"good magic" (adjectival)
ti eme i koa
that magic 3P good
"this magic is good" (verbal/stative)
ka koa ta ni si ana la ka sene
the good TOP 1SG PERF give ALL the cat
"as for the good one(s), I gave it/them to the cat" (nominal)
ei se si suo koa ne tipai?
QU 2SG PERF eat good LOC this.day
"have you eaten well today?" (adverbial)
The logic behind all this goes something like the following. Starting with kani "sing" and pua "bad," we can progress like this:
"the one singing, the one who sings, the singer"
ka kani pua
the sing bad
"the one singing badly/who sings badly, the bad singer"
ti kani pua
3SG sing bad
"she sings badly / she is a bad singer"
The problem comes up with the gloss of that last item. Are "she sings badly" and "she is a bad singer" really identical in meaning outside of lojban? I got here because I was trying to translate the sentence "she's a good singer, but she's singing badly today." I was going along these lines:
ti kani koa, no ti ma kani pua ne tipai
3SG sing good but 3SG IMPF sing bad LOC this.day
"she's a good singer, but she's singing badly today"
See, verbs without an aspect particle are automatically aorist, so ti kani koa has a timeless, general, non-referential meaning, whereas ti ma kani pua is referring to a real instantiation of bad singing occurring at some point in time.
Another option would be to use some derivational morphology to help accent the distinction being made. The suffix -ma indicates frequent/serious involvement with the root in question, either professionally or otherwise, so we could make kánima, "singer":
ti kani-ma koa, no ti ma kani pua ne tipai
3SG sing-AG good but 3SG IMPF sing bad LOC this.day
"she's a good singer, but she's singing badly today"
But what if she's not someone who identifies as a "singer?" What if she's actually an accountant who just sings at family gatherings sometimes and is actually pretty insecure about her voice, despite the fact that she sings well (except for tonight). I feel like using -ma here dilutes whatever utility that suffix would ordinarily have.
Or again, we could use the putative particle mo. I've been going back and forth for at least 8 years on whether this should actually exist; it would be an adverbializing particle, meaning "in the manner of" or "as/like," etc. Literally, then, we could do something like
ti ma kani mo pua
3SG IMPF sing as bad
"she is singing in the manner of a bad one = she is singing badly"
I feel like this starts to get at the disconnection I want to see between her current performance and her actual identity. At the same time, though, I wonder whether I'm being picky about having access to exactly the same distinctions I use in English, despite the fact that this is an IAL and there's going to HAVE to be a lot of context informing anything anyone says.
In other words, is the difference between English "she sings badly" and "she is singing badly" (and the Koa analog, the difference between an aorist and imperfect verb) sufficient to be the ONLY structural difference between these two concepts in a language?
English tends to get at this sort of thing with parts of speech, too, which is something that makes me feel uncomfortable about Koa. What if I want to say something totally straightforward, like "Adam is a man?" Note that "masculine" in the glosses below doesn't mean "characterized by some qualities associated with men" like in English, but rather a pure adjectival form of "man" which English has trouble forming.
"a man; a male/masculine one"
a keli mehe
a dog man
"a male/masculine/man dog"
le Átami i mehe
NAME Adam 3SG man
"Adam is a man OR Adam is male/masculine"
Is this a problem? Is there a difference between "Adam is male" and "Adam is a man," leaving aside questions of age?
Going back to mo, I originally conceived it with the aim of using it to set off all adverbial phrases. I realized later that it's not actually necessary for that purpose, and abandoned it. Later I started to think it might not be superfluous after all and relegated it to limbo. What about a concept like "she sings like a dog?" Can I do this with that V X structure where X is automatically adverbial?
ti kani keli
3SG sing dog
"she is a canine singer = she dogsings = she sings like a dog?"
I was thinking that maybe "dogsinging" isn't quite the same concept as singing like a dog, in which case it would be preferable to say
ti kani mo keli
3SG sing as dog
"she sings like a dog"
Although once again I'm wondering if I'm just trying to parallel English structure here. A similar example:
ti kani 1642
3SG sing 1642
"she is a 1642 singer = she sings like it's 1642?"
ti kani mo ne 1642
3SG sing as LOC 1642
"she sings in the manner of in 1642 = she sings like she/they did in 1642"
I guess the semantic I'm trying to put my finger on is that of "like" above: resembling something, but not actually being it. She's not really singing back in time, so the sentence shouldn't be saying she is. But, but...in the sentence that started all this off, she really WAS singing badly! So if that's what mo means, I can't use it anyway. But there is this situation, which may really and finally necessitate it:
ti kani ka keli ni
3SG sing the dog 1SG
"she sings my dog. what the hell does that even mean."
ti kani mo ka keli ni
3SG sing as the dog 1SG
"she sings like my dog"
...in which case the adverbial construction V X would be interchangeable with V mo X in carrying implied indefiniteness: essentially V mo a X. Mo could be used, or not, depending on speaker preference and whether it seems to add clarity. It would be required, though, when X is definite, modified, etc. I think.
Anyway, this is the patch of thorns that I've been unable wholly to extricate myself from for the last ten years or so, and I'm hoping you have some amazing crystal-clear thought that forever eliminates all doubt. Or something. What do you say?