Chapter 4. Numbers, and a few more articles

Table of Contents
Basic numbers
Numbers and articles
Number Questions
Answers to Exercises

One of the first things you learn in a new language is how to count, and this course is no exception. However, in Lojban, numbers include much more than just counting; for example, in Lojban, some, most and too many are numbers.

Basic numbers

The numbers from one to nine are as follows:

  1. pa

  2. re

  3. ci

  4. vo

  5. mu

  6. xa

  7. ze

  8. bi

  9. so

This leaves zero, which is no (think "yes, we have no bananas"). You may have noticed that the numbers repeat the vowels AEIOU. Since you can't get by without memorising numbers, try to think of mnemonics for the unfamiliar ones. For example, although the sound is different, xa has the x of six, and I remembered so by thinking of the proverb "A stitch in time saves nine," which is about sewing (.oi).

Numbers from 10 onwards are made by putting the digits together, just like you'd say a telephone number. For example:









4,592 has a comma in it (or a full stop in some languages, just to make things confusing). We can't use a comma in Lojban, because that means "separate these two syllables" (as we saw in Lesson 1 with Lojbanised names like zo,is. for Zoe). What we say instead is ki'o. We don't have to use ki'o, but it can make things clearer. So 4,592 can also be read as vo ki'o musore. ki'o also has the advantage that if the following digits are all zeroes, we don't need to say them, so 3,000 is ci ki'o. You can remember ki'o easily if you think of kilo — a thousand. (The similarity is not coincidental.)

Just as we have a word for a comma, we also have one for a decimal point: pi. So 5.3 is mupici. In fact, pi is not always decimal; it's the point for whatever number base you're using. But that's a more advanced topic.

Tip: Don't get this mixed up with the number pi (π): 3.14159..., which has its own word in Lojban: pai — oddly enough.

When you want to talk about numbers as sumti — that is to say, as things in and of themselves — you need to put an article in front of them. But that article cannot be la, and for reasons which hopefully will become clear soon, it cannot be le either. In front of numbers, Lojban uses the article li. So li pareci means 'the number one hundred and twenty three'. 'One, two, three', on the other hand, would be li pa li re li ci: each li introduces a brand new number.

Exercise 1

What are the following numbers in Lojban? (don't forget li!)

  1. 35

  2. 4,802

  3. 6,000

  4. 7.54

  5. 6,891,573.905