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Michael Farris wrote: [snip]
 
>
> > What the hell is Loglan/Lojban?
> >
>
> Loglan was an attempt to create a language with a completely logical
 
> structure (while still maintaining West European linguistic cultural
 
> categories) Lojban was the result of a split in the Loglan movement.
 
I'm not sure about the original goals of Loglan, since I came in well
after
Lojban had been up and running.  However, it is certainly NOT a Lojban
goal to
maintain "West European cultural categories" - quite the opposite in
fact.  The
whole point of Lojban is that it tries to be as culturally neutral as
possible.
This applies to the source vocabulary, which is taken from Chinese,
Hindi,
English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, in that order (though so mangled
by the
Lojban vocabulary algorithm as to be virtually a priori!).  More
importantly,
though, Lojban tries to avoid unmarked culture-specific metaphor.
Anyone who
has read any cognitive linguistics will understand the importance (and
the
difficulty!) of this.  For example, Turkish "anafikir" - literally
"mother
idea", but actually "main idea" - would not translate into Lojban as
"mamta
sidbo" because the metaphorical use of "mother" to mean "main" is
specific to
Turkish and would confuse non-Turks.  Lojban "mamta sidbo" could mean
the kind
of idea that mothers would come up with, the idea of motherhood or
whatever,
depending on context - if you want to be more specific, you can coin a
compound
word like "mamsidbo" and hope it catches on.
 
One could argue, of course, that predicate logic - the basis for
Lojban grammar
- is a Western European cultural concept, but I think this is a bit
like arguing
that scientific method is a Euro-concept, or that the mathematical use
of zero
is an Indian/Arabic concept.  The important point is that it is not
modelled on
a particular natlang grammar - even the standard word order, which
corresponds
roughly to SVO, can be modified at will, so I can say
 
la memet. cu prami la leylas. (Mehmet loves/adores Leyla)
 
or
 
la memet la leylas. cu prami
 
or even
 
prami la memet. la leylas.
 
and this is without even changing the place-structure of "prami"!
 
Lojban also has a lot of (usually optional) grammatical features from
non-European languages, particularly as regards aspect.
 
>
> Currently Lojban has more people interested in it, but I have the
feeling
> it's only ever mentioned as a potential IAL because no one can
figure out
> what else to do with it.
 
Originally use as an IAL was pretty low down on Lojban's priorities,
in fact the
introductory blurb says that it is one of the few conlangs that does
not see
itself as in direct competition with Esperanto.  For most Lojbanists
it is, I
admit, mainly a hobby language, but it has a number of purposes, apart
from its
original aim as a kind of Sapir-Whorf thought experiment.  These
include
human-machine interaction and AI research, a meta-language for
linguistics, and
an introspection device (I find one of the advantages of Lojban for me
is that
by translating into Lojban I can clarify my own thinking).  From the
IAL point
of view, I can see Lojban being used in contexts where precision and
range of
expression are priorities.  As an easily understood, easily-learnt
IAL, Oc has
Lojban beaten hands down, but if you wanted to discuss, for example,
law,
psychology or philosophy, Lojban would probably be an improvement not
only on
IALs, but also on natlangs.  It all depends on what you want to do
with a
language.
 
> From what I understand it's more used to create
> sample sentences than to communicate with anyone.
 
There is usually a fair amount of Lojban communication on the Lojban
list, but
like most IALs, Lojban suffers from the fact that almost everybody
speaking the
language is also fluent in English, even if they're not native
speakers, so most
postings are in English.  Nevertheless, even as a fairly novice
Lojbanist, I
find myself throwing bits of Lojban - especially the attitudinal
indicators -
into my English postings, since it expresses what I want to say
briefly and
precisely.  It's just easier to write, as I recently did, "u'u.u'i",
rather than
"I am both apologetic and amused".  I can also construct words in
Lojban which
have no English equivalent, e.g. aicaiuinaicai - a feeling of being
deeply
unhappily deeply in love (Turkish "karasevda").
 
For more info on Lojban, you can visit the Lojban WWW Archive at
http://xiron.pc.helsinki.fi/lojban/ or the new Lojban Information Site
at
http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/hezekiah/lojban/
 
co'o mi'e robin.