lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Nutshell 8. Finite clauses, questions and the imperative

Foucault’s pendulum at the Musée des arts et métiers, Paris

This nutshell is concerned with clauses that are introduced with subordinating conjunctions, pronouns or adverbs.


The conjunction ‘that’ is not to be confused with the relative pronoun ‘that’ in ‘the poodle that barked loudly’. A good test is to replace the clause with a noun or pronoun, most suitably ‘it’, which only works if ‘that’ is a conjunction.

I assume that Jacopo is writing about a pendulum.I assume it.

The difference between a non-finite clause (infinitive or gerund) and a ‘that’-clause can be purely grammatical (‘I want Jacopo to write something’, but ‘I assume that Jacopo is writing something’). However, ‘that’ frequently refers to the fact as opposed to the action – if I see that someone painted the bridge green, I don’t actually need to have seen them doing it –; so ‘that’-clauses are good candidates for topicalising the affirmative case.

The outer case of the object that translates the clause is typically an accusative.

tìlp veì srálby iakopykè keltÌjy.I assume that Jacopo is writing about a pendulum.
assume-cons1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 write-aff-acc2 Jacopo-acc-nom3a pendulum-acc-acc3.
láxt zaraqyhtè qáxky ftnÌky zèU.Zarathustra wants his eagle to fly.
want-fact1 Zarathustra-acc-nom2a fly-fact-acc2 eagle-acc-acc3a PIn−3-nom-ben4.
láxt zaraqyhtè qálxky ftnÌky zèU.Zarathustra wants that his eagle flies.
want-fact1 Zarathustra-acc-nom2a fly-aff-acc2 eagle-acc-acc3a PIn−3-nom-ben4.

The conjunction ‘that’ can be omitted in many English finite clauses. This has no effect on meaning or translation. We will include ‘that’ in the following examples for clarity.

Some ‘that’-clauses (let’s call them judgemental) claim reality. Yes, this means inversion.

gìljd wálxy zìe.
good-cons1 speak-aff-acc2 PIn−3-dat-nom3a.
wáx viè gÌjdal.The fact of your speaking is good.It is good that you speak.
speak-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a good-acc-aff2.

Finite clauses with other conjunctions

A number of subordinating conjunctions need other cases than the accusative. These include ‘because, as, since, so that, in order that, when, while, until, where’.

zdàs dmatmàqkar keltÌje.He sat down where he could see the pendulum.
seat-fact1 see-fact-opportunity-fact-loc2 pendulum-acc-nom3.
à làxtOl dmàty.He sat down there because he wanted to see it.
PIIn-fact1 want-fact-psu2 see-fact-acc3.
dmàt keltyjè natkàeR gonòrtxy.(… since the opposite of the museum opening had happened.)He had been looking at the pendulum since the museum closed.
see-fact1 pendulum-acc-nom2 open-fact-opposition-fact-ing2 museum-sce-acc3.

Clauses introduced with the conjunctions ‘if’ and ‘unless’, i.e. conditional clauses, need special constructions that would go beyond the scope of this nutshell tutorial. They are treated in unit 15 of the comprehensive tutorial.

Pronouns and adverbs vs. conjunctions

Now we move on to finite clauses introduced with a pronoun (e.g. ‘who, which, that’) or an adverb (e.g. ‘where, why’). To get the naming issue right out of the way: from the Lemizh point of view, the difference between subordinating pronouns and adverbs is just a matter of plot case vs. causal/temporal/spatial case. Most of these clauses also go by the name of relative clauses, but we will also treat indirect questions.

Some of the English (and other Indo-European) pronouns and adverbs introducing dependent clauses look like subordinating conjunctions but are used quite differently. Compare:

I know that the child is hiding beneath the rose bush.I know the child that is hiding beneath the rose bush.
The entrance vanished when the roses had faded.The day when the roses had faded, the entrance was gone.

As you see, clauses introduced with pronouns and adverbs usually occur in the role of attributes (or adverbs, as we will see shortly). This should remind you of the attributive and adverbial adjectives and participles in nutshell 3. However, we will also meet a group of counterexamples, the headless relative clauses.

Relative clauses

Attributive and adverbial clauses

Just as conjunctional clauses are the finite counterparts of infinitive and gerund clauses – being expanded objects –, we are now dealing with the finite counterparts of participial clauses – so we use brackets and coordinations for translation. Different relative pronouns (English, not Lemizh ones) and adverbs correspond to different inner cases: pronouns to plot cases and adverbs to others. Recall that the look-alike conjunctions correspond to different outer cases.

hrá oRwxÌfe mesÌy prilneytfÌaR.The midnight-born (-‘mothered’) poodle is yelping.The poodle that was born at midnight is yelping.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a mother-acc-acc3 midnight-acc-temp4.
jàx nÌwi ganáry lÌbe.We went to the valley, the location of the singing of flowers.We went to the valley where the flowers sing.
move-fact1 valley-acc-dat2 sing-loc-acc3 flower-acc-nom4a.

Not surprisingly, adverbial clauses (clauses in the role of adverbs; not necessarily introduced with adverbs) are usually factive brackets. Again, the pronoun or adverb is reflected by the inner case.

hrá oRwxyfè rahkÌa.The yelping is the content of dislike.The poodle is yelping, which I don’t like.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a like-fact-opposition-acc-fact2.
hrá oRwxyfè RÌksa.The yelping is the content of the recommendation. (Inversion of ‘The poodle should yelp’; compare the modal adverbs)The poodle is yelping, which/as it should.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a should-acc-fact2.
hrá oRwxyfè Ólva zeè vèi.The yelping is the reason for feeding.The poodle is yelping, wherefore I’ll feed it.
yelp-fact1 poodle-acc-nom2a eat-psu-fact2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a PIn−2-nom-dat3.

Headless relative clauses

These are pronominal relative clauses that aren’t attributive because they have lost their referent (head, or predicate in Lemizh terminology) because it isn’t important. Thus, instead of saying ‘He found the thing that I wanted’ (attributive relative clause), we can say ‘He found what I wanted’ (headless relative clause). To do this in Lemizh, we omit the bracket’s unnecessary predicate along with the two case endings forming the bracket (one inner and one outer), pushing up its object by one level.

xÙlsk i lýxty cèe.He found the thing that I wanted.
search-fin1 make-acc-dat2 want-acc-acc3 PIn−4-nom-nom4a.
→ xÙlsk lýxti zèe.→ He found what I wanted.
search-fin1 want-acc-dat2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a.

Questions and the imperative

Rule Seven of sentence grammar implies that all sentences are actually declarative sentences (statements); but all languages have sentences in other moods as well. ‘Did you feed the poodle?’ and ‘Feed the poodle!’ do not claim reality of the feeding. Consequently, we have to paraphrase non-declarative sentences by moving the verb down to level 2 and introducing a new main predicate. For direct questions, this means that they become indirect questions with the main predicate pà. ‘ask’.

Direct questionIndirect question
What about your sibling?I ask about your sibling.
Who has eaten the sweets?I ask who has eaten the sweets.
Are we going to the valley?I ask whether we are going to the valley.

But how do we translate indirect questions?

‘What about’-questions

The simplest type of question consists of ‘ask’ as the main predicate plus some accusative object. In direct questions, ‘ask’ can easily be compounded since its nominative object is clear – it is myself. (See the modal verbs with undefined nominative.) The compound also gives us the opportunity to topicalise the new main predicate: observe the consecutive, i.e. perfect, in the third example.

pá meseè htrÌy zìe.Mother asked about your sibling.
ask-fact1 mother-nom-nom2a sibling-acc-acc2 PIn−3-dat-nom3.
pá {veè} htrÌy zìe. htrypÌ vìe.I ask about your sibling.What about your sibling?
ask-fact1 {PIn−2-nom-nom2a} sibling-acc-acc2 PIn−3-dat-nom3. sibling-acc-ask-acc1 PIn−2-dat-nom2.
pá {veè} ìvy mlÌvy. ivpìl mlÌvy.I ask about the eater of the sweets.What about the one who has eaten the sweets?
ask-fact1 {PIn−2-nom-nom2a} eat-dat-acc2 sweet-acc-acc3. eat-dat-ask-cons1 sweet-acc-acc2.

The answer is constructed by referring to the question’s predicate with a pronoun. The pronoun doesn’t convey any useful information, so we so we get rid of it per Rule Six.

nà dmàty {qyè} zeí dmÌyR.(to uncompounded question) I haven’t seen the asked-for one for a long time.I haven’t seen him for a long time.
not-fact1 see-fact-acc2 {PIIn−2-acc-nom3} PIn−3-nom-dat3 3/4-acc-dur2.
nà dmàty {qiè} zeí dmÌyR.(to compounded question) I haven’t seen the asked-for eater for a long time.
not-fact1 see-fact-acc2 {PIIn−2-dat-nom3} PIn−3-nom-dat3 3/4-acc-dur2.

We can ask for any object in a sentence by inserting pÌ. ‘the asked-for thing’ and then making ‘ask’ the main predicate by inversion.


Wh-questions are introduced with interrogative pronouns or adverbs (which, in English, look like the relative ones). As with relative clauses, different pronouns and adverbs correspond to different inner cases of the object: ‘Who has eaten the sweets?’ has the dative, ‘Why did you eat the sweets?’ the persuasive, etc.

This type of question asks for the identity of an object: in ‘Who has eaten the sweets?’, the content of asking (the thing asked about) is the identity of the eater, as opposed to ‘What about the one who ate the sweets?’, where the person asked about is the eater herself. Luckily, the word ‘identity’ is rather short in Lemizh: Ìd., the inner accusative of the verb àd. ‘give someone/something an identity’. ‘the identity of the eater’ has the eater as the dative object, as she is the one who is given an identity. The pronoun in the answer typically forms a bracket.

Ìdy ìvi mlÌvy. ivydpìl mlÌvy.I ask about the identity of the eater of the sweets.
I ask who has eaten the sweets.
Who has eaten the sweets?
ask-fact1 identity-acc-acc2 eat-dat-dat3 sweet-acc-acc4. eat-dat-identity-acc-ask-cons1 sweet-acc-acc2.
htrybÌ {fìy}.The one given the asked-for identity is the sister.[My] sister.
sibling-acc-female-acc1 {PIIn−1-dat-acc2}.

Often it is sufficient to ask for a person or thing (‘What about the one who has eaten the sweets? — [It’s] my sister’) as opposed to the identity, so that we can omit -yd- -identity-acc-.

Polar questions (‘yes/no’-questions)

Polar questions don’t ask for an object but for the predicate of the queried verb: ‘Are we going?’ — jàxy. not-fact1 move-fact-acc2. ‘No, we aren’t going’. We cannot use an inversion to arrive at a construction parallel to the ones above, as the answer ‘No’ would then violate inversion ban. Instead, we use the general verb là. as a placeholder for the predicate.

y jàxy nÌwi. lapà jàxy nÌwi.I ask about the predicate of going to the valley.
I ask whether we are going to the valley.
Are we going to the valley?
ask-fact1 do-fact-acc2 move-fact-acc3 valley-acc-dat4. do-fact-ask-fact1 move-fact-acc2 valley-acc-dat3.
Ì.The content of the asked-for action, i.e. going to the valley, exists.Yes.
nà {fÌy}.No.
not-fact1 {PIIn−1-acc-acc2}.


Requests and commands can be phrased directly with the verbs pràk. ‘request’ and dàxt. ‘command, must’, but also with various modal verbs and ‘ask’, optionally compounded with weighting numerals to express different degrees of politeness.

avprák viè oRwxÌfi.I request that you feed the poodle.(Please) feed the poodle!
eat-fact-request-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2.
avdáxt viè oRwxÌfi:You must feed the poodle!
eat-fact-must-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2!
avlaxtcrá viè oRwxÌfi.I want you a little to feed the poodle.
eat-fact-want-fact-1/4-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2.
avpá viè oRwxÌfi.What about you feeding the poodle?
eat-fact-ask-fact1 PIn−2-dat-nom2a poodle-acc-dat2.