14. Hesitation: Y

The following cmavo is discussed in this section:

     .y.     Y       hesitation noise

Speakers often need to hesitate to think of what to say next or for some extra-linguistic reason. There are two ways to hesitate in Lojban: to pause between words (that is, to say nothing) or to use the cmavo “.y.” (of selma'o Y). This resembles in sound the English hesitation noise written “uh” (or “er”), but differs from it in the requirement for pauses before and after. Unlike a long pause, it cannot be mistaken for having nothing more to say: it holds the floor for the speaker. Since vowel length is not significant in Lojban, the “y” sound can be dragged out for as long as necessary. Furthermore, the sound can be repeated, provided the required pauses are respected.

Since the hesitation sound in English is outside the formal language, English-speakers may question the need for a formal cmavo. Speakers of other languages, however, often hesitate by saying (or, if necessary, repeating) a word (“este” in some dialects of Spanish, roughly meaning “that is”), and Lojban’s audio-visual isomorphism requires a written representation of all meaningful spoken behavior. Of course, “.y.” has no grammatical significance: it can appear anywhere at all in a Lojban sentence except in the middle of a word.