(Originally appeared in Lognet 91/3)

A Possible Solution to the Mixed Names Problem

By Bill Gober

I have some further discussion of the problems of mixed serial names, first raised in Lognet 91/1. To me it seems that the root of the problem is that names aren’t unequivocally marked at the end, and both solutions proposed so far—the one in Lognet 91/1, and mine—try to fix the problem by gluing the pieces of a name phrase together internally. Elsewhere in the language, if we need to end a phrase or clause, we do so with punctuation words at the end. Why not do the same for name phrases?

I think we can accomplish this without (a) making names much longer, (b) adding or changing many rules; and we will (c) eliminate the need for commas to end names. The key to all this is to treat a name as a description like any other (a “noun phrase”, to borrow a term from English grammar), except that it is marked differently and can contain name words in place of predicates.

What I’m saying is that since we can tell where le langa denli “the long day” ends, we can do the same for la Krist Denli “Christmas”...and by the same means. We’ll need to change a few rules to make this possible.

(1) Since all descriptions must be marked, all names would have to be marked. In other words, we could no longer have bare vocatives; Godzi, Djan would become Godzi, hoi Djan. This would keep la Nordi Ame’rik[y]s from sounding like “The North, O America. To say that, we would say la Nordi, hoi Ame’rikas. Always using hoi -form vocatives should be no more onerous than always using la for the other name phrases.

(2) We would still pause after each name word—i.e., the words that end with a consonant—and before name words that aren’t preceded by la or hoi (unless the name word starts with a vowel). There would be no need for other pauses in the name phrase, even at the end, except where a similar description would need a pause.

(3) Where necessary, we would end a name phrase with punctuation of some sort, just as we end a description. In other words, we could no longer say la Mars, telfoa; we have to say la Mars ga telfoa for “Mars is a planet”. This is no hardship: we’re used to saying Le sekre ga mrenu for “The secretary is a man.”

With this rule, La Krist Denli couldn’t possibly mean “Christ is a day”: that would be La Krist ga denli. Here are two sentences to show what would happen when the ga is shifted. La Krist Denli ga hapci ckemo “Christmas is a happy time”. La Krist ga denli hapci ckemo “Christ is a day-happy time”. Each of these four examples has a single pause, after Krist; none of them needs any comma. (To see why this is so, replace la Krist with le langa in each one.)

(4) Just as descriptions can become long, with many modifiers of various sorts, so could names. Consider le ckano farfu je le sucmi gu ji vi le hasfa; by replacing le with la and [some] predicates with name words, we get la Ckano Farf je la Krist gu ji vi la Gadhas, a name phrase that contains other name phrases. The name phrase would need four pauses (one before Farf, one after each name word) that the description phrase doesn’t need; but neither the description nor the name needs any commas.

(5) We would have to punctuate some name phrases that we don’t have to now. For example, le la Uorf bliklimao is an incomplete phrase; it needs to be le la Uorf gu bliklimao to say “the Whorf Hypothesis”. Compare this to le le corta gu tcaro “the short one’s car”. Also, Djan, godzi becomes Hoi Djan gu godzi. (It might prove useful to have a punctuator that closes only name phrases. Gua would be perfect, but it’s already quite rightly taken for “habitually”. Lau? guu?)

(6) All other rules for name phrases would be unchanged. In particular, the "Pierre LaPlace" rule would still hold: that name still becomes la Pi,e’r ci Lapla’s.

In summary: we should treat names just like descriptions, except that names would have to be marked differently (with la or hoi) and might contain name words (members of the DJAN Lexeme). As always, we have to ward the name words from their surroundings with pauses; otherwise, names need no more pauses than descriptions...and no more commas, either.


Copyright © 1991 by The Loglan Institute. All rights reserved.