(Originally appeared in Lognet 97/2)

On Logicality

by James Cooke Brown

We should all remind ourselves, from time to time, of the sense in which Loglan is meant to be a “logical language” and of the many senses in which it is not.

To re-remind myself of those points I have just reread Sec. 1.2 of Loglan 1, a section entitled “Loglan as a Logical Language”. It is a section that has remained virtually identical over the several editions of this book, including the Third Edition, in 1975, and the Fourth, in 1989. Reading it reminded me, its sometime author, of what I meant in the first place by Loglan’s being “a logical language”. Perhaps our sometime logician, Randall Holmes, might care to make this same refreshing visit to the past, reminding himself, as I did, of what the “logical language project” (as conducted on these premises, anyway) is meant to be about.

The sense in which L was designed to be “logical” is there made clear to be precisely this: that it facilitate the accurate and reliable execution of all of the logical transformations that have been linguisticallyembodied in it, whatever these turn out to be. I believe that the recent adoption by the Keugru of the several new features of the language by which the set/multiple distinction, in particular, has been clarified are all demonstrably in aid of this goal, that in the special sense of logicality defined in Sec.1.2 these moves are almost certain to increase the logicality of Loglan, that is, to help speakers avoid the errors occasioned by the ambiguity of plurals in everday speech.

For example, the set/multiple distinction is now carefully worked out in all regions of the language that involve plural designations, and this now includes the long-neglected personal pronouns. This augmentation of the language represents, we believe, a major step forward, clarifying as it does a particularly muddy region of natural-language designation, the one invoked wherever plurals are involved. So drawing the set/multiple distinction as carefully as we have just done is likely to make a major contribution toward our goal of facilitating accurate transformations of our thoughts and claims.

To take this step forward, however, the K had first to clarify a certain muddiness in our own talk as Loglan scholars. For once the set/multiple distinction had been safely installed in one part of the language it became apparent to some of us that I had been recommending since at least 1975—and probably a good deal longer than that—a usage of the mass-term operator lo that now seemed to be wrong.

One use of lo was happily clear to everybody, and that was the “Trobriand” use of lo: the one that creates gigantic, widely distributed, usually discontinuous, and mostly unobservable massindividuals in our minds. These are the giants whose faintest appearances and slightest manifestations—a wisp of smoke here, a sniff of scent there—we are entitled in L to celebrate with lo. Lo is now used so very frequently in this “rumors of giants” sense in L that it appears to translate all manner of E constructions, ranging from simple observatives like Fire! (Lo fagro!, meaning in L that Mr. Fire is somewhere about! I’ve just got a whiff of him!) to the Trobriandbent loglander’s curbside remark Mi pazda lo taksi, meaning I am waiting for some manifestation —any manifestation—of Mr. Taxi. This last report could no doubt be translated into E as I’m waiting for a taxi, that is, for exactly one taxi, suggesting an entirely different ontology of what’s going on. But we logli do not say Mi pazda ne taksi, though we could. Nor do we say Mi godzi ne sinma, though we could. We appear to like the Trobriand ontology of giants like movies and taxis that lo has created for us, and mean to keep them around. So lo has managed to introduce a mysterious and yet majestic clarity into the language that we do not want to lose. Lo procreates a race of friendly giants whom we’ve got used to, among whose number we count Virtue, Wit, Movies, and Taxis, and whom, once experienced, we do not wish to live without.

At the same time, another, quite different use of lo had been recommended by me in the 1975, 3rd Edition language that somehow got perpetuated, by an error of mine, into the 1989, 4th Edition. This is the usage exhibited by such sentences as Lo to mrenu, ji la Djan ze la Pit, ponsu levi hasfa = The mass of two men, John and jointly Pete, own this house, or, more vividly, ...pa berti levi tristaga = ...carried this log (together). This 1989 use of lo to designate “minimasses”—not just their parts or manifestations, note, but whole bunches of them welded together—did not seem to take into account the availability since 1980 of the two setdescriptive operators, lea and leu. These—or actually their forerunners—had been adopted by John Parks-Clifford ze me (who were then the de facto keugru) for the Loglan 1 Updater that TLI published in 1980. Lea and leu were meant to allow the speaker to designate unambiguously the set of all <predas> and the local subset of <predas> that the speaker had in mind, respectively, and were thus meant to parallel, for sets, the two expressions, ra preda (each preda) and le (ri) preda (each of the (several) predas I have in mind), that we already had for multiples (though we didn’t call them that then). That is, just as ra and le (ri) had long allowed us to distinguish between universal and intentional multiples, so lea and leu would now allow us to distinguish between the universal set of predas and the set of just those predas we have in mind. (Note that this important distinction is not available to us if we retain the lo NI usage.)

Completing the “square of descriptors” was a project that shaped up in the late ’70s by discussions among a trio of logli, Richard Rosenberger, John Parks-Clifford, and myself; and I think it was quite by accident that the quartet of descriptors we came up with eventually allowed us to “purify” the usages of lo as well. It did this by enabling us to assign the second of its older functions—that is, its “log-carrying” function—to a distinctly set-designating operator, leu; and it did this by enabling us to view such teams as sets and not as masses...which we probably should have been doing all along.

Intent as the Keugru have been for the last year or two on pushing the setmultiple distinction through the fabric of the language, it seemed to me imperative that we correct this 1989 error...when, at last, we noticed it. For while linguistic habits are hard to change, preserving the lo to mrenu usage as our recommended option into an epoch when that usage was no longer either useful or necessary was in my opinion a mistake. So that’s how I have come to recommend in my published writing—and in Steve Rice’s Loglan 3, which is a new teaching tool—that now, in 1997, we logli should start designating pairs of men carrying logs with what is now L’s correct descriptor, namely leu. Thus the form I now recommend for log-carrying is

Leu to mrenu ji da ze de pa berti le tristaga.

The set of two men (that is, the pair of them I have in mind) who are X and jointly Y carried the treestem (the log) together.

This contrasts sharply and neatly with talk about multiples, thus carrying the set/multiples distinction—about the virtues of which nearly everyone agrees—into the descriptions of the language:

Le to mrenu jio ne mei bi da, e de pa berti le tristaga.

Each of the two men (that is, each one of the pair I have in mind) such that one of them is X and one of them is Y carried the treestem separately.

In my opinion, the leu-le difference provides us with a linguistically better way of making this distinction than any that could be devised using lo and le. Indeed this pattern of usages is more consistent with the fundamental ontology of L than the earlier 1975 recommendation ever was. In 1975 we had no set descriptors, and so were making do with lo. It was in such logically lean circumstances that I advised translating such “log-carrying” sentences by Lo to mrenu ji da ze de pa berti le tristaga.

Besides, correcting this error—making this change in our descriptive usages—disambiguates lo. It cleans it up; it allows us to reserve lo for what we now know to be its most popular, its loglandically most characteristic, use as the designator, indeed the creator, of those mysterious and gigantic “creatures of lo” who have nothing to do with sets and with whose manifestations we logli now festoon our talk.

I must hasten to add that many people are so fond of the minimasses that lo creates in the Lo to mrenu pa berti le tristaga context that they will probably continue to use lo in such contexts rather than adopt the new usage I have personally recommended; and that’s alright. We mention the lo to usage, too, in the new L3. But my expectation is that, perhaps very gradually, usage will shift from Lo to preda to Leu to preda for these team-like designata. For what set-designations make plain that mass-designations do not is the denumerability of the members of such teams: that team-members are separate, countable individuals, though they act, or may be regarded as being, together.

As he made clear in his paper in LN 97/1: 23ff., Randall Holmes would rather we didn’t do this. I suspect R’s reason for wishing to preserve lo as our official team-designator has something to do with the low coefficient of comfort he experiences, as a logician, when we use the E-word set to talk about the objects that lea and leu designate. For though teams are linguistic sets—that is, they supply one sense of the plural number in all natural languages—they are not sets in the logician’s sense; for logicians’ sets do not carry logs.

But the words set in English and setci in Loglan do seem to be the best words in these two languages to serve as the genus word for the class of things of which E-words like team, group, collection, pair, troop, population, species, and even nation form designations in English; and that, of course, is all and only what I have ever meant by set in drawing the “set/multiple distinction” among the plurals of ordinary language. Besides, this is the way I have been talking about collective plurals for forty years now, as the most cursory examination of any of our ancient dictionaries will attest. Also, the metaphor-based predicate lodsei (lodji setci) exists to talk about the “logical sets” in which people like Randall and Emerson are professionally interested.

In any case, to observe Randall’s desire to continue officially to use lo in this log-carrying sense would be to defeat the set/multiple distinction program at one of its most crucial points, that of description, and oblige us, in my considered opinion, to take a great leap backward in the progress we have been making in developing the transformationfacilitating properties of our language...in that sense, in its “logicality”.

The views expressed in this article are mine. The Keugru has not yet reached consensus on all of the usage issues involved.

Copyright © 1997 by The Loglan Institute. All rights reserved.