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Re: cukta

Hu'tegh! nuq ja' Logical Language Group jay'?

(Can you say 'six-month backlog of Lojban mail? I knew you could ;) ).

The discussion was on cukta --- whether it should refer to the physical
object 'book', or 'book' as a literary work, a piece of text/ discourse.
Jorge was arguing the gismu definition was having it both ways. I haven't
read through the entire thread yet; on first intuition, I agree with Jorge
that cukta as physical object makes more sense. But! Well, Lojbab identifies
the 'but' below:

[Text examples using 'le cukta' to actually refer to the physical object,
when cukta is defined as an abstraction.

=JL> I think this is not fair. If one can't use {lo cukta} in those examples,
=JL> then they're extremely misleading. The meaning of {cukta} one learns from
=JL> them is the physical object.

=I said I was weaseling %^)  The dialogs were written long before we debated
=the meaning.  They were not intended to teach semantics of vocabulary (you
=could easily substitute some other 'correct' value for the physical object) and
=not cause problems in the textbook rewrite - this WAS a draft, remember.
=And yes, I feel no qualms in using "le" to weasel on a semantics issue.
=Indeed, I suspect MOST people will use vocabulary inexactly and will need
=to use "le" as a result.  I am not sure whether this is good; probably not.

=But if I say "mi viska le nanmu", I do not necessarily wish to claim that
=I have inspected the genitalia and/or genes of the thing I see to ensure
=that it is indeed human, adult, and male. "le" objectifies something based on
=some apparent principles.  A physical book PROBABLY contains a 'work' - I
=don't need to check if I use "le".  There may be a more limited or more
=accurate claim that I could make, but language is always a matter of

And this one of the areas I was thinking about, when I said the other day
that Lojban will probably succeed by failing in its avowed aims. Lojban
(I claim) is built on a particular view of semantics: one in which {le jei
da broda} is taken as 0 or 1 --- one in which you can make black or white
judgements. X either is a book, or isn't. In that context, it is *meaningful*
to ask "is a collection of blank pages bound together a book or not?"

Now prototype semantics, which is a more, I dunno, postformal view of 
semantics, would go for a fuzzy logic approach to le jei da broda, rather
than a truth-conditional approach. What is a book? Well, a book has certain
prototypical properties: it has pages, it has text printed on these pages,
it conveys recorded discourse. If something has all these properties, it's
a book. If it has none of them, it's no book. 

What if it has only some? Like a CD ROM, or an empty book, or an Ionesco
work? Well, though Lojban needn't inherently do so, the underlying bias
of its predicate bias is to make a categorical judgement: this *is* a book,
that *isn't*. Prototype semantics would take an attitude which I think
corresponds more closely to what people actually do --- and to how meaning
changes over time, which I now think is what I'm going to do my PhD on.
It says --- just like a layperson would --- "It's *sort of* a book." If it's
bold enough, it'll go explicitly fuzzy-logical, and say "It's 0.6 a book,"
or something. 

Now, this is not how Lojban predicate definitions work. And this is not a 
*fault* of Lojban: logical analyses capture a lot of what's going on in
language, and Lojban is both quite gutsy and quite elegant in making these
explicit, categorial, predicate distinctions. I would contend, though, that
it's biased *away* from a prototype approach (although nothing's stopping you
from saying {li piso'e cu ni lo gusterveicuklo cu cukta}). And what currently
interests me most about Lojban is how people *do* try and get across a more
prototype-oriented, less truth-conditional approach to meaning in Lojban.
Which is where "le" has, indeed, come in.

Is it a 'bad' thing? In some ways. And it's a great thing in other ways.
It's the kind of success in failure I've been talking about.

Now, I don't want us by any means to discard formal definitions because of
this. Let us assert core meanings for gismu as we always have done. I'm
livid with Natural Semantic Metalanguage at the moment, because it tries to
set up a culture-neutral set of gismu for defining, well, everything else ---
but ends up using outrageously woolly English words like "know" and "feel",
because it rejects formal approaches. (Their argument is that you'd end
up translating formal expressions like symbolic logic into your own natural
language anyway, to understand them in your head, so such symbolic approaches
cannot be cognitively basic. True. But they're trying to *reduce* formal
semantics to this woolly stuff, and I don't think they can do it.) This is
one thing Lojban does do well --- it is explicit. Let it remain so. Let us
decide whether books are physical or abstract notions.

But let us also realise that, whatever our core definition of cukta, *it is
in the nature of humans using language* to extend the meaning of terms to
other, related notions (metaphorically, we would say, although I'm being 
persuaded over here at the Linguistics Institute that the mechanism is 
primarily contextual association, and metaphor is a by-product.) It's going
to happen. It is not a bad thing. It does not mean we should give up the
attempt towards formal explicitness. But it is a factor making the overall
equation much more complex --- and, I believe, much more interesting, and
much more illuminating about what language is there for.

Which is what we are interested in Lojban for in the first place, I tend to

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*    Nick Nicholas, Linguistics, University of Melbourne, Australia      *
      nsn@krang.vis.mu.oz.au; nick_nicholas@muwayf.unimelb.edu.au
*    "Eschewing obfuscatory verbosity of locutional rendering, the       *
  circumscriptional appelations are excised." --- W. Mann & S. Thompson, 
* _Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Theory of Text Organisation_, 1987.    *
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