15.9. Affirmations

There is an explicit positive form for both selma'o NA (ja'a) and selma'o NAhE (je'a), each of which would supplant the corresponding negator in the grammatical position used, allowing one to assert the positive in response to a negative question or statement without confusion. Assuming the same context as in Section 15.1:

Example 15.89. 

xunago'i
Is-it-true-that[false][repeat-previous]?

or equivalently

Example 15.90. 

xula.djan.[cu]napu
Is-it-true-that:that-namedJohn[false]previously
klamala.paris.ela.rom.
went-tothat-nameParisandthat-namedRome.

The obvious, but incorrect, positive response to this negative question is:

Example 15.91. 

go'i

[repeat-previous]


A plain go'i does not mean Yes it is; it merely abbreviates repeating the previous statement unmodified, including any negators present; and Example 15.91 actually states that it is false that John went to both Paris and Rome.

When considering:

Example 15.92. 

nago'i
[false][repeat-previous]

as a response to a negative question like Example 15.90, Lojban designers had to choose between two equally plausible interpretations with opposite effects. Does Example 15.92 create a double negative in the sentence by adding a new na to the one already there (forming a double negative and hence a positive statement), or does the na replace the previous one, leaving the sentence unchanged?

It was decided that substitution, the latter alternative, is the preferable choice, since it is then clear whether we intend a positive or a negative sentence without performing any manipulations. This is the way English usually works, but not all languages work this way – Russian, Japanese, and Navajo all interpret a negative reply to a negative question as positive.

The positive assertion cmavo of selma'o NA, which is "ja'a", can also replace the na in the context, giving:

Example 15.93. 

ja'ago'i
[true][repeat-previous]

John did go to Paris and Rome.


ja'a can replace na in a similar manner wherever the latter is used:

Example 15.94. 

mija'aklamalezarci
I[true]go-tothestore

I indeed go to the store.


je'a can replace na'e in exactly the same way, stating that scalar negation does not apply, and that the relation indeed holds as stated. In the absence of a negation context, it emphasizes the positive:

Example 15.95. 

taje'amelbi
thatis-indeedbeautiful.