4. Basic sentence structure
Now that we’ve handled pronunciation and parts of speech, we’re ready to dive right into that funky grammar, right? I’m pumped!
Okay, let’s get started with the structure of a declarative sentence:
(Something) does/is (whatever) (to something) (with something) (for something) (…).
Such a sentence expresses two things: what all the “something”s are, and which “whatever” they are all related by.
Let me see if I get it: in a sentence like “I eat cake”, the “somethings” are “I” and “cake”, and the “whatever” is eating.
Yup. And since those terms are kind of clumsy, we’ll use the terms logicians use: “somethings” are terms, and our “whatever” is the predicate.
- Separate the following English sentences into terms and predicates.
- The bird is blue.
- A man is drinking beer at the bar.
- This person is a woman.
Okay, wrapping my head around this… The important takeaway is that a sentence is made of a predicate and terms. And, the predicate expresses how something is or acts, whereas the terms express “who” or “what” is involved. How’s that?
That’s exactly right.
Sweet! On to the next part.
Yup, moving on. In Lojban, words that convey predicates are all defined like this:
- x1 is/does [whatever].
- x1 is/does [whatever] to x2.
- x1 is/does [whatever] for x2 toward x3.
- x1 is/does [whatever] at x2 from x3 to x4. And so on.
You can think of x1, x2, … as numbered blank spots for the “who” or “what” to go in.
And, to make a sentence, you simply say a term for each of the numbered spots, and insert a predicate word among them to tie them together! It’s that simple!
So, something like this?
[term 1] [predicate word] [term 2] [term 3] [term 4] …
Can I put the predicate word wherever I want?
Anywhere’s fine, but people generally put it between the first and second terms, like you did.
Ah, that’s just like in English.
Linguists call this “SVO word order”. I’ve listed some random words below. Try solving the exercise with them!
★ Words used as terms ★
- I / me
- something, someone
- this thing (near me)
- that thing (near you)
- that thing (over there)
- he, she, they, (something/someone mentioned earlier)
★ Words used to express predicates ★
- **x1** is a woman
- **x1** eats **x2**
- **x1** is to the left of **x2** when viewed from **x3**
- **x1** stands on **x2** using **x3** (limb/support)
- **x1** likes **x2**
- Translate the following sentences to Lojban.
- I am a woman.
- You eat this.
- She’s to the left of that thing, from where I’m standing.
- He’s standing over there, on some limb.
- I like you.
Okay, just line up the terms, then insert a predicate word. Let’s see…
- mi ninmu
- do citka ti
- ra zunle tu mi
- ra sanli tu zo’e
- mi nelci do
Yep, that’s exactly right.
I really wanted you to understand what “terms” and “predicate words” are, so I kind of dragged on this explanation, but as you can see, in practice there’s not much to it, right?
Yeah, I noticed that “ra sanli tu zo’e” is actually way simpler than the original English sentence.
Up next, we’re going on a field trip! There’s a town I want to visit with you…
Awesome! A field trip!
- Lojban sentences are made up of terms and predicates.
- A sentence can only contain one term.
- It's the _de facto_ standard to insert the predicate word between the first and second terms in a Lojban sentence.
- The words **mi** and **do** mean "me" and "you", respectively.
-/- answers correct!