lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 8. Finite clauses

This nutshell is concerned with clauses that are introduced with subordinating conjunctions, pronouns or adverbs.


The conjunction ‘that’ is not to be confused with the relative pronoun ‘that’ in ‘the poodle that barked loudly’. A good test is to replace the clause with a noun or pronoun, most suitably ‘it’, which only works if ‘that’ is a conjunction.

  I assume that Jacopo is writing about his trumpet.I assume it.

The difference between a non-finite clause (infinitive or gerund) and a ‘that’-clause is often purely grammatical (‘I want Jacopo to write about his trumpet’, but ‘I assume that Jacopo is writing about his trumpet’). However, ‘that’ frequently refers to the fact as opposed to the action – if I see that someone painted the bridge green, I don’t actually need to have seen them doing it –; so ‘that’-clauses are good candidates for topicalising the affirmative case.

The outer case of the object that translates the clause is typically an accusative.

  assumeìl veì writeály iakopykè trumpetÌy vèU.I assume that Jacopo is writing about his trumpet.
assume-cons1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 write-aff-acc2 Jacopo-acc-nom3a trumpet-acc-acc3 PIn−2-nom-ben4.
  wantá zaraqyhtè flyáy eagleÌy zèU.Zarathustra wants his eagle to fly.
want-fact1 Zarathustra-acc-nom2a fly-fact-acc2 eagle-acc-acc3a PIn−3-nom-ben4.
wantá zaraqyhtè flyály eagleÌy zèU.Zarathustra wants that his eagle flies.
want-fact1 Zarathustra-acc-nom2a fly-aff-acc2 eagle-acc-acc3a PIn−3-nom-ben4.

Note that the conjunction ‘that’ can be omitted in many English finite clauses. This has no effect on meaning or translation. We will include ‘that’ in the following examples for clarity.

Some ‘that’-clauses (we could term them ‘judgemental’) claim reality. Yes, this means inversion.

  goodìl speakály zìe.
good-cons1 speak-aff-acc2 PIn−3-dat-nom3a.
speaká viè goodÌal.The fact of your speaking is a good thing.It is good that you speak.
speak-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a good-acc-aff2.

Finite clauses with other conjunctions

A number of subordinating conjunctions need other cases than the accusative. These include ‘because, as, since, so that, in order that, when, while, until, where, after, before’.

  seatà seeaopportunityàar pendulumÌe.He sat down where he could see the pendulum.
seat-fact1 see-fact-opportunity-fact-loc2 pendulum-acc-nom3.
à seeawantàOl.He sat down there because he wanted to see it.
PIIn-fact1 see-fact-want-fact-psu2.
seeà pendulumcloseàeR museumÌi.He had been looking at the pendulum since the museum closed.
see-fact1 pendulum-acc-nom2 close-fact-ing2 museum-acc-dat3.

Clauses introduced with the conjunctions ‘if’ and ‘unless’, i.e. conditional clauses, need special constructions that would go beyond the scope of this nutshell tutorial. They are treated in unit 15 of the comprehensive tutorial.

Pronouns and adverbs vs. conjunctions

Now we move on to finite clauses introduced with a pronoun (e.g. ‘who, which, that’) or an adverb (e.g. ‘where, why’). To get the naming issue right out of the way: from the Lemizh point of view, the difference between subordinating pronouns and adverbs is just a matter of plot case vs. causal/temporal/spatial case. Most of these clauses also go by the name of relative clauses, but we will also treat indirect questions.

Some of the English (and other Indo-European) pronouns and adverbs introducing dependent clauses look like subordinating conjunctions but are used quite differently. Compare:

I know that the child is hiding beneath the rose bush.I know the child that is hiding beneath the rose bush.
The entrance vanished when the roses had faded.The day when the roses had faded, the entrance was gone.

As you see, clauses introduced with pronouns and adverbs usually occur in the role of attributes (or adverbs, as we will see shortly). This should remind you of the attributive and adverbial adjectives and participles in nutshell 3. However, we will also meet a group of counterexamples, the headless relative clauses.

Relative clauses

Attributive and adverbial clauses

Just as conjunctional clauses are the finite counterparts of infinitive and gerund clauses – being expanded objects –, we are now dealing with the finite counterparts of participial clauses – so we use brackets and coordinations for translation. Different relative pronouns (English, not Lemizh ones) and adverbs correspond to different inner cases; whereas the look-alike conjunctions correspond to different outer cases, as we have seen above.

  yelpá poodleÌe bearÌy midnightÌaR.The midnight-born poodle is yelping.The poodle, which was born at midnight, is yelping.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a bear-acc-acc3 midnight-acc-temp4.
goà valleyÌi singáry flowerÌe.We went to the valley, the location of the singing of flowers.We went to the valley, where the flowers sing.
go-fact1 valley-acc-dat2 sing-loc-acc3 flower-acc-nom4a.

Not surprisingly, adverbial clauses (clauses in the role of adverbs; not necessarily introduced with adverbs) are usually factive brackets. Again, the pronoun or adverb is reflected by the inner case.

  yelpá poodlelikeakÌa.The poodle is yelping, which I don’t like.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a like-fact-opposition-acc-fact2.
yelpá poodleÓlva zeè vèi.The poodle is yelping, wherefore I’ll feed it.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a eat-psu-fact2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a PIn−2-nom-dat3.

Headless relative clauses

These are pronominal relative clauses that aren’t attributive because they have lost their referent (head, or predicate in Lemizh terminology) because it isn’t important. Thus, instead of saying ‘He found the thing that I wanted’ (attributive relative clause), we can say ‘He found what I wanted’ (headless relative clause). To do this in Lemizh, we omit the bracket’s unnecessary predicate along with the two case endings forming the bracket (one inner and one outer), pushing up its object by one level.

  searchÙl i wantýy cèe.He found the thing that I wanted.
search-fin1 make-acc-dat2 want-acc-acc3 PIn−4-nom-nom4a.
searchÙl wantýy zèe.→ He found what I wanted.
search-fin1 want-acc-acc2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a.

Questions and the imperative

The rules of sentence grammar, specifically Rule Seven, imply that all sentences are actually declarative sentences (statements); but all languages have other types of sentences as well. ‘Did you feed the poodle?’ and ‘Feed the poodle!’ do not claim reality of the feeding. Consequently, we have to paraphrase non-declarative sentences by moving the verb down to level 2 and introducing a new main predicate. For direct questions, this means that they become indirect questions with the main predicate askà. ‘I ask …’.

Direct questionIndirect question
When did you feed the poodle?I ask when you fed the poodle.
Did you feed the poodle?I ask whether you fed the poodle.

But how do we translate indirect questions?

‘What about’-questions

The simplest type of question consists of ‘ask’ as the main predicate plus some accusative object. ‘ask’ can easily be compounded since its nominative object is clear from context – it is myself. (See the modal verbs with irrelevant nominative.) Not compounding, i.e. using the word ‘ask’ as a standalone word, is more like an indirect question in English, while compounding, i.e. reducing it to a modifier, is more like a direct question.

  askà sisterÌy zìe. sisteryaskÌ vìe.I ask about your sister. What about your sister?
ask-fact1 sister-acc-acc2 PIn−3-dat-nom3. sister-acc-ask-acc1 PIn−2-dat-nom2.
askà ìvy sweetÌy. ivaskìl sweetÌy.I ask about the eater of the sweets. What about the one who has eaten the sweets?
ask-fact1 eat-dat-acc2 sweet-acc-acc3. eat-dat-ask-cons1 sweet-acc-acc2.

The answer is constructed by referring to the question’s predicate with a pronoun. The pronoun normally doesn’t convey any useful information, so we respect Rule Six and get rid of it.

  seeanìl {fyè} veì 3/4ÌyR.(to uncompounded question) I haven’t seen the asked-for one for a long time.I haven’t seen him for a long time.
see-fact-not-cons1 {PIIn−1-acc-nom2} PIn−2-nom-dat2 3/4-acc-dur2.
seeanìl {fiè} veì 3/4ÌyR.(to compounded question) I haven’t seen the asked-for eater …
see-fact-not-cons1 {PIIn−1-dat-nom2} PIn−2-nom-dat2 3/4-acc-dur2.

We can ask for any object in a sentence by inserting askÌ. ‘the asked-for thing’ and then making ‘ask’ the main predicate by inversion.


Wh-questions are introduced with interrogative pronouns or adverbs (which look like the relative ones in English). As with relative clauses, different pronouns and adverbs correspond to different inner cases of the object: ‘Who has eaten the sweets?’ has the dative, ‘Why did you eat the sweets?’ the persuasive, etc.

This type asks for the identity of an object: in ‘Who has eaten the sweets?’, the content of asking (the thing asked about) is the identity of the eater, as opposed to ‘What about the one who ate the sweets?’, where the person asked about is the eater himself. Luckily, the word ‘identity’ is rather short in Lemizh: Ìd., the inner accusative of the verb àd. ‘give somebody/something an identity’. ‘the identity of the eater’ has the eater as dative object, as it is the one who is given an identity. The pronoun in the answer typically forms a bracket.

  askà Ìdy ìvi sweetÌy. ydaskà ìvi sweetÌy.I ask about the identity of the eater of the sweets.I ask who has eaten the sweets. Who has eaten the sweets?
ask-fact1 identity-acc-acc2 eat-dat-dat3 sweet-acc-acc4. identity-acc-ask-fact1 eat-dat-dat2 sweet-acc-acc3.
sisterÌ {y}.The one given the asked-for identity is the sister.My sister.
sister-acc1 {PIIn−1-dat-acc2}.

Often it is sufficient to ask for a person or thing (‘what about’) as opposed to the identity so that we can omit yd-.

Polar questions (‘yes/no’-questions)

Polar questions don’t ask for an object but for the predicate of the queried verb: ‘Are we going?’ — goày. ‘No, we aren’t going’. We cannot use an inversion to arrive at a construction parallel to the ones above, as the answer ‘No’ would then violate inversion ban. Instead, we use the general verb là. as a placeholder for the predicate.

  askà lày goày valleyÌi. laaskà goày valleyÌi.I ask about the predicate of going to the valley.I ask whether we are going to the valley. Are we going to the valley?
ask-fact1 do-fact-acc2 go-fact-acc3 valley-acc-dat4. do-fact-ask-fact1 go-fact-acc2 valley-acc-dat3.
nà {fÌy}.No.
not-fact1 {PIIn−1-acc-acc2}.


Questions, as well as various modal verbs, can express commands and requests with different degrees of politeness. (: is an emphasised version of the full stop.)

  avaská viè poodleÌi.Will you feed the poodle?Feed the poodle!
eat-fact-ask-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2.
avwantá viè poodleÌi.I want you to feed the poodle.
eat-fact-want-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2.
avmustá viè poodleÌi:You must feed the poodle!
eat-fact-must-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2!

Last significant change: 23 Nov 2014

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