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Re: On the tense system of ZAhO

Jorge LLambias says:

       Example from the tense paper:

               ___mi pu'o damba___
               I [inchoative] fight.
               I'm on the verge of fighting.

       i.e. I'm at a point in time before my fighting begins.  Notice
       that {mi ba damba} is also true: at some point in the future
       I'll be fighting; while {mi pu damba} has nothing to do with

       (If the definitions of pu'o and ba'o were reversed, as I think
       would be natural, this would be: mi ba'o damba. = I'm on the
       verge of fighting which shows clearly that the fighting is in
       the future)

You may be misled by the example, which in English suggests that the
point of departure for the ``Imaginary Journey through time'' is
before the fighting.  This is not the way to parse Lojban.

Let's analyze this according to the technique described in the
Imaginary Journey paper.

If this were a spatial tense, we would say, `Start from the speaker's
physical location, and then follow directions.'  In this case,
however, we have to start from the speaker's *event* location in time
and then follow directions.

The event location in this example is the process of being in fight
that occurs.  I.e., the speaker starts from the process of the predication.

Follow directions: go to the `inchoative' time of the fight; this
means go to the time before the process of the fight began.  This is
*before* the fight.  Hence use of "pu'o" makes sense as a key word
that is related to, but different from "pu"..

Another example, rather less violent:

    le tricu pu'o crino

    The tree that I have in mind is in the inchoative state of greening.

This sentence is making at least two claims:

  * a claim that greening for this tree is a process with a time
    before its beginning, a beginning, an occurence (which may be
    spread over time), an end, and a time after the end.

  * a claim that this tree is in the state before it greens.

This is very different from saying

    le rokci punai je canai je ba crinu
    The rock I have in mind was not, is not, and will be green.

This later sentence is *not* claiming that greening of a rock is a
process.  The sentence is claiming only that the rock is not now, was
not, but will be green.  (Perhaps because I am going to paint it.)
(Most of us agree as a matter of physics that greening, even if by
painting, is a process, but this particular sentence is not claiming

Note, by the way, that

    le rokci ba crinu

does *not* translate as "The rock I have in mind will be green."
It translates as:

    The rock I have in mind may already be green and it will be green.

There are two ways to translate the common English use of "will be":

  * One is to specify "was not, is not and will be" using "punai je
    canai je ba".  The English "will be" implies "was not, is not" but
    the lojban "ba" does not.  This is the closest translation to the

  * The other is to make a different kind of claim about the universe,
    not a type that English speakers usually make,

        le rokci ba co'a crinu
        The rock I have in mind will begin the process of being green
        (it may or may not end it).

    This suggests that the green of the rock is a process, an
    occurrence with an internal structure including a beginning, a
    middle, and an end; and that you have to take an imaginary journey
    into the future to get to the beginning of the event.

If I will paint the rock, both claims are true: it was not, is not,
but will be green; and the painting is a process/event that will
start.  But these are different ways of looking at the greening.  The
former is common in English, the latter in some other languages.

   (If the definitions of pu'o and ba'o were reversed, as I think would
   be natural, this would be:  mi ba'o damba. = I'm on the verge of fighting
   which shows clearly that the fighting is in the future)

No, not at all.  "pu'o" is *not* a future tense.  It is not an
English-style past-present-future tense at all.  It is a different way
of dealing with experience, as different as dealing with a spatial

"pu'o" is about a characteristic of the state of the predication,
inchoative, in this case.  (By the way, I think this is a very good
key word for this; after you think about it for awhile, it becomes
self explanatory.)

It happens that inchoative states occur before things begin, so you
get a time sequence, but time sequence as English speakers expect is
is *not* an implication of this word.

pu'o, ca'o, and ba'o are different from pu, ca, and ba.  But like
them, they make a fundamental claim about the nature of the physical
and mental universe.

    pu'o, ca'o, and ba'o claim that events have contours and
    structure involving a beginning, middle, and end;

    pu, ca, and ba claim that events have a time sequence.

    Robert J. Chassell               bob@gnu.ai.mit.edu
    Rattlesnake Mountain Road        (413) 298-4725
    Stockbridge, MA 01262-0693 USA