'a do” is a modal sumti in ✥7.9, there is no longer an explicit sumti in the x1 place of “djacu dunda”, and the translation must be changed.

The effect of sentences like ✥7.7 and ✥7.8 is that the modal, “ri'a” in this example, no longer modifies an explicit sumti. Instead, the sumti is implicit, the event given by a full bridi. Furthermore, there is a second implication: that the first bridi fills the x2 place of the gismu “rinka”; it specifies an event which is the effect. I am therefore claiming three things: that the plant grows, that you have watered it, and that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

In principle, any modal tag can appear in a sentence connective of the type exemplified by ✥7.7 and ✥7.8. However, it makes little sense to use any modals which do not expect events or other abstractions to fill the places of the corresponding gismu. The sentence connective “.ibaubo” is perfectly grammatical, but it is hard to imagine any two sentences which could be connected by an “in-language” modal. This is because a sentence describes an event, and an event can be a cause or an effect, but not a language.