lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 6. Comparison, time and space

Comparing quality

In this chapter we will discuss sentences comparing a quality, such as ‘Othello behaves like mad’. Here Othello is likened to someone mad, so ‘mad’ is in the qualitative case (abbreviated qual) corresponding to the case of Othello, which is the nominative. As already mentioned, the qualitative cases are marked by adding the secondary case suffix m to the case marker. The descriptors for qualitative cases are (and the insertion is explained in the following chapter) ‘the basis of comparison – located in the same hypothetical world as all others – for the sender (recipient, place, etc.)’. The object in the primary case need not be overt, but if it is, we get a qualitative coordination.

lá oqelyqè krègwem.Othello behaves like a mad one (a madman).Othello behaves like mad.
do-fact1 Othello-acc-nom2a mad-nom-qualnom2.

The madman is the basis of comparison for the sender of behaving, not the basis of comparison for the sender of behaving (= Othello). What is compared is the behaviour (of Othello) with regard to its sender; Othello isn’t in any way like a madman, except for his behaviour.

Adjectives of comparison and similar attributes are formed straightforwardly with qualitative brackets.

zvèc psrèbem.a friend like a father (but see Adjectives of possession)a paternal friend
friend-nom1 father-nom-qualnom2.
RÌcj snÌwym.coloured like snowsnow-coloured, snow-white
colour-acc1 snow-acc-qualacc2.

Comparison of partitive and qualitative cases

là kregwèn màxkOl.là kregwèm màxkOl.
do-fact1 mad-nom-partnom2 lie-fact-psu2.do-fact1 mad-nom-qualnom2 lie-fact-psu2.
A set of madmen, containing a subset of one showing some behaviour becaue of a lieA set of madmen, adjcent to a set of one showing some behaviour becaue of a lie
Some (or one) of the madmen show some behaviour because of a lie.Someone behaves like mad because of a lie.

The darker shaded areas represent what the sentences claim per Rule Seven. The areas in the right-hand image touch to symbolise that they are alike but don’t overlap – it is only as if they did.

Comparing quantity

Verbs of comparison

Three adjectival verbs serve as verbs of comparison.

quantitative verbràw.amountto make some amount
comparative verbtàcd.moreto make more, to make a larger amount
superlative verbàst.mostto make the most, to make the largest amount

A simple application of these verbs is their adjectival use in cumulative or partitive brackets. They are often combined with abstract nouns with an inner consecutive, such as ‘beauty’, or factive, such as ‘wit’.

rÌw priljÌ màskym.an amount of beauty like [the one] of witas much beauty as wit
amount-acc1 beautiful-cons-acc2 wit-fact-qualacc2.
tÌcd priljÌ màskym.more beauty than wit
more-acc1 beautiful-cons-acc2 wit-fact-qualacc2.
tÌcd prìljy(n).more (of the) beauty
more-acc1 beautiful-cons-(part)acc2.
Ìst prìljy(n).most (of the) beauty
most-acc1 beautiful-cons-(part)acc2.
We can now topicalise and compound:
tìlcd prìljy.The beauty is (something that is) more.
more-cons1 beautiful-cons-acc2.
priljtÌcd.the more beautiful one, more beautiful
ìlst prìljy.The beauty is (something that is) most.
most-cons1 beautiful-cons-acc2.
priljÌst.the most beautiful one, most beautiful


The difference between qualitative and quantitative comparison is only semantic. The first, so to say, is multi-dimensional, while the latter is one-dimensional. Therefore, simple positive comparisons of adjectives are constructed exactly like comparisons of quality.

ìlfx pqxaryÌ Ìkym.Fantasy has a density like air.Fantasy is as thin as air.
dense-cons1 fantasy-acc-acc2 air-acc-qualacc2.

Attributes are qualitative brackets.

nrá Ìxe mèvy cènem.Men as wise as we keep the peace.
peace-fact1 male-acc-nom2a wise-nom-acc3 PIn−4-partnom-qualnom4.


Let us now proceed to comparative sentences. The simplest of these are just basic comparisons such as the ones with tàcd. ‘more’ above. What we get are essentially predicate adjectives.

fattécd Ìhwe tÌy.(The horse is the source of the speed; see Adjectives.)the faster one, this horse
fast-fact-more-nom1 horse-acc-nom2a this-acc-acc3.
fattácd Ìhwe tÌy.This horse is faster.
fast-fact-more-fact1 horse-acc-nom2a this-acc-acc3.
With a qualitative object:
fattácd Ìhwe tyý jnÌem.This horse is faster than all [others].
fast-fact-more-fact1 horse-acc-nom2a this-acc-acc3 1/1-acc-qualnom2.

This is yet another example of Rule Two (an object is a subordinate word plus all of its own objects): the object of ‘more’ is not ‘fast’ but ‘This horse is as fast as all [others]’ or, translating the consecutive as an abstract noun, ‘the speed of this horse in comparison to all [others]’ – so the sentence literally means ‘The speed of this horse in comparison to all [others] is more’. ‘others’ is omitted because it is clear from context: the horse cannot be faster than itself anyway.

Attributes are of course brackets.


Again, we make use of the constructions described above, this time with the superlative verb àst. ‘most’. A qualitative coordination is not very helpful here; but a partitive one can define the basic set for the comparison.

maskást botmybè (wmèben).Bottom is the wittiest (of the weavers).
Bottom is the wittiest weaver.
wit-fact-most-fact1 Bottom-acc-nom2a (weave-nom-partnom2).

The accusative object of àst. is ‘Bottom is a witty one from the set of weavers’, or as an abstract noun ‘the wit of Bottom from the set of weavers’; yielding ‘The wit of Bottom from the set of weavers is the most’.

With superlative attributes, note (again) the difference between partitive and cumulative brackets.

maskést wmèben.the wittiest one from the set of weaversthe wittiest weaver
wit-fact-most-nom1 weave-nom-partnom2a.
maskést wmèbe.the wittiest one, who is a weaver
wit-fact-most-nom1 weave-nom-nom2a.

Time and space

Temporal and spatial verbs

A beaver as the reference object of a coordinate system. The first axis points from tail to head, the second upwards, and the third from left to right. ‘far’ is somewhere in the distance, ‘ouside’ outside the beaver’s body, and ‘between’ is between its paws.

Temporal and spatial verbs are adjective-like words denoting actions like ‘to make points / an area in a region X; to turn into points / an area in a region X’.

The first three spatial verbs, the axis verbs, correspond to the positive sides of the three axes of a Cartesian coordinate system that has its origin at, and is oriented along, a reference object, which can be a living being, a thing, a movement or other action – whatever has an orientation in space. The first axis (front) points in the direction of the ‘face’ or interacting side of the reference object. The second axis (up) points upwards, in the direction of the sky, if the reference object is in its ordinary position. The third axis (right) forms a right-handed coordinate system with the first and second. Some reference objects only define the first axis (an arrow, for example), others only the second (a free-standing tree). Obviously, the third axis is only defined if the first two are.

The reference object is the nominative object of the spatial verb. (See the kinship terms in nutshell 3 for context.) The coordinate system is aligned with it: if I lie down on my back, my front-axis points towards the sky, and my up-axis is level with the ground. The ‘right’ side of a wardrobe is what we would call its left because its interacting side faces you if you are standing in front of it; so the axes are arranged as if a human were facing you.

As there is only one axis in time, we only need the first axis (the front-axis) to convey temporal information. This axis has its origin at a reference object that is often, but not necessarily, an action. (It could also be a soap bubble.) It points towards the future.

The three remaining verbs are ‘far’, ‘outside’ and ‘between’. These serve as both temporal and spatial verbs.

Here is an overview of the temporal and spatial verbs with an inner accusative and some relevant outer cases, including compounds with the weighting numeral crà. ‘a bit’ and the opposition negator kÌ., which weaken or negate the front-ness, up-ness, etc., respectively (abstract nouns, hence with an epenthetic consecutive).

with inner accusative
and outer …
Translationlater, afterat a distant timebefore or afterbetween (times)
crÌ.a bit laterabout nowjust before or afterjust between (times)
kÌ.earlier, beforeduring, whilebefore or after (times)
Translationlong (duration)far reaching, extensive (time span)
crÌ.short (duration)with a small extent (time span)
Translationin frontaboveat the rightfar away, (over) thereoutsidebetween
crÌ.just in front, etc.nearby, herejust outsidejust between
kÌ.at the backbelowat the leftinsideoutside (a group of things)
Translationlong; deep (wardrobe)high, tall; deep (pond)broad, widefar reaching, extensive
crÌ.short; shallow (wardrobe)low, small in height;
shallow (pond)
narrowwith a small extent

Adverbials and adjectivals

Adverbials (adverbs and adverbial phrases) containing temporal or spatial information about actions are simply translated as objects in temporal or spatial cases, which often but not always contain one of the verbs described above.

qáxk ykhÌ prÌar.The ship is flying at the front.
fly-fact1 ship-acc-acc2a front-acc-loc2.
jàx qnytÌ Ìkher.The smoke comes from the ship.
move-fact1 smoke-acc-acc2 ship-acc-ela2.
jàx qnytÌ gmilkÌer Ìkhe.(with reference object)The smoke comes from the inside of the ship / from inside the ship.
move-fact1 smoke-acc-acc2 outside-cons-opposition-acc-ela2 ship-acc-nom3.

Adjectivals (adjectives and adjectival phrases) describing properties and states are similar to predicate adjectives (‘She is beautiful’): they need topicalisation of the consecutive case, and they are constructed with accusative or dative objects.

mìl tnedwì dmyÌR ilfcrÌyr.The captain is old and small.
make-cons1 captain-nom-dat2 3/4-acc-dur2 up-cons-1/4-acc-ext2.


The time of an action, what many languages express as tense, can be conveyed by marking another action (often the parole) as a reference object. Simultaneous action (present tense) is simply expressed by a pronoun as a temporal object. Both constructions can be compounded to downtone the temporal information.

dràw vàaR. draRwwà.The time of dancing is the parole.I am dancing [now].
dance-fact1 PIn−2-fact-temp2. dance-temp-PIn−1-fact1.
dràw prÌaR {zàe}. draRwprà.I will dance [later].
dance-fact1 front-acc-temp2 {PIn−3-fact-nom3}. dance-temp-front-fact1.
dràw prilkÌaR. draRwprilkà.I danced [earlier].
dance-fact1 front-cons-opposition-acc-temp2. dance-temp-front-cons-opposition-fact1.

The future tense can often be translated simply with a topicalised tentive case to express intention; and the past as a perfect (with topicalised consecutive).

As has been mentioned in other contexts, tense markers can and should be omitted whenever possible.