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Good Clarifying Question
Chris Bogart quoted my exchange with Lojbab ...
> > 1
> > > > * cmavo & rafsi identical in form
> > > > but unrelated in meaning:
> > > > da'a (all except), da'a => damba (fight);
> > > > mo'i (space motion), mo'i => morji (remember).
> > > >
> > > > (That was the only problem I'd recognized before, & I'd
> > > > underestimated its seriousness. It's really a form of
> > > > homophone ambiguity -- & Lojban is supposed to be free of
> > > > such ambiguity.)
> > >
> > > This is not an ambiguity at all, much less one of homophones.
> > Oh yes it is.
... & then asked:
> Could you actually give an example of an ambiguous sentence created
> in this way? If there were a lujvo "mo'irda'a" we'd know that both parts
> were rafsi because of the "r". Is there some case I'm missing?
This is a very good question for clarifying the issues involved. Thanks
Homophone affix ambiguity -- the fact that hundreds of short rafsi are
identical to cmavo with unrelated meanings -- does not lead to the
creation of ambiguous sentences. The ambiguity does not "reach" to the
sentence "level." You can always disambiguate before the sentence is
Let me try to sketch the phenomenology.
You're listening to a Lojban utterance (or reading a Lojban text). Along
the stream of speech (or string of text) comes a form (such as CVV or
CV'V) that you recognize immediately as being meaningful in Lojban. Yet
you cannot know its meaning as quickly, if it's one of the 295 such forms
with two unrelated meanings; you must hesitate between the two possible
Meanwhile, the stream (or string) keeps flowing. As soon as you hit a
word boundary -- judging this by stress in speech (or by spacing in text)
-- you can disambiguate. If the form stood alone it was a cmavo, so you
settle on the cmavo meaning. If the form was part of a compound, you
must reckon whether the compound was a lujvo or a compound cmavo --
judging this by the presence or absence of a consonant pair (or of -r- or
-y- hyphenation). If the compound was a lujvo, then you settle on the
In no case, as a rule, does the ambiguity persist beyond the time it
takes to characterize the word involved. By the time a full sentence has
been expressed, you've already settled on a single meaning. The
ambiguity has cost you only about two "beats" of hesitation -- one to
consider the two meanings, & one to characterize the word as lujvo or
cmavo, so as to discern which meaning is involved.
However, there are other factors which may complicate the situation &
thus add to your hesitation.
The most important of these complicating factors is the process of
learning Lojban. Homophone affix ambiguity makes that process more
difficult, primarily because of one glaring inconsistency: some rafsi
have the same meanings as their identical twin cmavo, whereas other rafsi
At the same time, the process of learning Lojban makes disambiguation
more difficult. Typically, the learner would have a tendency to settle
on the cmavo meaning, since the cmavo are easier to learn, & also since
many rafsi have the same meaning as their cmavo twins anyway. This
guarantees that any lujvo containing one or more of the 295 ambiguous
rafsi will be resistant to comprehension by the learner.
Other possible complicating factors include nonstandard lujvo formation &
nonstandard orthography. If someone utters (or scribbles) a compound
which lacks a consonant pair, but which you suspect for some reason (such
as context) to be a lujvo, then that will add to your hesitation between
the two possible meanings. If someone prefers to omit the y'y or y'y.bu
from their orthography whenever possible, then you must also hesitate
between CVV & CV'V forms, deciding whether the y'y or y'y.bu should be
inserted between the vowels, before proceeding to your next hesitation,
in which you decide whether to settle on the rafsi meaning or the cmavo
The learning difficulties & hesitations of homophone affix ambiguity are
IMO serious problems which warrant repair. The fact that many gismu lack
short rafsi is another problem which warrants repair. Accordingly, I am
offering a "Rafsi Repair Proposal" which I hope you'll critique, improve
co'o mi'e mark,l