(From Lognet 95/2)

Sau La Keugru (From the Caretaking-Group = Academy)

A Subjunctive Year

For the better part of the past year, the Keugru has been considering various ways of adding a subjunctive mood to Loglan. (The “subjunctive mood” is the special apparatus many languages have for dealing with non-factual worlds. It contrasts with the indicative and imperative moods, both of which L has.) At first it seemed to be an easy enough project, easily concluded. Many ideas came forward. As early as last December, one of our working-groups—one that we came to call the Lodgru (“Logic-Group”)—came up with an exciting new way of adding something called “modal logic” to Loglan. Emerson Mitchell, our newest lodtua, made particularly valuable contributions to this system, as did our Cefli Lodtua, Randall Holmes, our young fidsesmao (physicist), James Jennings, and two of our Keugrudjo (Academists), Bob McIvor and Kirk Sattley.

At first it was hoped that by adding this new logic to Loglan, a new and powerful kind of subjunctive mood could be simply activated within that logic. We’re hopeful that there’ll be an essay by James Jennings on that possibility in Lognet 95/3. But other ideas, based more on natural language observations, began to surface as well. The Keugru have listened to everything that everybody’s had to say on this complex topic, and have themselves contributed mightily. But in the end we have found the issue of the subjunctive to be such a deep one, to have such far-reaching implications for both logic and Loglan, that we’ve unanimously decided to defer the adoption of a Loglan subjunctive mood for at least another year.

Thus no proposal for adding a subjunctive to Loglan will be adopted in this issue of Lognet, contrary to JCB’s forecast in LN 95/1. The Keugru have several rich but informal proposals before us; but we feel that we must let at least one more year of discussion and exploration take place before we can make such an important decision. Better to be slow and correct, we feel, than swift and mistaken.

Certainly when a Loglan subjunctive mood does come on board—and one will come, there is now no doubt of that—it will be the most important addition to the language since 1982’s GMR, the “Great Morphological Revolution”, which gave us our present way of forming complex words. The new subjunctive apparatus will extend and deepen the language at least as much as the semantic subtlety of GMR has...perhaps as much as anything that has happened to Loglan since its second going public in 1975.

In sum, the Keugru feel we need an even deeper understanding of this mysterious and momentous feature of so many natural languages: their methods of dealing with the “counterfactual”. For it is evidently through these ways of handling nonexisting conditions that speakers and listeners alike explore the “If I were king”/“If wishes were horses”/“If only we could put Humpty-Dumpty together again”/“If only Gorbachev hadn’t been kidnapped” sorts of worlds in which we do not (unfortunately) live but in which the human heart and imagination soar.

We also hope that the mechanism that handles these clearly imaginary conditions will also be useful for handling possibility and uncertainty in the factual world...those curiously half-real and half-unreal claims that we express with quasi-subjunctive auxiliaries in English, like A meteorite impact might have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and The blood test was inconclusive, so he could be the father of the child.

In short, we want to make the domain of the Loglan subjunctive as large and poetically inviting as it is in many natural langauges, and yet as precisely knowable and clearly speakable as the rest of Loglan is. For knowledge of what we are saying is the very essence of our language. At the same time, we must confess, in all humility, that we do not yet know how to build such a counterfactual linguistic space in Loglan. Perhaps another year of discussion—this time drawing on the experiences and insights of the whole Loglandian community—will see us ready to carve out a truly loglaform space by the time LN 96/2 rolls around. Our goal, of course, is to design a subjunctive mood that is both logically and linguistically sound.

The year starting in September 1995 and running through August 1996 will be Loglandia’s “Subjunctive Year”. We invite all of you to make your own explorations of this important matter. Fill the e-ways and the pages of Lognet throughout the year with your reflections and discoveries about this almost magical linguistic tool...the one by which we invite one another to consider what would happen if, instead of being what we are, we were “cabbages or kings”.