(From Lognet 96/3)

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

The Academy has three matters to report this time, two Little Word adoptions and a usage clarification. Several other proposals—including the long-awaited subjunctive operator—are very near adoption, and will, we hope, be ready to report in LN 97/1.

1. NI+ro, The “Quality Ordinal”

In Loglan 1, there are two charset="utf-8"rV-form suffixes that attach to members of the NI lexeme to form “numerical predicates”. They are:

NI+ra ...is a NI-some, a NI-member subset of set..., e.g., tera lea simbu is a threesome of lions, a cardinal predicate. (The 2nd place of cardinal predicates was not recognized in L1.)

NI+ri ...is the 1st/2nd/3rd/NI-th element in series..., e.g., teri le pazlia is third in the queue, an ordinal predicate.

The Keugru has decided to adopt a proposal of Robert McIvor’s that we form a third series of numerical predicates:

NI+ro ...is the best, or highest/2nd best, or next highest/3rd best/NI-th best/..../least best, or worst in quality...among candidates/members of set...

We believe this suffix will solve the long-outstanding problem of the “superlative” in an elegant and yet easily understood way.

The most commonly used member of the new -ro series will, of course, be nero, which means first in quality/value/rank/significance/importance... among... . Toro therefore means second in quality, etc., ...; tero, third in quality, etc., ...; and so on, down to raro, which, surprisingly enough, means least/worst in quality, etc., ..., since, with -ro, we are, in effect, “counting down”.

Grammatically, the NI+ro words are predicates. So, when used to modify another predicate, nero, for example, forms the superlative of the attribute denoted by that predicate in that candidate set; toro, the next highest in that quality in that set; and so on. Obtaining the superlative expressions made so easily with nero was, in fact, the main motivation for adopting this new form, since no other formulation of the superlative that was both easy to understand and logically manipulable had ever been found.

In general, the new -ro forms are intended to express the degree to which some qualitative attribute is judged to apply in some set of candidates (bluest, highest, sweetest, best), and this will contrast with the ordinal positions of elements in well-defined linear series, such as sequences of numbers or people standing in line. These older ordinals will, of course, still be expressed by predicates made with -ri.

While words made with charset="utf-8"ra and charset="utf-8"ri are two-place predicates, the new ones made with charset="utf-8"ro will have three places. Thus, considered in full, NI+ro means ...is NI-th in quality...among candidates/members of candidate set ... Mu nero! is therefore a meaningful utterance, though an incomplete one, and expresses the sports fan’s boast: We’re Number 1! Used in a two-place expression—and so still incompletely—nero can express the preposterous claim Mi nero raba! I’m best at everything! The complete form, though probably rarely used, will specify the candidate-set as well as the property: Da toro lopu pligudbi guo lea hasfa ji napa nu sifdui mi. = X is the second best in suitability among the houses found by me. Much of the grammatical elaborateness can be avoided, of course, by using the NIro word as a predicate modifier.

Since NIro is a predicate word, it functions like an English adjective when it modifies a noun-like predicate, as in La Djan, tero prozymao. John is a thirdcharset="utf-8"rate author. It is also capable of serving as an adverb when it modifies an adjective-like one: Le tero gudbi kruma je le hotle. The third-best room in the hotel. We can even compress all three places of a NIro predicate into a predicate string by using it as an early modifier: Da bi le toro pligudbi ge hasfa go nu sifdui je mi. = X is the second most suitable house I’ve found. [The current LIP is still reading nero as NI, so it will not parse this sentence properly. A new LIP, with NIro lexed as PREDA, is on its way.—JCB]

The second place of NIro is also likely to be frequently used, as it denotes not candidates—who, in English at least, usually remain in the background—but the property in which this qualitative ranking is being made. Here’s an interesting example from Americana: La Djordj Uacintyn, pa nero lepo dorja, e lepo pismi, e lo karci je loUma samguidjo. George Washington was first in war, (first) in peace, and (first) in the hearts of his countrymen. And with nero we can at last translate that sad old saying—well-known among short-lived computer companies—Lo neri kristni pa jmite lo nero simbu. = The first Christians got the best lions.

Finally, like the other numerical-predicate suffixes, charset="utf-8"ro can be applied to noncharset="utf-8"numeric quantifiers as well. Thus raro, rero, riro, roro, ruro, saro, siro, and suro are all well-defined (L1, 4.23 p.214). For example, ruro redro means sufficiently red (in that candidate set), and, as we have already noted, raro must denote the final—or “allth”—element in some quality-series, and so must mean the lowest value of the quality in question to be found among these particular candidates. E.g., Le raro hapci stude je le ckela. = The least happy student at the school.

In short, -ro offers the adventurous logli a very rich semantic domain to explore.

2. NI+cu, The Indefinite Set Descriptor

In his recent study of sets and multiples, JCB turned up an awkward gap in our designative apparatus. While Loglan 1, 4.23 p.216 provides for a kind of numerical description through the use of unmarked NIs before predicate expressions—Ne mrenu A man/Exactly one man , Ri mrenu Some several men , Toni mrenu Some twenty men.—these descriptions are all “indefinite” in that the speaker by using them indicates that s is not prepared to identify the individuals so designated. These “naked NI”-forms contrasted very handily with the “definite descriptions” made with LeLe ne mrenu The one man I mean, Le ri mrenu The several men I have in mind, Le toni mrenu The twenty men I have in mind—by using which, s indicates that s is willing to identify their designata.

But both NI-forms and Le NI-forms, when plural, apply to multiples. When we look for corresponding ways to designate sets, we find that we have only definite set description with Leu at our disposal; no indefinite way of decribing sets existed. We could say Leu toni mrenu The set of twenty men I have in mind but we could not say (briefly) A set consisting of some twenty men. But suppose an L- speaker does want to say something like the E-speaker manages to suggest with A couple of, as in A couple of men moved the piano. It’s clear from the physics of this situation that s is talking about a set, not a multiple. (Multiples of men do not move pianos!) It’s also clear from the offhand tone of A couple of... that s probably can’t, or at least won’t, divulge the identify of the two members of this piano-moving pair.

In Loglan we must be clear about such logical matters. But when JCB first noticed this gap—whilst working with Alex Leith on A’s “A First Visit to Loglandia”—there was no indefinite set descriptor in the language...no way to say A couple of in that compact and yet conveniently offhand way.

The same structural point can be made by putting our 1995 descriptors in a 2x2 table. On 1 January 1995 only three of its four cells had entries:

Multiples Sets
Definite Le to ... Leu to ...
Indefinite To ... ??? (Tocu)

After much discussion and several mind-changes—for, though there was no indefinite set-descriptor, there are many circumlocutory ways of filling cell 2,2—the Keugru decided (a) that such “logical gaps” in the operator sets of Loglan must, when discovered, be filled, and (2) that, of the available suffixes, adding -cu to NI was the best way to fill this one.

If you will mentally replace those ‘???’ in Cell 2,2 with Tocu, you will see that Tocu fits the pattern of its row and column neatly. It has the final /u/ of Leu (indicating set-hood), and the leading NI of NI itself (indicating indefiniteness).

Why not use the suffix -u, which would yield a perfect row-and-column symmetry? Because numerous NI+u forms already exist, starting with neu, a case tag. But granting that we do need an intervening consonant, why use /c/ and not some other? Because /c/ already suggests a kind of “single-letter hyphen”, and /c/ was the only C of those available that did not suggest something else. Thus, /r l z/ were also available; but all these Cs had strong conflicting associations with something else. So we judged /c/ to be the best...the nero in this set of candidates.

Logli will not, we predict, have very much trouble using the new NIcu descriptors. Correct usage depends on handling two distinctions: one between sets and multiples, the other between definiteness and indefiniteness. As a useful mnemonic, the E phrase A couple of..., as applied to piano-movers, calls up both. There were a couple of them...the neighbor noticed that; but she certainly doesn’t know where to find them now. But something moved that piano, and that something was a set. So what we need here is the indefinite set-descriptor we have just invented, in short, the NI+cu word made with to. The case is strictly parallel to saying A cigar-smoker was in here on smelling cigar-smoke in a room. The piano has been moved; it’s no longer here. A neighbor tells us that “a couple of men” came by. The set-multiple distinction is not difficult to make; the definite-indefinite distinction is even easier. We make both all the time in English...although often by irregular means, and so we’re often unaware we’re doing so. In L, we can now make both distinctions regularly. All cells are filled. So we can now say Tocu mrenu pa muvmao le pianfa.

Here’s a few more examples from the four cells of our table, first, a couple of definite descriptions, one of a multiple and one of a set:

Le ri bukcu pa nu nursrimao la Jai Cai Braon.

The several books were/Each of the several books was written/authored by (its text made by) J C Brown

Leu bukcu ga skatio lio fe kilgramo.

The set of books weighs/The books together weigh/Collectively the books weigh (i.e., are scale-heavy at) five kilos.

Then a couple of indefinite ones, the first involving a multiple:

Nete bukcu ji vi levi buksrosia ga perti lo kuvla.

(Each of some) Thirteen books in this library (is)/are about caves.

and then two more involving sets:

Rocu mrenu pa hutri le prenyhaa.

(A mob/group composed of) Many men (I don’t know who) destroyed the jail.

Lo miatci fa nu cmiza tecu muzkao.

The diners will be entertained by a trio of musicians (I don’t know which trio yet).

Note that these last two forms contrast very sharply with definite set descriptions:

Leu ro mrenu hutri le prenyhaa.

The set/mob of men (I have in mind or have been describing) destroyed the jail.

Lo miatci fa nu cmiza leu te muzkao.

The diners will be entertained by the trio of musicians (whom I have in mind and can identify).

These are, to be sure, subtle distinctions...usually not made explicitly by English-speakers. Indeed, in E we are often quite unaware that we are talking about four quite different sorts of logical objects when we use plural decriptive forms. But all four cells generated by these two binary distinctions—the set-multiple one, and the definite-indefinite one—must be explicitly labeled in our logical language if it is to encourage us—perhaps even to teach us!—to handle all descriptive categories deftly and well.

3. The Distinctness/Indistinctness of Sets of Non–Designating Variables:

A convenient Loglan invention is the use of noncharset="utf-8"designating variables (ba, be, bo, bu) to translate There is/are-phrases: Ba kangu vi le hasfa = Something x is (being) a dog in the house (There’s a dog in the house).

The question came before the Keugru whether, hearing a sentence that deploys two such variables, the listener must assume that they refer to two distinct individuals. Probably lei should assume that. After all, the speaker has used two of these variables when s could have chosen to repeat the use of one. Why would s involve s-self in this extra effort unless s had two distinct (though indefinite) individuals in mind?

But that’s not the question that logicians are inclined to raise. Their question is whether one must make this assumption. In other words, is it legitimate to transform any be in a string ...ba...be... into be noji ba (y not identical to x)?

For plain speakers, this problem does not often arise...mainly because the non-designating variables usually appear in different argument positions of a predicate, or in any case, could not refer to the same individual because of realcharset="utf-8"world considerations. But consider something like this:

Mi pa neible le skikru. I ba va ridle, ice be va smarue

I looked into (in-looked-at) the waiting–room (sit–room). (And) Someone x there reads (was reading), and someone y there smokes (was smoking).

The minimal claim of this pair of sentences is that there was at least one reader x in the waiting-room, and there was at least one smoker y there, too. The Keugru affirms that, consistent with symbolic-logic practice, the two non-designating variables ba and be need not refer to two distinct individuals...although of course they may do. Indeed they often do (else, we repeat, why would s use two variables when, in Loglan, s could as easily repeat the use of one?). But, speaking logically, we must admit that there can be just one individual i in that waiting-room, and, provided i is both reading and smoking, the fact that there is only one such person there will not falsify s’s claim. That is, it is possible (though unlikely) that x = y; and logicians—if not other people, soi crano—must take this possibility into account.

To specify that the references of two non-designating variables are to be understood as distinct—as in I saw something, and, a little later, heard something else—just use noji, a variant of JI that LIP does not yet recognize but is on its way: Mi pa vizka ba, epaza, pa hirti be noji ba I saw something x, and (that was) shortly before (I) heard something y-not-x. Then all doubt vanishes. You are indeed talking about “something else”. And your logician friends will applaud you for being utterly clear about it.

—Hue Krk Satlis, ze Djim Braon