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"John seeks a bike or a fish"
- To: lojban-list@snark
- Subject: "John seeks a bike or a fish"
- From: John Cowan <cbmvax!uunet!marob.masa.com!cowan>
- Date: Fri, 25 May 90 11:23:07 EDT
- Resent-date: Tue, 18 Jun 91 10:28:38 EDT
- Resent-from: cbmvax!uunet!PICA.ARMY.MIL!protin
- Resent-message-id: <9106181634.AA18103@relay1.UU.NET> 26 May 90 20:53 EDT
- Resent-to: John Cowan <email@example.com>
I posted this article to the Usenet group sci.lang, and am forwarding it
to the list.
In message <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
email@example.com (Koen Versmissen) asks:
>What are the possible readings of the sentence
>>John seeks a bike or a fish< in natural language?
>Technically there are, I think, eight readings:
>"to seek" being an intensional verb, both "bike" and "fish"
>can be either intensional or extensional. Furthermore, the
>disjunction can apply to either the speaker or John.
As an exercise and to show off Lojban, I have translated the 8 paraphrases
below into 8 different Lojban sentences. For the non-Lojbanists in
sci.lang, Lojban is a constructed human language, designed to be
culturally neutral, based on the principles of predicate logic, with
an unambiguous (LALR(n)) grammar.For more information, contact
Bob LeChevalier <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
>Let me paraphrase:
>1. There are a bike and a fish, and John is trying to find
> one of these (he doesn't care which one).
la djan. cu sisku lo relxi'uma'e .a lo finpe
The-one-called John seeks an-existing bicycle (lit., two-wheel-vehicle)
or an-existing fish.
>2. There are a bike and a fish, and John is trying to find
> one of these (but I don't know which of the two he's
> actually looking for).
la djan. cu sisku lo relxi'uma'e bu'a sisku lo finpe
The-one-called John (seeks an-existing bicycle) or (seeks an-existing fish).
>3. There is a bike, and John is trying to find either this
> bike or a (possibly non-existent) fish (he doesn't care...)
la djan. cu sisku lo relxi'uma'e .a le finpe
The-one-called John seeks an-existing bicycle or the-thing-I-describe-as-a
fish (which may or may not be a fish, or even exist).
>4. There is a bike, and John is trying to find either this
> bike or some fish (but I don't know...).
la djan. cu sisku lo relxi'uma'e bu'a sisku le finpe
The-one-called John (seeks an-existing bicycle) or (seeks the-thing-I-describe-
as-a-fish (which may or may not be a fish, or even exist)).
>5. & 6. Similar to 3. & 4., but with the roles of "bike" and
> "fish" interchanged.
la djan. cu sisku le relxi'uma'e .a lo finpe
la djan. cu sisku le rexi'uma'e bu'a siske lo finpe
>7. John is looking for a (possibly non-existent) bike or a
> (possibly non-existent) fish, and will be satisfied when
> he has found either one.
la djan. cu sisku le relxi'uma'e .onai le finpe
The-one-called John seeks what-I-describe-as-a bicycle exclusive-or what-I-
describe-as a fish.
>8. John is looking for a bike or a fish, both possibly non-
> existent, but I don't know which one he's looking for.
la djan. cu sisku le relxi'uma'e bu'onai sisku le finpe
The-one-called John (seeks what-I-describe-as-a bicycle) exclusive-or
(seeks what-I-describe-as-a fish).
A discussion on the articles "le" and "lo": In Lojban, a distinction is made
between veridical and non-veridical description. A veridical description
claims that the thing described actually exists and meets the description:
"lo finpe" describes something that actually is a fish (or the speaker is
lying). The phrase "le finpe", on the other hand, makes no such claim: it is
enough if the hearer understands what the speaker is referring to.
(The article "la", used in "la djan.", indicates that what follows is a name
rather than a description of any sort.)
"lo" and "le" roughly correspond to the English indefinite and definite articles
in many (but not all) uses. "The man is wearing pants" can be true even if
the referent of "the man" is not a man at all (he might be a woman, a
frog prince, or something else altogether). "A man is wearing pants"
presumably is true if and only if there exists some man who is wearing
pants. So these sentences translate into Lojban as "le nanmu cu darsi lo
palku" and "lo nanmu cu darsi lo palku" respectively.
Note that number is not an obligatory grammatical category in Lojban,
nor is tense, so the sentences above, while idiomatic, are tenseless and
numberless: a more rigidly exact translation of (1) would be:
la djan. ca sisku pa lo relxi'uma'e .a pa lo finpe
The-one-called John now seeks one existing bicycle or one existing fish.
email@example.com (aka ...!hombre!marob!cowan)
e'osai ko sarji la lojban