lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 6. Comparison, time and space

Comparing quality

In this chapter we will discuss sentences comparing a quality, such as ‘Othello behaves like mad’. Here ‘like mad’ is the comparing object, and ‘Othello’ is the compared object. In Lemizh, the comparing object is in the qualitative case (abbreviated qual) corresponding to the case of the compared object. As already mentioned, the qualitative cases are marked by adding the secondary case suffix m to the case marker. The case descriptors for qualitative cases are ‘the basis of comparison [located in the same hypothetical world as all others] for the sender (recipient, place, etc.)’. The compared object need not be overt, but if it is, we get a qualitative coordination.

  behaveá otelytè madèem.Othello behaves like a mad one (a madman).Othello behaves like mad.
behave-fact1 Othello-acc-nom2a mad-nom-qualnom2.

Note that the madman is the basis of comparison for the sender of behaving, not the basis of comparison for the sender of behaving (= Othello). What is compared is the behaviour (of Othello) with regard to its sender; Othello isn’t in any way like a madman, except for his behaviour.

Adjectives of comparison and similar attributes are formed straightforwardly with qualitative brackets. Compounding is also an option.

  friendè fatherèem.a friend like a father (but see Adjectives of possession)a paternal friend
friend-nom1 father-nom-qualnom2.
colourÌ snÌwym. colourymsnÌw.coloured like snowsnow-coloured, snow-white
colour-acc1 snow-acc-qualacc2. colour-qualacc-snow-acc1.

Comparison of partitive and qualitative cases

behaveà madn lieàOl.behaveà madm lieàOl.
A set of madmen, containing a subset of one showing some behaviour becaue of a lieA set of madmen, adjcent to a set of one showing some behaviour becaue of a lie
Some (or one) of the madmen show some behaviour because of a lie.Someone behaves like mad because of a lie.

The darker shaded areas represent what the sentences claim per Rule Seven. The areas in the right-hand image touch to symbolise that they are alike but don’t overlap – it is only as if they did.

Comparing quantity


The difference between qualitative and quantitative comparison is only semantic. The first, so to say, is multi-dimensional, while the latter is one-dimensional.

  thicky1/4ìl fantasyyÌ airÌym.Fantasy is as thin as air.
thick-acc-1/4-cons1 fantasy-acc-acc2 air-acc-qualacc2.

Attributes are qualitative brackets.

  peacefulíl maleÌy wiseÌy cènym.Men as wise as if they were us are peaceful. (agentive)Men as wise as we keep the peace.
peaceful-cons1 male-acc-acc2a wise-acc-acc3 PIn−4-partnom-qualacc4.

Verbs of comparison

Two adjectival verbs serve as verbs of comparison.

comparative verbtàcd.moreto make more, to make a larger amount
superlative verbàst.mostto make the most, to make the largest amount

A simple application of these verbs is their – adjectival – use in (cumulative or partitive) brackets.

  moreÌ yvÌ (drinkÌym).more food (than drink)
more-acc1 eat-acc-acc2 (drink-acc-qualacc2).
moreÌ Ìvyn.more of the food
more-acc1 eat-acc-partacc2.
mostÌ Ìvyn.most [of the] food
most-acc1 eat-acc-partacc2.

Verbs of comparison are often combined with abstract nouns based on adjectival verbs, i.e. with an inner consecutive. From such constructions, we can derive adverbial usage of ‘more’ and ‘most’ by topicalisation, inversion and compounding.

  moreÌ beautifulìly.more beauty
more-acc1 beautiful-cons-acc2.
moreìl beautifulìly.The beauty is (something that is) more.
more-cons1 beautiful-cons-acc2.
beautifulÌ moreÌil.the more beautiful one, more beautiful
beautiful-acc1 more-acc-cons2.
  mostìl beautifulìly.The beauty is (something that is) most.
most-cons1 beautiful-cons-acc2.
beautifulÌ mostÌil.the most beautiful one, most beautiful
beautiful-acc1 most-acc-cons2.


Let us now proceed to comparative sentences. The simplest of these are just basic comparisons such as the ones with moreà. above. What we get is essentially like predicate adjectives.

  fastilmoreÌ horseÌy tÌy.(appositive)the faster one, this horse
fast-cons-more-acc1 horse-acc-acc2 this-acc-acc3.
fastilmoreìl horseÌy tÌy.(stative verb ‘is’)This horse is faster.
fast-cons-more-cons1 horse-acc-acc2 this-acc-acc3.
  With a comparing object:
fastilmoreìl horseÌy tyý 1/1Ìym.This horse is faster than all [others].
fast-cons-more-cons1 horse-acc-acc2 this-acc-acc3 1/1-acc-qualacc2.

This is yet another example of Rule Two (an object is a subordinate word plus all of its own objects): the object of moreà. is not ‘fast’ but ‘This horse is as fast as all [others]’ or, translating the consecutive as an abstract noun, ‘the speed of this horse in comparison to all [others]’ – so the sentence literally means ‘The speed of this horse in comparison to all [others] is more’. It is also an example of Rule Six (irrelevancy of missing objects): ‘others’ has to be omitted because the horse cannot be faster than itself.

Attributes are of course brackets.


Again, we make use of the constructions described above, this time with the superlative verb mostà.. A qualitative coordination is not very helpful here; but a partitive one can define the basic set for the comparison.

  wittyilmostìl botmybè (weaveèen).Bottom is the wittiest (of the weavers).
Bottom is the wittiest weaver.
witty-cons-most-cons1 Bottom-acc-nom2 (weave-nom-partnom2).

The accusative object of mostà. is ‘Bottom is a witty one from the set of weavers’, or as an abstract noun ‘the wit of Bottom from the set of weavers’; yielding ‘The wit of Bottom from the set of weavers is the most’.

With superlative attributes, note (again) the difference between partitive and cumulative brackets.

  wittyilmostè weaveèen.the wittiest one from the set of weaversthe wittiest weaver
witty-cons-most-nom1 weave-nom-partnom2.
wittyilmostè weaveèe.the wittiest one, who is a weaver
witty-cons-most-nom1 weave-nom-nom2.

Time and space

Temporal and spatial verbs

A beaver as the reference object of a coordinate system. The first axis points from tail to head, the second upwards, and the third from left to right. ‘far’ is somewhere in the distance, ‘ouside’ outside the beaver’s body, and ‘between’ is between its paws.

Temporal and spatial verbs are adjective-like words denoting actions like ‘to make points / an area in a region X; to turn into points / an area in a region X’.

The first three spatial verbs, the axis verbs, correspond to the positive sides of the three axes of a Cartesian coordinate system that has its origin at, and is oriented along, a reference object, which can be a living being, a thing, a movement or other action – whatever has an orientation in space. The first axis (front) is defined as pointing in the direction of the ‘face’ or interacting side of the reference object. The second axis (up) points upwards, in the direction of the sky, if the reference object is in its ordinary position. The third axis (right) forms a right-handed coordinate system with the first and second. Some reference objects only define the first axis (an arrow, for example), others only the second (a free-standing tree). Obviously, the third axis is only defined if the first two are.

The reference object is the nominative object of the spatial verb. (See the kinship terms in nutshell 3.) The coordinate system is aligned with it: if I lie down on my back, my front-axis points towards the sky, and my up-axis is level with the ground. The ‘right’ side of a wardrobe is what we would call its left because its interacting side faces you if you are standing in front of it; so the axes are arranged as if a human were facing you.

As there is only one axis in time, we only need the first axis (the front-axis) to convey temporal information. This axis has its origin at a reference object that is often, but not necessarily, an action. (It could also be a soap bubble.) It points in the direction of the temporal arrow, towards the future.

The three remaining verbs are ‘far’, ‘outside’ and ‘between’. These serve as both temporal and spatial verbs.

Here is an overview of the temporal and spatial verbs with an inner accusative and some relevant outer cases, including compounds with the weighting numeral crà. ‘a bit’ and the opposition negator kÌ., which weaken or negate the front-ness, up-ness, etc. (which are abstract nouns, hence with an epenthetic consecutive).

with inner accusative
and outer …
Translationlater, afterat a distant timebefore or afterbetween (times)
crà.a bit laterabout nowjust before or afterjust between (times)
kà.earlier, beforeduring, whilebefore or after (times)
Translationlong (duration)far reaching, extensive (time span)
crà.short (duration)with a small extent (time span)
Translationin frontaboveat the rightfar awayoutsidebetween
crà.just in front, etc.nearbyjust outsidejust between
kà.at the backbelowat the leftinsideoutside (a group of things)
Translationlong; deep (wardrobe)high, tall; deep (pond)broad, widefar reaching, extensive
crà.short; shallow (wardrobe)low, small in height;
shallow (pond)
narrowwith a small extent

Adverbials and adjectivals

Adverbials (adverbs and adverbial phrases) containing temporal or spatial information about actions are simply translated as objects in temporal or spatial cases, which often but not always contain one of the verbs described above.

  flyá shipyÌ prÌar.The ship is flying at the front.
fly-fact1 ship-acc-acc2a front-acc-loc2.
jàx smokeshipÌer.The smoke comes from the ship.
move-fact1 smoke-acc-acc2 ship-acc-ela2.
jàx smokeyÌ gmilkÌer shipÌe.(with reference object)The smoke comes from the inside of the ship / from inside the ship.
move-fact1 smoke-acc-acc2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-ela2 ship-acc-nom3.

Adjectivals (adjectives and adjectival phrases) describing properties and states are similar to predicate adjectives (‘She is beautiful’): they need topicalisation of the consecutive case, and they are constructed with accusative or dative objects.

  mìl captaineì ilfcrynÌr dmÌyR.The captain is small and old.
make-cons1 captain-nom-dat2 up-cons-1/4-partacc-ext2 3/4-acc-dur2.

(The extensive needs an inner partitive, because the captain does not just extend in one direction.)


The time of an action, what many languages express as tense, can be conveyed by marking another action (often the parole) as a reference object. Simultaneous action (present tense) is simply expressed by a pronoun as a temporal object. Both constructions are compounded to demote the temporal information to a modifier.

  danceà vàaR. danceaRwà.The time of dancing is the parole.I am dancing [now].
dance-fact1 PIn−2-fact-temp2. dance-temp-PIn−1-fact1.
danceà prÌaR {zàe}. danceaRprà.I will dance [later].
dance-fact1 front-acc-temp2 {PIn−3-fact-nom3}. dance-temp-front-fact1.
danceaRprilkà.I danced [earlier].

The future tense can often be translated simply with a topicalised tentive case to express intention; and the past as a perfect (with topicalised consecutive).

As has been mentioned in other contexts, tense markers can and should be omitted whenever possible.

Last significant change: 2 Jul 2015

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