More Possessives


This is somewhat advanced, and you might want to skip it on a first reading.

What pe is actually doing is saying that there is a relationship between the two sumti. What that relationship is is left as open as possible: we've used the term 'possessor', but the relationship need not involve ownership in Lojban any more than in English. (That also holds when you leave the pe out.) For instance, if I say "Danny's desk" (le gunjubme pe la danis. or le la danis. gunjubme) at an office, I probably don't mean that Danny owns the desk (in all likelihood the company does), but simply that he sits there all the time and keeps his stuff there.

You can get more specific if you want — though Lojbanists tend not to. If you want to say there is actual ownership involved, or any other association in which someone is uniquely associated with what you're talking about, you can use po instead of pe. le gunjubme po la danis., for instance, means that this is the desk Danny is uniquely associated with. This can be because he actually paid money for at a store. In that case, like anything he owns, he can sell it, or give it away, in which case it stops being his. Or it may be the desk assigned to him, and him alone, at work; but if the desk (or Danny) is reassigned, the desk stops being his. Moreover, if there is a crisis in office space, and Danny is sharing the desk with Wilfred, then you can't speak of the desk as being either le gunjubme po la danis. or le gunjubme po la .uilfred., because it's unique to the pair of them, not to any one of them. You can still, however, speak of it as le gunjubme pe la danis., which does not insist on uniqueness.

Tip: There is a way to say the desk is unique to the pair of Danny and Wilfred: le gunjubme po la danis. joi la .uilfred. You'll be meeting joi here and there in the coming lessons, but you'll be formally introduced to it in Lesson 11.

Some other examples:

There are some things which you have which are unique to you, but which also never stop being yours, by definition. Your hand, for example, remains your hand, even if you saw it off (apologies for gruesomeness): you'd have to enter the high-stakes world of international organ transplants before you could say that your hand becomes someone else's hand. Your parents also are not something you can give away or transfer (much though you might be tempted to on occasion!) Whatever happens, they remain, by definition, your parents. Many languages distinguish between this kind of having, and the here-today-gone-tomorrow kind of having. Lojban is one such language, and for your parents or your arm, you would say po'e instead of po:

Note: As it happens, English is not one of those languages that distinguishes between these two notions (alienable and inalienable possession are the jargon terms, in case you're ever browsing a grammar of a South Pacific language.) So the distinction hasn't been exploited much to date in Lojban. More generally, the much vaguer association signalled by pe is usually enough to narrow down what exactly you mean, anyway; and for now, most Lojbanists are content to leave it at that. You probably will too.

Oh, and one more thing. We've been answering the question "whose?" through this section, but we haven't said how you ask "whose?" You've probably already guessed, though. The word whose? just means who's?, or of whom? And who? is ma. So if "Tim's cousin" is le tamne pe la tim. or le la tim. tamne, then we just follow the same fill-in-the-slot approach as we did earlier on, with ma substituting for la tim.: "whose cousin?" is le tamne pe ma or le ma tamne. (You would have already found this out in the preceding exercise — if you were good, of course!)

Exercise 4 (Advanced)

For each of the following, specify whether they involve po, po'e, or just pe.

  1. My car

  2. My language

  3. My genes

  4. My jeans

  5. My fault

  6. My self

  7. My present (that I got)

  8. My present (that I gave)