lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 3. More about case

‘It’s all right,’ he was shouting. ‘… It isn’t Her!’ This was bad grammar of course …

(C. S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

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:

tellà.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

Apart from the plot arrow (source → sink), there are also causal (cause → effect), temporal (starting time → closing time) and spatial (starting point → end point) arrows.

Plot usage examples

Here are some examples how the plot can be used. We will be getting pretty deep into the details. I hope this chapter won’t be too tiresome, but it should give you a good feeling for how the plot cases work.

For the instrumental and causative objects in the following examples, recall that they often need to be phrased with an inner partitive case.

Defective usage

Non-sending (no overt nominative)

Up till now, the flow of the plot was pretty clear: the tale’s path starts at the teller, the gift originates from the giver. If I open a door with a pole, I am the source of the opening, and the pole is the means. But if the wind opens a door, is the wind the source or the means, or the cause? Depending on the answer to this question, the wind can be in the nominative (e), instrumental (u), or causative cases (el), respectively – these distinctions are difficult to translate elegantly. As you know, a source (nominative) still exists if the wind is seen as the means or cause; it is ‘no one’, ‘nothing’ or the like (or maybe the weather gods, who knows).

[the wind]the door[to an open position]
  openà windyè doorÌy.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-acc-nom2 door-acc-acc2.
openà windyù doorÌy.The wind is the means for opening the door.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-acc-ins2 door-acc-acc2.
openà windynèl doorÌy.The wind [among other things such as the fact that the door is ajar] is the cause for the opening of the door.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-partacc-caus2 door-acc-acc2.

Other verbs of movement, especially with inanimate subjects (in English), make good examples for this kind of plot usage: ‘The draught moves the curtain’, ‘The iceberg sunk the ship’. We will meet these verbs again shortly.

Non-receiving (no overt dative)

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? Again: 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). These differences are easier to represent in English.

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. In a broad sense, these are also verbs of movement.

Using the elative case (er, starting point) for the snowing cloud is somewhat less convincing; the cloud is the source of the snow in much the same sense as the speaker is the source of the words.

Non-transporting (no overt accusative; factive ≈ accusative)

The content of behaviour (what is sent through the behaviour) is not much different from the action itself. Hence one would rarely use ‘behave’ with an accusative; the factive will do just as well. Other non-transporting verbs are ‘be naughty, be nice, laugh, be friends with, rule, hurt’ etc.

the one behaving in some way[the behaviour]the recipient of the behaviour, the one at whom the behaviour is addressed
the dwarf’s shoulder[the pain]the dwarf
  hurtà shoulderyè dwarfÌi.The shoulder hurts the dwarf.The dwarf’s shoulder hurts [him].
The dwarf has/feels a pain in the shoulder.
hurt-fact1 shoulder-acc-nom2 dwarf-acc-dat2.

However, there are sometimes subtle differences between factive and accusative: the action of your laughing is not quite the same as the sound coming out of your mouth (and reaching the recipient). See ‘Telling lies is bad behaviour’ in unit 14 for another example.

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. 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). It is also possible to name both roles by employing a pronoun (see Relative pronouns in unit 6), but it should rarely be necessary to affirm the identity of recipient and content of loving.

the one lovingthe 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 (or ambiguous, with a pronoun) and non-receiving usage can be seen in ‘be angry with’ vs. ‘be angry about’. Correspondingly, ‘be happy about’ is non-receiving, while a receiving translation would imply that the person who is the content of one’s happiness is being shown it.

Many grammars treat verbs of emotion as statives (describing a state), but being happy (as well as being naughty or being friends with; see above) isn’t simply a state like being tall or brown-haired. Consequently, these verbs are expressed by word stems in Lemizh.

Reflexive usage

Self-receiving (nominative = dative)

Sender and recipient can be the same, 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. If nominative and dative are not identical, the same words translate as ‘feed’ or ‘read (to someone)’, respectively. ‘think (to oneself)’ is practically always reflexive. (An exception would be telepathy.)

the one moving the forkthe foodthe one getting the food into them
the reading onewhat is readthe one being read to
the thinking onethe thoughtthe thinking one

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. You are also usually more interested in being the recipient of your sleep or your dreams, and less in being the source.

Under a non-sending viewpoint, the reader can also be seen as the means (ins) of reading, with the text being the sender of the information.

Self-transporting (nominative = accusative)

Sender and content can also be identical, 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. Used in such a context, these verbs can also be non-sending if the moving agent is perceived as the cause (or means) rather than the sender, as we have seen above. Some words are unlikely to have a content different from the sender, an example being ‘walk’; for ‘The dwarf walks Edmund down the hall’, see Agentive causative and instrumental in unit 6.

the one hiding someone/somethingthe thing hidden[where it is hidden]
[the iceberg]the ship[the bottom of the sea]

Causal-reflexive usage

Causal-receiving (dative = causative or persuasive) and causal-transporting (accusative = causative or persuasive)

Verbs of emotion can also equate the dative with the causative (el, cause) or persuasive (Ol, reason). Being liable to ambiguous usage, this means they can also equate accusative and causative/persuasive. 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.


  For which other cases the highlighted ones may be substituted, if any? By which case markers are they represented? How is the meaning changed?
sinkà icebergyè shipÌy.Solve
sinkà shipbottomÌir.Solve
scorná witcheè faunÌi.Solve
fellà hookyèr paintingÌy.Solve


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

  getà lusyì bottleFatherChristmasÌe.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 unit 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:
giveà lusyì bottleFatherChristmasÌe.Father Christmas-nom gives Lucy-dat a bottle.
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

‘give’ and ‘get’ 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 unit 10, we will learn how to formally distinguish dative and receptive verbs.

Other examples of English receptive verbs include ‘experience, learn, suffer, notice, become’, as well as the passive voice. Furthermore, a number of English verbs are dative if they are used transitively (with a direct object) and receptive if used intransitively: ‘The sun-nom is melting the snow-datvs. ‘The snow-dat is melting’, ‘Someone-nom broke the window-datvs. ‘The window-dat broke’. Perceptual verbs (‘see, hear, smell, taste’ etc.) are receptive when used transitively, but dative in intransitive usage: ‘I-dat taste Turkish Delight-nomvs. ‘Turkish Delight-nom tastes good-acc’, as Turkish Delight is the sender of the good taste; likewise ‘that looks/sounds/smells good’. Intransitively used verbs of movement need an accusative to translate the English subject: ‘Someone-nom moves the statue-accvs. ‘The statue-acc is moving’, ‘Snow-acc covers the land’, ‘Smoke-acc fills the room’.

  giveà lusyì bottleFatherChristmasÌe.Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle.Lucy is given a bottle by Father Christmas. (passive)
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.
seeà lusyì lionÌe.The lion, well, conveys an optical stimulus to Lucy.Lucy sees the lion.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 lion-acc-nom2.
moveà statueÌy.Someone moves the statue. = The statue is being moved.The statue moves.
move-fact1 statue-acc-acc2.
openà doorÌy.Someone opens the door. = The door is opened.The door opens.
open-fact1 door-acc-acc2.

To state that the statue or the door is moving of its own accord, we need to specify it as the agent of the movement. We will learn how to do this shortly.

The nominative of a perceptual verb denotes the sender of the (visual, auditory) information, the accusative the information itself (the image, sound, etc., as in ‘this tastes good’ above).

  seeà lusyì lionÌy.The lion’s image is sent to Lucy.Lucy sees the lion’s image.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 lion-acc-acc2.
  Give three translations for the following sentence, one dative and two receptive (one of which should be in the passive voice):
helpá faunyè lusÌi.Solve

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.
boyTurkishDelightÌUl.(Turkish Delight is the aim.)The boy did it for Turkish Delight.
do-fact1 boy-acc-nom2a TurkishDelight-acc-fin2.
goà castleÌUr.(The castle is the place towards which.)They went towards the castle.
They went for the castle.
go-fact1 castle-acc-all2.


As we have seen in the previous unit, 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 FatherChristmasbeaverÌi.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 beaverFatherChristmasÌe.The beaver takes something from Father Christmas.
give-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2a FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.
seeá lusyì lÌwe.Lucy looks at the lion.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2a lion-acc-nom2.
jáx statueÌy.The statue moves (of its own accord).
move-fact1 statue-acc-acc2a.

‘give/get’ and ‘take’ are the same word in Lemizh, they only differ in their agentive object: nominative and dative, respectively. The same is true of ‘sell’ and ‘buy’. The perceptual verbs ‘look’ and ‘listen’ have an agentive dative, while ‘see’ and ‘hear’ have no agentive object (or possibly an agentive nominative if someone makes themselves seen or heard).

  Some other examples of verbs with no agent given:
missà edmyjdè siblingÌy.Edmund is missing his siblings.
miss-fact1 Edmund-acc-nom2 sibling-acc-acc2.
meltà snowÌi.The snow is melting.
melt-fact1 snow-acc-dat2.
noticeà edmyjdì lionÌe.(receptive verb)Edmund notices the lion.
notice-fact1 Edmund-acc-dat2 lion-acc-nom2.
wantà veè TurkishDelightÌy.I want Turkish Delight. (It’s not my fault!)
want-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 TurkishDelight-acc-acc2.

Agentive causative objects should serve as translations of ‘make somebody do something’ and verbs with similar meaning, such as ‘make somebody walk = walk somebody somewhere’ and ‘make somebody be afraid = frighten somebody’ (usually called ‘causatives’, but we will reserve this term for the Lemizh causative case), but the inner partitive that the causative case wants prevents the straightforward construction. As mentioned above, we will solve this riddle in unit 6.

The various shades of meaning expressed by combinations of agentive/non-agentive and nominative/instrumental/causative constructions are (again) hard to translate, but I hope they are clear from what we have learned about the language up till now.

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).


eatá vèi.Solve
eatà vèi.Solve
eatá vèe.Solve
eatà vèe.Solve

Last significant change: 12 Nov 2012

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