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(From Lognet 92/2. Used with the permission of The Loglan Institute, Inc.)

Hu Logla Sanpa Toi?
(How Do You Say This?)

by Bill Gober

Confessions of a Pa Abuser

Loi, Logla Stude. In LN91/3:10, JCB spent two column inches correcting a mistake I'd made. Simplifying a bit for clarity's sake, I wanted to say I pause after every word. My proposed Loglan was Mi pazda fa ra purda. JCB corrected this to Mi futpazda ra purda I post pause every word. His explanation of my mistake left me confused: What does fa mean but later in time, i.e., after? After an exchange of letters on CompuServe, we realized that (1) I was not making the mistake JCB thought I was making, (2) my actual mistake was far more subtle, and (3) English speakers are liable to make both of them often. I'm going to discuss both mistakes, so that perhaps you'll never make them.

As JCB said, "...In Loglan, one can rarely express a new notion...by putting together a predicate for some related old notion...and a suggestive preposition...as one so readily can in English. In Loglan, it almost always takes a new predicate to express a new notion...."

Absolutely. In English, a word--usually, a verb-- and a preposition combined in this way form a single unit, an idiomatic phrase; in the Romance and Slavic languages, the preposition is usually bound to the verb to form a single word. Loglan takes the latter approach and builds a single predicate out of the two parts. This may be troublesome for English speakers; but this way, the two pieces can't become separated as they can in English.

How can you detect these idiomatic phrases in English and treat them correctly in Loglan? A good place to start is by paying close attention to the full meaning of each Loglan predicate, including all of its places. For example, pazda doesn't mean wait: it means ...waits for (person/event)...before doing.... Therefore, you'll usually translate I'm waiting for a taxi with Mi pazda lo taksi. (Yes, lo. I'll explain why in a future column.) So it is with many predicates: crano ...smiles at...; hirtei ...listens to...; clucea ...falls in love with...; holdu ...is a hole in....

Note that you can often carry the emphasized prepositions over into Loglan, sometimes with hilarious results. Mi pazda lui lo taksi implies that you stand on street corners because it makes the taxis happy. Mi pa crano vi la Mars says that you were on Mars when you smiled. La Djan, pa felda lo cluva kii la Meris says, John fell into (something characterizable as) love, accompanied by Mary; perhaps they went off Lovers' Leap together. And as for Ba holdu vi le gardi, I'll tell you later how that differs from Ba holdu le gardi.

You can also consult various sources to see if your phrase has an equivalent that's not verb+preposition; if so, look for a single Loglan predicate for the phrase. Some dictionaries can help you do this; better yet is a good thesaurus; equally good is a knowledge of Latin or a Romance language. For example, wait for and await are synonymous; in fact, both appear in the full definition of pazda. The usual sense of send to the hospital (e.g., with injuries) is equivalent to hospitalize, which already has a Loglan complex: hosnensea. Put (something) in the bank is to deposit it: bankynensea.

And what if, despite all these measures, you still translate an idiomatic expression into bad Loglan? You're in good company. Those of us who haven't made a similar mistake in Loglan have surely made one in some other language....

So much for the mistake JCB thought I made, the sort of mistake that's easy to notice and avoid. The mistake I actually made is more subtle, in that Mi pazda fa ra purda does in fact mean I pause after every word...but it "means" it in such a broad, weak fashion that my sense is lost. Because English is weak in showing time relationships, I'll illuminate my mistake with an example that's grammatically similar but involves spatial relationships.

There's a hole in the garden has two different Loglan translations with very different meanings:

  1. Ba holdu le gardi. Someone went into the garden with a shovel and dug a hole in the ground. Or the hole may be figurative, e.g., a gap in the garden's plant cover. In short, this hole is "attached" to the garden, a part of it.
  2. Ba holdu vi le gardi. Somewhere in the garden is something with a hole in it: a tree, a leaf, the hose, or even the ground. The hole is attached to something that happens to be in the garden; the hole is incidental to the garden.

My sentence Mi pazda fa ra purda is like (2) in that my pauses are only indirectly connected to the words: I pause, and oh by the way it happens after each word. In fact, someone else may be speaking the words. In contrast, JCB's Mi futpazda ra purda is like (1) in that the pauses are tightly coupled to the words: I after pause each word (of mine).

Vi, fa, lui, kii: Sometimes these words behave much like English prepositions, and at other times they're quite alien. Why? To answer this, we have to examine the grammatical category that they belong to: the PA Lexeme.

The PA Lexeme is described on pp. 94-97 of Notebook 3, and in L1 on pp. 117-120 and pp. 293-298. To summarize, there are four series of PA words: tense operators, such as pa, na, and fa; location operators, such as vi, va, and vu; modal operators, such as sea, lia, and the others; and the causal operators, kou, moi, rau, soa, and their kin. (Ga is no longer a PA word.)

On page 95 of NB3 we read that:

...[A]ny of the PA words may be used in three grammatical contexts: (i) as an inflector of some predicate...; (ii) as an adverbial modifier of the main predicate expression of the sentence..., or, when linked to an argument by a JI word (q.v.), as a local modifier of that immediately preceding argument...; and (iii) as the prepositional head of a phrase or a clause which modifies the main predicate expression...or, if linked to an argument, then as a local modifier of that argument.... [Emphasis added.]

Note that all the uses of PA words are as modifiers of a predicate or an argument. Part (iii) describes the PA uses that I've been discussing: in relative phrases (or clauses). These modify sentences: they comment on the situation, they don't establish the situation.

For example, in the sentence Mua titci vi le supta We eat in the soup, the soupy venue is incidental to the situation. Structurally the sentence consists of Mua titci and a modifying or relative phrase. The basic sentence (Mua titci) stays the same, even with any of the following phrases: vi le tcikru in the dining room (eat-room), vi le fildi in the field, vi le cetlai in the swamp (wet-land), or vi le supta. In the first case, I picture people sitting around a dining table eating; in the second, the people and table are in a pasture, with cattle grazing all around them; in the third, we move people and table to the Everglades, and the people are eating with water lapping at their calves; and in the fourth case, the table's in a tureen the size of a swimming pool, and the people eat while up to their waists in chicken noodle. In each case, the basic situation is the same: people sitting at a table eating. All we change is the location.

PA words don't change predicates or arguments, de only modify da. If you want to change the basic situation, you need to change the predicates or arguments. If the dinner's soupiness is central, you have to make it so: Mua hijra le supta, e titci We're present at the soup and eat, or Mua titci go skitu le supta We eat sitting on the soup.

These last two examples reveal a deep, dark secret about the PA words: they're not necessary, but only a convenience: anything you can say with a PA word, you can say (albeit at greater length) with a predicate clause. Vi can be replaced with a clause using (usual ly) hijra, nu sitfa or nenri; pa, na, and fa with pasko, nadzo, and futci, respectively; I leave it to you to map the other PA words to predicates. We can restate Mua titci vi le supta as Mua titci, ice tio hijra le supta We eat, and this (situation) is present at or in the soup. [Nu sitfa would work better here as it carries no implication of "attending" something, as hijra does.--JCB] Similarly, Ba holdu vi le gardi becomes Ba holdu be, ice be nenri le gardi Some x is a hole in some y, and y is in the garden. For ordinary purposes, any sane person would prefer the shorter form with the PA word to the predicate circumlocution. However, the circumlocution is useful in two ways: (1) It clearly shows why a relative phrase is weakly attached to its sentence: because the relative phrase is "really" a second sentence that makes a comment on the first, main sentence. (2) It can be a powerful transformation if you need to turn everything in an utterance into predicates; in fact, that's what we did for (1) in order to lay bare its meaning.

Here are some examples to show the difference between using predicates and using PA words:

Mia lentaa la Loglan We language-speak Loglan. This announces that you can speak the language; it says nothing about what you say or to whom. Contrast this with Mia takna de tie la Loglan We speak to them in/using Loglan (as an instrument) in which the speech is central and the language an afterthought, merely a tool. A shorter alternative is Mia logla takna de, in which we modify takna with a predicate, instead of with a relative phrase.

Da pa janto lo bishoni vi le horma pripai They hunted buffalo on horseback (horse rear-part). For this, I picture the mighty hunters taking out curry combs and vigorously combing the backs of their horses free of buffalo and other irritants. If you mean that they rode horses in order to hunt, you say it this way: Da pa horski janto lo bishoni They horse- sittingly hunted buffalo. Another approach is this: Da ja vi le horma pripai gu pa janto lo bishoni They, who (are) on the backs of horses, hunted buffalo, which firmly places the hunters, not the hunt, on horseback.

Rub me in the back with the oil. This has two translations: (1) Satro lemi pripai le gresa Rub my back with the oil/grease. I.e., in the back specifies which part of me is to be rubbed; the Loglan is more direct. (2) Satro mi vi le prispa le gresa Rub me out in back (e.g., behind the building) with the oil/grease. I.e., in the back specifies where the rubdown is to occur.

That's enough for this column, although it's not enough for the topic. In summary, idiomatic phrases become predicates in Loglan, and PA words are weak and easy to abuse.

Here's are some titles I have in mind for future columns: Lo, it's an indefinite article!; He's dead, I'm a fool, what's the connection?; and No Nu, the Superlative. Send me questions, or read these columns. The choice is yours.

--Hue Bil Gobr

Copyright 1992 by The Loglan Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

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