lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 2. More about case


There is no particular word order between sibling objects: they can change places whenever desirable. It is a different matter with words in a predicate-object-relationship, since the predicate comes first by definition. However, the main predicate and one of its objects can change places by a process called inversion (symbol: ), swapping inner and outer cases of the initial object.

  helpà speakèi.[Someone] helps the speaker.
help-fact1 speak-nom-dat2.
speaká helpìe.The one being helped speaks [something].
speak-fact1 help-dat-nom2a.

There is a symmetry behind an inversion: in our example, both sentences claim that the sender of speaking is the recipient of helping. The equation is speakè. = helpì.. This might seem like toying around at the moment, but we will frequently encounter inversion in this tutorial.

The above sentences also illustrate that you can omit any object in a Lemizh sentence (such as the nominative ‘someone’ or the accusative ‘something’) without the risk of getting an ungrammatical sentence.

Any objects of the two inverted words have to be taken along.

  helpà speakèi warày3.Someone helps the teller of a war.
help-fact1 speak-nom-dat2 war-fact-acc3.
speaká help warày2.(‘war’ remains an object of ‘speak’)The one being helped tells someone about a war.
speak-fact1 help-dat-nom2a war-fact-acc2.

Inversion normally works only between the main predicate and one of its objects. Trying to invert a lower-level word and one of its objects would leave us with a word having two predicates, which is technically impossible.

From the viewpoint of a native Lemizh, inner case is inflection, not derivation: speakà. ‘speak’ and speakè. ‘speaker’ are forms of the same word, like ‘speak’ and ‘spoke’ in English.

Partitive cases

From each of the primary cases we can form a corresponding partitive case (abbreviated part) by adding the secondary case suffix n: thus, en represents the partitive nominative, arn the partitive locative, etc.

Partitive cases are, of course, defined by their descriptors, which are a bit abstract: ‘the set from which the sender (recipient, place, etc.) is thought to be taken’, or more informally ‘the type of the sender (recipient, place, etc.)’. These cases correspond more or less to English ‘some (of the), one of the’.

  twinkleà stareèn hemÌsi.The stars are the set from which the sender of twinkling is thought to be taken.
That which twinkles is from the set of stars / is of the type ‘star’.
Some of the stars twinkle at Seamus.
twinkle-fact1 star-nom-partnom2 Seamus-acc-dat2.
Starry sky, representing the set of stars, with a few of them singled out as the twinkling ones.

Strictly speaking: since the partitive only states that the twinklers are from the set of stars, but not how many of them, we cannot exclude the possibility that all of the stars twinkle at Seamus. The point is that the above sentence does not demand that all stars twinkle at Seamus. That’s another issue we will keep coming back to.

The other secondary case suffix, m denoting the qualitative cases, is treated in nutshell 6.

Inner partitive

Now we can use an inversion to find the meaning of the inner partitive cases.

  helpà speakèin.The speakers are the set from which the recipient of helping is thought to be taken.[He] is helping some of the speakers.
help-fact1 speak-nom-partdat2.
speaká helpìne.They who are being helped are from the set / of the type ‘speaker’.The one(s) being helped, among others, speak.
speak-fact1 help-partdat-nom2a.

1. A set of speakers, containing the subset of the one(s) being helped. 2. A set of speakers (or one speaker), identical to the set of the one(s) being helped. Hence the inner partitive translates as ‘among others’. If this doesn’t make sense, draw an image like the one with the stars above.

Again, we cannot rule out the possibility that all of the speakers are being helped. The strict translation is ‘(possibly) among others’, but the point of the inner partitive is that it opens the possibility that some of the speakers are not being helped.

The fact that a predicate has only one object of each case can pose a problem with a number of cases, notably instrumental, causative and consecutive, which are often used to describe just one of several tools, causes, and consequences, respectively. The solution is to construct such objects with an inner partitive.

  twinkleà staratmosphereÌnel.Stars twinkle because of the atmosphere [among other things such as temperature and the physical law of refraction].Stars twinkle because of the atmosphere.
twinkle-fact1 star-nom-nom2 atmosphere-partacc-caus2.

Nominative, accusative and dative

Just to remind you:

CaseDescriptorDenoted by
nominativesource, sendere
dativesink, recipienti

Every action (denoted by a word stem) is considered a flow of information that comes from a source (sender), reaches a sink (a recipient) and transports a content. The terms ‘sender’ and ‘recipient’ are more familiar, but ‘source’ and ‘sink’ are more accurate in not necessarily meaning living beings.

Consequently, a Lemizh action looks somewhat like this:


This is called the action’s plot. Here are some examples to familiarise you with the concept:

speakà.the one telling somethingthe talethe one who is told it
giveà.the one giving somethingthe giftthe one who is given it
helpà.the one helpingthe help giventhe one whom is helped
divideà.the one dividing somethingthe piecethe thing divided

Plot usage examples

Defective usage (a missing case)

Up till now, the flow of the plot was pretty clear: the tale’s path starts at the teller and reaches the one being told, the gift originates from the giver and reaches the one given it. But is the ground the recipient of a cloud’s snow like someone is the recipient of a tale, or is it just the endpoint of the snow’s way through the air? Depending on the answer to this question, the ground can be in the dative (i, recipient) or illative case (ir, end point), or possibly in the allative case (Ur, spatial aim). The latter choices are described as non-receiving plot usages, lacking an overt dative object.

the cloudthe snow[the ground]
  snowà groundÌi.It is snowing at the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-dat2.
snowà groundÌir.It is snowing / Snow is falling onto the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-ill2.
snowà groundÌUr.It is snowing / Snow is falling towards the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-all2.

Similar distinctions can be seen in the sentence pairs ‘I am painting the wall-datvs. ‘I am painting (applying colour) onto the wall-ill’, ‘I am jumping at you-datvs. ‘I am jumping onto/into you-ill’, etc.

There are also non-sending plot usages (no overt nominative), mainly when an inanimate English subject is translated as a means or cause rather than a source: ‘The wind-ins/caus opens the door’ vs. ‘The wind-nom opens the door’. Non-transporting plot usages (no overt accusative) usually occur when the content is (more or less) identical to the action itself:

the one behaving in some way[the behaviour]the recipient of the behaviour, the one at whom the behaviour is addressed

Ambiguous usage (dative = accusative)

‘you’ in the sentence ‘I love you’ can be seen as a recipient (sink), someone whom the love reaches, like words reach their recipient in ‘I speak to you’. Needless to say, a dative expresses this notion. (This does not necessarily mean that the love is returned, any more than you need to respond when I am speaking to you.) On the other hand, ‘you’ can be interpreted as the content of love, the one being lovingly thought of, as in ‘I speak about you’, requiring an accusative. Again, it is the speaker’s choice which of these roles of the beloved is more important, or whether the dative is appropriate at all (which it isn’t if I love Lucy Pevensie, making this an example of a non-receiving use).

the one loving[the beloved]the beloved
the one lovingthe belovednobody at all

The same goes for other verbs of emotion (‘like, hate, scorn, fear/be afraid of, miss’ etc.) as well as ‘search, look for something’. The difference between receiving and non-receiving usage can be seen in ‘be angry with’ vs. ‘be angry about’.

Reflexive usage (nominative = another case)

Sender and recipient can be the same (self-receiving), as in ‘eat’ or ‘read (to oneself)’. If they are, the nominative or dative can be used depending on the more important part of the plot, or both cases can be included by means of a pronoun (see nutshell 4). If nominative and dative are not identical, the same words translate as ‘feed’ or ‘read (to someone)’, respectively.

the one moving the forkthe foodthe one getting the food into them

Contrary to what Indo-European speakers might do intuitively, the dative is the better choice in most situations: you usually eat to get food into your stomach, and you read to get information into your brain.

Sender and content can also be identical (self-transporting), most notably in verbs of movement and placement (‘move, rise, fall, sit down, lie down, hide’). Keep in mind that such verbs can be used in a non-receiving (say, with the illative as the target of placement) or receiving way (with the dative); and they can be used in a non-sending (say, with a causative) or sending way; so we have quite a number of subtle differences we can express.

the children[chairs]

If the content differs from the sender, the same words mean ‘move something, raise, seat, lay down, fell/let fall, hide something’, respectively.

Causal-reflexive usage (causative or persuasive = another case)

Verbs of emotion can also equate the dative with the causative (el, cause) or persuasive (Ol, reason) (causal-receiving). Being liable to ambiguous usage, this means they can also equate accusative and causative/persuasive (causal-transporting). If you enrage me and I think of you, um, ragefully, I can see you as the cause as well as the content of my rage. If my rage reaches you, you are the recipient. If I laugh at you, you are the reason as well as the recipient of my lauging. No offence meant. You get the meaning.


Note that there is no rule saying which verb to use in which of these ways (if any). The limits are only drawn by common sense. Who would use ‘cough’ with a self-transporting plot structure and thus identify himself with the content of his coughing?

All of these examples can be applied to inner cases, of course. loveÌ. and loveì. both mean ‘the beloved’, but only the former implies that he or she is reached by the love.


In sentences with the verb ‘get’, the nominative and dative cases are swapped as compared to ‘give’.

  dà lusyì bottleyÌ fOpysrÌfe.Lucy-dat gets a bottle from Father Christmas-nom.
get-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

If you know something about inflecting languages such as Latin, or if you recall the previous nutshell and think of the sentence ‘She gets a bottle from me’, you will notice that the cases seem to be the wrong way round: shouldn’t Lucy be in the nominative?

  But all Lemizh verbs follow the plot, and so the above sentence literally means:
dà lusyì bottleyÌ fOpysrÌfe.Father Christmas-nom gives Lucy-dat a bottle.
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

giveà. and getà. are actually the same word in Lemizh, and so it’s correct! Having one translation for both ‘Lucy gets a bottle from Father Christmas’ (the receptive viewpoint) and ‘Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle’ (the dative viewpoint) is fine in many situations, but not always. In nutshell 5, we will learn how to formally distinguish dative and receptive verbs.

Other examples of English receptive verbs include ‘experience, suffer, notice, become, turn into’, as well as the passive voice.

  dà lusyì bottleyÌ fOpysrÌfe.Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle.Lucy is given a bottle by Father Christmas.
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

Other cases

Most cases apart from nominative, dative and accusative correspond to English prepositional phrases, as we have already seen in the some of the examples above. There is no one-to-one correspondence between English prepositions and Lemizh cases.

  wolfwitchèU.(The witch is the beneficiary.)The wolf did it for the witch.
do-fact1 wolf-acc-nom2a witch-nom-ben2.
boyyè droUwrÌdjUl.(Turkish Delight is the aim.)The boy did it for Turkish Delight.
do-fact1 boy-acc-nom2a TurkishDelight-acc-fin2.


As we have seen in the previous nutshell, there are two ways to denote a level that is lower by 1, or, in other words, to denote the first object of a predicate: either by a low or by a high pitch inner case vowel. High pitch indicates that the object is its predicate’s agent, i.e. the source of the intention or will (more informally, the one who does the action); low pitch leaves the agent unnamed.

  dá fOpysryfè beaverÌi.Father Christmas gives something to the beaver. The beaver gets something from Father Christmas.
give-fact1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a beaver-acc-dat2.
dà beaverÌi.The beaver gets something.
give-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2.
dá beaveryì fOpysrÌfe.The beaver takes something from Father Christmas.
give-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2a FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

‘give/get’ and ‘take’ are the same word in Lemizh, they only differ in their agentive object: nominative and dative, respectively.

Agent- and action-centred cases

The agent-centred cases – numbers 5 to 8 in each group, i.e. the ones having a rounded vowel in their ending – describe the action from the viewpoint of the agent: he does it for a beneficiary (benefactive case), because of a reason (persuasive), with a purpose (final) in mind, using a tool (instrumental), etc. This even holds if the agent is not explicitly named. The cases with lower numbers are independent of a will; they are more in a line with things like physical causes (causative) and effects (consecutive) and are termed action-centred (that is, centred on the word stem itself).

Last significant change: 23 Nov 2014

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