6.8. Descriptors for typical objects

The following cmavo are discussed in this section:



the typical



the stereotypical

As promised in Section 6.1, Lojban has a method for discriminating between the lion who lives in Africa and the Englishman who, generally speaking, doesn't live in Africa even though some Englishmen do. The descriptor lo'e means the typical, as in

Example 6.41. 


The lion dwells in Africa.

What is this typical lion? Surely it is not any particular lion, because no lion has all of the typical characteristics, and (worse yet) some characteristics that all real lions have can't be viewed as typical. For example, all real lions are either male or female, but it would be bizarre to suppose that the typical lion is either one. So the typical lion has no particular sex, but does have a color (golden brown), a residence (Africa), a diet (game), and so on. Likewise we can say that

Example 6.42. 

theAfrican-land(Not!) andtheEnglish-country.

The typical English person dwells not in Africa but in England.

The relationship between lo'e cinfo and lo'i cinfo may be explained thus: the typical lion is an imaginary lion-abstraction which best exemplifies the set of lions. There is a similar relationship between le'e and le'i:

Example 6.43. 


Lots of Greek-Americans own restaurants.

Here we are concerned not with the actual set of Greek-Americans, but with the set of those the speaker has in mind, which is typified by one (real or imaginary) who owns a restaurant. The word stereotypical is often derogatory in English, but le'e need not be derogatory in Lojban: it simply suggests that the example is typical in the speaker's imagination rather than in some objectively agreed-upon way. Of course, different speakers may disagree about what the features of the typical lion are (some would include having a short intestine, whereas others would know nothing of lions' intestines), so the distinction between lo'e cinfo and le'e cinfo may be very fine.


Example 6.44. 

le'eskinacuse fintine'ila.xaliuyd.

is probably true to an American, but might be false (not the stereotype) to someone living in India or Russia.

Note that there is no naming equivalent of lo'e and le'e, because there is no need, as a rule, for a typical George or a typical Smith. People or things who share a common name do not, in general, have any other common attributes worth mentioning.