lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 5. Sentence grammar

Lemizh does not differentiate between sentences, clauses, captions and other kinds of utterances. Every grammatical unit above the word is considered a sentence (or a sequence of sentences) and thus subject to the rules of sentence grammar. Indeed, even words are cited as one-word sentences – with a full stop at the end: sxnèz. ‘sun’ –, as you have seen in previous nutshells.

You already know three of the rules from nutshell 1. Here they are again:

One. Sentence structure

A word of level n is subordinate to the nearest word of level n−1 in front of it; the parole is of level zero.

Two. Definition of objects

An object of a word in a sentence is a word subordinate to the former, its predicate, plus all of its own objects.

Three. Outer case

The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem via its descriptor; the outer case of a level 1 word is zero.

These are the remaining rules:

Four. Identity of action

An instance of a word stem designates a specific action.

When you instantiate (say or write) a word stem, for example the one in weaveà., you are thinking of one certain action – one of weaving in our example. This may involve the action of several weavers (as in ‘We are weaving’), the use of several threads or the production of several cloths. It need not even be temporally or spatially connected (as in ‘We are weaving every Thursday morning’). In other words, you are thinking of a certain subset of all the weaving there is. Everything referring to your instance (i.e. the word itself, its objects and relative pronouns) refers to this same subset, to this action of weaving.

Naming the same word (weaveà.) for a second time creates a second instance, which may or may not be identical to the first instance. Recall the difference between speaká wìe. ‘He is speaking to himself: the sender of speaking is the recipient of the same action of speaking’ and speaká speakìe. ‘The one being spoken to is speaking: the sender of an action of speaking is the recipient of an action of speaking, but not necessarily the same’.

We will sometimes informally say that weaveè. instantiates a person or a group of people when we really mean its stem instantiates the action of weaving that defines the weaver(s).

The following two rules qualify or narrow down this subset; they provide additional information about it.

Five. Completeness of cases

A case characterises the action it refers to completely with regard to its case descriptor.

When you have instantiated a word stem, you can add objects to describe its associated subset more specifically, to restrict it. For example, you could add a nominative object. If you do so, it has to name the complete sender – meaning that a nominative object ‘father’ excludes from your instance of weaveà. all weaving that is not done by father. A temporal object ‘every Thursday morning’ excludes all other times he weaves. A dative ‘wool’ … but you get the idea. In this way you can say more and more precisely what subset of all weaving you meant when you said weaveà.. However, this rule can only define an outer border for your subset. Leaving out the locative does not mean that you refer to all places where father is weaving wool every Thursday morning.

The same applies to inner case. Brackets (and coordinations) are important applications of Rules Four and Five. In the phrase manÌ speakèy., the man is the same as the speaker because both words cover the content of the same instance (Rule Four) of man-making completely; the predicate via its inner case, the object via its outer case.

Finally, the inner cases of relative pronouns are also covered by this rule. Using pronouns to refer to things that have already been introduced ensures that we are referring to the same things, not to new ones of the same kind: recall these two examples.

Six. Irrelevancy of missing objects

A missing object is equivalent to the irrelevancy of any information about its descriptor.

Per Rule Five, woolÌ. does not necessarily denote all the wool there is. Father might be weaving only goat’s wool, but this information simply has not been included in the sentence; the nominative object ‘goat’ has been omitted (the nominative because the goat made the wool). Now Rule Six demands that an object can only – and must – be omitted if the contained information is irrelevant. Typical reasons are:

Another example: 1/1Ì roomÌyn. ‘all rooms’ does not necessarily describe all rooms there are, because roomÌ. could have a missing object greenÌ.. If so, the object of 1/1Ì. would only be the ‘green rooms’ (which is, incidentally, a good example of the importance of Rule Two). Rule Six says that greenÌ. can only be omitted if it is irrelevant – so if it is missing, and it isn’t clear from context that we are speaking only about green rooms, we can safely conclude that the mentioned phrase is really intended to mean ‘all rooms there are’.

Rules Five and Six imply that every instance of a word has exactly one action, one sender, and so on: Five excludes additional senders if one nominative object is already present, and Six gives meaning to omitted objects, establishing them as a necessary part of Lemizh sentance grammar.

Seven. Degree of reality

Given an object and its predicate, the predicate is considered more real and the object more hypothetical.

By saying wantà hearày sokratÌse. ‘I want to hear Socrates’ you claim that the main predicate (‘I want’) corresponds to something in the real world, but you make no such claim about the object: we don’t know whether you are really hearing, or whether you are really going to hear Socrates. The verb ‘hear’ corresponds to something in a hypothetical (possible) world, the world of your wish. By saying believeà wantày hearày sokratÌse. ‘I believe I want to hear Socrates’ you only claim that ‘I believe’ corresponds to something in the real world, while the other two verbs, so to say, are pushed down one degree of reality. ‘want’ becomes hypothetical, and ‘hear’ even more so.

This rule, finally, ensures that sentences claim something about the world. It implies that the set specified by the main predicate (as described in the previous rules) is not empty.

Some consequences of Rule Seven:

Compounding Rule Two revisited

Per Rule Two of compounding, ‘in the relationship between the original predicate and object (modifier and head of the compound), the rules of sentence grammar are retained as far as applicable’.


Up till now, our example sentences had main predicates with inner factives, meaning that they were talking about the reality of their main predicates’ actions, per Rule Seven. We say that these sentences had the factive topicalised. Other cases can be topicalised instead – we have just had a glimpse of this when we mentioned that the noun phrase tellè warày. actually means ‘A teller of a war exists; there is a teller of a war’. This was a sentence with a topicalised nominative.

  seeà mÌse lÌbvy.I see some white mice.
see-fact1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.
seeè mÌse lÌbvy.The seen things, white mice, (exist.)There are some white mice I see.
see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.

Dative and receptive verbs

Lemizh verbs corresponding to dative/receptive word pairs (‘give’ vs. ‘get’) can be topicalised to formally distinguish the dative from the receptive viewpoint.

  giveè bottleÌy.The giver of a bottle (exists.)Someone gives a bottle.
give-nom1 bottle-acc-acc2.
giveì bottleÌy.The recipient of a bottle (exists.)Someone gets a bottle.
give-dat1 bottle-acc-acc2.
giveà bottleÌy.The action of giving a bottle (exists.)Someone gives / Someone gets a bottle. (neutral form)
give-fact1 bottle-acc-acc2.


The English perfect signifies the consequence of a completed action: ‘I have built bridges’ = ‘The bridges are built, they exist now’. To phrase a sentence about the consequence in Lemizh, we topicalise the consecutive case (il, direct consequence, effect).

  bridgeìl vèe.The consequence of making bridges (exists.)I have built bridges.
bridge-cons1 PIn−2-nom-nom2.
giveíl FatherChristmasyè lusyì bottleÌy.The consequence of giving a bottle (exists.)Father Christmas has given Lucy a bottle.
give-cons1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2.

Stative verbs

English stative verbs such as ‘have got, possess’ (‘have been given’), ‘mean’ (‘have been given [a] meaning’), ‘know’ (‘have been taught’, but also ‘have seen, have heard, have read’ etc.), ‘be, exist’ (‘have been made’) are typically receptive and perfect, and are translated accordingly. Note that the literal translations (‘have been given’) are somewhat misleading: it is not required that someone has given it. (Recall that a case can denote ‘no one/nothing at all’, but it will still exist.)

  giveìl lusyì bottleÌy.Lucy has been given a bottle. (The consequence of this action exists.)Lucy has got / possesses a bottle.
give-cons1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2.
faunìl.Fauns have been made.There are fauns. Fauns exist.
mìl bakeèy.Bakers have been made.There are bakers. Bakers exist.
make-cons1 bake-nom-acc2.

The last sentence is a pseudo-desorption, a contruction that would be a desorption if bakeè. were a sub-category verb of its predicate mà. (that is, if it were a nominal verb), with an inner accusative. In this way, bakeè. can be treated grammatically as if it were a nominal verb with an inner accusative. The sentence is parallel to mìl faunÌy., only that the latter can be absorbed into faunìl..

‘have got, possess’ can often be translated simply as a genitive.

  bottleÌ lusÌU.A bottle for Lucy / Lucy’s bottle (exists.)Lucy has got / possesses a bottle.
bottle-acc1 Lucy-acc-ben2.

Other cases

Needless to say, each and every case can be topicalised. The tentive (o, intention) signifies that just the intention to perform an action exists. The ingressive (eR, starting time) and egressive cases (iR, closing time) express the beginning and ending of an action, respectively. The final (Ul, purpose, aim) means that a purpose has been achieved.

  searchÙl snrÌki.The aim of searching (exists.)I’ve found the Snark-dat.
search-fin1 Snark-acc-dat2.

The meaning of this sentence is not that I have an aim for my search in mind, but that the aim (i.e. finding the Snark) exists in the real world.

Objects of topicalised verbs

How shall we translate ‘I found it by chance-caus’? Because of Rule Three (‘The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem …’), searchÙl chanceÌel. would mean something like ‘I found it, having searched for it by chance’. To solve this, we convert the ‘aim of searching’ (the ‘finding’) into an action in its own right by a pseudo-desorption; the new action can then accept objects. Recall that là. is ‘the act’.

  là searchUlà chanceÌel.The aim of searching is an action; this action happened by chance.I found it by chance.
do-fact1 search-fin-fact2 chance-acc-caus2.


PredicativePredicate nounPredicate adjective and participle
of the subject:He is a lace-maker.She is beautiful.
of the object:Susan calls Lucy a goose.She paints the bridge green. Let’s call it finished.

In Indo-European languages, the predicative is a part of a sentence that ‘predicates’ (describes) the subject or object. In the simplest situations, it is a noun, adjective, participle (or pronoun). Predicatives can also be longer noun phrases (‘He is an old, bearded lace-maker’).

In Lemizh, the distinctions displayed in the table above are lost. Predicatives of both subject and object turn into accusative or dative objects. (We will see examples of both cases below.) You already know that nouns, adjectives and participles behave quite the same in Lemizh. Longer noun phrases simply become objects that consist of more than one word.

Predicate noun

In the chapter on concrete nouns we have seen how ‘The thread becomes lace’ is translated. ‘The thread is lace’ is the consequence (‘is’ being stative verb), so we topicalise the consecutive case.

  laceìl threadÌi.The thread-dat has become / has been made into lace.The thread is lace.
lace-cons1 thread-acc-dat2.

The object predicate noun is straightforward. They normally talk about actions, not states, and thus have a main predicate with the factive (or some other non-consecutive case) topicalised.

  callá susnyè lusyì gooseÌy.Susan calls Lucy a goose.
call-fact1 Susan-acc-nom2a Lucy-acc-dat2 goose-acc-acc2.

Predicate adjective and participle

Now for the adjectival and participial predicatives.

  beautifulìl femaleÌi.The woman has become / has been made beautiful.The woman is beautiful.
beautiful-cons1 female-acc-dat2.

Object predicate adjectives again have main predicates with a non-consecutive case. Recall the definition of the plot. The second example is somewhat like a desorption from the first.

  greenà bridgeÌi.She makes (colours, paints) the bridge green.
green-fact1 bridge-acc-dat2.
paintà bridgeyì greenÌy.She paints the bridge green.
paint-fact1 bridge-acc-dat2 green-acc-acc2.

Last significant change: 13 Mar 2017

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