3. Relative phrases

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:

     pe      GOI                 restrictive association
     po      GOI                 restrictive possession
     po'e    GOI                 restrictive intrinsic possession
     po'u    GOI                 restrictive identification
     ne      GOI                 incidental association
     no'u    GOI                 incidental identification

     ge'u    GEhU                relative phrase terminator

There are types of relative clauses (those which have a certain selbri) which are frequently wanted in Lojban, and can be expressed using a shortcut called a relative phrase. Relative phrases are introduced by cmavo of selma'o GOI, and consist of a GOI cmavo followed by a single sumti.

Here is an example of “pe”, plus an equivalent sentence using a relative clause:

3.1)   le stizu pe mi cu blanu
       The chair associated-with me is-blue.
       My chair is blue.

3.2)   le stizu poi ke'a srana mi cu blanu
       The chair such-that( IT is-associated-with me) is-blue.
In Example 3.1 and Example 3.2, the link between the chair and the speaker is of the loosest kind.

Here is an example of “po”:

3.3)   le stizu po mi cu xunre
       The chair specific-to me is red.

3.4)   le stizu poi ke'a se steci srana mi cu xunre
       The chair such-that (IT is-specifically associated-with me) is-red.
Example 3.3 and Example 3.4 contrast with Example 3.1 and Example 3.2: the chair is more permanently connected with the speaker. A plausible (though not the only possible) contrast between Example 3.1 and Example 3.3 is that “pe mi” would be appropriate for a chair the speaker is currently sitting on (whether or not the speaker owned that chair), and “po mi” for a chair owned by the speaker (whether or not he or she was currently occupying it).

As a result, the relationship expressed between two sumti by “po” is usually called “possession”, although it does not necessarily imply ownership, legal or otherwise. The central concept is that of specificity (“steci” in Lojban).

Here is an example of “po'e”, as well as another example of “po”:

3.5)   le birka po'e mi cu spofu
       The arm intrinsically-possessed-by me is-broken

3.6)   le birka poi jinzi ke se steci srana mi cu spofu
       The arm which is-intrinsically (specifically associated-with) me is-broken.

3.7)   le botpi po mi cu spofu
       The bottle specific-to me is-broken
Example 3.5 and Example 3.6 on the one hand, and Example 3.7 on the other, illustrate the contrast between two types of possession called “intrinsic” and “extrinsic”, or sometimes “inalienable” and “alienable”, respectively. Something is intrinsically (or inalienably) possessed by someone if the possession is part of the possessor, and cannot be changed without changing the possessor. In the case of Example 3.5, people are usually taken to intrinsically possess their arms: even if an arm is cut off, it remains the arm of that person. (If the arm is transplanted to another person, however, it becomes intrinsically possessed by the new user, though, so intrinsic possession is a matter of degree.)

By contrast, the bottle of Example 3.7 can be given away, or thrown away, or lost, or stolen, so it is possessed extrinsically (alienably). The exact line between intrinsic and extrinsic possession is culturally dependent. The U.S. Declaration of Independence speaks of the “inalienable rights” of men, but just what those rights are, and even whether the concept makes sense at all, varies from culture to culture.

Note that Example 3.5 can also be expressed without a relative clause:

3.8)   le birka be mi cu spofu
       The arm of-body me is broken
reflecting the fact that the gismu “birka” has an x2 place representing the body to which the arm belongs. Many, but not all, cases of intrinsic possession can be thus covered without using “po'e” by placing the possessor into the appropriate place of the description selbri.

Here is an example of “po'u”:

3.9)   le gerku po'u le mi pendo cu cinba mi
       The dog which-is my friend kisses me.

3.10)  le gerku poi du le mi pendo cu cinba mi
       The dog which = my friend kisses me.
The cmavo “po'u” does not represent possession at all, but rather identity. (Note that it means “poi du” and its form was chosen to suggest the relationship.)

In Example 3.9, the use of “po'u” tells us that “le gerku” and “le mi pendo” represent the same thing. Consider the contrast between Example 3.9 and:

3.11)  le mi pendo po'u le gerku cu cinba mi
       My friend which-is the dog kisses me.
The facts of the case are the same, but the listener’s knowledge about the situation may not be. In Example 3.9, the listener is presumed not to understand which dog is meant by “le gerku”, so the speaker adds a relative phrase clarifying that it is the particular dog which is the speaker’s friend.

Example 3.11, however, assumes that the listener does not know which of the speaker’s friends is referred to, and specifies that it is the friend that is the dog (which dog is taken to be obvious). Here is another example of the same contrast:

3.12)  le tcadu po'u la nu,iork
       The city of New York [not another city]

3.13)  la nu,iork po'u le tcadu
       New York the city (not the state or some other New York)

The principle that the possessor and the possessed may change places applies to all the GOI cmavo, and allows for the possibility of odd effects:

3.14)  le kabri pe le mi pendo cu cmalu
       The cup associated-with my friend is small.
       My friend’s cup is small

3.15)  le mi pendo pe le kabri cu cmalu
       My friend associated-with the cup is small.
       My friend, the one with the cup, is small.
Example 3.14 is useful in a context which is about my friend, and states that his or her cup is small, whereas Example 3.15 is useful in a context that is primarily about a certain cup, and makes a claim about “my friend of the cup”, as opposed to some other friend of mine. Here the cup appears to “possess” the person! English can’t even express this relationship with a possessive — “the cup’s friend of mine” looks like nonsense — but Lojban has no trouble doing so.

Finally, the cmavo “ne” and “no'u” stand to “pe” and “po'u”, respectively, as “noi” does to “poi” — they provide incidental information:

3.16)  le blabi gerku ne mi cu batci do
       The white dog, incidentally-associated-with me, bites you.
       The white dog, which is mine, bites you.
In Example 3.16, the white dog is already fully identified (after all, presumably the listener knows which dog bit him or her!). The fact that it is yours is merely incidental to the main bridi claim.

Distinguishing between “po'u” and “no'u” can be a little tricky. Consider a room with several men in it, one of whom is named Jim. If you don’t know their names, I might say:

3.17)  le nanmu no'u la djim. cu terpemci
       The man, incidentally-who-is Jim, is-a-poet.
       The man, Jim, is a poet.
Here I am saying that one of the men is a poet, and incidentally telling you that he is Jim. But if you do know the names, then
3.18)  le nanmu po'u la djim. cu terpemci
       The man who-is Jim is-a-poet.
       The man Jim is a poet.
is appropriate. Now I am using the fact that the man I am speaking of is Jim in order to pick out which man I mean.

It is worth mentioning that English sometimes over-specifies possession from the Lojban point of view (and the point of view of many other languages, including ones closely related to English). The idiomatic English sentence

3.19)  The man put his hands in his pockets.
seems strange to a French- or German-speaking person: whose pockets would he put his hands into? and even odder, whose hands would he put into his pockets? In Lojban, the sentence
3.20)  le nanmu cu punji le xance le daski
       The man puts the hand at-locus-the pocket.
is very natural. Of course, if the man is in fact putting his hands into another’s pockets, or another’s hands into his pockets, the fact can be specified.

Finally, the elidable terminator for GOI cmavo is “ge'u” of selma'o GEhU; it is almost never required. However, if a logical connective immediately follows a sumti modified by a relative phrase, then an explicit “ge'u” is needed to allow the connective to affect the relativized sumti rather than the sumti of the relative phrase. (What about the cmavo after which selma'o GOI is named? It is discussed in Chapter 7, as it is not semantically akin to the other kinds of relative phrases, although the syntax is the same.)