Chapter 8
Relative Clauses, Which Make sumti Even More Complicated

1. What are you pointing at?

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

     poi     NOI                 restrictive relative clause introducer
     ke'a    GOhA                relative pro-sumti
     ku'o    KUhO                relative clause terminator

Let us think about the problem of communicating what it is that we are pointing at when we are pointing at something. In Lojban, we can refer to what we are pointing at by using the pro-sumti “ti” if it is nearby, or “ta” if it is somewhat further away, or “tu” if it is distant. (Pro-sumti are explained in full in Chapter 7.)

However, even with the assistance of a pointing finger, or pointing lips, or whatever may be appropriate in the local culture, it is often hard for a listener to tell just what is being pointed at. Suppose one is pointing at a person (in particular, in the direction of his or her face), and says:

1.1)   ti cu barda
       This-one is-big.
What is the referent of “ti”? Is it the person? Or perhaps it is the person’s nose? Or even (for “ti” can be plural as well as singular, and mean “these ones” as well as “this one”) the pores on the person’s nose?

To help solve this problem, Lojban uses a construction called a “relative clause”. Relative clauses are usually attached to the end of sumti, but there are other places where they can go as well, as explained later in this chapter. A relative clause begins with a word of selma'o NOI, and ends with the elidable terminator “ku'o” (of selma'o KUhO). As you might suppose, “noi” is a cmavo of selma'o NOI; however, first we will discuss the cmavo “poi”, which also belongs to selma'o NOI.

In between the “poi” and the “ku'o” appears a full bridi, with the same syntax as any other bridi. Anywhere within the bridi of a relative clause, the pro-sumti “ke'a” (of selma'o KOhA) may be used, and it stands for the sumti to which the relative clause is attached (called the “relativized sumti”). Here are some examples before we go any further:

1.2)   ti poi ke'a prenu ku'o cu barda
       This-thing such-that-(IT is-a-person) is-large.
       This thing which is a person is big.
       This person is big.

1.3)   ti poi ke'a nazbi ku'o cu barda
       This-thing such-that-(IT is-a-nose) is-large.
       This thing which is a nose is big.
       This nose is big.

1.4)   ti poi ke'a nazbi kapkevna ku'o cu barda
       This-thing such-that-(IT is-a-nose-type-of skin-hole) is-big.
       These things which are nose-pores are big.
       These nose-pores are big.
In the literal translations throughout this chapter, the word “IT”, capitalized, is used to represent the cmavo “ke'a”. In each case, it serves to represent the sumti (in Examples 1.2 through 1.4, the cmavo “ti”) to which the relative clause is attached.

Of course, there is no reason why “ke'a” needs to appear in the x1 place of a relative clause bridi; it can appear in any place, or indeed even in a sub-bridi within the relative clause bridi. Here are two more examples:

1.5)   tu poi le mlatu pu lacpu ke'a ku'o cu ratcu
       That-distant-thing such-that (the cat [past] drags IT) is-a-rat.
       That thing which the cat dragged is a rat.
       What the cat dragged is a rat.

1.6)   ta poi mi djica le nu mi ponse ke'a [kei] ku'o cu bloti
       That-thing such-that( I desire the event-of( I own IT ) ) is-a-boat.
       That thing that I want to own is a boat.
In Example 1.6, “ke'a” appears in an abstraction clause (abstractions are explained in Chapter 11) within a relative clause.

Like any sumti, “ke'a” can be omitted. The usual presumption in that case is that it then falls into the x1 place:

1.7)   ti poi nazbi cu barda
       This-thing which is-a-nose is-big.
almost certainly means the same thing as Example 1.3. However, “ke'a” can be omitted if it is clear to the listener that it belongs in some place other than x1:
1.8)   tu poi le mlatu pu lacpu cu ratcu
       That-distant-thing which the cat [past] drags is-a-rat
is equivalent to Example 1.4.

As stated before, “ku'o” is an elidable terminator, and in fact it is almost always elidable. Throughout the rest of this chapter, “ku'o” will not be written in any of the examples unless it is absolutely required: thus, Example 1.2 can be written:

1.9)   ti poi prenu cu barda
       That which is-a-person is-big.
       That person is big.
without any change in meaning. Note that “poi” is translated “which” rather than “such-that” when “ke'a” has been omitted from the x1 place of the relative clause bridi. The word “which” is used in English to introduce English relative clauses: other words that can be used are “who” and “that”, as in:
1.10)  I saw a man who was going to the store.
1.11)  The building that the school was located in is large.

In Example 1.10 the relative clause is “who was going to the store”, and in Example 1.11 it is “that the school was located in”. Sometimes “who”, “which”, and “that” are used in literal translations in this chapter in order to make them read more smoothly.