Monday, July 1, 2002

The birth of the modern article system

ni nae co ka mehe = I see all the men
ni nae hu ka mehe = I see some of the men
ni na nae co ka mehe = I don't see some of the men/I don't see all of the men
ni na nae hu ka mehe = I don't see any of the men

ni nae co a mehe = I see all men (that exist, I suppose)
ni nae hu a mehe = I see some men (out of all that exist)
ni na nae co a mehe = I don't see all men (that exist)
ni na nae hu a mehe = I don't see any men (at all).

What, then, does it mean to leave out the article? Anything? This is extremely relevant because it comes up with, for example, pronouns...

ni ka miko = my friend(s)
ni ko miko = a/some friend(s) of mine
ni a miko = ???
ni miko = ???

Come to think of it, what happens with the first sentences when the article "ko" is used? E.g.:

ni nae co ko mehe = I

Since this seems to make no sense, I wonder whether some of these particles might be superfluous. After all, "ni ko miko" could just as well be phrased "hu ni miko," right? Well, what about the original intent, sentences like "I see a man," as in when you're looking through a keyhole and your friend asks you what you see. I would have originally translated this as "ni nae ko mehe," but...would something like "ni nae hu mehe" work for this? I think so.

Hooray! I've just liberated a particle. :) Now I just have to decide which one...I think probably the "ko" form, since it's kind of nice that it resembles the interrogative. Thus, we have "ni nae ko mehe," which is the same as the original; but also "ko ni miko" = "a friend of mine," "one/some of my friend(s)."

The article "a" troubles me, because I'm not always sure precisely what it means. Okay, let's take the putative root "colo," meaning "run, &c."

ni colo = I run. I am a runner, since I (am) run(ning).
ka colo = the runner, the person who runs/is running.
ko colo = a runner, a person who runs
a colo = running...?

This needs to be addressed because it's beginning to get confused in my head with that "ko" business. I believe "ka" was intended to indicate an indivual (or individuals) possessed of the characteristic of the "a" form, pragmatically relevant to the discourse. So, "a colo" means "the quality of being a person who is running," or in other words, "running."

ni hopi co colo = I like all the runners
ni hopi a colo = I like running
ni hopi ko colo = I like a runner, I like some runners

...And how do I say, "I like some OF THE runners?" Or "I like ALL runners THAT EXIST?" This is where we run into problems. Perhaps we can create the following optional clarifications:

ni hopi co ka colo = I like all the runners (here in front of us)
ni hopi co ko colo = I like all runners (in the world)
ni hopi ko ka colo = I like some of the runners (here in front of us)
ni hopi ko ko colo = I like some runners (out of all that exist)

Um. "Koko?" Trouble is, now I'm using "ko" both as a correlative and an article. Boo. This is bad. This makes me think maybe two are necessary after all.

Wait, though--on the analogy of "ko ni miko," should the second sentence above be

ni hopi ko co colo = I like all runners (in the world)?

Okay. "Ka" refers to an instantiation of quality X. This we know. Furthermore, this instantiation must be definite and referential. The original "ko," on the other hand, refers to an instantiation of a quality X; but this instantiation is optionally referential but not definite. The "a" form, we can now say, refers directly to quality X, necessarily neutral as to definiteness but not referential.


After some massive deliberation, a number of things have, I think, become clear. First of all, the quality X article, being non-referential, cannot be referred to by a referential determiner such as "ti." As a result, the previous "kea," &c., meaning "what (out of all possible instantiations of X)" should really be "keko," and "kea" would apparently be meaningless (but I need to make sure of this).*

The second result is that I think I need to swap "a" and "ko." I really like the sound of "koa," "tia," &c., and I can't deal with the thought that the two most common interrogatives would be "keka" and "keko." Awfully ugly, that.

The third thought is that I may, after all, need to keep that correlative. But before I issue a formal decision, let me examine the following. Note that henceforth the swapped particles will be employed.

What is the difference between

A. "friendship is good" = ko miko i koa
B. "all friends are good" = co(a) miko i koa

Does one entail the other? That is to say, if B is true, that all friends are good, is it possible that friendship is bad? And, if A is true, that friendship is good, is it possible that not all instantiations of friendship are good? An immediate problem is in the definition of "good." Can I find a less loaded adjective? Maybe it doesn't matter. A rephrasing of B would be, I think, "for all X, if it is the case that X is an instantiation of friendship, then X is good." Since A doesn't deal with instantiation, but rather with an abstract quality, it might be rather too tyrannical (or existential) to say that abstract qualities cannot be described independent of their instantiation in the real world--so we do need that article.

As another example, take "colo"--clearly, "all runners (instantiations of running) are good for you" is not the same as "running (being a runner) is good for you. So. There's that.

This being the case, let's move on to the essential issue I was hinting at in point three above. What is the difference between the following phrases?

A. ni a miko (a friend of mine / some friends of mine / some of my friends, &c.)
B. hu ni miko (some of my friends, ??)

Before this can be answered, I think we need to quickly make plain what "ni miko" actually means. It's a shortening of "ni ka miko," meaning "the friend(s) of mine." "Ni a miko," then, clearly means "a/some friend(s) of mine," as described above. Therefore, sentence B is a shortened form of "hu ni ka miko," = "some/one of the friends of mine." Unfortunately, this is precisely the same meaning as "ni a miko."

To make sure of what we're saying, let's rephrase it with a different determiner and noun. "Ti mehe" = "that man," "those men." This is, of course, short for "ti ka mehe," meaning "that particular instantiation of manhood." What, then, would "ti a mehe" mean? "One/some of those men?" This is what drove me to my original thought of abolishing this difference, because if we were to describe this it terms of intersecting sets, we'd have one set of "those men that I'm pointing at," and another set of "the men I'm referring to." I think logical order of operations here shows that the "hu ti..." form is what's actually meant. I guess the question here is whether it makes any sense at all to use "a" both as a determiner and a correlative, thus "a ti mehe," or whether we need another word.

Let's bring back the original discussion on optional specification.

co ka mehe = all of the men (here in front of us, or under discussion)
hu ka mehe = some of the men (here in front of us, or under discussion)
co a mehe = all men (anywhere)
hu a mehe = some men (anywhere)

Obviously, there is a real need to be able to make this distinction according to context. What, then, do I think of "a a mehe" for 4? It's unanimous--I hate it. But it's kind of dumb to have a word that's only used in a single, probably fairly rare, context.

One thing makes me nervous in the midst of this, though. The question word for "which one" is very clearly "ke ka," as in "keka sa se halu" = "which one(s) do you want?", the answer to which is "ni halu ti/ka keli" = "I want that dog, I want the dog." But what's the question that yields the answer "ni halu a keli" = "I want a dog, not a cat or an axolotl"?

"Ke..." is definitely part of it. In fact, we can fill in a bit more: " se halu?"

Well, the answer runs, "I want a non-specific instantiation of X." Shouldn't the question, then, go "Kea sa se halu?" But I thought we decided above that the most sensible ordering was e.g. "hu ti X" instead of "ti a X." Should we, then, be asking "Hu ke sa se halu?"

My answer is no. I get the feeling that "hu" has something of a partitive meaning--like "ni halu hu (ka) sihi" = "I want (some of) the vegetables," like in the dining commons when the guy asks you what you want on your tray.

Okay. There really is a fairly large overlap between "hu" and "a." But I don't think it's debilitating or anything, and it seems to me to be somewhat necessary both for elegance and in preventing this language from turning into Loglan--I mean, even if "hu keka sa se halu," "some of what particular instantiation do you want?" is the logical phrasing of "what do you want," this language has to be spoken by humans, and I don't think that would be intuitive to anyone but mathematicians, if even them.


There are four articles (so far) in Koa. These are:

LE = naming article
KO = abstract uninstantiated quality
KA = definite instantiation
A = indefinite instantiation

Other determiners (such as "ke," "ti," "ni," "hu," "co," &c.) can be used directly with nouns, in which case an intervening "ka" is assumed--thus "ni ato" (my father) is a shortening of "ni ka ato."

As to the issue of what to respond when your friend asks you what you see through the keyhole, I believe context would make the choice clear:

ni nae ka mehe = I see the man/men (that we've been talking about)
ni nae a mehe = I see a man/some men (unnamed)
ni nae hu mehe = I see one/some of the men (that we've been talking about).

...and further specificity, if desired, can be achieved with the correlative + article combinations illustrated above.

The next issue to be determined is whether Koa can really get by with absolutely no plural marker. As the hour is fast approaching 5:30 AM, I think I'd better leave it till later. :)

*"keko" would seem to be the question word that anticipates the answer "...ko colo," as in: "Keko sa se hopi? Ko colo" = "What do you like? Running." I think probably this role would be filled by "kea" instead of "keko," since I think the speaker doesn't know what article to expect on the answer...but we'll need to test this thoroughly.

More to the point, is it in fact possible for a Quality X noun to be definite, to be determined, say, by demonstratives? "That running is better than this running." In this case, what we mean is either "that type of running..." or "that instantiation of running." In the latter case we have an easy answer; for the former, the thought that immediately comes to mind is that I could do it with "ti ko..." Hm. Interesting. More later.

Aha: "Ka talo i puna" (the house is red) = "Ka talo i a puna" =(the house is an instantiation of redness). Therefore, the question would be "Kea sa ka talo?" (what is the house an instantiation of?), with no need for "keko." I guess, then, that "What is a house?", as in "what is the nature of that object that you call a house" would have to "kea sa a talo"?

= "a house is an instantiation of what quality"...but I think the English "a" here maybe obscures the meaning. If we say that "a house is a building," aren't we really saying that "all houses are buildings"? In that case the question would be "Kea sa co a talo." Is this needlessly abstruse?

Maybe this is a situation that calls for "ko." "It is the instantiation of what quality that describes to housiness?" = "Kea sa ko talo?" YES. I'm almost sure that's right.

Hm. But then, how does one say "What's this?" Because "this" here is definitely referential. But is it definite? That is to say, do we ask "Kea sa tia" or "Kea sa tika" (as in when holding up an object whose purpose is unknown)? Despite the fact that Esperanto says "Kio estas tio?" with both words indefinite, I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to have to be "kea sa tika" or even maybe "kea sa tiko," since doesn't the act of pointing to something, obviously something in particular, make it definite?

Ack! Almost 6! Must get to sleep!

Nonononono. When we ask "What is a house," we mean "what is the quality instantiated in the object signified by the word 'house'?" This means that "house" must be represented by "le talo." And since the answer must be that "the word house describes an instantiation of being a building," the question therefore must be "Kea sa le talo?", short for "what is an instantiation of the word 'house'?"

Okay. Now I'm almost certain I've got it right. This still doesn't answer the "what's this" issue, since that's not dealing with names of things, but at least we're somewhere.

Which is not in bed, where "we" should be. Must go.