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Official Announcement: Lojban Baseline
by Robert LeChevalier
President of The Logical Language Group, Inc.
On behalf of the Logical Language Group, Inc. (LLG), I am pleased to
announce a major milestone in the 42-year-old Loglan Project.
LLG has now baselined and published electronically a complete reference
grammar of the artificial language called at various times "Loglan-88",
"Loglan", "Loglan/Lojban", "Lojban - A Realization of Loglan", and
perhaps most commonly "Lojban" alone.
>From the standpoint of LLG, THE LOGLAN/LOJBAN LANGUAGE DESIGN is
considered COMPLETE upon this baseline. We now enter into the usage
phase, and eventually the linguistic research and application phases of
Taken from our introductory brochure, available in full on our FTP and
WWW sites (see below), the following states some primary features of the
o Lojban is designed to be used by people in communication with each
other, and possibly in the future with computers.
o Lojban is designed to be culturally neutral.
o Lojban grammar is based on the principles of logic.
o Lojban has an unambiguous grammar.
o Lojban has phonetic spelling, and unambiguous resolution of sounds
o Lojban is simple compared to natural languages; it is easy to
o Lojban's 1300 root words can be easily combined to form a
vocabulary of millions of words.
o Lojban is regular; the rules of the language are without
o Lojban attempts to remove restrictions on creative and clear
thought and communication.
o Lojban has a variety of uses, ranging from the creative to the
scientific, from the theoretical to the practical.
A small core of people have demonstrated extensive conversational
ability in the language, and a much larger group has written in or
translated text into Lojban. Much of this substantial volume of text is
available in archives on our electronic sites. The base of skilled
Lojbanists is international, with representatives from Australia, the
UK, Finland, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Argentina, as well as several from
the US, counted among the most skilled. There is Lojban "conversation"
as well as discussion of the language (in both English and Lojban) on a
Listserv mailing list (see below for subscription information).
For historical and other reasons we continue to assert our role as a
continuation of the "Loglan Project" started by Dr. James Cooke Brown
in 1954, and documented among other places in the June 1960 "Scientific
American" article entitled "Loglan". That article stated the primary
design goals of the language and reasons why the language effort would
be useful. In developing Loglan/Lojban we have striven to remain true
to those design goals, and indeed believe that we have succeeded in
fulfilling them to an extent far greater than Dr. Brown conceived
possible. We continue to use the name "Loglan" with pride, honoring
Dr. Brown's seminal ideas.
We regret that Dr. Brown insisted on restrictive claims for control
over distribution and use of his earlier versions of Loglan, including a
full copyright on the language and its vocabulary. Those claims led the
community of Loglan users to unite as the Logical Language Group to
redevelop a public domain version of the Loglan language, a process that
has taken nearly 10 years and culminates in this announcement. This
version of the language is intended to supersede the previous incomplete
and restricted-usage versions of the language promulgated by Dr. Brown.
With the approval of the Board of Directors of LLG, as of 0000 GMT on 10
January 1997, the Lojban language design is baselined and frozen for a
minimum period in excess of 5 years. We intend that during this period
a community of skilled Loglan/Lojban speakers will develop to the point
that the role of the organization will be one of documenting, educating
and researching the actual use of the language, rather than the
prescribing of a language design.
By this act, we make it clear that Loglan/Lojban has ceased to be a
"language development project", and instead is now a "language" proper.
This transition is vital, since of hundreds or even thousands of
artificial language projects, only a few have achieved a stability that
has allowed large numbers of people to learn the language. Among
artificial languages, only Esperanto and Gode's Interlingua have
achieved stability and a solid base of language speakers on a long term
basis; other artificial languages continued to be changed by reformers
and lost the few speakers who had started to learn the language. We
intend that Loglan/Lojban achieve stability and a large international
speaking-community, comparable with these relatively stable and
successful languages. Potential Lojban students who have waited for a
stable language have LLG's formal commitment towards that stability.
The completed Loglan/Lojban design has been documented in the form of a
reference grammar, various word lists, a formal grammar processible by
the computer parser tool "YACC", and various other teaching materials
and material actually written in the language. These documents make
Lojban what is probably one of the most thoroughly described of human
The reference grammar, just completed and published electronically with
HTML coding on the World Wide Web (WWW) will also be published in
hardbound within 2-3 months. LLG is accepting notification requests
from those with possible interest in purchasing the book when it is
The completed language design is being turned over to the budding
community of Loglan/Lojban speakers and writers for their use and/or
application in any way they see fit. The language and language design
and certain vital language design documents are being placed irrevocably
in the public domain, allowing speakers to use the language for whatever
purposes without legal constraint or obligation.
Text written to describe the language design, such as the reference
grammar, is being published electronically (and generally in print as
well), and is copyright under a liberal license that encourages
distribution and translation into other languages. Chapter 21 of the
reference grammar contains the formal YACC grammar of the language and
is explicitly and irrevocably placed in the public domain.
The following paragraphs provide more detail on the nature of the
baseline, and the completion of the reference grammar that made the
Acknowledgment of all who have contributed over the years to this effort
is impossible. Hundreds of people have contributed to the technical
design of the language, and hundreds more have aided us with commentary
and financial support. We make particular acknowledgment to Dr. James
Cooke Brown as inventor of the Loglan Project and the language, to Dr.
John (Parks-)Clifford, logician and linguist who has guided the most
sophisticated portions of the design, to John Cowan, Nick Nicholas, Bob
LeChevalier, Nora Tansky LeChevalier for long-term extended support of
the design and documentation efforts, to Athelstan, Ivan Derzhanski,
Colin Fine, Goran Topic, Sylvia Rutiser, and Jorge Llambias among many
others, for pioneering use of the language, to Jerry Altzman and Eric
Raymond for making the Lojban mailing list possible, to Veijo Vilva for
outstanding development and support of the Lojban WWW site, to Gary
Burgess, Tommy Whitlock, Jeff Taylor, and Jeff Prothero for critical
early design contributions that made the Lojban redevelopment of the
language possible, to John Hodges, Bob Chassell, the late Art Wieners,
and a multitude of others, for financial support and efforts in
promulgating the language widely. I apologize to the many additional
deserved people, unmentioned above, who made this achievement possible.
REFERENCE GRAMMAR STATUS
The final draft of the Lojban Reference Grammar, authored by John Cowan
(email@example.com) has been placed on the Lojban FTP site, at the URL
listed below. A copy will be available shortly after this announcement
on the Lojban WWW page, and we invite others with language and
linguistics pages to add links pointing to (or make copies of) this
document and the Lojban language resources. The FTP site will be the
authoritative location for the baseline documents.
The text has been turned into HTML format for easier viewing with
HTML/WWW browsers and viewers. (Accurate viewing will require an HTML
browser that responds to font directives, and will also require the SIL
IPA fonts and the Symbol font set for correct viewing of non-ASCII
symbols including the IPA symbols for the pronunciation guides.)
There may still be errors in example number reference: specifically,
the reference may be to the wrong example number. John Cowan welcomes
notification of such problems, as well as typos and any other severe
errors at his address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the LLG address below.
The baselined form of the reference grammar is the HTML format version
posted at the time that the baseline took effect. With the baseline in
effect, only typos, HTML conversion errors, and other severe errors that
cause reader confusion which may be identified during the printed book
production phase will justify changes to the document. Such changes
will be individually documented and made public as a formal change.
We intend that there be no technical changes to the baseline documents
during the freeze period.
LEXICON STATUS AND BASELINE
While the Lojban language design is considered complete, the Lojban
dictionary has not been completed. As a result, the existing lexicon
(consisting of the gismu (root words), cmavo (structure words), rafsi
(root affixes for compounding) assignments, and some lujvo (compound
words)) is only loosely covered by this baseline. Preliminary forms of
each segment of the dictionary are available electronically (via our FTP
and WWW sites), making a design baseline feasible and meaningful at this
The final baseline of the lexicon, and electronic publication of the
dictionary is scheduled for 30 June 1997, approximately 6 months from
now. Lexical items used in the reference grammar are of course frozen
by the current publication and baselining of that document.
The major purposes for the 6 month delay are
- to provide an opportunity to verify the dictionary text for
consistency with the rest of the baseline;
- to standardize and clarify incomplete definitions of cmavo and lujvo.
The amount of documentation change and editing required to complete the
dictionary, which is the baseline description document for the Lojban
lexicon covered therein, requires that we not call that document "final"
at this time. The 6 month delay was therefore approved by the
membership of LLG voting at LogFest (our annual meeting) last summer.
5 YEAR MINIMUM DESIGN FREEZE
Following the lexicon baseline, the entire Lojban Language design will
not only be complete, but the language definition will be frozen for a
minimum period of 5 years, during which period LLG commits itself not to
consider ANY change proposals for the language.
DEFINITION OF "BASELINE" AND "FREEZE"
By using the terms "baseline" and "frozen", LLG is stating that during
the minimum 5 year period, it will be committed to supporting the
language status quo, and will neither propose nor make any changes to
the language design as an organization.
LLG will actively seek to expand the Lojban user community, and will
encourage that community to actively use the language. That use will
likely result in enormous growth of the lexicon using the highly
productive methods designed into the language. In addition, usage may
resolve hitherto undecided issues, and may bring to light and resolve
other issues not yet identified. This growth and evolution will take
place informally, and without any restraints from LLG, in the manner of
natural language evolution.
Presuming that an active community forms, further language evolution
will NOT take place by prescriptive changes produced by the Lojban
designers. The language freeze will then last indefinitely beyond the
five year minimum period.
LLG's long-term role will be to promote the language and to serve a
research and description function in analyzing how Lojban speakers
actually use the language.
ALL UNRESOLVED ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED BY ACTUAL USAGE
Design points not covered in the reference grammar and/or the dictionary
are intended to be resolved by actual usage, preferably by skilled
speakers of the language. LLG may report on such usage when questions
arise, but will not rule prescriptively on whether the usage is
"correct" or not. If a usage occurs in natural communication and it is
comprehended and accepted by other Lojbanists, then the usage is de
Some Lojban supporters have asked that LLG make specific plans for a
language review following the 5 year period, that it establish a
committee and/or plan a formal procedure for proposing and discussing
proposals during that period for consideration and implementation
following the period. The LLG Board of Directors believes that this is
contrary to the intended purpose of the baseline and freeze, which is to
turn over the language to the users of the language, and to remove LLG
from ANY prescriptive role which constrains the natural evolution of the
LLG makes the commitment, however, that should it ever decide to
establish any such procedures after the 5 year period, that all
discussions of possible changes will occur solely in the Lojban
language, ensuring that only actual users of Lojban will participate in
any decision process.
Editors of publications sponsored by LLG shall have their own discretion
to accept or reject or edit Lojban text according to their own criteria,
which may include conformance with the language prescription. If they
do so, however, their decisions will be personal, as individual
Lojbanists using the language, and based on their own competence in the
language. Editors shall not prescribe language usage on behalf of LLG.
Similarly, members and officers of LLG (including myself) who are
actively speaking and using the language, may express opinions about
Lojban text and issues, but shall do so as Lojban users independent of
their LLG roles.
The Lojban design includes language space specifically for trying new
ideas in language usage. All cmavo (structure-words) of the form "xVV"
are formally undefined, as are all cmavo-form words formed by adding one
or more apostrophe and additional vowels onto the currently-used forms
VV and CVV. There is also an untested concept for a specific subset of
6 letter fu'ivla (borrowing) space to be used as experimental "fu'ivla
gismu"; these would have the ability to be compounded into lujvo
(compounds). The lujvo of course would also be experimental.
These experimental word forms may be freely used to experiment with new
usages in actual communication. We intend (but will not enforce) that
the "xVV" cmavo space be permanently experimental, meaning that if
Lojban users wish to adopt an experimental usage that has been found
workable, we urge that they choose a cmavo from the longer undefined
cmavo space for permanent usage. The very small number of undefined
cmavo in the regular cmavo space could also be used, but we urge that
they be reserved only for the most useful, widely accepted, and
frequently used new ideas.
Likewise, user additions to the regular 5-letter gismu forms are
discouraged but no ban will be enforced. LLG intends to independently
verify any user-added gismu for consistency with the existing
prescription, and will document deviations descriptively, but will not
suggest or enforce alterations.
Lojban allows for unrestricted creation of lujvo compounds and fu'ivla
borrowings in accordance with rules and conventions discussed in the
reference grammar. Users are encouraged to coin new words in these
forms as needed in speech and writing.
LLG intends to document new lujvo and fu'ivla that come into use.
Consistency or conflict with the lujvo-place structure conventions may
be analyzed, but LLG will not suggest or enforce alteration to match the
conventions. Recognizing that Type IV fu'ivla are difficult to make
with assurance of validity, LLG intends to provide a service to
Lojbanists who wish to verify that a proposed word follows the
prescription. Individual Lojbanists providing this service on behalf of
LLG may suggest alterations, but LLG as an organization will not enforce
People using Lojban are encouraged to send archives of texts to the LLG
address below. This will allow research analysis and documentation of
Lojban usages in the text. Labelling the text "nopublic" or "not for
public archive" will restrict the text to archives that will be
available only to bona fide researchers.
ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING INFORMATION
The LLG e-mail address is:
The Lojban reference grammar and other documents are available at:
The Lojban WWW page is located at:
To subscribe to Lojban List, send:
subscribe lojban firstname lastname
(You will get instruction on how to post when you subscribe. If volume
on the list is too high for you, or you decide you are not interested,
please unsubscribe by sending "unsubscribe lojban" to the above
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
Artificial language Loglan/Lojban: ftp.access.digex.net /pub/access/lojbab
or see Lojban WWW Server: href="http://xiron.pc.helsinki.fi/lojban/"