The sumti we have seen so far — names, and le + gismu combinations — do an OK job in describing things. They don't do as good a job in narrowing things down. For example, you may be fortunate enough to know two people who own Porsches. Your friends will (normally) have different names, which you can use to tell them apart. But if you're discussing their cars, how do you tell them apart?

Or take the following sentence:

mi nelci le tamne
I like the cousin

Not as informative a sentence as it might be: the question that you should be hollering at this instant is, "Whose cousin?" Is it my cousin? Your cousin? Frederick II's cousin? When we talk about things and people, we are expected to give enough information, so that the listener knows who or what on Earth we are talking about. In these examples, saying "the Porsche" or "the cousin" is clearly not enough information.

One of the simplest way to narrow things down is by answering the question 'whose?' It doesn't work in all cases, but it will here: "Mary's Porsche", "Fred's Porsche", "Tim's cousin", "my cousin". So, how do we say that in Lojban? Well, there's two ways. Or four. Or seven. Or thirteen. Or more — because this is Lojban, and in Lojban you can be as precise, or as imprecise, as you want to. We'll give you the simple answer first, and then work our way up.

The simplest way of all is to add, after the sumti you're talking about, pe followed by the person (or thing) you associate it with. So:

Easy as pie, so far.

You'll notice that the order is in some instances the other way around from English: la porc. pe la meiris. looks more like "the Porsche of Mary". Now, English uses both 's and of for this kind of association. The choice between the two is complicated, but basically depends on whether the 'possessor' is a person or not — which is why the Porsche of Mary sounds odd, as does English's verbs.

Lojban doesn't have those restrictions: if you can do something with one sumti, you can do it with any sumti. And you can put Mary in front of her Porsche. One way to do it is to tuck the pe-phrase in between the article and the rest of your sumti: for instance, le pe la tim. tamne. This is literally "The of Tim cousin". But this construction is kind of odd, and since it's not how most languages do things, you won't be surprised that it's not commonly used.

There is a similar way of saying it, though, which is quite common. That is to wedge the 'possessor' sumti between the article and the name or gismu, without the pe. This gives you le la tim. tamne, which should be instantly recognisable as "Tim's cousin." When the 'possessor' is a single-word sumti, this is the most popular way of expressing things: le mi tamne is how you would normally say "my cousin". So you can now say:

Tip: You can't say la la meiris. porc.: strictly speaking, you can't tell when one name starts and another ends, since names can contain multiple pauses. If I said la la meiris. mersedez. benz., did I mean Mary's Mercedez-Benz, or Mary Mercedez's Benz, or Mary Mercedez-Benz's something-else? For the same reason, you can't really say la pe la meiris. porc., either.

For le + gismu as a possessor, things are even worse. The way Lojban grammar works, the sumti you insert between le and a brivla, to indicate a 'possessor', has to be kept fairly simple. For now, in fact, nest only names and single-word sumti inside le + gismu-type sumti; that's what everyone ends up doing anyway.

To see why things can go wrong, consider how you would say le tamne pe le ninmu klama 'the woman traveller's cousin' with this kind of nesting. You could flip it around as le le ninmu klama tamne — but then, how can you tell where the 'possessor' ends and where the 'possessee' begins? That phrase could just as easily be 'the woman's travelling cousin.' A situation best avoided, in other words. There is a way you can make this work, though — which we'll cover in a couple of lessons.

Exercise 3

For each of the following, switch the two sumti around, so that you convert a pe possessive into a nested possessive, and vice versa. Only do this where grammatically allowed. For example, le la .iulias. kabrile kabri pe la .iulias..

  1. le cifnu pe la meiris.

  2. le la meiris. cukta

  3. le cukta pe mi

  4. le cukta pe le ninmu

  5. ma pe mi

  6. le zo'e karce

  7. le la tim. rokci

  8. la meiris. pe la tim.

  9. le cukta pe ma

  10. le cmene pe la roz.