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Suppose we want to translate the whole of Wikipedia from English into Lojban, what are the main known big limitations or concerns we should be aware of? In other words, does Lojban as a language have sufficient expressive power for being translated from English?

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  • There is a Lojban Wikipedia.
    – Corbin
    Feb 8, 2018 at 23:35
  • A considerable amount of texts (from a conlang point of view) has been translated to lojban; perhaps it doesn't answer you answer, but it's at least convincing.
    – mklcp
    Feb 9, 2018 at 12:53
  • One limitation: I'm reluctant to study it because I find its words ugly. Oct 9, 2018 at 18:30

2 Answers 2

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Length

A few things. First, Lojban often needs longer sentences to express something than it does in, for example, English.

Vocabulary

Secondly, Lojban's vocabulary isn't that big, especially in the domain of sciences. Words would have to be calqued, adapted from English, French, etc. or completely re-invented.

Loaning and naming

Thirdly, the English language (and many natural languages) loans words directly (for example, champagne could be *shampain and buoy could be *boy or *boi) without changing spelling (a slight counterexample would be German, which often changes the letter c pronounced [k] to the letter k, like Kanada and Vokabular).

Lojban doesn't. .romas. is Rome (Italy), .xavanas. is Havanas (Cuba) and .lidz. is Leeds (UK). This makes it confusing in some cases. How would Lojban adapt Turra Coo or people like Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela? The name should stay recognisable but pronounceable.

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  • And though Lojban handles such slightly modified loans (called stage-2 fu'ivla), loaning many words would be a bit lameful, since Lojban has also a system to build compound words from native root-words.
    – mklcp
    Feb 13, 2018 at 21:39
  • Also, not more puns with Lojban.
    – Duncan
    Apr 23, 2018 at 8:47
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    I don't see how any of these are limitations with Lojban specifically. The length of a translated text is always going to vary from the source, and may often be longer because you have to include fluff to express information you naturally express in one language but not the other. Vocabulary can be built on, especially with compound words and loans. Why should loanwords be spelled the same as their source language, and trick readers into horribly mispronouncing names? I spell "karate", not 空手道. I also wish to see how you would translate that quote in any naturalistic language.
    – TUSF
    Sep 16, 2018 at 20:29
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    Why is Romas confusing and Rome isn't for a place named Roma?
    – prosfilaes
    Feb 23 at 22:32
  • @prosfilaes It's .romas., not Romas. Lojban doesn't use capital letters and cmene/names must be surrounded with periods. Also, there's no consistency with this sort of borrowing. On Lojban Wikipedia, the name Wikipedia is variously rendered as .uitkipediias., .uikipedi'as., and .uikipidi,ys., among others.
    – Andrew Ray
    Mar 14 at 18:26
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One of Lojban's most famous features is, of course, its lack of syntactic ambiguity. While this is an advantage in some cases, it can also be a limitation. It wouldn't likely be an issue in something like Wikipedia, but does make certain kinds of wordplay impossible. Take for example this exchange from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:

'Who did you pass on the road?' the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay.

'Nobody,' said the Messenger.

'Quite right,' said the King: 'this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.'

'I do my best,' the Messenger said in a sulky tone. 'I'm sure nobody walks much faster than I do!'

'He can't do that,' said the King, 'or else he'd have been here first.'

In Lojban there is no way to conflate "nobody" meaning "no person" with "Nobody" meaning "someone named Nobody", because proper names are always preceded with the article "la". Other works that rely on wordplay based in syntactic ambiguity would also present major difficulties in translating to Lojban.

That said, there is a Lojban translation of Alice in Wonderland, so these difficulties aren't necessarily insurmountable.

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    But some languages also are unable to translate it and would explain the English version. In that way, Lojban is like those languages and the difference is not per se constructed but natural too.
    – Duncan
    Feb 21, 2018 at 19:24
  • @Duncan that is true, but I suppose those languages have their own wordplays. Lojban theoretically would not be able to have any wordplay like this, right?
    – Nacht
    Sep 6, 2021 at 2:02

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