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la .lojban.
Lojban logo.svg
Created byLogical Language Group
Setting and usagea logically engineered language for various usages
Latin and others
Language codes
ISO 639-2jbo
ISO 639-3jbo
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
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la .lojban.
Lojban logo.svg
Created byLogical Language Group
Setting and usagea logically engineered language for various usages
Latin and others
Language codes
ISO 639-2jbo
ISO 639-3jbo
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Lojban (pronounced [ˈloʒban] ( )) is a constructed, syntactically unambiguous human language based on predicate logic, succeeding the project of Loglan. The name "Lojban" is a compound formed from loj and ban, which are short forms of logji (logic) and bangu (language). Development of the language began in 1987 by The Logical Language Group (LLG), who intended to realize Loglan's purposes as well as further complement the language by making it more usable, and freely available (as indicated by its official full English name "Lojban: a realization of Loglan"). After a long initial period of debating and testing, the baseline was completed in 1997 with the publication of The Complete Lojban Language. In an interview in 2010 with the New York Times, Arika Okrent, the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, stated: "The constructed language with the most complete grammar is probably Lojban – a language created to reflect the principles of logic."[1] The main sources of its basic vocabulary were the six most widely spoken languages in 1987: Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic, chosen to reduce the unfamiliarity or strangeness of the root words to people of diverse linguistic backgrounds. The language has drawn on other constructed languages' components, a notable instance of which is Láadan's set of evidential indicators.[2]


Lojban has a predecessor, Loglan, a language invented by James Cooke Brown in 1955 and developed by The Loglan Institute. Loglan was originally conceived as a means to examine the influence of language on the speaker's thought (an assumption known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis).

As Brown started to claim his copyright[3][4] on the language's components, restraint was laid on the community's activity. In order to circumvent such control, a group of people decided to initiate a separate project, departing from the lexical basis of Loglan and reinventing the whole vocabulary, which led to the current lexicon of Lojban. In effect they established in 1987 The Logical Language Group, based in Washington DC. They also won a trial over whether they could call their version of the language "Loglan".[5]

Following the publication of The Complete Lojban Language, it was expected that "the documented lexicon would be baselined, and the combination of lexicon and reference grammar would be frozen for a minimum of 5 years while language usage grew."[6] As scheduled, this period, which has officially been called the "freeze", expired in 2002. The speakers of Lojban are now free to construct new words and idioms, and decide where the language is heading.

Lojban still shares many of the characteristics of Loglan:

Literature and vocabulary development[edit]

Lojban can be an intellectual device for creative writing and is deemed to have many potential aspects yet to be discovered or explored.

Dan Parmenter:
The removal of grammatical ambiguity from modification [...] seems to heighten creative exploration of word combination. [...] Other areas of possible benefit are (surprisingly in a 'logical' language) emotional expression. Lojban has a fully developed set of metalinguistic and emotional attitude indicators that supplant much of the baggage of aspect and mood found in natural languages, but most clearly separate indicative statements from the emotional communication associated with those statements. This might lead to freer expression and consideration of ideas, since stating an idea can be distinguished from supporting that idea. The set of possible indicators is also large enough to provide specificity and clarity of emotions that is difficult in natural languages.

John Cowan:
There is a marker for "figurative speech" which would be used on "back stabber" and would signal "There is a culturally dependent construction here!" The intent is not that everything is instantly and perfectly comprehensible to someone who knows only the root words, but rather that non-root words are built up creatively from the roots. Thus "heart pain" would refer to the literal heart and literal pain; what would be ambiguous would be the exact connection between these two. Is the pain in the heart, because of the heart, or what? But "heart pain" would not be a valid tanru for "emotional pain", absent the figurative speech marker.

Computer Network Discussions on Loglan/Lojban and Linguistics: Lojban as seen by the linguistics and cognitive science community 20, 23

The language was built to attempt to remove some limits on human thought; these limits are not understood, so that the tendency is to try to remove restrictions whenever we find the language structure gets in our way. You definitely can talk nonsense in Lojban.

Bob LeChevalier:
In Lojban, a little grammar makes for a lot of semantic fun, since the grammar doesn't interfere with the semantic quibble you love. [...] In addition to its grammar, Lojban is definitely a priori in its words[...] We presume that everything can be covered as compounds of the classification scheme implied by the gismu. [...] We haven't, though, tried to impose a system on the universe like most a priori languages have. Instead, we have tried to broaden gismu flexibility so that multiple approaches to classifying the universe are possible. Our rule is that any word have one meaning, not that any meaning have one word. There is no 'proper' classification scheme in Lojban. [...] Lojban offers a new world of thought.

Why Lojban?

Like most languages with few speakers, Lojban lacks much of an associated body of literature and its creative extensions have not been fully realized (the true potential of its attitudinal system, for example, is considered unlikely to be drawn out "until and unless we have children raised entirely in a multi-cultural Lojban-speaking environment"[7]). Also such collective or encyclopedic sources of knowledge like the Lojban Wikipedia, which may help expand the language's lexical horizon, are not very developed.

Presently accessible Lojbanic writings are principally concentrated on the Lojban.org, though there exist independent Lojbanic blog/journal sites as well. The Lojban IRC (or its archive) has a gathering of Lojbanic expressions too, but its grammatical correctness is not always guaranteed. These available materials on the internet include both original works and translations of classic pieces in the field of natural languages, ranging from poetry, short story, novel, and academic writing. This has been paralleled with a chrestomathy project aiming to produce a collection of translated writings in order to show wide samplings of various language, hopefully longer than 10,000 words and with a variety of genres and styles[8] (see also – External link: Literature). Examples of works that are already available include:

Other translation projects include:

Compound words (lujvo) and borrowed words (fu'ivla) are continually increasing as the speakers find demands. The number of root words (gismu) and structure words (cmavo) are basically unchanging, but new inventions are to be accepted as experimental components. In fact, it has been noticed that particular inclination or disproportion exists in the available vocabulary. Cortesi[9] has pointed out the lack of certain terms for mathematics and geometry (although this demand may now be disputed as the current set of Lojban vocabulary does actually allow speakers to express such notions as steradian (stero), trigonometric tangent (tanjo), multiplicative inverse (fa'i), matrix transpose (re'a) among a number of other kinds of operators or metric units). Other instances which require speakers to construct noncanonical words:

Development of learning aids[edit]

Apart from the actual practice of the language, some members of the community and LLG have been endeavoring to create various aids for the learners. The Complete Lojban Language (CLL, also known as The Red Book, due to its colour, and The Codex Woldemar, after its author), the definitive word on all aspects of Lojban, is one of them, finalized in 1997. Some of the projects in varying stages of completeness are:

(see also – External link: Learning Courses/Resources)

Community development[edit]

Currently, Lojban's learning resources available on the internet are available mainly to speakers of English, French, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, and Esperanto, to varying degrees.[10][11]

Disproportion in the community population is still noticeable. It is reasonably hoped among Lojbanists that more people from different cultural/linguistic backgrounds join the community in order to maintain and further complement the intended neutrality of the language. (see also – Community)

Future goals[edit]

While the initial aim of the Loglan project was to investigate the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, the active Lojban community recognizes additional goals for the language to be attained in the future, including but not limited to:

Note that these goals are not crucial to the Lojban community, most of whom simply want to enjoy communicating with each other in Lojban.[citation needed]


Main article: Lojban grammar

Phonology and orthography[edit]

Lojban has 6 vowels and 17 consonants. Some of them have, apart from the preferred/standard sounds, permitted variants intended to cover dissimilitude in pronunciation by speakers of different linguistic backgrounds.

Stress normally falls on the penultimate syllable.

There are 16 diphthongs (and no triphthongs). A distinction between diphthongs and monophthongs can be written by inserting a comma in the Latin alphabet. Vowel hiatus is also prevented by inserting an apostrophe, which usually indicates [h], though there are other valid realizations. For those who have trouble pronouncing certain consonant clusters, there is the option of adding vowels between them (epenthesis), as long as they differ sufficiently from the phonological vowels and are pronounced as short as possible. The resulting additional syllables are not factored in the grammar, including for the purposes of stress determination.

Lojban is written almost entirely with lower-case letters; upper-case letters are used to mark stress in words that do not fit the normal rules of stress assignment, or when whitespace is omitted.

The letters in Lojban and their respective pronunciations are shown in the table below. The IPA symbols in parentheses indicate alternative pronunciations; preferred pronunciations have no parentheses.

ConsonantsAuxiliary characters
IPA representation[b][ʃ]
IPA representation[a]
  1. ^ a b c d Sonorants /m n l r/ may be syllabic.
  2. ^ There is no preferred sound for /r/; any rhotic sound is equally acceptable.

In principle, Lojban may be written in any orthographic system as long as it satisfies the required regularities and unambiguities. Some of the reasons for such elasticity would be as follows:

  1. Lojban is defined by the phonemes rather than graphemes; as long as they are correctly rendered so as to maintain the Lojbanic audio-visual isomorphism, a representational system can be said to be an appropriate orthography of the language;
  2. Lojban is meant to be as culturally neutral as possible, so it is never crucial or fundamental to claim that some particular orthography of some particular languages (e.g. the Latin alphabet) should be the dominant mode.

Some Lojbanists extend this principle to claim that even an original orthography of the language is to be sought.[14]

This article uses the common Latin alphabet mode.


Lojban has three word-classes: predicate words (brivla), structure words (cmavo), and name words (cmevla). Each of them has uniquely identifying properties, so that one can unambiguously recognize which word is of which part of speech in a string of the language. They may be further divided in sub-classes. There also exists a special fragmental form assigned to some predicate words and structure words, from which compound words (lujvo) may be created.[15][16]

Syntax and semantics[edit]

The language's grammatical structures are "defined by a set of rules that have been tested to be unambiguous using computers", which is in effect called the "machine grammar".[17] Hence the characteristics of the standard syntactic (not semantic) constructs in Lojban:

Such standards, however, are to be attained with certain carefulness:

It is important to note that new Lojbanists will not be able to speak 'perfectly' when first learning Lojban. In fact, you may never speak perfectly in 'natural' Lojban conversation, even though you achieve fluency in the language. No English speaker always speaks textbook English in natural conversation; Lojban speakers will also make grammatical errors when talking quickly. Lojbanists will, however, be able to speak or write unambiguously if they are careful, which is difficult if not impossible with a natural language.

Nick Nicholas and John Cowan. 'What Is Lojban? II.3

The computer-tested, unambiguous rules also include grammar for 'incomplete' sentences e.g. for narrative, quotational, or mathematical phrases.

Lojbanic expressions are modular; smaller constructs of words are assembled into larger phrases so that all incorporating pieces manifest as a possible grammatical unity. This mechanism allows for simple yet infinitely powerful phrasings; "a more complex phrase can be placed inside a simple structure, which in turn can be used in another instance of the complex phrase structure".

Its typology can be said to be basically subject–verb–object and subject–object–verb. However, it can practically be anything:

Such flexibility has to do with the language's intended capability to translate as many expressions of natural languages as possible, based on a unique positional case system. The meaning of the sentence {mi prami do} is determined by {prami} realizing, with its own predefined "place structure", a specific semantic relation between {mi} and {do}; when the positional relation between {mi} and {do} changes, the meaning of the sentence changes too. As shown above, Lojban has particular devices to preserve such semantic structure of words while altering their order.

As befits a logical language, there is a large assortment of logical connectives. Such conjunction words take different forms depending on what they connect, another reason why the (standard) Lojbanic expressions are typically precise and clear.

Multiple predicate words may be linked up together so as to narrow the semantic scope of the phrase. In skami pilno "computer user(s)", the modifying word skami narrows the sense of the modified word pilno to form a more specific concept (in which case the modifier may resemble English adverbs or adjectives).

One could go still further, adding a quite extreme example of its syntactic flexibility.

Lojban can easily "imitate" even Amerindian one-word sentences like this one:

The Nuu-chah-nulth one-word sentence breaks down a bit differently as:

inkiw (fire/burn) -ihl (in-the-house) -'minik (plural) -'is (diminutive) -'it (past-tense)

which can be expressed in Lojban the same way:


Common phrases[edit]

Lojbanliteral meaningEnglish
coi/co'o About this sound coi/co'o [hello!]/[goodbye!]hello/good-bye
pe'u About this sound pe'u [please!]please
ki'e About this sound ki'e [thanks!]thank you
.u'u About this sound u'u [repentance!]I'm sorry
xu do se glibau/jbobau About this sound xu do se glibau/jbobau [is it true?] you is-a-speaker-of-English/Lojban-languageDo you speak English/Lojban?
ti/ta/tu About this sound ti/ta/tu this-here/that-here/that-over-therethis one/that one/that yonder
mi na jimpe About this sound mi na jimpe I [not-true] understandI don't understand
go'i About this sound go'i the-last-sentenceyes/That's true
na go'i About this sound na go'i [not-true] the-last-sentenceno/That's false
la'u ma About this sound la'u ma being-a-quantity-of whatHow much/many?
ma jdima About this sound ma jdima what is-the-priceWhat's the cost?
lo vimku'a ma zvatitoilet what is-present-atWhere's the toilet?

Some unique Lojbanic expressions[edit]

The North Wind and the Sun[edit]

A translation by Nick Nicholas of The North Wind and the Sun, used in comparative IPA realizations.[18]

la .berbif. joi la .sol.

la .berbif. joi la .sol. puki darlu lejei ri jikau ra vlimau le drata kei

co'i lenu lo litru vi klama gi'e tagji dasni lo kamgla kosta .i lego'i cu tugni lenu le pamoi snada be lenu naldasri'a le litru le kosta du'o ru'a vlimau le drata .ibazibo la .berbif. cu rocrai brife .iku'i go ri vlimau brife gi le litru cu tagmau vaungau le kosta ra .ibaze'e la .berbif. .uu cu sisti lenu troci .ibabo la .sol. cu glare dirce .ibazibo le litru co'u dasni le kosta .iseki'ubo la .berbif. cu bilga lenu tugni ledu'u la .sol. vlimau

Tongue twisters[edit]

A Lojbanic poem (audio)[edit]


The Internet[edit]

The activities of Lojban speakers are mostly via the Internet:

The Logfest[edit]

Gatherings of Lojbanists have been organized in USA annually since as early as 1990, called Logfest. It is mostly informal, taking place on a weekend, with the only scheduled activity being the annual meeting of the LLG. Those who cannot be present may still be involved via IRC. Activities may be whatever the attendees want to do: Lojban conversation, lessons, technical discussions, or socializing.


The total number of Lojban speakers is unknown.

According to mw.lojban.org,[19] places known to have concentration of Lojbanists are:

As of August 2007, Frappr.com shows[20] that some people from the following countries are interested in or enthusiasts of the language:

Below are some of the notable personalities who have contributed to the development of Lojban:

Comparison with other logical languages[edit]


Loglan is now a generic term that refers both to James Cooke Brown's Loglan, and all languages descended from it. Since the organization that Dr. Brown established, The Loglan Institute (TLI), still calls its language Loglan, it is necessary to state that this section refers specifically to the TLI language, instead of the entire family of languages.

The principal difference between Lojban and Loglan is one of lexicon. A Washington DC splinter group, which later formed The Logical Language Group, LLG, decided in 1986 to remake the entire vocabulary of Loglan in order to evade Dr. Brown's claim of copyright to the language. After a lengthy battle in court, his claim to copyright was ruled invalid. But by then, the new vocabulary was already cemented as a part of the new language, which was called Lojban: A realization of Loglan by its supporters.

The closed set of five-letter words was the first part of the vocabulary to be remade. The words for Lojban were made by the same principles as those for Loglan; that is, candidate forms were chosen according to how many sounds they had in common with their equivalent in some of the most commonly spoken languages on Earth, which was then multiplied by the number of speakers of the languages with which the words had letters in common. The difference with the Lojban remake of the root words was that the weighting was updated to reflect the actual numbers of speakers for the languages. This resulted in word forms that had fewer sounds taken from English, and more sounds taken from Chinese. For instance, the Loglan word norma is equivalent to the Lojban word cnano (cf. Chinese 常, pinyin cháng), both meaning "normal".

Grammatical words were gradually added to Lojban as the grammatical description of the language was made.

Loglan and Lojban still have essentially the same grammars, and most of what is said in the Grammar section above holds true for Loglan as well. Most simple, declarative sentences could be translated word by word between the two languages; but the grammars differ in the details, and in their formal foundations. The grammar of Lojban is defined mostly in the language definition formalism Parsing Expression Grammar and YACC, with a few formal "pre-processing" rules. Loglan also has a machine grammar, but it is not definitive; it is based on a relatively small corpus of sentences that has remained unchanged through the decades, which takes precedence in case of a discrepancy.

There are also many differences in the terminology used in English to talk about the two languages. In his writings, Brown used many terms based on English, Latin and Greek, some of which were already established with a slightly different meaning. On the other hand, the Lojban camp freely borrowed grammatical terms from Lojban itself. For example, what linguists call roots or root words, Loglanists call primitives or prims, and Lojbanists call gismu. The lexeme of Loglan and selma'o of Lojban have nothing to do with the linguistic meaning of lexeme. It is a kind of part of speech, a subdivision of the set of grammatical words, or particles, which loglanists call little words and lojbanists cmavo. Loglan and Lojban have a grammatical construct called metaphor and tanru, respectively; this is not really a metaphor, but a kind of modifier-modificand relationship, similar to that of a noun adjunct and noun. A borrowed word in Loglan is simply called a borrowing; but in English discussions of Lojban, the Lojban word fu'ivla is used. This is probably because in Lojban, unlike Loglan, a certain set of CV templates is reserved for borrowed words.

In the new phonology for Lojban, the consonant q and the vowel w were removed, and the consonant h was replaced by x. The consonant ' (apostrophe) was added with the value of [h] in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but its distribution is such that it can appear only intervocally, and in discussions of the morphology and phonotactics, it is described not as a proper consonant, but a "voiceless glide". (This phoneme is realized as [θ] by some speakers.) A rigid phonotactical system was made for Lojban, but Loglan does not seem to have had such a system.


Lojsk was conceived by Ari Reyes, heavily influenced by Loglan, Lojban, Universal Networking Language (UNL), Esperanto, Visual Basic, Dutton's Speedwords, Ceqli and Gua\spi.[citation needed] It is designed to be more single-syllable oriented. If possible, that would nonetheless lead Lojsk to be more sensitive to noisy environments than Lojban is;[according to whom?] therefore its practicality in oral communication may be questioned.[1]


Voksigid,[23] created by an Internet working group led by Bruce R. Gilson, attempts to construct a predicate language of a different type from those which had gone before. Its syntax was somewhat influenced by Japanese, and its vocabulary was based mostly on European language roots. Loglan and Lojban both use word order to mark the various places in the predication, but because remembering which position means which role in the predication might be beyond easy memorization for most people, Voksigid was designed in order to overcome this issue. It uses an extensive set of very semantically specific prepositions to mark the roles of verb arguments, instead of positional order as in Loglan and Lojban.


gua\spi is a descendent of Loglan but is tonal, developed by Jim Carter. Instead of structure words there are in Gua\spi six different tones. Predicates have only one syllable instead of two. Some of its characteristics, including tones, phonotactics, expressions for masses vs sets, non-existence of metalinguistic negation, etc., received criticism.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York Times, the. Questions Answered: Invented Languages
  2. ^ Cowan, John. The Complete Lojban Language 13.11
  3. ^ Why I like Lojban
  4. ^ AI Newsletter corroborating from the Loglan side
  5. ^ Johansen, Arnt Richard. Why I like Lojban (accessed August 2007)
  6. ^ Lojban.org Official Baseline Statement
  7. ^ Cowan, John. The Complete Lojban Language 13.16
  8. ^ Lojban.org Official LLG Projects: Chrestomathy (accessed August 2007)
  9. ^ Cortesi, David. Lack of Geometry
  10. ^ Lojban.org Official LLG Projects (accessed August 2007)
  11. ^ Lojban.org Word Lists (accessed August 2007)
  12. ^ Kena. Vodka-Pomme: Considerations on writing: The case of lojban (accessed August 2007)
  13. ^ Cowan, John Woldemar. The Complete Lojban Language: 4.1 (accessed August 2007)
  14. ^ Nicholas, Nick, and John Cowan. What is Lojban?: 2.2 (accessed August 2007)
  15. ^ Nicholas, Nick. John Cowan. What Is Lojban? II.3
  16. ^ http://www.lojban.org/files/texts/northwind
  17. ^ mw.lojban.org Lojban around the world. 2014
  18. ^ Frappr.com Lojban (accessed August 2007)
  19. ^ Lojban.org LLG Members (accessed August 2010)
  20. ^ The song ca pa djedi (accessed February 2014)
  21. ^ Bruce R. Gilson's Voksigid page
  22. ^ John Cowan (2003) critique of Gua\spi

External links[edit]