lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 3. Nouns, adjectives, and attributes

The third of Henry Holiday’s ilustrations to ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ by Lewis Carroll

Concrete nouns

We already can form some nouns, for example ‘war’ (the action of warring) or ‘speaker’ (the sender of speaking). ‘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
wlàg.to produce blossoms, to blossom (of a plant)to turn into blossoms, to blossom (of a bud)
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 àkh. ‘to build a ship’, the shipwright (nom) gives the building materials (dat) 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 a concrete example:
khlá tryxkè grÌwi.The beaver makes lace from thread.
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.
khlà grÌwi.The thread becomes / turns into lace.
lace-fact1 thread-acc-dat2.

Now we can translate inner datives and accusatives of nominal verbs: psrìxk. froth-dat1. is a frothed thing, psrÌxk. froth-acc1. is a thing having the properties of froth. khlì. lace-dat1. is a thing made into lace, khlÌ. lace-acc1. 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 Ìkh., ‘beaver’ as trÌxk. (both having inner acc).

As you will have guessed, Ìkh. 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)
gmrà.to heat, to make something warmto get warm
làbv.to whiten something, to make something whiteto turn white, to whiten

lìbv. is something made white (or pale, as the butcher in our initial example); lÌbv. 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.

làbv wÌcgi.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.

Adjectives of emotion (‘angry, happy’), manner and competence (‘naughty, nice, fast, wise’) describe the source of the emotion, manner or competence and are therefore constructed with an inner nominative. But adjectives of manner and competence can also be used in a different sense: in ‘nice words, a fast race, a wise deed’ they have inner accusatives because here they describe what is made nice, fast, or wise. Another adjective with an inner nominative is ‘warm’ in ‘a warm coat’, because this is a coat making me warm, a source of warmth.

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

Abstract nouns

Adjectival verbs can take certain inner cases – most importantly the consecutive – 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 case) of having made something warm, or sometimes of the fact (affirmative case) 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, ‘beauty, difficulty, whiteness, colour’ are the consequences or sometimes facts of making something beautiful, difficult, white, and of colouring something, respectively.

By contrast, the abstract nouns derived from adjectives of emotion, manner and competence (‘happiness, speed, wisdom’) refer to the actions of being happy, moving or acting fast, or behaving wisely, and therefore are gerund-like nouns with an inner factive; or sometimes an affirmative to focus on the facts.

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 concepts:

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. do-fact1. ‘happen; do, act’. The verb mà. make-fact1. ‘make something from something’ (receptive: ‘to turn into something’) 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. 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.

A familiar example with a nominal verb:
tryxkè khlyÌ grÌwi. →(clumsy phrasing)The beaver makes lace from thread.
make-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a lace-acc-acc2 thread-acc-dat2. →
khlá tryxkè grÌwi.(elegant phrasing)
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.

The opposite process is called desorption.

A factive desorption for stylistic reasons:
kràt snrykÌ dmÌdor. →They are hunting the Snark on an island.
hunt-fact1 Snark-acc-acc2 island-acc-sce2. →
dmydòr kràta snrÌky.On an island, they are hunting the Snark.
do-fact1 island-acc-sce2 hunt-fact-fact2 Snark-acc-acc3.


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

dná trynxkÌ skmènwy.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.

As we know, there is exactly one accusative, part of which is the beaver and part of which is the butcher. Therefore, we cannot omit the partitive case suffixes 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 following chapter.

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:
wàx jhèji nexwaklÌje.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 machine-nom-dat2 Nechwatal-acc-nom3.

Here we have a predicate ‘mechanic’ (‘the sender of building machines’) with ‘Nechwatal’ as its nominative object, which means that Nechwatal is, yes, the sender of building machines: 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.

wàx jhejì nexwaklÌji.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 machine-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 lÌbv. can mean ‘the pale (or white) one, a pale thing; pale’, wèx. can mean ‘the speaker; speaking’, and fmÌxk. ‘a spilt thing; spilt’ (with inner acc because ‘spill’ is a verb of movement). 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 wèxy.a man, a speakera speaking man
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2.
xmlÌg fmÌxky.milk, a spilt thingspilt 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 wèxy elefyÌ3 cnÌi3.(the elephant is the content, the child the recipient of speaking)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.

là xlÌja.the behaviour (the behaving), the strange oneHe behaves strangely.
do-fact1 strange-acc-fact2.

Attributes that are not brackets

Sometimes an attributive adjective does not translate as a bracket.

wèx gÌjda.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 gájd wàxy. good-fact1 speak-fact-acc2a. ‘He makes the speaking good’, the gerund ‘speaking’ being translated with an inner factive.

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 is quite a different matter: it has a partitive outer case of the object and a plain inner case of the predicate and thereby defines a basic set for its predicate. (Recall that ‘wise’, as an adjective of competence, has an inner nominative.)

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.

Partitive coordinations also exist.


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’. 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.

wmÌf jhèjU.The coat is made for the mechanic.
The mechanic is the beneficiary of coat-making.
the mechanic’s coat
coat-acc1 machine-nom-ben2.
prÌg 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 some of the objects are agentive.

dá Ìxe. → dý Ìxe.The man gives.the man’s gift
give-fact1 male-acc-nom2a. → give-acc1 male-acc-nom2a.
Rìlcj snÌwy.The snow is coloured.the colour of snow (non-gerund-like abstract noun)
colour-cons1 snow-acc-acc2.
màt xmÌsi.The baby sleeps.the baby’s sleep (gerund-like abstract noun)
sleep-fact1 baby-acc-dat2.

Kinship verbs express a sender-content relationship between two people. This is easiest to see with psràb. ‘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 jhèje.the mechanic’s child
father-acc1 machine-nom-nom2.
frÌs jexèe.the baker’s uncle
uncle-acc1 bake-nom-nom2.
frès Rècy.the king’s nephew
uncle-nom1 monarch-nom-acc2.

Translated with brackets

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

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

Adjectives of possession

Adjectives indicating possession are translated like the genitive.

lÌj psrèbU.father’s housethe paternal house
house-acc1 father-nom-ben2.

Adjectives indicating the possessed thing are inversions of the genitive.

argÌ wemÙy.a dammed river, a river having a dam, an river with a dam
river-acc1 dam-ben-acc2.