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TECH: man bites dog problem
Much of the last year has been occupied with the question: does the sentence
1) Two men bite three dogs
in its various Lojban equivalents, require that there are just three dogs,
or might it be the case that there are anywhere from three to six dogs depending
on how the men are paired up with the dogs?
I think it is uncontroversial that
2) le re nanmu cu batci le ci gerku
The two men bit the three dogs
requires exactly two men and exactly three dogs, no more. (The question of
"exactly " vs. "at least" is a settled question and not relevant to this
topic: Lojban numbers are exact unless marked approximate.)
What's more, Example 2 requires that each of the three men touch each of the
three dogs, and the men and dogs are selected by the speaker's
At the other end of the spectrum, it is equally uncontroversial that
3) re da poi nanmu vau ci de poi gerku zo'u da batci de
or its equivalent
4) re da poi nanmu cu batci ci de poi gerku
allow up to six dogs, and simply constrain each of the two men to bite
exactly three of them, saying nothing about whether the two groups of three
overlap completely (3 dogs), partially (4 or 5 dogs), or not at all (6 dogs).
There remain the formulations
5) re lo nanmu cu batci ci lo gerku
6) re nanmu cu batci ci gerku
which have been traditionally (at least within Lojban) declared equivalent,
but whose precise meaning has never been defined. (In Institute Loglan, there
is no equivalent of "lo", although "lea" means "ro lo" more or less, and
Example 6 has been taken to be equivalent to Examples 3-4.)
As a compromise intended to produce an "equality of dissatisfaction", I now
propose to abandon the traditional equivalence of Examples 5 and 6, and
to restore the Loglan rule that Example 6 is equivalent to Examples 3-4.
Example 5 will do something more akin to Example 1: it will compel the
number of dogs referred to to be three. The two quantified expressions will have
equal scope, and each man will be taken to bite each of the three dogs, although
no in-mind selection will be needed.
Unless there is strenuous objection backed up with counterexamples, I will start
to incorporate this into my reference grammar.
John Cowan firstname.lastname@example.org
e'osai ko sarji la lojban.