Valency in Lojban and toki pona

Verbs have valency, which is how many “arguments” they have. For example intransitive means no arguments (or only one, the subject), transitive, means one (or two, subject and object). So a typical lojban verb (gismu) works like this:

x1 leaves from x2 via route x3.

This compares to toki pona which has 7 slots marked by either e or a preposition.

mi moku
e kili
kepeken ilo
sama soweli
lon tomo mi
tawa pilin pona
tan wile moku mi
poka jan pona mi

I eat an (object), with a (tool), like (similar object), at (a location), for (some goal, benefit), from (some place or causal reason), with (a collaborator). That is it. There are no more slots. This compares to English where we have many more slots via a much larger list of prepositions.

The toki pona verb always follows the same pattern, the lojban one has different meanings for different slots depending on the verb (gismu)

Of course the toki pona phrase can be re-arranged, except for the e phrases, which must come first. Also, routinely, the prepositional phrases can be modifiers for a single content word, which doesn’t have an analogy in lobjan, AFAIK (which isn’t much).

Also, another observation. If there are only 6 slots, marked by a particle on the head verb, wouldn’t these turn into case markers, like in a single generation of human use?

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One Response to Valency in Lojban and toki pona

  1. John E. Clifford says:

    Gee, this looks like an artifact of some sort of universalist analysis (semantic?), Logjam predicates do each have an inherent valence (1-5, with a couple that may have more) . They have those places wherever they occur in a sentence, verb phrase, modifier or noun phrase. tp words have no inherent valence (except for Prepositions, which always have valence 1). tp words enter into structures which have inherent places, mainly as head of the intransitive structure, which adds a Subject place, and of the transitive one, which adds also a DO place. But these places come from the structure, not the word, and any (content) word can go into that place without affecting what it can do outside that place. The six prepositions is a historical accident (it used to be only three, the other arising over the years — ‘kepeken’ completed the transition only this year — and there are hints that a couple more will come into the Preposition class in the foreseeable future — ‘taso’ the most likely)
    Not sure what “the prepositional phrases can be modifiers for a single content word, which doesn’t have an analogy in lobjan, AFAIK”means exactly, but any Logjam predicate can modify any other one (in a variety of ways), as can any Logjam preposition.
    The six prepositions are unlikely to become case markers, since tp is pretty rigorously analytic now (and case markers are, historically, more likely to become (or be replaced by) separate words than conversely, though that converse does happen — see I-E and maybe Chinese).