Lojban: The Language of the Future for Both Humans and Bots?


Lojban is an experiment in constructing a human language which could be universally understood by humans from different cultural backgrounds and unambiguously parsed by bots.

Lojban (pronounced loʒban, where «ʒ» is like «s» in «pleasure») can serve as a speakable language, a literary language, an intellectual device for creative writing, a potential machine interlingua, a programming language, and even a speakable logic.

In Lojban, the meaning specified by the speaker cannot be interpreted entirely differently from how it was intended. Also, a Lojban sentence, spoken the right way, is uniquely segmentable into its component words—an invaluable characteristic for the computer parsing of speech. Lojban is described in its reference grammar as lacking syntactic ambiguity, just like most programming languages.

Imagine, you just send a voice or text message to your city administration and get what you need without filling out complicated forms or humans interfering. Or you call to a call center and solve problems without long discussions with operators. Or imagine a programmer simply dictating instructions that can be univocally translated into program code. It supposes everyone speaks Lojban of course, but maybe it would be cheaper in the future to teach it at school than to manually process infinite user requests. 🙂

If a language is unambiguous, then one’s words can easily be legally binding. If we speak blockchain, I can imagine a DAO (a blockchain-based decentralised autonomous organisation) running smart contracts which use a universal, legally binding, unambiguously parsable language.

On the other hand, Lojban isn’t a soulless, rigid language. It can be vague if one wants it to be. It also has a nice feature, attitudinals. These are essentially spoken emoticons which can be dropped in anywhere to spice up a sentence.

Lojban has been built for over fifty years (that is including its predecessor, Loglan). Its 1341 root words were created from the six most widely spoken languages (as of 1987)—Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. It has a live community of speakers expanding its vocabulary day by day.

And to expand our horizons a bit more, here’s an inspiring Youtube channel on constructing languages called The Art of Language Invention. It’s hosted by David Peterson, creator of the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for «Game of Thrones». David’s been creating languages for more than fifteen years and published a book on the subject—a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers.

Useful Links

For Coders

  • Lojban on GitHub
  • la ilmentufa, a collection of formal grammars and syntactical parsers for the Lojban language, as well as related tools and interfaces

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