lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 12. Time and space

(Hendrik Antoon Lorentz)

Temporal and spatial cases

Have another look at the last two columns of the table of case descriptors.

As we have seen in unit 3, the spatial cases numbered 1 to 4 (expressing place, starting point, extent, end point) are action-centred: if I speak to you in a spaceship-loc, the whole action (which starts from me and reaches you) is in the spaceship. To express that only I am in the spaceship, we need a spatial attribute, which is treated further down in this unit. Cases 5 to 8 (expressing scene, place away from which, crossing point, aim) are agent-centred. This is obvious with the allative case, which expresses a spatial aim, but is also true of the others: the ablative names the place the agent is fleeing or the, well, spatial reason for now being here, in much the same sense as the allative names the spatial purpose of his journey. The scenic names the scene or ‘stage’ the agent has chosen for the action. The prolative names the place the agent intentionally comes across, as in ‘jump through a hoop’ or ‘cross the street’. — The temporal cases work analogously.

The action-centred cases have to be used with care – if we say we are going to Mars-ill, this would mean we’d end up on the whole planet. Working alternatives, and their limitations, are:

No such measures are necessary for points within continuous things, thanks to the irrelevancy of missing objects. (See the genitives ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘men of Lemaria’ in unit 5.)

The names for the case pairs elative/illative and ingressive/egressive are somewhat inconsistent, but the first two are established names (in Finno-Ugric grammar), and the others are termed rather obviously; in other words: I couldn’t think of a more logical terminology. Native Lemizh grammar has more symmetric names for these cases.

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. For oriented actions, this axis is parallel to the spatial arrow. 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 unit 5.) 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. The reference object restricts the set of possible coordinate systems, but not necessarily to a single one – think of a (possibly winding) river. Most of the time, the resulting subset is still useful: the meaning of an object being on the river’s right side is clear.

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 the relevant outer cases, including compounds with the weighting numeral crÌ. ‘a bit’ and the opposition negator kÌ., which weaken or negate the front-ness, up-ness, etc., respectively (with an epenthetic consecutive; see Weighted words in unit 8). The meanings with other outer cases are easily derived from the temporal and locative rows; for example, the elative (starting point) object — Ìfer. (… up-acc-ela2.) means ‘from above, down’; the illative (end point) object — ilfkÌir. (… up-cons-opposition-acc-ill2.) also means ‘down’, but in the sense of ‘to a place below’.

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 away, (over) thereoutsidebetween
crà.just in front, etc.nearby, herejust 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*

* In the durative and extensive cases, fÌw. ‘far’ (optionally plus a weighting numeral) is not much different from a weighting numeral alone; and prÌ. ‘front’ in the durative is virtually identical.

Illustration of up-ness. Explanation see text. Illustration of far-ness. Illustration of outside-ness. Illustration of between-ness.

These rather psychedelic diagrams illustrate the concepts of up-ness (a), far-ness (b), outside-ness (c), and between-ness (d). The reference objects are the black dots and circle; green areas are considered to be up, far, outside and between, respectively; magenta areas are the opposites; and the darkness of the colours represents the weight or intensity. Front-ness and right-ness are symmetric to diagram (a), only with the arrow pointing in other directions.

(a) shows that the notion of ‘up’ is a combination of vertical distance and angle: ilfjnÌ. (up-cons-1/1-acc1.) is high up, exactly above; lesser weights are shifted sideways and/or lower down. ilfnÌ. (up-cons-not-acc1.) is on one level with the reference object. The difference between (b) and (c) is that the outside begins at the surface of the reference object, while far-ness is indifferent to such a distinction. Thus, we can describe a large area as extending far away, but not as extending to its outside. Between-ness (d) is far-ness from parts of a reference object (which typically consists of several things, or a concave thing) in the direction of other parts.

The time spans and areas denoted by temporal and spatial verbs are continuous things in the above sense, so we don’t need a partitive case to describe something that occupies only part of the space in front.

As an aside: these verbs can also be used with causal cases, the front-axis then being aligned with the causal arrow: — prÌal. (… front-acc-aff2.) ‘causally downstream’, — fÌwal. (… far-acc-aff2.) ‘with a distant causal connection’, etc.

Durative and extensive

The durative’s and extensive’s case descriptors, ‘duration’ and ‘extent’, respectively, should be understood literally: these cases cannot denote points or regions in time or space. Thus, ‘extending to the outside’ is not translated as **— gmÌyr. (… outside-acc-ext2.) but as — gmÌnar. (… outside-partacc-loc2.) ‘outside, among other places’. The same goes for ‘extending to the front of the ship’.

One consequence is that it is hardly ever necessary to name the reference object of a durative or extensive construction, it usually being identical to the described thing. But even — prÌyr shipÌe. (… front-acc-ext2 ship-acc-nom3.) means ‘extending parallel to the ship’s first axis’ (and not ‘extending to the front of the ship’).

The extensive in combination with an axis verb usually needs an inner partitive, because most objects do not just extend in one direction.


The meaning of pronouns distinguishing distance, as ‘this [here]’ vs. ‘that [there]’, can be conveyed with spatial verbs such as filwcrÌ. (far-cons-1/4-acc1.) ‘something near’ and fÌw. (far-acc1.) ‘something far’ (or with other weighting numerals), as well as the more specific Ìf. (up-acc1.) ‘something up [there]’, filwcrÌ vìe. (far-cons-1/4-acc1 PIn−2-dat-nom2.) ‘something near you’ (with reference object), etc.

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 in the previous chapter.

  qáxk 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.
jumpá cowyÌ ilfjnÌur ihkèe.The cow jumps across an area exactly above the moon.The cow jumps over the moon.
jump-fact1 cow-acc-acc2a up-cons-1/1-acc-prol2 moon-nom-nom3.
dnà 3/4yÌR shipÌOr.He walked for a long time away from the ship.
walk-fact1 3/4-acc-dur2 ship-acc-abl2.

Adjectivals and ‘inside’ constructions

Adjectivals (adjectives and adjectival phrases) describing properties and states are similar to predicate adjectives (‘She is beautiful’): they need topicalisation of the consecutive case; they are constructed with the accusative for depictive and with the dative for resultative meaning; and depictive ones can often be simplified by an absorption.

‘in’ and ‘into’ often have to be translated with outsideilkÌ. ‘inside’ (or alternatively with a fragmenting partitive) plus locative or illative, respectively. As described above, a simple spatial object is only appropriate if the location is either continuous or filled completely, or if a agent-centered case (scenic or allative, respectively) can be used. ‘on’ and ‘onto’ work with outsideilnÌ..

  mìl craneyÌ outsideilkÌar dockÌe.The crane has been made in the dock. (depictive)The crane-acc is in[side] the dock. [It has always been there.]
make-cons1 crane-acc-acc2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc2 dock-acc-nom3.
craneìl outsideilkÌar dockÌe.(absorption)
crane-cons1 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc2 dock-acc-nom3.
mìl craneyÌ dockÌor. → craneìl dockÌor.(depictive, with scenic case)The crane-acc is in[side] the dock. [They decided to build it there.]
make-cons1 crane-acc-acc2 dock-acc-sce2. → crane-cons1 dock-acc-sce2.
mìl shipyì dockÌor.The ship has become something in the dock. (resultative, with scenic)The ship-dat is in[side] the dock. [It has come there for maintenance.]
make-cons1 ship-acc-dat2 dock-acc-sce2.
  mìl captaineì upil1/4ynÌr 3/4ÌyR.The captain is small and old.
make-cons1 captain-nom-dat2 up-cons-1/4-partacc-ext2 3/4-acc-dur2.
mìl frontil3/4ÌaR.It is late.
make-cons1 front-cons-3/4-acc-temp2.

Constructions such as outsideilkÌar dockÌe. ‘become something in(side) the dock, be made into something in(side) the dock’ are pseudo-desorptions: this one would be a desorption if ‘in the dock’ were a property like ‘beautiful’ (i.e. an adjectival verb with with inner and outer accusatives).


Temporal and spatial verbs can also be specified with other numerals besides weighting ones, namely units of measurement, which are basically numerals with a physical dimension. The principle is the same, but we will avoid compounding because we don’t want to demote the measurement to a mere modifier. Apart from that it would create rather long words, and sometimes is impossible altogether.

  beaverìl frontÌnyr frÌil lengthunitìly.The front-ness is 12 length units (of 9.2 cm each).The beaver is 110 cm (43½ in) long.
beaver-cons1 front-partacc-ext2 twelve-acc-cons3 lengthunit-cons-acc4.
noteà frontilkÌaR dwÌil weekìly.two weeks’ notice
note-fact1 front-cons-opposition-acc-temp2 two-acc-cons3 week-cons-acc4.

Units in combination with axis verbs also distinguish horizontal or vertical distance from angle.

  upillengthunitil3/4Ìar.many length units upat a great height
… up-cons-lengthunit-cons-3/4-acc-loc2.
upilangleunitil3/4Ìar.many angle units upnear the zenith
… up-cons-angleunit-cons-3/4-acc-loc2.

For more on units of measurement, see the appendix.


Temporal and spatial attributes can be constructed by changing the inner case of the predicate if it already contains the attribute’s head, or otherwise by an inversion forming a bracket. Attributes are used to specify the time or place of a single object, rather than that of the whole plot.

An alternative to simple local attributes, especially with perceptual verbs, is an elative object of the main predicate; this moves the local information nearer to the predicate.

  seeà craneÌe outsideilkÌar dockÌe.(The crane has been made in the dock.)I see the crane in the dock.
see-fact1 crane-acc-nom2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc3 dock-acc-nom4.
seeà craneoutsideilkÌer dockÌe.(The optical stimulus comes from the dock.)I see the crane in the dock.
see-fact1 crane-acc-nom2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-ela2 dock-acc-nom3.
shipÌ 1/4yÌr mìy outsideilkÌar dockÌe.the small ship in the dock
ship-acc1 1/4-acc-ext2 make-dat-acc2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-loc3 dock-acc-nom4.
shipÌ flyÌy frontÌar.the ship flying at the front
ship-acc1 fly-acc-acc2 front-acc-loc3.
mì shipyìn rightÌar.the right one of the ships, the ship at the right
make-dat1 ship-acc-partdat2 right-acc-loc2.


Orientation with respect to some object is expressed by stating that the object has a certain position in the oriented thing’s (or action’s) coordinate system. Obviously, resultative meaning typically requires the axis verb to be in the dative.

  mà prÌi chairdoorÌar.An area in front of the chair is made to be at the door.I turn the chair towards the door.
make-fact1 front-acc-dat2 chair-acc-nom3 door-acc-loc2.
mìl prÌi chairdoorÌar.(perfect)The chair faces the door.
make-cons1 front-acc-dat2 chair-acc-nom3 door-acc-loc2.
prilnìl treeÌe.The tree has no front-ness.The tree is symmetric; it is a free-standing tree.
front-cons-not-cons1 tree-acc-nom2.
callà viÙr [prilkÌer nenáe cìy].I am calling towards you (from the back of your running).I am calling after you.
call-fact1 PIn−2-dat-all2 [front-cons-opposition-acc-ela2 run-fact-nom3 PIn−4-dat-acc4a].

Some situations require two coordinate systems, with the advantage that we can use ‘classical’ predicative constructions with dative or accusative instead of spatial cases.

  ìlf treeyè ilf3/4Ìy.An area up in the tree’s coordinate system is an area much up in the general coordinate system. (depictive)The tree is leaning somewhat.
up-cons1 tree-acc-nom2 up-cons-3/4-acc-acc2.
  prà jumpaè Ìfi jumpÌe.The area up of the jumper is made something at the front of the jump. (resultative)
front-fact1 jump-fact-nom2 up-acc-dat2 jump-acc-nom3.
jumpà prèa Ìfi zÌe.(equating the instantiations of ‘jump’ with a pronoun)He jumps head first.
jump-fact1 front-nom-fact2 up-acc-dat3 PIn−3-acc-nom4.


Statements we would express as comparisons can often be phrased with a reference object. Qualitative objects are only needed if the comparing object’s coordinate system cannot be used.

mìl shipupilnÌar spacestationÌe.The ship is not above (i.e. at the same height as) the space station.The ship is as high up as the space station [in the space station’s coordinate system].
make-cons1 ship-acc-dat2 up-cons-not-acc-loc2 spacestation-acc-nom3.
mìl shipupÌar spacestationÌe.The ship is above the space station.The ship is higher up than the space station [in the space station’s coordinate system].
make-cons1 ship-acc-dat2 up-acc-loc2 spacestation-acc-nom3.
mìl shipupyàr spacestationÌim.The ship is as high up as the space station [in another coordinate system, e.g. mine].
make-cons1 ship-acc-dat2 up-acc-loc2 spacestation-acc-qualdat2.
mìl shipupilmoreyàr spacestationÌim.The ship is higher up than the space station [in another coordinate system].
make-cons1 ship-acc-dat2 up-cons-more-acc-loc2 spacestation-acc-qualdat2.
  àv frontÌaR (váme cìi).(inner qualitative referring to ‘eat’)I’ll eat later (than you).
eat-fact1 front-acc-temp2 (PIn−2-qualfact-nom3 PIn−4-dat-dat4a).
àv frontilmoreyàR vìim.(marginally simpler)I’ll eat later than you.
eat-fact1 front-cons-more-acc-temp2 PIn−2-dat-qualdat2.

‘The rock is in front of the tree’ (with neither the tree nor the rock having a front axis) can be expressed along the same lines.

  mìl treefrontilmoreyàr rockÌim.The tree is more in front [of me] than the rock.The rock is in front of the tree.
make-cons1 tree-acc-dat2 front-cons-more-acc-loc2 rock-acc-qualdat2.

moreÌ. can be specified with a measurement as a consecutive object, typically giving a bracket. This construction is similar to ‘a bit more’ but does not lend itself to compounding.

  moreìl rÌjil speedunitilý fastìly horsedogÌym.The more-ness is 16 speed units. The speed is more by 16 units.The horse is faster than the dog by 4 km⁄h (2½ mph).
more-cons1 sixteen-acc-cons2 speedunit-cons-acc3 fast-cons-acc2 horse-acc-acc3 dog-acc-qualacc3.


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 frontÌaR {zàe}. danceaRfrontà.I will dance [later].
dance-fact1 front-acc-temp2 {PIn−3-fact-nom3}. dance-temp-front-fact1.
danceaRfrontilkà.I danced [earlier].

Many English present tense forms do not express present actions. ‘I dance’ is typically understood as a general statement and translated either simply with danceà. or with one of the aspects described in the next chapter to explicitly mark it as an iterative (repeated) or habitual action. The future tense frequently expresses an intention, opportunity or wish and so wants a topicalised tentive case or a modal verb for translation instead of a temporal object; I intend to treat modal verbs in the next unit. The past tense can often be translated simply as a perfect (with topicalised consecutive).

  là ilvà midnightÌaR.(see Objects of topicalised verbs)I will have eaten by midnight.
do-fact1 eat-cons-fact2 midnight-acc-temp2.

Furthermore, as has been mentioned in other contexts, tense markers can and should be omitted whenever possible. A story, for example, only needs temporal objects in the first sentence and when the chronological flow is broken by flashbacks or forecasts, and often not even then. ‘tomorrow’ or ‘an hour ago’ already express the future or past, respectively; so adding one of the above temporal objects would be redundant and violate Rule Six.

The active participle can also be marked for tense in Lemizh. As with the passive participle, this is rarely necessary.

  maleÌ speakaRvèy.a now speaking man; a man, which is speaking at the moment
male-acc1 speak-temp-PIn−2-nom-acc2.
maleÌ speakaRfrontèy.a man, which will be speaking
male-acc1 speak-temp-front-nom-acc2.


Aspect is a grammatical category describing the temporal flow, in a broad sense, of an acton: once or habitually, short-lived or extended, completed or continuing, etc. Lemizh often uses numerals for these purposes, but also the verb habità. ‘pursue habitually’ (akin to hobbyà.pursue a hobby’; ‘habit’ is a gerund-like abstract noun). The progressive aspect, which expresses an ongoing action, needs an ‘inside’ construction (see also ‘while’ clauses). The gnomic aspect, expressing a general truth, translates as a depictive: a nominal verb plus an accusative. If the main predicate is not a nominal verb, a mà.–pseudo-desorption does the trick.

  drinkarà coffeeyÌ wÌcgy.(semelfactive: multiplicative numeral)I’ll drink my coffee black [this once].
drink-fact-one-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc2.
drinkamlà coffeeyÌ wÌcgy.(iterative)I drink my coffee black [at several occasions].
drink-fact-several-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc2.
drinkaRà coffeeyrÌy.(distributive: each of the actions of drinking one coffee)I’m drinking my coffees one at a time.
drink-fact-each-fact1 coffee-acc-one-acc-acc2.
drinkahabità coffeeyÌ wÌcgy.(habitual)I drink my coffee black [habitually].
drink-fact-habit-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc2.
drinkahabità coffeeyÌ wycgÌ prilkÌaR.(habitual past)I would drink my coffee black [habitually] back then.
I used to drink my coffee black.
drink-fact-habit-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc2 front-cons-opposition-acc-temp2.
drinkà coffeeyÌ wycgÌ gmilkèaR {zàRy}.(progressive)I am drinking my coffee black [a currently ongoing event].
drink-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc2 outside-cons-opposition-nom-temp2 {PIn−3-temp-acc3}.
míl veÌ drinkìy coffeeyÌ wÌcgy.(gnomic: I am a black-coffee-drinker.)I drink my coffee black. [Full stop.]
make-cons1 PIn−2-nom-acc2a drink-dat-acc2 coffee-acc-acc3 black-acc-acc3.

The aspect opposite to the gnomic, the episodic, is represented by specifying the time of the action, or with a semelfactive aspect. The momentane (short-lived) and durative (extended) aspects use weighting numerals in the durative case. The perfect, as well as beginning and ending of actions, are translated by topicalising the main predicate. Strengthening and weakening of verbs (usually called intensive and diminutive), make use of weighting numerals. The completive aspect uses the numeral jnà. ‘all, the whole’, as in ‘eat up’, among other constructions such as an illative object with verbs of movement; the incompletive aspect accordingly uses weaker weighting numerals or a negated illative topic.

The perfective, describing an action as a simple whole, is usually best left unmarked; sometimes it can be translated like the completive. The imperfective is a cover term for aspects describing actions with an inner structure, such as the iterative, the habitual, or the progressive.


The ship will fly in.Solve
The children were playing under the table just now.Solve
We eat in the hotel [and that’s a law of nature].
(three possibilities)
It has rained for two days vs. It has been raining for two days.Solve
I am running towards the tree.
(two possibilities, one making use of the first axis verb)
the finger pointing upwards, the upward-pointing finger
(Can you phrase this as a partitive bracket?)
Those houses a long way off are spread out over a large area.Solve
We are celebrating in anticipation of midnight.Solve
Under what circumstances would somebody phrase ‘men of Lemaria’ as Ìx gmilkÌar lemÌce.?Solve

Last significant change: 9 May 2017

Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License
See Terms of use for details on licensing.