10.12. Tenses as sumti tcita

So far, we have seen tenses only just before the selbri, or (equivalently in meaning) floating about the bridi with ku. There is another major use for tenses in Lojban: as sumti tcita, or argument tags. A tense may be used to add spatial or temporal information to a bridi as, in effect, an additional place:

Example 10.69. 


I go to the market when you go to the house.

Here ca does not appear before the selbri, nor with ku; instead, it governs the following sumti, the le nu construct. What Example 10.69 asserts is that the action of the main bridi is happening at the same time as the event mentioned by that sumti. So ca, which means now when used with a selbri, means simultaneously-with when used with a sumti. Consider another example:

Example 10.70. 


The second pu is simply the past tense marker for the event of your going to the house, and says that this event is in the speaker's past. How are we to understand the first pu, the sumti tcita?

All of our imaginary journeys so far have started at the speaker's location in space and time. Now we are specifying an imaginary journey that starts at a different location, namely at the event of your going to the house. Example 10.70 then says that my going to the market is in the past, relative not to the speaker's present moment, but instead relative to the moment when you went to the house. Example 10.70 can therefore be translated:

I had gone to the market before you went to the house.

(Other translations are possible, depending on the ever-present context.) Spatial direction and distance sumti tcita are exactly analogous:

Example 10.71. 


The rat eats the cheese near the park.

Example 10.72. 


The rat eats the cheese near the faraway park.

Example 10.73. 


The rat eats the cheese far away from the nearby park.

The event contours of selma'o ZAhO (and their space equivalents, prefixed with fe'e) are also useful as sumti tcita. The interpretation of ZAhO tcita differs from that of FAhA, VA, PU, and ZI tcita, however. The event described in the sumti is viewed as a process, and the action of the main bridi occurs at the phase of the process which the ZAhO specifies, or at least some part of that phase. The action of the main bridi itself is seen as a point event, so that there is no issue about which phase of the main bridi is intended. For example:

Example 10.74. 


I die in the aftermath of my living.

Here the (point-)event of my being dead is the portion of my living-process which occurs after the process is complete. Contrast Example 10.74 with:

Example 10.75. 


As explained in Section 10.1, Example 10.75 does not exclude the possibility that I died before I ceased to live!

Likewise, we might say:

Example 10.76. 


which indicates that before my eating begins, I go to the store, whereas

Example 10.77. 


would indicate that I go to the store after I am finished eating.

Here is an example which mixes temporal ZAhO (as a tense) and spatial ZAhO (as a sumti tcita):

Example 10.78. 


The boat sailed for too long and beyond the lake.

Probably it sailed up onto the dock. One point of clarification: although xelklama appears to mean simply is-a-mode-of-transport, it does not – the bridi of Example 10.78 has four omitted arguments, and thus has the (physical) journey which goes on too long as part of its meaning.

The remaining tense cmavo, which have to do with interval size, dimension, and continuousness (or lack thereof) are interpreted to let the sumti specify the particular interval over which the main bridi operates:

Example 10.79. 


I go/went/will go to the market twice today.

Be careful not to confuse a tense used as a sumti tcita with a tense used within a seltcita sumti:

Example 10.80. 


Snow falls during this winter.

claims that the interval specified by this winter is long, as events of snowfall go, whereas

Example 10.81. 


Snow falls in the long winter.

claims that during some part of the winter, which is long as winters go, snow falls.