13.14. Vocative scales

Vocatives are words used to address someone directly; they precede and mark a name used in direct address, just as la (and the other members of selma'o LA) mark a name used to refer to someone. The vocatives actually are indicators – in fact, discursives – but the need to tie them to names and other descriptions of listeners requires them to be separated from selma'o UI. But like the cmavo of UI, the members of selma'o COI can be negated with nai to get the opposite part of the scale.

Because of the need for redundancy in noisy environments, the Lojban design does not compress the vocatives into a minimum number of scales. Doing so would make a non-redundant nai too often vital to interpretation of a protocol signal, as explained later in this section.

The grammar of vocatives is explained in Section 13.1; but in brief, a vocative may be followed by a name (without la), a description (without le or its relatives), a complete sumti, or nothing at all (if the addressee is obvious from the context). There is an elidable terminator, do'u (of selma'o DOhU) which is almost never required unless no name (or other indication of the addressee) follows the vocative.

Using any vocative except mi'e (explained below) implicitly defines the meaning of the sumka'i do, as the whole point of vocatives is to specify the listener, or at any rate the desired listener – even if the desired listener isn't listening! We will use the terms speaker and listener for clarity, although in written Lojban the appropriate terms would be writer and reader.

In the following list of vocatives, the translations include the symbol X. This represents the name (or identifying description, or whatever) of the listener.

The cmavo doi is the general-purpose vocative. It is not considered a scale, and doinai is not grammatical. In general, doi needs no translation in English (we just use names by themselves without any preceding word, although in poetic styles we sometimes say Oh X, which is equivalent to doi). One may attach an attitudinal to doi to express various English vocatives. For example, doi .io means Sir/Madam!, whereas doi .ionai means You there!.



Hello, X; Greetings, X; indicates a greeting to the listener.



Good-bye, X; indicates parting from immediate company by either the speaker or the listener. coico'o means greeting in passing.




at ease

ignore me/us

Attention/Lo/Hark/Behold/Hey!/Listen, X; indicates an important communication that the listener should listen to.




release promise


I promise, X; indicates a promise to the listener. In some contexts, nu'e may be prefixed to an oath or other formal declaration.




I interrupt, X, I desire the floor, X; a vocative expression to (possibly) interrupt and claim the floor to make a statement or expression. This can be used for both rude and polite interruptions, although rude interruptions will probably tend not to use a vocative at all. An appropriate response to an interruption might be re'i (or re'inai to ignore the interruption).




Please, X; indicates a request to the listener. It is a formal, non-attitudinal, equivalent of e'o with a specific recipient being addressed. On the other hand, e'o may be used when there is no specific listener, but merely a sense of petition floating in the air, as it were.



appreciation; gratitude

disappreciation; ingratitude

Thank you, X; indicates appreciation or gratitude toward the listener. The usual response is je'e, but fi'i is appropriate on rare occasions: see the explanation of fi'i.



welcome; offering

unwelcome; inhospitality

At your service, X; Make yourself at home, X; offers hospitality (possibly in response to thanks, but not necessarily) to the listener. Note that fi'i is not the equivalent of American English You're welcome as a mechanical response to Thank you; that is je'e, as noted below.



request to send

Request to send to X; indicates that the speaker wishes to express something, and wishes to ensure that the listener is listening. In a telephone conversation, can be used to request the desired conversant(s). A more colloquial equivalent is Hello? Can I speak to X?.



ready to receive

not ready

Ready to receive, X; indicates that the speaker is attentive and awaiting communication from the listener. It can be used instead of mi'e to respond when called to the telephone. The negative form can be used to prevent the listener from continuing to talk when the speaker is unable to pay attention: it can be translated Hold on! or Just a minute.



completion of utterance

more to follow

Over, X; indicates that the speaker has completed the current utterance and is ready to hear a response from the listener. The negative form signals that the pause or non-linguistic sound which follows does not represent the end of the current utterance: more colloquially, I'm not done talking!



successful receipt

unsuccessful receipt

Roger, X!, I understand; acknowledges the successful receipt of a communication from the listener. The negative form indicates failure to receive correctly, and is usually followed by ke'o. The colloquial English equivalents of je'e and je'enai are the grunt typically written uh-huh and What?/Excuse me?. je'e is also used to mean You're welcome when that is a response to Thank you.


will comply

will not comply

Wilco, X, I understand and will comply. Similar to je'e but signals an intention (similar to .ai) to comply with the other speaker's request. This cmavo is the main way of saying OK in Lojban, in the usual sense of Agreed!, although ie carries some of the same meaning. The negative form indicates that the message was received but that you will not comply: a very colloquial version is No way!.



please repeat

no repeat needed

What did you say, X?; a request for repetition or clarification due to unsuccessful receipt or understanding. This is the vocative equivalent of ki'a, and is related to je'enai. The negative form may be rendered Okay, already; I get the point!



end of communication

not done

Over and out, X; indicates completion of statement(s) and communication directed at the identified person(s). Used to terminate a letter if a signature is not required because the sender has already been identified (as in memos). The negative form means Wait, hold it, we're not done! and differs from mu'onai in that it means more exchanges are to follow, rather than that the current exchange is incomplete. Do not confuse fe'o with fa'o (selma'o FAhO) which is a mechanical, extra-grammatical signal that a text is complete. One may say fe'o to one participant of a multi-way conversation and then go on speaking to the others.


[cmavo: mi]



And I am X; a generalized self-vocative. Although grammatically just like the other members of selma'o COI, mi'e is quite different semantically. In particular, rather than specifying the listener, the person whose name (or description) follows mi'e is taken to be the speaker. Therefore, using mi'e specifies the meaning of the sumka'i mi. It can be used to introduce oneself, to close letters, or to identify oneself on the telephone.

This cmavo is often combined with other members of COI: fe'omi'e would be an appropriate closing at the end of a letter; re'imi'e would be a self-vocative used in delayed responses, as when called to the phone, or possibly in a roll-call. As long as the mi'e comes last, the following name is that of the speaker; if another COI cmavo is last, the following name is that of the listener. It is not possible to name both speaker and listener in a single vocative expression, but this fact is of no importance, because wherever one vocative expression is grammatical, any number of consecutive ones may appear.

The negative form denies an identity which someone else has attributed to you; mi'enai .djan. means that you are saying you are not John.

Many of the vocatives have been listed with translations which are drawn from radio use: roger, wilco, over and out. This form of translation does not mean that Lojban is a language of CB enthusiasts, but rather that in most natural languages these forms are so well handled by the context that only in specific domains (like speaking on the radio) do they need special words. In Lojban, dependence on the context can be dangerous, as speaker and listener may not share the right context, and so the vocatives provide a formal protocol for use when it is appropriate. Other appropriate contexts include computer communications and parliamentary procedure: in the latter context, the protocol question ta'apei would mean Will the speaker yield?