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On the tense system of ZAhO

My apologies, I wrote in a confusing manner about ZAhO and failed to
explain why spatial and PU tenses start at the speaker's location, but
ZAhO tenses start at the event's location.  Let's try again,

The spatial example in the Imaginary Journey paper is:

    le nanmu va batci legerku
    The man [medium distance] bites the dog.

    ...If you want to get from the speakers location to the location
    of the bridi, journey for a medium distance...

As Jorge says, correctly,

    For space tenses we don't start at the speaker's *event* location,
    but their actual location in space.

Let us separate speaker from fighter:

                da damba
                He fights.

Add a spatial tense:

                da zu'a damba
                He, to the left of me, fights.

Clearly, the location needs a place from which to refer, and the only
one that works is to make the reference to the speaker.

(Parenthetically, we might note that, in a sense,

                da zu'a damba

is a short form of

                da damba zu'a le stuzi be mi
                he fights to the left of the location of me.

Consider a temporal tense:

                da pu damba
                he fought (and may still be fighting).

To find out when he fought, go from the speaker's location in time to
the past.  That is when he fought.  We all agree about this.

(Parenthetically, you might consider, if you wish,

                da pu damba

as a short form of

                da damba pu le nu mi cabna
                He fights [earlier] the event of me being simultaneous (with
                   some time not specified).

Now consider the {pu'o} inchoative state of the process:

               da pu'o da
               He [inchoative] fights.
               He is on the verge of fighting.

Here is what I am trying to get at:

We attempt to start with the speaker's location in time.

But we have a problem.  {pu'o} *cannot* itself refer to the
speaker.  The speaker is not inchoative; it is the event that is
inchoative.  If you refer to the inchoative time of the speaker, you
are likely referring to some time before the speaker was born.  This
is not the intent of the utterance.

For {pu'o}, you must start from the *event* location.  The ZAhO event
contours really are *different* from the PU and spatial tenses.

We must 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

Jorge says:

    And you can't follow that kind of directions if you have something like:

            mi pu pu'o damba
    (I was going to fight, or I was in the verge of fighting)

You can, but only if you recognize that there are two types of
direction.  Let's follow them:

  1. For {pu}, work from the speaker's point of view.

     I was ...

  2. for {pu'o}, work from the event's location in time.

     ... at the inchoative aspect of the fight.

Combine these two and get:

    I was at the inchoative aspect of the fight.
    I was on the verge of fighting.

Jorge says:

    I start at speaker's time, go to the past, and from there have to
    go to the future.

No, you do not `go to the future'.  This is a fundamental
misconception.  With event contours, you do not have a `future' as we
think of it.  You have different states.  It happens that an
inchoative state preceeds an event (at least in this universe, without
time paradoxes), so there is a very good correspondence between what
follows an inchoative state and the future, but the event contours are
not talking about the future or the past as you and I usually think of

    >     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.

    Is this true? The sentence claims that there will be a time after the
    greening in which the greening ceased?

Let me try to be more clear: the sentence makes a claim about the
essential nature of reality, that the tree is part of a process which
does have all those characteristics, including a state in which the
greening ceased.  The sentence does not claim that that state is
reached or will be reached.  The sentence also makes the claim that it
is true that this tree is in the state before it greens.  The sentence
is false the tree is not in this state.  (This latter claim is the
predication and is the one with which a reader is usually concerned.)

The simple English sentence, `The tree was brown.' makes an equally
grand metaphyscial claim: namely that the tree belongs to a universe
that has a past, present, and future, and that the tree will be part
of a future.  But the English sentence says nothing about what state
the tree will be in in the present or future...it may be green,
burned, cut or vaporized....

The tense system of English, Russian, or Lojban makes very big claims
about the nature of the universe.


    ... If so, then the tenses are much more specific than what I

Yes.  They are.  But most of the time, we think it doesn't matter.

    How would I say that the tree will begin to be green in
    the future without saying anything about what happens after that?

You cannot say that if you use event contours.  Event contours don't
say "what happens after" in any specific sense, but do carry with them
the notion that the state you are talking about is one of several

If you want to avoid implying anything about the nature of a process,
then you need to use a different form of tense, one that claims there
is a past, present, future, but not that anything happens within,
before, and after a process.  This does the job:

        le tricu ba crinu cfari
        The tree I have in mind will green-begin.

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

    I thought that the only difference was that the one about the tree
    claims that there is a beginning of the greening, while the other
    claims nothing about a beginning (which could exist).

ZAhO and PU really are different, fundamentally so.  This is why
Lojban has the two.

    I was not aware that the first one also claims an end to the

ZAhO tenses talk about a universe in which there are processes with
different states.  This is parallel to PU, but in a different way.  PU
tenses talk about a universe in which there is a past, present, and
future.  It does not make any sense to talk about a past unless you
have other times to compare and contrast.

        This extra meaning does nothing to justify a relation between pu and
        pu'o though.

The two ways of looking at time tenses produce close matchings. {pu}
occurs before the present; {pu'o} is a state that preceeds the
on-going event.

    >     .... The English "will be" implies "was not, is not" but
    >     the lojban "ba" does not.

    I did not know that the English claimed so much.

You are right; English does not always claim so much.  It depends on
context.  However, I have found that if I say, "George will be in
London," most of my friends will presume that he is not there now,
unless they know he lives there or has already traveled there.

    >         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.

    So now the imaginary journey doesn't start at the event?

My apologies, my statement was not very clear.

The utterance contains two different tenses, PU and ZAhO.

  * First, you have to use the PU directions and work from the
    speaker's point of view.

  * Second, you have to work from the event's point of view and go to
    the initiation of the event.

After completing both steps, you have `in future, the beginning'.

    Also you contradict yourself. You say that the greening is a process
    with an end, but you also say that the rock may or may not end being
    green. Which one is it? (I think the last one.)

There are two types of claim here; I am sorry, I blended them.

The first is the claim about the essential nature of reality, a
metaphysical claim.  The second is the claim about the truth of the
sentence, the veridical claim.

A metaphysical claim is about the essential nature of reality: with PU
tenses, the claim is that reality has a past, present, and future;
with ZAhO tenses, the claim is that processes in reality have a time
leading up to the process, a time during the process, and a time after
the process stops.

The veridical claim of the sentence is whether the sentence is true or
false.  The sentence is true if the rock will begin the process of
greening.  It does not matter to the veridical claim if the universe
ends before the rock stops greening.  The utterance is making no claim
about that.

Look at this in spatial terms: "I will touch the front of the book."
By using the word "front" I am implicitly talking of a universe in
which books also have "backs".  The metaphysical claim is that books
have backs.  But the sentence does not say anything about the back; I
am making no veridical claim about the back.

(A front without a back is like the sound of one hand clapping, a
notion that can inspire the mind, like a Mobius strip.)


    I'm not claiming [pu'o] is a future tense. I'm claiming that it
    makes reference to an event in the future of the speaker, just
    like ba.

Ah!  That is not my understanding at all.  Different reference point.
The focus is on the type of state, in this case inchoative.  The event
itself may or may not start or `initiate'.  If you make the assumption
that the event will initiate, then the state is in the past of the

True, you can often `get away' with thinking from a speaker's
reference point, and that is often the context of the utterance, but
that is not the basis for the ZAhO tenses.

    ... For the ZAhO, to make sense of the etymology you have to take
    the event as the reference point, ...

Yes, you are right.

    ... which is inconsistent and confusing.

Certainly confusing, and inconsistent with the pattern of the other
tenses.  But I think this is accurate.  ZAhO must be event centered,
unlike PU, which is speaker centered.

    > 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;

    If this is true, then most of the examples I've seen are tranlated

Yes, I think you are right.  `Easily misunderstood' might be a better
way of putting it.  And as a practical matter, usually the
misunderstandings are unimportant.

The reason that people can make the `incorrect' translations is that
the metaphysical claims appear insignificant.  They appear no more
significant than my suggestion that a book has a back if I talk about
its front.  Usually such a suggestion is irrelevant.  People may not
be aware that they are making it.

But I would be hard put to explain `front' to someone who lacked the
concept without also somehow (perhaps implicitly) including the
concept `back' in the exposition.  Similarly with `future'; I would be
hard put to explain the idea without a concept of sequential time with
a past and a present.  The idea of `front' in English comes mixed with
`back'; the notion of `back' is there even if you don't talk about it.


    My interpretation:

    pu'o claims that the event is about to begin, at the reference time.

I would not say `about to begin', but rather `in a time (time duration
not specified) leading up to the initiation of the process'.  This
more wordy gloss avoids the notion that the event has a specific
location in sequential time.

    ba'o claims that the event has ceased, at the reference time.

I would say, `the time is in the aftermath state, after the process
stops, (time duration not specified)'.

{pu'o}, {ca'o}, and {ba'o} are about states; an event can be a state,
of course, but more often people think of an event as a point.

    pu claims that the event is at the past of the reference time.
    ca claims that the event is at the present of the reference time.
    ba claims that the event is at the future of the reference time.


    Nobody has commented on my diagrams. Are they misleading?

    pu  ---------XXX----------0----------------------------->
    ca  ---------------------X0X---------------------------->
    ba  ----------------------0-------------XXX------------->

I think these PU diagrams are OK, but disagree with the diagrams for
{pu'o}, {ca'o}, and {ba'o}.

Jorge's diagram:

    pu'o        ----------------------0-------|===========>--------->

    0 reference point
    | boundary of event
    ===> event (duration implied)

This diagram pulls my eye to a reference point and to the event
process.  With a {pu'o} event contour, your focus is on the state
leading up to the process.  A single reference point is not part of
the concept; and the focus is not on the event process.  In this
diagram, I am using `XXX's to draw attention:

    pu'o    ....XXXXXXXXXXX|++++++++|------------....

        XXX focus: state leading up to the process (no duration implied)
        +++ another state, the process             (no duration implied)
        --- another state, the aftermath           (no duration implied)
        | boundary of event

Best wishes.

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