Lojban revisited

I recently finished reading Arika Okrent's In the Land of Invented Languages, and now I'm re-reading Andrew Large's The Artificial Language Movement. This led me to revisit my encounters with the Lojban subculture. (Lojban was based on James Cooke Brown's Loglan.) I participated in a number of interchanges with the Lojban people from 1988-1990. My principal concern was the Lojbanists' conceit of testing the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis by creating a metaphysically and culturally neutral language, though I interjected some rejoinders where misleading claims were made about Esperanto. Other Esperantists had a hand in these debates, most prominently the late Don Harlow and the philosopher Tod Moody. I had some influence, the harshness of my interventions notwithstanding. Apparently, the notion that stuck in people's minds was my assertion that cultural neutrality = cultural nullity. See:

Letter on Sapir-Whorf discussions at LogFest ’89 and other topics
by Ralph Dumain

There are links to related interventions and to the primary Loglan and Lojban web sites.

This reminds me of two topics that Dr. Okrent might have covered more fully: (a) the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Lojban's real ability to test it or something else, and the Lojbanists' current thinking on the subject; (b) the nature of the Lojban subculture as an intentional community and its real capacity to enact its putative reflexivity.

To learn more about the development of Lojban and the thinking behind it see the Lojban File Server Roadmap. Here you can find links to old publications, history, discussions of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, discussions of Esperanto, various texts and translations, and much more. There are translations of Esperanto texts into English and Lojban.

I note these translations of interest to me:

"On A Bitter Occasion", by Kalman Kalocsay, Esperanto poet. Tr. Nick Nicholas (from Esperanto into English & Lojban)

Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Tr. Nick Nicholas (into Lojban)

A poem by Soviet Esperantist Evgeny Mikhalski. Tr. Nick Nicholas (extracts from the Esperanto poem "Ajno" translated into English & Lojban)

Other Lojban translations involving Esperanto include Legend (Orzekso), Lithuanian folk song, The Mildew of the World (Boleslaw Prus).


zooplah said...

Lojban sounds like an interesting idea, but I haven't mustered up the motivation to learn it. It just doesn't sound cool to learn, like Esperanto and German did. Is it even completed?

Ralph Dumain said...

Apparently, it is, according to the Lojban web site:

The Complete Lojban Language

The Complete Lojban Language is a complete description of the artificial language Lojban. It serves as a reference grammar for the language, offering an overview of the language, as well as linguistic details on every aspect of the language. This book serves as the standard defining the language design. That design has been declared frozen for a minimum 5 year period; anyone who learns the language from this book can be assured that it will not be continually changing. Though this description may sound imposing, technical and formal, the book is written in a light, often humorous style that teaches the reader about the Lojban language, about logic, and about linguistics in general.

An online version of The CLL called The Lojban Reference Grammar is available. A list of errata is also available. Most of the errata have been approved.