From The Toaq Wiki

Toaq is a loglang, which means that from any sentence, we can unambiguously derive its meaning in logic notation. Syntax describes how this process works; semantics describes how to interpret the result.

The refgram tells you that 󱚼󱚲󱛍󱚹 󱚵󱚲󱛍󱛃 󱚺󱛊󱚺 󱛘󱚷󱚹󱛂󱚻󱚺󱛙 󱚵󱛌󱚹󱛍󱚴 󱛘󱚵󱛊󱚺󱛎󱛃󱛄󱚲󱛍󱚺󱛙 Luı nuo sá tıqra nîe náokua translates to . The reality is that this isn't "just" logic notation: it's a very specific notation that has been purpose-built for describing natural language semantics, and this article will help you understand the core concepts behind it.


To help us reason about meaning more directly, mathematicians have come up with the idea of a model: a mathematical object that tells us exactly how to interpret statements in a given formal language. In its most basic form, a model has three parts:

  • A signature, which is the set of all words and symbols found in the language, along with their syntactic properties.
  • A domain, which is the set of all objects, functions, relations, etc. that the language is capable of representing.
  • An interpretation, which is a function defining which symbols correspond to which elements of the domain.

For example, consider the language of basic arithmetic. A model for this language might look like this:

Arithmetic model.svg

As it turns out, Toaq is a formal language too, which means we can reason about it using models. Now, being a human language, Toaq's semantics are quite a bit more complicated than that of arithmetic, but luckily for us, models are a pretty flexible concept, and we can extend them with extra features as we need them.

In its most basic form, a model for Toaq might look something like this:

Toaq model.svg

As you can see, this model holds not just concepts like the meaning of "muao", but also context-sensitive information, such as what "káto" and "jí" refer to.

Say that you have an idea of what the world is like—maybe you have a mental model in your head, or maybe you have a database to look things up in. If your knowledge is complete enough, then that model lets you answer a question, or tell whether what someone said is true, by interpreting their words and then "looking up" the answer. But more often than not, people are working with incomplete knowledge. In this case, if someone tells you something, a model lets you interpret their words and then work backwards from the meaning to figure out what must be true about the world.

A note for the adventurous: There are alternative approaches to semantics that don't involve models, such as proof-theoretic semantics, which says that the meaning of a statement is determined purely by its relationships to other statements in a formal proof system. There have been some attempts to apply this approach to Lojban and Toaq semantics[1][2], but when it comes to natural language semantics, the model-based approach described here is far more common.

Semantic calculus

Now, we're ready to talk about notation. When you see something like , what you're looking at are a bunch of things from the domain of the model. A lot of these words (, , , , ) are functions; some others () represent literal "things" from the domain, like physical objects, people, and ideas, which we'll call individuals. Together, these words form an expression that shows you how to calculate the truth value of a specific sentence (in this case, 󱚵󱚴󱛍󱛃 󱚺󱛊󱚺 󱛘󱛄󱚺󱚷󱛃󱛙 󱛘󱚰󱛊󱚲󱛍󱚺󱛎󱛃󱛙 Neo sá kato múao), given that you have the model.

There's an important subtlety here: In languages like English and mathematics, you can use words to form statements such as "The sky is blue" and "", or you can use them to form smaller expressions, like "the author of this book" and "". But in the semantic notation we're looking at, there are no statements, only expressions, because the point of semantics is to examine the values that things denote, including the values of statements themselves. As such, it doesn't make sense to call this a "logic notation", because on its own, it can't form statements. Instead, we'll call it a semantic calculus.

One interesting thing about this notation is that every expression has a type, like some programming languages do. These include:

  • , the type of individuals, which encompasses everything you can refer in Toaq. This is a rather broad category, so to help us get more specific when we need it, it includes a couple of subtypes:
    • , the type of events (things that can happen). More on them later.
    • , the type of time intervals
  • , the type of truth values, such as 'true' and 'false'
  • , the type of worlds (frames of reference to evaluate claims by). More on them later.

There are also functions, for which we use angle brackets: is the type of functions that take an event as their input, and return a truth value as their output. Functions can take or return other functions: for example, is the type of functions that take a function from events to truth values, and return a function from time intervals to truth values.

To keep all these types straight, we give each a dedicated set of variables:

  • for individuals
    • for events
    • for time intervals
  • for worlds
  • for functions (the exact type is left to context)

It turns out we don't need variables for truth values, so we don't assign them any.

Be careful when reading these letters, because italics are meaningful. There are some tricky pairs of symbols such as , which is a world variable, versus , which is a constant referring to the real world, and , which is a time interval variable, versus , which is a constant referring to the salient time interval.

Another important feature of this language is that it has a special syntax for writing functions, known as a lambda expression. They're easy to spot because they start with the Greek letter , and have two components: a variable name representing the function's input, and an expression representing the function's output. For example, is a function that takes a value as its input, and outputs the value . Since is a variable of type , and is an expression of type , we can tell that this function has type . Similarly, is a function of type which computes whether is an event of the speaker whispering.

You can apply these lambda functions to an argument in the same way you would apply a named function: by placing them before their argument, surrounded with parentheses. For example, if we say that is the function , then and are two ways of saying the same thing—they both evaluate to .


TODO don't forget to explain




A proposition is, in the broadest sense, anything that bears a truth value, such as a fact, a belief, or the meaning of a sentence. We can say that the sentence "The Earth is a planet" expresses the proposition that the Earth is a planet, and likewise, in the sentence "I believe that I saw a ghost", we can identify "that I saw a ghost" as referring to the proposition that the speaker saw a ghost.

In Toaq, we can use the complementizer 󱛁󱚺󱛋 ꝡä to create a reference to a proposition, which can then become the complement of another verb. So, our semantic theory needs to account for this construct, and it turns out that it's best to use two different "implementations" of propositions for this purpose.

The first implementation is propositions as functions. The idea is to interpret a complementizer phrase as a function which takes a world as an input, and outputs the truth value of the proposition in that world (type ). So for example, in 󱚿󱚹 󱚾󱛊󱚹 󱛔 󱛁󱚺󱛋 󱚸󱚺 󱚻󱚲󱛂󱛀󱚲󱛍󱚺 Chı jí, ꝡä za ruqshua, we would interpret the complementizer phrase as , and pass this as an argument to the main verb, giving . Note that it would be wrong to interpret the complementizer phrase as , because this evaluates to a simple truth value, which fails to capture the statement's semantic content. No one goes around saying "I believe [TRUE]" or "I believe [FALSE]". By using a function, we capture the statement's intension (its abstract connotation) rather than its extension (the concrete value held by the statement in the real world).

TODO: finish



  1. brismu, a sketch of an inferential approach to Lojban semantics
  2. Hoemuı, the beginnings of a sketch of an inferential approach to Toaq semantics (super outdated)