lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 5. Sentence grammar

Lemizh does not distinguish full sentences from incomplete sentences such as ellipses, clauses or phrases, and other kinds of speech. Every grammatical unit above the word is considered a sentence (or a sequence of sentences) and thus subject to the rules of sentence grammar. Indeed, even words are cited as one-word sentences – with a full stop at the end: sxnèz. ‘Sun’ –, as you have seen in previous nutshells.

You already know three of the rules from nutshell 1. Here they are again:

One. Sentence structure

A word of level n is subordinate to the nearest word of level n−1 in front of it; the parole acts as a word of level zero.

Two. Definition of objects

An object of a word in a sentence is a word subordinate to the former, its predicate, plus all of its own objects.

Three. Outer case

The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem via its descriptor; the outer case of a level 1 word is zero.

These are the remaining rules:

Four. Identity of action

An instance of a word stem designates a specific action.

When you instantiate (say or write) a word stem, for example the one in wmàb. ‘weave’, you are thinking of one certain action – one of weaving in our example. This may involve the action of several weavers (as in ‘We are weaving’), the use of several threads or the production of several cloths. It need not even be temporally or spatially connected (as in ‘We are weaving every Thursday morning’). In other words, you are thinking of a certain subset of all the weaving there is. Everything referring to your instance – i.e. the word itself, its objects and relative pronouns – refers to this same subset, to this action of weaving.

Naming the same word stem (wmàb.) for a second time creates a second instance, which may or may not be identical to the first instance. Recall the difference between wáx wìe. speak-fact1 PIn−1-dat-nom2a. ‘He is speaking to himself: the sender of speaking is the recipient of the same action of speaking’ and wáx wìxe. speak-fact1 speak-dat-nom2a. ‘The one being spoken to is speaking: the sender of an action of speaking is the recipient of an action of speaking, but not necessarily the same’.

We will sometimes informally say that wmèb. instantiates a person or a group of people when we really mean its stem instantiates the action of weaving that defines the weaver(s).

The following two rules qualify or narrow down this subset; they provide additional information about it. They are the actual reason why wmàb. can refer to a subset of weaving (as opposed to all the weaving there is).

Five. Completeness of cases

A case characterises the action it refers to completely with regard to its case descriptor.

When you have instantiated a word stem, you can add objects to describe its associated subset more specifically, to restrict it. For example, you could add a nominative object. If you do so, it has to name the complete sender – meaning that a nominative object ‘father’ excludes from your instance of wmàb. all weaving that is not done by father. A temporal object ‘every Thursday morning’ excludes all other times he weaves. A dative ‘wool’ … but you get the idea. In this way you can say more and more precisely what subset of all weaving you meant when you said wmàb.. Likewise, if you add to your instance of wool a nominative object ‘goats’ (a word of level three), this restricts the set of wool, which in turn restricts the weaving.

The same applies to inner case. Brackets (and coordinations) are important applications of Rules Four and Five. In the phrase Ìx wèxy. male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2., the man is the same as the speaker because both words cover the content of the same instance (Rule Four) of man-making completely (Rule Five); the predicate via its inner case, the object via its outer case.

Finally, the inner cases of relative pronouns are also covered by this rule: using pronouns to refer to things that have already been introduced ensures that we are referring to the same things, not to new ones of the same kind; recall these two examples.

Six. Missing objects

A missing object is equivalent to the absence of information about its descriptor.

Normally, you will not add objects in all existing cases to your instance of wmàb.. If you leave out, say, the locative object, Rule Five cannot restrict the weaving with respect to its location. But thanks to Rule Six this does not mean you refer to all locations where father is weaving wool every Thursday morning. It rather means that you omitted any spatial information about your instance of weaving. Leaving out the nominative object of ‘wool’ does not mean this instance of wool refers to wool by all woolly animals. It might still be only about goat’s wool, but this information has not been included in the sentence.

Typical reasons for omitting objects are:

An example that may not be obvious: jnÌ sklÌxtyn. 1/1-acc1 room-acc-partacc2. ‘all rooms’ does not necessarily describe all rooms there are, because ‘room’ could have a missing accusative object ‘green’. If so, the object of the main predicate would only be the ‘green rooms’ (which is, incidentally, a good example of the importance of Rule Two). But of course the information that the rooms are green can only be omitted if it is clear from context anyway. If this isn’t the case, the addressee can safely conclude that the mentioned phrase is really intended to mean ‘all rooms there are’. (We will further discuss this issue on the pragmatics pages.)

Rules Five and Six imply that every instance of a word has exactly one action, one sender, and so on: Five excludes additional senders if one nominative object is already present, and Six gives meaning to missing objects, establishing them as an integral part of Lemizh sentence grammar.

Seven. Degree of reality

Given an object and its predicate, the predicate is considered more real and the object more hypothetical.

Four levels of reality: the real world contains the parole (level 0); the world the sentence is talking about (the world of the parole) contains ‘I want …’ (level 1 = grammatical reality); the world of my wish contains ‘… to hear …’ (level 2); the world of my hearing contains ‘… Socrates.’ (level 3).

The sentence làxt xOàjy sokrateÌse. ‘I want1 to hear2 Socrates3’ contains the information that I want1 something (i.e. to hear Socrates), but not that I actually hear2 someone (i.e. Socrates). The main predicate ‘want’, so to speak, lives in the world the sentence is talking about (more formally, the world of the parole), which is the more real, while its object ‘hear Socrates’ lives in the world of my wish, which is the more hypothetical of these two worlds. The parole, having level zero, acts as the predicate to the sentence as a whole and is therefore still more real. This reflects the fact that the parole is part of the real world; it is as real as anything linguistic can be. Turning this around, we see that the sentence is more hypothetical than reality: it can be a metaphor or some other figure of speech, a statement about a fictional or otherwise imagined world, an error, a lie, a linguistic example sentence, etc. We call the main predicate’s kind of reality, the one that is just one level more hypothetical than the parole and the real world, grammatical reality. Every sentence claims grammatical reality of its main predicate, or, loosely speaking, claims its main predicate.

The sentence qàzg làxty xOàjy sokrateÌse. ‘I think1 I want2 to hear3 Socrates4’ claims that I think something, while the other two verbs, so to say, are pushed down one degree of reality: ‘want’ becomes more hypothetical, and ‘hear’ even more so.

In the sentence dmàt mÌse lÌbvy. ‘I see1 white mice2’, the object ‘white mice’ is hypothetical as well: there is no claim that the mice actually exist. But, depending on the situation, the addressee might still justifiably conclude that the mice do exist, if there are no other good explanations such as a hallucination. Such conclusions, which are not licensed by Rule Seven but by logic and/or context, are called pragmatic reality.

Here are some consequences of Rule Seven:

Compounding Rule Two revisited

Per Rule Two of compounding, ‘in the relationship between the original predicate and object (modifier and head of the compound, respectively), the rules of sentence grammar are retained as far as applicable’.


Up till now, our example sentences had main predicates with inner factives, meaning that they were claiming reality of their main predicates’ actions, per Rule Seven. We say that these sentences had the factive topicalised. Other cases can be topicalised instead – we have just had a glimpse of this when we mentioned that the noun phrase wèx nàgcy. speak-nom1 war-fact-acc2. actually means ‘A teller of a war exists; there is a teller of a war’. This is a sentence with nominative topicalised, claiming reality of its main predicate’s sender. Here is another example.

dmàt mÌse lÌbvy.I see white mice.
see-fact1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.
dmèt mÌse lÌbvy.The seen things, white mice, (exist.)There are white mice I see.
see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.

Dative and receptive verbs

Lemizh verbs corresponding to dative/receptive word pairs (‘give’ vs. ‘get’) can be topicalised to expressly distinguish the dative from the receptive viewpoint.

dà dwÌwy.The action of giving a bottle (exists.)Someone gives / Someone gets a bottle. (neutral form)
give-fact1 bottle-acc-acc2.
dè dwÌwy.The giver of a bottle (exists.)Someone gives a bottle.
give-nom1 bottle-acc-acc2.
dì dwÌwy.The recipient of a bottle (exists.)Someone gets a bottle.
give-dat1 bottle-acc-acc2.


The English perfect signifies the consequence of a completed action: ‘I have built bridges’ = ‘The bridges are built, they exist now’. To phrase a sentence about the consequence in Lemizh, we topicalise the consecutive case (il, direct consequence, effect).

sklìl vèe.The consequence of making bridges (exists.)I have built bridges.
bridge-cons1 PIn−2-nom-nom2.
díl fOpysryfè dwywÌ lusÌi.The consequence of giving a bottle (exists.)Father Christmas has given Lucy a bottle.
give-cons1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a bottle-acc-acc2 Lucy-acc-dat2.

Stative verbs

English stative verbs are typically perfect and often receptive, and are translated accordingly:

Some of the literal translations (‘have been made’) are misleading: it is not required that someone has actually made it. (Recall that a case can denote ‘no one/nothing at all’, but it will still exist.)

zdìls cnÌy.The children have sat down / have been seated. (The consequence of this action exists.)The children are sitting.
seat-cons1 child-acc-acc2.
fkrìlj tyÌ vèU.This tortoise has been made for me.This is my tortoise. This tortoise is mine.
tortoise-cons1 this-acc-acc2 PIn−2-nom-ben2.

‘This is my tortoise’ is equivalent to ‘I possess this tortoise’, so ‘possess, have got’ can be translated as a genitive. Such sentences are often about the existence of the possessed thing; hence the different topicalisation in the following example.

dwÌw lusÌU.A bottle for Lucy / Lucy’s bottle (exists.)Lucy has got / possesses a bottle.
bottle-acc1 Lucy-acc-ben2.

Other cases

Needless to say, each and every case can be topicalised. The tentive (o, intention) signifies that the intention to perform an action exists. The ingressive (eR, starting time) and egressive cases (iR, closing time) express the beginning and ending of an action, respectively. The final (Ul, purpose, aim) means that a purpose has been achieved.

xÙlsk snrÌki.The aim of searching (exists.)I’ve found the Snark.
search-fin1 Snark-acc-dat2.

The meaning of this sentence is not that I have an aim for my search in mind, but that the aim (i.e. finding the Snark) exists in the world of the parole, it is grammatically real.

Objects of topicalised verbs

How shall we translate ‘I found it because of the baker’? Because of Rule Three (‘The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem …’), xÙlsk jexèel. search-fin1 bake-nom-caus2. would mean ‘I found it, having searched for it because of the baker’. To solve this, we convert the aim of searching (the finding) into an action in its own right with a pseudo-desorption, a contruction that would be a desorption if ‘find’ were a verb with an inner factive and could thus be desorbed from the general verb là. ‘to act’. This new action can then accept objects.

là xUlskà jexèel.The aim of searching, i.e. the finding, is an action; this action happened because of the baker.I found it because of the baker.
do-fact1 search-fin-fact2 bake-nom-caus2.


PredicativePredicate nounPredicate adjective and participle
of the subject:He is a lace-maker.She is beautiful.
of the object:Susan calls Lucy a goose.She paints the bridge green. Let’s call it finished.

In Indo-European languages, the predicative is a part of a sentence that ‘predicates’ (describes) the subject or object. In the simplest situations, it is a noun, adjective, participle (or pronoun). Predicatives can also be longer noun phrases (‘He is an old, bearded lace-maker’).

In Lemizh, the distinctions in the table above are lost. Predicatives of both subject and object turn into accusative or dative objects. (We will see examples of both cases below.) You already know that nouns, adjectives and participles behave quite the same in Lemizh. Longer noun phrases simply become objects that consist of more than one word.

Predicate noun

In the chapter on concrete nouns we have seen how ‘The thread becomes lace’ is translated. ‘The thread is lace’ is the consequence (‘is’ being a stative verb), so we topicalise the consecutive case.

khlìl grÌwi.The thread-dat has become / has been made into lace.The thread is lace.
lace-cons1 thread-acc-dat2.

The object predicate nouns are straightforward. They normally talk about actions, not states, and thus have a main predicate with the factive (or some other non-consecutive case) topicalised.

ját susnyè RyjÌ lusÌi.Susan calls Lucy a goose.
name-fact1 Susan-acc-nom2a goose-acc-acc2 Lucy-acc-dat2.

Predicate adjective and participle

Now for the adjectival and participial predicatives.

prìlj bÌi.The woman has become / has been made beautiful.The woman is beautiful.
beautiful-cons1 female-acc-dat2.

Object predicate adjectives again have main predicates with a non-consecutive case. The second example is similar to a desorption of the first.

làxw sklÌi.She makes (colours, paints) the bridge green.
green-fact1 bridge-acc-dat2.
mraà lyxwÌ sklÌi.She paints the bridge green.
paint-fact1 green-acc-acc2 bridge-acc-dat2.