Saturday, July 5, 2014

'la' phrases

What all can go in front of 'la' in a sentence and to what end?  This is going to be an ongoing listing, adding new points as they turn up but striving to be, eventually, complete and informative.

1. Conditional sentences, the "if" part of "if,,, then..."
In S1 la S2, the overall claim is that S2 is true at least in a situation where S1 is true, should such a situation arise in the relevant time.  It can also be said as "When S1, then S1" and maybe even "S1 only if S2" and "Whenever S1, S2: and so on, though each of these adds (in English) other information or various implications that are not in the tp form: that S1 is likely to occur, say, or definitely did not occur but might have.  And so on.  Whether or not these added implications can be built into some other structure in tp, they do not occur in the rawest form here,

S1 la S2 is a relatively unsophisticated conditional, and possibly an ambiguous one.  The grammar, in a rare display of recursion,  seems to allow either S1 or  S2 to already include a 'la' phrase, so that both '(S1 la S2) la S3' and 'S1 la (S2 la S3)' appear to be grammatical.  The complexity of interpreting the first, however, makes the second the far more likely reading, so conditions may generally be taken as accumulating from the left (against the usual tp pattern).  This is useful, since tp does not permit sentential use of 'en' (or some other "and" word), though conjoined conditions are quite common and this patterns provides a way,  (The ambiguity may turn up again with non-sentential phrases and may be resolved differently there.)

For the Lojbanists among us, sentential 'la' does not seem to be a mere logical connective, but "modal".  That is, the  mere fact that S1 is not true at any point in the proceedings or that S2 is true, does not make the whole conditional true, though a relevant occasion (and that takes some unpacking) of S1 true and S2 false does falsify the whole.  Some connection, however worked out, is implied by the conditional claim.

2.  Tense. A. Vector

The most common use to 'la' in running text is probably to specify tense, which is not a mandatory category in tp but a felt need for many of us with tensed L1s.  The stock expressions here  are
'tenpo pini'  past (at some time now finished)
'tenpo kama' future (at some time yet to come)
'tenpo ni' present (at this time)
They place the whole event of the sentence after 'la' at a particular (though generally unspecified) time in relation to the present (or, as we see, the time of the events being narrated).  This temporal location may bleed over to other sentences in a narrative sequence, where, without further explicit markers, events in later sentences may be attached to the earlier established time (or a little later to keep up with the flow of events).  In this context, then, one of these markers may indicate a time remote from an already remote point and not explicitly attached to the time of uttering the sentence.  Even 'tenpo ni' in a narrative, may be just "at that time", not the "now" of the speaker, but of the event.  (How to break out of this context to return connection to the speaker's present is not an issue that has been dealt with - 'tenpo ni kin' or 'tenpo ni sin' seem likely candidates.)

'tenpo X la' has another version, a terminal PP 'lon tenpo X'.  The relation between the two is not worked out, but I assume that some differences will emerge, even if only rhetorical ones.  Other prepositions than 'lon' may also have a role (more later).

Whatever else may be the case with PPs here, they pretty clearly have restricted scope relative 'la' expressions. In S1 la S2 lon tenpo X, 'lon tenpo X' applies only to S2 directly (whatever may be the informal implications) .  In 'tenpo X la S1 la S2'  'tenpo X' may apply only to S1, but more likely applies to the whole conditional (we expect to use these initial 'la's to distinguish some of the various kinds of conditionals).  If 'tenpo x' is only for S1, it would be more natural (to a good Lojbanist, certainly) to say 'S1 lon tenpo X la S2.'

Taking these phrases as being, in effect, about some unspecified point in time rather than simply as directions without points at the end, opens a variety of possibilities.  The following sections look at some of these.(The theoretical purely vector tenses might use just the modifiers as pre-la or as prepositional complements.  But at least 'pini' and 'ni' have other uses both with 'la' and prepositions, so the present plan works better.)

B. Spcified times

One immediate response to saying that tense is about some unspecified time, is to ask about specified times.  Why not allow pinpointing a time ?  So we get dates as 'la' phrases.  Or we would if we had a settled system for dates, probably 'tenpo sunpo nanpa tu tu pi tenpo mun nanpa luka tu' or, colloquially, 'tu tu pi luka tu' (4/7) ?  but at least two such notions are well established in tp usage: going to the extremes and moving stepwise through time.

At the extreme we have (Gen 1:1) 'tenpo open la' (or just 'open la;, but this has a rhetorical use as well "to begin with")"At the beginning time"  (and, one expects in these apocalyptic times, 'tenpo pini la' now in a very different sense).  Presumably -- though not in the corpus yet -- other times that are pinned down to events will serve as well: 'tenpo pi utala suli'  "during the big war" and 'tenpo pi utala pini' "during the last war" (clear from context, we hope, though not in abstraction).

Stepwise we have 'tenpo suno pini', "yesterday" and similarly with 'pimeja' for "last night" and 'esun' for "week" and 'mun' for "month" and the same pattern with 'kama' and 'ni'  'sike suno' meaning "year" can also fit into this pattern, without needing 'tenpo'.   Strictly, all theses 'pini's and 'kama's are just any past/future one, but the use for the immediately past/future one is generally the understood convention (how to counter this convention is not clear, as is the reason for wanting to)

C. Quantifiers over moments of time

Another obvious question arising from a form that says "at some time in the past", say, is "What about 'at all times in the past'?"  and "What about getting rid of 'in the past'?".  So, 'tenpo pini' leads immediately to 'tenpo pini ali' (or is it 'tenpo ali pini'?) and just 'tenpo ali', "always".  And that leads naturally to 'tenpo ala pini' (or 'tenpo pini ala') "never".  But, if something can happen at no time and at every time, it can happen at one time or two or (in tp) at many,  And so we get 'tenpo wan pini' (or 'tenpo pini wan') and so on through whatever numbers we have, also with directional restrictions -- just 'tenpo mute la' "often"

At this point we  notice that 'tenpo seme' is also a possible 'la' phrase, here being taken as "How often"?  It could however equally be just "When?", as king for a specification of the sort just discussed or soon to be.  There is no obvious way to specify beforehand what kind of answer is sought (cf.  'sina seme?') , though I suppose modifiers could be used in some way: 'tenpo seme pini' vs. 'tenpo pini seme',  say.
The fact that something can occur on several occasions allows another way to specify a time: ordinally: 'tenpo nanpa tu la'  "on the second occasion".

Two side points here.  The same event occurring on several occasions is different generally from a single event that involves repetitive action, though they are clearly related.  The locution we are discussing here is about something that happens on separate occasions, not about repetitive actions.  So "He has attacked him three times" is clearly ' tenpo tu wan la jan mije nanpa wan li utala e jan mije nanpa tu' (to be terribly fussy),  But how do we say that on one occasion he hit him three times: 'tenpo wan la ona li utala e ona ... tu wan' but we do not know what goes in the blank -- nor exactly where the blank is.  It is assumed that 'tenpo' plays a role here, even though time is not particularly significant, compared to the notion of instances (but L1 is a powerful force here and most of ours use a time word here), so 'utala pi tenpo tu wan' is the leading contender.

Secondly, a number of "tenses" which seem to fit with this "always", "often: "once," "never" sequence do not fit naturally here: "usually, regularly, generally, more often than not" and so on.  They will turn up later in this discussion of 'la'.

D. Tensors

Since tenses place an event in relation to the present as being displaced from it forward or backward in time, it is natural to ask "Displaced how much?"  If we have a vector from one point to another, we can ask about its tensor, how long is the arrow?  tp provides days, weeks months and years as units (see above) and a few numerical units.  The move one of these units fore and aft is already covered, so the rest follow naturally 'tenpo suno pini tu' (or is it 'tenpo suno tu pini'?) is "two days ago" and so on in obvious patterns, including 'mute' for "a long time", measured in whatever units.  (It might be that, at least for 'mute', a useful distinction could be made between ' tenpo mute pini' and 'tenpo pini mute', one being "a long time ago"(unit unspecified) and the other "on many occasions in the past".  It is not clear which should be which, though I will -- I think at this moment -- argue for 'tenpo mute pini' for "a long time ago" and then extend that to answer other questions about the various placements of quantifiers in these expressions.  Stay tuned)

E.  Stretches of time.

In addition to the question of how much time has passed since an event, one can ask how long  the event took.  What little usage there is seems to point to a tensor without a vector for this purpose:  ' tenpo suno tu la jan li tawa tomo'  "For two days the person went toward home.'  and especially 'sike suno mute la jan li lon' "The person is old" (so maybe 'jan li lon sike suno mute'?).

3, Continuity

One common use of 'la' phrases is to attach the current sentence to the previous one,  The flip side of 'tan ni:' "because of the following" is 'tan ni la' "because of the preceding, therefore". Although far less common, this naturally suggests 'tawa ni:" and 'tawa ni la', "in order to, for".  

'taso' is another continuity word, but it does not require 'la'.  I suppose that 'anu' can be used in this way as well, again without 'la'

The most common continuity expressions, yet the ones with the fewest uses in tp, are temporal relations: "before, after, since, until, during/while" (others?).  I am inclined to think that "after that" is just 'ni pini la', "that being past" with some device for tensors again (presumably just the ternsor with 'pi' and the connector).  Of course, the case could be made that 'pini ni', "in this's past" means "before this", but I find that confusing (as others do my version).  The same contrast can be made for 'kama',  of course.  Perhaps we have to allow both and let folks sort out their own usage here (to everyone's confusion).  

"Since, until, during" delimit stretches of time again, not by a metric but by reference to another point or stretch,  Further, within that stretch we can manage the array of tense relation "Since I saw him, I have never/often/always/twice thought of him" So, the expression seems to be a first 'la,' after which others are possible but not required,  The temptation here is just to use "before" and "after" again, with the other terminus, now" understood, even though that leaves the stretch indistinguishable from a mere sequence if no subordinate tenses are used: 'ona li kama weka.  ni pini la mi li tawa noka'  "After he left, I walked" or "Since he left, I've been walking"  Perhaps  using modal 'awen' in the second case would do it,  Or putting 'awen' in the 'la' phrase: 'ni pini awen'  Or something else.  Such as insisting on secondary tenses to avoid ambiguity.  

But 'awen' does seem to fit naturally into "during, while." If "after this" is "this being done" (or "in this's future"), then "during this" seems to be "this going on" (or "in this's going on", the two seem to collapse), so "meanwhile: is 'ni awen' (or 'awen ni'),  This fits in pretty much with the modal uses of the three verbs for aspects, insofar as tp uses these at all ('pini' does both terminative and perfect, 'kama' inchoative, 'awen' progressive and superfective.  'open', with no role here, does initiative.) 

4.  Sources

This covers a variety of cases.

We can talk about where something is true as well as when.  Thus, we can use place names in 'la' phrases to discuss customs, habits, and the like of a particular place or even a group: 'ma Mewika la, sike suno tu tu ali la, jan ali li wile e jan lawa ma.' [Just noticed another temporal expression not discussed above.]   Like similar temporal expressions, these have a corresponding PP with 'lon'.

We can talk about where we get our information: "according to Wikipedia, " 'ilo Wikipesija la'.  Or, whether we take it as information or not, the source of a claim "In John's opinion," 'jan San la' ('mi la' is probably the one most usually accurate, but it is assumed throughout tp.)  All of these have the PP version with 'tawa' "according to" (though 'tan' would seem to make more sense).

The usual reasons for mentioning sources, aside from accuracy and avoiding responsibility, is to give some indication of what reliance the hearer should put on the claim (and maybe convey some indication of the speaker's reliance),  Another way to do this is to indicate how you came by the claim.  Of course, citing a source says you came by it second hand, but you can do that without citing a source: "I hear that...",  "science tells us" ('nasin la' or 'sona la'?), even "it follows that" (though this may overlap with 'tan ni').  So 'kute mi' and 'pilin mi' (stronger than just 'mi') and 'lukin mi' (eye witness) and the  like may be used (though rarely are -- L1 again).

5. Reaction (emotion, verification)

Aside from our confidence in a claim and its source, we may comment on a claim in terms of how it affects us or how we expect it to affect our hearers.  The most common o these are 'pona la' "Fortunately" and 'ike la' the opposite.  We also have 'wile la' "Hopefully" .  More generally, emotions show up as separate interjections, just 'a!' (for just about any\thing) or adjective interjected (with or without an 'a') to give a more specific response.
The most interesting reactions are actually ot attached but responses to someone else's claim 'lon' and 'ala'  "That right" and "Lies". They can be used in reporting claims, however.

6. Organization

When what one says is organized, one tries to project that organization to one's listeners and so gives guidelines:
open la.  "to begin with"
(nanpa) wan la "First"
wan la "On the one hand"
ante la "on the other hand"  But also "On the contrary" and "Otherwise" (after a list of objections or compliments)
kin la "Moreover, in addition"
pini la "in conclusion"
poka la  "by the way, digressing a bit"  (probably 'awen la' "to get back on track"
ali la  "in summary"
lawa la  "the main point, most importantly"
There ought to be things for "for example" and "expanding on that" but I don't know them

7. Topic?

Some folk say that the 'la' phrase can be used to front the topic, the focus of a point when it might be buried syntactically because of the fixed word order (or just for emphasis even if it normally came first, or just to satisfy some L1 pattern): 'kama kon ante la jan nasin li sona e lon ni'  "Climate change, scientists know it exists."

8.  Modals

The common use of modals in 'la' phrases is 'ken la'. "Possibly, maybe" ,  One would expect then to find 'wile la' "Necessarily, surely", but it hasn't occurred (a few logician show pieces aside).  The closest to it is 'lon la' , but that seem to be "In fact, actually" to contrast with speculation and errors.
The other technical modals (lukin, alasa, sona) don't have the lawlike character that this construction seems to require and 'kama' is wrapped up in tense.
The notions like "regularly, in general, usually, habitually" and the like need expression and words like 'nasin' and 'lawa'  and even 'awen' suggest themselves, but there is no usage.  'nasa,' of course, serves as the opposite point for at least some of this.  'kama la' alone might have the force the force of something occurs without regularity or even against it.


  1. Amazing comprehensive analysis! Thank you!

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