lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 4. Nouns and adjectives

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
  They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
  They charmed it with smiles and soap.

(Lewis Carroll. The Hunting of the Snark)

Concrete nouns

We already can form some nouns, for example ‘behaviour’ (the action of behaving) or ‘reader’ (the sender and/or recipient of reading). ‘door’, ‘lion’ and some other words were used in the previous unit without explaining their inner cases (which were accusatives). The problem seems to be that these nouns – along with many others, say, ‘froth, mould, lace, ship, thimble, part’ – are not derived from verbs in English. In Lemizh, however, we have verbs such as:

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
frothà.to froth something, to turn something into frothto froth
powderà.to pulverise, to turn something into powderto turn into powder, to become powder
blossomà.to produce blossomsto blossom
mouldà.to produce mouldto turn into mould, to go mouldy
laceà.to make laceto become lace
shipà.to build a shipto become a ship
doorà.to make a doorto become a door
thimbleà.to make a thimbleto become a thimble
lionà.to make a lionto become a lion
divideà.to divide, to produce partsto come apart

We will call these nominal verbs. As always, the plot

Looking at the verb shipà., the shipwright (nom) gives the building materials (dat) the the properties or the function of a ship (acc). He confers, well, shipness on the materials. The shipness is sent by the shipwright, not because he is acting, but because he is the source: the image of the ship, so to say, comes from his head and materialises in wood, iron, ropes, and linen.

the shipwrightshipbuilding materials
the one producing frothfrothliquid (milk, for example)
  Here is an example:
laceá beaveryè threadÌi.The beaver makes lace from thread.
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.
laceà threadÌi.The thread becomes / turns into lace.
lace-fact1 thread-acc-dat2.

Now we can translate inner datives and accusatives of nominal verbs: frothì. (dat) is a frothed thing, frothÌ. (acc) is a thing having the properties of froth. laceì. (dat) is a thing made into lace, laceÌ. (acc) is a thing having the properties of lace. When we are talking of ships or lions, we will usually not be interested in their making, but more in their properties or function: ‘ship’ is therefore translated as shipÌ., ‘lion’ as lionÌ. (both acc). The usefulness of an inner dative for the latter verb is open to doubt.

As you will have guessed, shipÌ. does not contain information about the number of ships: it can mean ‘the ship’ or ‘a ship’ as well as ‘the ships’ or ‘some ships’.

Actually, ‘nominal verbs’ are not a category of Lemizh verbs. They behave just like any other words, and it would probably be fairly difficult to explain the notion to a native Lemizh. This is simply a convenient way for an Indo-European speaking (and thinking) audience to refer to verbs which correspond, with an inner accusative, to our concrete nouns. After all, ‘to pulverise’ and ‘to divide’ don’t behave in any special way in English.


Adjectives work just like nouns, making use of verbs such as:

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
warmà.to heat, to make something warmto get warm
lightà.to lighten up, to illuminate, to make (a place) lightto get light
whiteà.to whiten something, to make something whiteto turn white, to whiten

whiteÌ. is something having the property ‘white’, i.e. a white thing. There is really no difference between nouns and adjectives in Lemizh. This is the same as Latin ‘albus’, which can mean ‘white’ as well as ‘the white one’. So, adjectival verbs are a subclass of nominal verbs.

  whiteà blackÌi.Someone whitens a black thing.
Someone makes a white thing from a black one.
A black thing turns white (receptive).
The colour changes from black to white.
white-fact1 black-acc-dat2.

Adjectival verbs can take certain inner cases to form equivalents of English abstract nouns that do not express actions and thus are not like gerunds. The warmth, for example, can be seen as the consequence (consecutive) of having made something warm, or possibly of the fact (affirmative) of something being made warm. It can also be seen as a warm thing (accusative) in sentences such as ‘He sat in the warmth’. Likewise, ‘light’ (in the sense of ‘brightness’), ‘whiteness’, ‘colour’ and ‘wisdom’ are the consequences (or facts) of lighting something up, making something white, of colouring something, of becoming wise, respectively.

This use of the consecutive also illustrates why its descriptor is ‘direct consequence, effect’: the consequence of having made the waistcoat white (its whiteness) has the effect that the crew stare in wonder, wherefore the beaver’s eyes start to hurt, etc. The consequences are multiplied progressively, but only the direct ones form the consecutive case. Likewise, the causative’s descriptor is ‘direct cause’.

Adjectives of manner (‘naughty, nice’, from the verbs described under Non-transporting usage in the previous unit) and emotion (‘angry, happy’, Ambiguous usage) describe the source of manner/emotion and are therefore constructed with an inner nominative. Another adjective with an inner nominative is ‘warm’ in ‘a warm coat’, because this is a coat making me warm.

We will learn about the main use of adjectives, their use as attributes (‘the dear uncle’), in the next unit.

Why is there a verb ‘to make something white’, but ‘to make someone run’ is expressed with a causative object instead (as hinted in the previous unit)? The difference is that the latter can be expressed with a causative because there is a word ‘run’, while the former does not allow ‘stepping down’ in that way without violating the principle that every word stem denotes an action. Conversely, Lemizh does not have a word meaning ‘to cause, to make somebody do something’.


The inner locative and scenic cases are used for place names: lemàrc. ‘the country of Lemaria’ is the inner locative of the verb lemàc. ‘to make Lemizh’; ‘a seat’ is perhaps better translated as zdòrs., the inner scenic of zdàs. ‘to seat someone’ (being the intended or chosen location for being seated).

Verbs of work and profession

Verbs such as ‘make lace, bake, garden, teach, host, play the trumpet’ make use of a number of inner cases to convey different meanings:

  liftá veè sailùyn.That which I lift is from the set / of the type ‘means of sailing’.
I lift some of the means of sailing.
I am hoisting the sail.
lift-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a sail-ins-partacc2.

There is no grammatical reason why the ‘part of the means of sailing’ shouldn’t be the wind; but ‘sail’ is understood in most contexts, being the most relevant reading. This is an example of a conversational implicature, which will be treated in the upcoming pragmatics section.

laceè threadÌi.Solve
whiteÌ blackÌi.Solve
pianoá teachèi.Solve
liftá teachshovelùyn.Solve

The semantic tree (the tree of meaning)

Verbs can name more or less general actions. ‘perceive’, for example, is pretty general, ‘see, hear, smell’ are more specific – they name sub-categories of the former, which names a super-category of the latter. We can portray these relationships between verbs (and so, in Lemizh, between all words) as a tree structure, on top of which is the most general category of all, named by the verb là. ‘happen; do, act’ (gloss: do). Here is a small section of the tree. Also note the verb mà. ‘make something from something’ (receptive: ‘to turn into something’; gloss: make), which is on top of the branch of nominal (and adjectival) verbs.

là.to happen; to do, to act
dà.to give
mà.to make something from something, to turn (something) into something: topmost nominal verb
pulveriseà.to pulverise
warmà.to warm
perceiveà.to send (dative) or perceive (receptive) a stimulus: topmost perceptual verb
hearà.to produce a sound (dative), to hear (receptive)
rustleà.to rustle
speakà.to speak
askà.to ask
seeà.to convey an optical stimulus (dative), to see (receptive)
twinkleà.to twinkle
televisionà.to watch television (receptive)
jàx.to move: topmost verb of movement and placement
layà.to lay/lie down

The relationship of a sub-category to a super-category verb can usually be described in terms of restricting the semantic range of an object, often the accusative. The meaning of ‘pulverise’ is ‘turn something into something’ plus a certain accusative object, namely powder; ‘rustle’ is ‘produce a sound’ plus a certain type of transmitted sound (the accusative, again); ‘hear’ can be interpreted as a restriction of the sensual stimulus (accusative) to sounds, or the restriction of the means (instrumental) to the ear; ‘hunt’ is ‘do’ plus a specific action (factive).

The tree is only a rough representation. This is not the place to discuss the subtleties of semantics, but be aware that a verb can have more than one super-category: ‘watch television’ has the super-category ‘hear’ as well as ‘see’; ‘play the trumpet’ can be perceived as a sub-category of ‘produce a sound’ or of ‘move’. Besides, the structure of the tree is not fixed: ‘become a whale’ would have been seen as a sub-category of ‘become a fish’ a few centuries ago, not of ‘become a mammal’ as today.

là. has useful applications with various inner cases. lì. is ‘the recipient’, lò. ‘the intention’, lÒl. ‘the reason’, làr. ‘the place (where something is happening)’, etc.; là. used like a gerund is simply ‘the acting, the doing’ = ‘the action, the deed’. mÌ. is ‘a thing’.

Absorption and desorption

A verb can absorb an object to which it is a super-category verb. A good example is mà. ‘to turn something into something’, which can absorb nominal verbs in the accusative case. Absorption works under the condition that the object has identical inner and outer cases that correspond to the semantic relationship described above – accusatives for nominal verbs, factives for ‘hunt, give, perceive’ etc., and so on; absorptions with factives always work.

  An example with a nominal verb:
beaverlace threadÌi. →The beaver makes lace from threads.
make-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a lace-acc-acc2 thread-acc-dat2.
laceá beaverthreadÌi.
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.
  and with a perceptual verb:
heará bakebeavershoutàa. →The beaver hears the baker shout. (The baker is acting.)
hear-fact1 bake-nom-nom2a beaver-acc-dat2 shout-fact-fact2.
shoutá bakebeaverÌi.The baker shouts at the beaver.
shout-fact1 bake-nom-nom2a beaver-acc-dat2.

The opposite process is called desorption.

  A factive desorption for stylistic reasons:
huntà snrykÌ islandÌor. →They are hunting the Snark on an island.
hunt-fact1 Snark-acc-acc2 island-acc-sce2. →
islandyòr huntàa snrÌky.On an island, they are hunting the Snark.
do-fact1 island-acc-sce2 hunt-fact-fact2 Snark-acc-acc3.
  Marking two objects as agents:
FatherChristmasgiveáa beaverÌi.Father Christmas gives something to the beaver, and the beaver takes (accepts) it.
do-fact1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a give-fact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat3a.

Logical conjunctions


The conjunction ‘and’ is translated with sibling objects in the same outer case and inner partitives.

  walká beaverynÌ butcherèny.The beaver, among others, is walking; the butcher, among others, is walking.The beaver and the butcher are walking.
walk-fact1 beaver-partacc-acc2a butcher-partnom-acc2.

Note that there is exactly one accusative, part of which is the beaver and part of which is the butcher. Therefore, we cannot omit the partitive (i.e. walká beaverbutcherèy.) because this would mean that the beaver is the accusative and the butcher is also the accusative. You can already guess what that sentence would mean; but we will learn it officially in the next unit.

The one accusative object of our example is also the main predicate’s agent; this includes the butcher. Put differently: the agent is ‘the beaver, among others’, the ‘others’ being (at least) the butcher.

To connect two predicates or two whole sentences with ‘and’, we usually need a partitive desorption. In the first example sentence, the effect is as if the objects (‘butcher’ and ‘beaver’) had two predicates.

  butcherspeakanà teachanà beaverÌi.The butcher does something to the beaver; this is speaking, among other things, and teaching, among other things.The butcher speaks to and teaches the beaver.
do-fact1 butcher-nom-nom2a speak-partfact-fact2 teach-partfact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat2.
speakána butcherhearána beaverÌi.Something happens; this is the butcher speaking, among other things, and the beaver listening, among other things.The butcher is speaking and the beaver is listening.
do-fact1 speak-partfact-fact2 butcher-nom-nom3a hear-partfact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat3a.

Inclusive ‘or’

The inclusive ‘or’ (‘and/or’) is a combination of a inner and outer partitives.

  searchà snrynn bucmÌnyn.They are searching for some or one of the Snark and the Boojum.They are searching for the Snark or the Boojum (or both).
search-fact1 Snark-partacc-partacc2 Boojum-partacc-partacc2.

English sometimes uses ‘or’ when ‘and’ would do.

  searchà snrynkÌ bucmÌny.(no outer partitives)They are searching for (beasts such as) Snarks or Boojums.
search-fact1 Snark-partacc-acc2 Boojum-partacc-acc2.

The exclusive ‘or’ (‘either … or’) will be treated in the next unit.

  Explain, in your own words, why inner and outer case must be identical for absorption to work.
  Give three possibilities to connect these two verbs with ‘and’:
rustleà. shoutà.Solve

Last significant change: 1 Sep 2017

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