lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 3. Nouns, adjectives, and attributes

Concrete nouns

We already can form some nouns, for example ‘behaviour’ (the action of behaving) or ‘reader’ (the sender and/or recipient of reading). ‘castle’, ‘beaver’ and some other words were used up till now without explaining their inner cases (which were accusatives). The problem seems to be that these nouns are not derived from verbs in English. In Lemizh, however, we have verbs such as:

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
psràxk.to froth something, to turn something into frothto froth
plàvg.to produce mouldto turn into mould, to go mouldy
àkh.to build a shipto become a ship
tràxk.to make a beaverto become a beaver
skràp.to split, 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.

shipwrightshipbuilding materials
  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 beavers, we will usually not be interested in their making, but more in their properties or function: ‘ship’ is therefore translated as shipÌ., ‘beaver’ as beaverÌ. (both acc).

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’.


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

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
warmà.to heat, to make something warmto get warm
làbv.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’, and ‘colour’ are the consequences (or facts) of lighting something up, making something white, and of colouring something, respectively. We will frequently meet abstract nouns with an inner consecutive further down in this tutorial.

Adjectives of manner (‘naughty, nice’) and emotion (‘angry, happy’) describe the source of manner/emotion and are therefore constructed with an inner nominative.

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

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:

Absorption and desorption

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. The most general verb of all is là. ‘happen; do, act’ (gloss: do). The verb mà. ‘make something from something’ (receptive: ‘to turn into something’; gloss: make) is the most general nominal (and adjectival) verb.

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).

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’.

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.

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.

Bracket and coordination

A bracket is a two-word construction where the object’s outer case equals the predicate’s inner case.

  The second and third words in this sentence form a bracket:
speakà mechanicèi nexwaklÌje.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 mechanic-nom-dat2 Nechwatal-acc-nom3.

Here we have a predicate ‘mechanic’ (‘the sender of doing mechanics’) with ‘Nechwatal’ as its nominative object, which means that Nechwatal is, yes, the sender of doing mechanics: the mechanic just mentioned. This is the first application of brackets: the translation of English appositives, which are essentially attributes consisting of a noun (and this will become important in a moment).

A coordination consists of two sibling objects in the same outer case.

  speakà mechaniceì nexwaklÌji.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 mechanic-nom-dat2 Nechwatal-acc-dat2.

This also equates ‘mechanic’ with ‘Nechwatal’ as both are the recipient of speaking. Recall there is only one recipient, so we can exclude the possibility of Nechwatal and a mechanic being spoken to. And the exact reason why there is only one recipient is still to come.

We will be using brackets more often because they clearly indicate that their object (‘Nechwatal’ in our example) characterises their predicate (‘mechanic’). Coordinations, by contrast, consist of two separate objects of the main predicate; it has to be deduced from their matching outer cases that both contain information about the same person. In this sense, brackets are better suited to translate appositives and similar constructions.

Actually, we have already seen a bracket (in the factive) when we treated desorption.

Adjectives and participles as attributes and adverbs

As you know, Lemizh does not make any difference between nouns and adjectives. It also doesn’t distinguish nouns and participles: just as whiteÌ. can mean ‘the white one, a white thing; white’, giveè. can mean ‘the giver; giving’, and giveÌ. ‘the given thing; given’. Hence we can use brackets (and coordinations) to translate attributes consisting of an adjective or a participle.

Ìx lÌbvy.a man, a pale onea pale man
male-acc1 white-acc-acc2.
Ìx speakèy.a man, a speakera speaking man
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2.
xmlÌg spillÌy.milk, spilt one (the content of spilling)spilt milk
milk-acc1 spill-acc-acc2.

Make sure you don’t confuse active participles (‘a speaking man’), gerunds (‘Speaking is difficult with one’s mouth full’) and the continuous forms of verbs (‘He is speaking’).

Feel free to include additional information in the form of objects of the bracket’s object, keeping in mind that the outer case of a word defines its relation to its predicate’s stem (as in ‘the teller of a war’).

Ìx speakèy elefyÌ cnÌi.a man speaking to a child about elephants
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2 elephant-acc-acc3 child-acc-dat3.

Adverbial adjectives and participles work just the same. The English verb is translated as the bracket’s predicate, the adverb as the object. Because we are translating verbs with an inner factive, the bracket’s case is also the factive.

  behaveà strangeÌa.the behaviour (the behaving), the strange oneHe behaves strangely.
behave-fact1 strange-acc-fact2.

Attributes that are not brackets

Sometimes an attributive adjective does not translate as a bracket.

  speakè goodÌa.a good speaker
speak-nom1 good-acc-fact2.

‘good’ specifies the speaking, not the speaker. You can think of this as of an inversion of goodá speakày. ‘He makes the speaking good’, the gerund ‘speaking’ being translated with an inner factive. A bracket would mean something like ‘a speaker who is a good person’.

Partitive bracket and coordination

The brackets we have discussed up till now (outer case of the object = inner case of the predicate) are called cumulative brackets because they accumulate information: it is a man and it is a wise one and it is a pale one. A partitive bracket (partitive outer case of the object, but plain inner case of the predicate) is quite a different matter: it defines a basic set for its predicate.

By the way: a wise person is the producer or sender of wisdom, hence the inner nominative; for wise actions or sayings, it has an inner accusative. The same is true for other adjectives of competence such as ‘good’ (a good-nom person vs. a good-acc deed), ‘nimble’ (a nimble-nom climber vs. a nimble-acc climb), or ‘fast’ (a fast-nom horse vs. a fast-acc race).

Ìx mèvyn.a man from the set of wise ones
(The wise ones are the set from which the man is taken.)
a wise man
male-acc1 wise-nom-partacc2.
mèv Ìxen.a wise one from the set of mena wise man; a wise one among the men
wise-nom1 male-acc-partnom2.

There are partitive coordinations as well.


Translated with the benefactive

The genitive marker ‘-’s’ as in ‘the mechanic’s coat’ and the preposition ‘of’ as used in ‘the tower of the castle’ have more or less the same function, so we will call them both ‘genitives’ here. Their most prominent function is to mark possession. In Lemizh, the benefactive case (U, beneficiary) can express possession as well as some non-possessive uses of the Indo-European genitive: ‘a man’s world, the teacher’s lounge, runner’s high’ etc.

coatÌ jhnèU.The coat is made for the mechanic.
The mechanic is the beneficiary of coat-making.
the mechanic’s coat
coat-acc1 machine-nom-ben2.
towerÌ kroblÌjU.The tower is made for the castle.
The castle is the beneficiary of tower-making.
the tower of the castle
tower-acc1 castle-acc-ben2.

Translated with other cases

Quite often, though, the genitive has other functions, and the benefactive case does not suit our purpose. ‘the man’s gift’ is not a gift made for the man, but one given by him. In such situations it is a good idea to transform the construction into a seperate sentence to find the appropriate case, and then replace the predicate’s inner factive with a different case. Note that the objects are sometimes agentive.

  giveá maleÌe. → giveý maleÌe.The man gives.the man’s gift
give-fact1 male-acc-nom2a. → give-acc1 male-acc-nom2a.
colourìl snowÌy.The snow is coloured.the colour (abstract noun) of snow
colour-cons1 snow-acc-acc2.
bookÌ childÌUl.Someone makes books for children.children’s books
book-acc1 child-acc-fin2.

Kinship verbs express a sender-content relationship between two people. This is easiest to see with fatherà. ‘to make/father a child’: the mechanic’s child-acc was made by the mechanic-nom. But, as already mentioned, the nominative has nothing to do with the mechanic acting. An uncle-acc is ‘made’ (from the receptive viewpoint: a man is turned into an uncle-acc) by its nephew or niece-nom through their birth. It follows that a genitive construction having a kinship term with an inner accusative for a predicate needs an object with an outer nominative, and vice versa.

  psrÌb mechanicèe.the mechanic’s child
father-acc1 mechanic-nom-nom2.
frès monarchèy.the king’s nephew
uncle-nom1 monarch-nom-acc2.

Translated with brackets

Lastly, we have got genitives that are translated as brackets (or coordinations).

  maleý gwìty.a man, one having been taught; a learned mana man of learning
male-acc1 teach-dat-acc2a.
artà xàca.an art (gerund-like abstract noun), riding (gerund)the art of riding
art-fact1 ride-fact-fact2.

Adjectives of possession

Adjectives indicating possession are translated like the genitive.

  houseÌ fatherèU.father’s housethe paternal house
house-acc1 father-nom-ben2.