lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 10. Topic and predicative

I have built, built more bridges than I’ve burned
And I have helped, helped more people than I’ve hurt
But in my life, I’m still humbled by how little I have learned

(Vonda Shepard. Roll in the Dirt)


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 had a glimpse of this in the previous unit when we mentioned that the noun phrase speakè warày. actually means ‘A teller of a war exists; there is a teller of a war’, and dmèt mÌse lÌbvy. means ‘There are seen things, white mice’. These are sentences with the nominative topicalised.

bridgeè bÌe.A bridge builder, [i.e.] she, (exists.)It’s her who’s building bridges.
She builds bridges.
bridge-nom1 female-acc-nom2.
dmàt mÌse lÌbvy.I see (some) white mice.
see-fact1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.
dmèt mÌse lÌbvy.The seen things, white mice, (exist.)There are some white mice I see. I see the white mice.
see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.

Constructions of the kind ‘It’s her who’s building bridges’ are called cleft sentences, and ‘She builds bridges’ is an implicit cleft (as was ‘She doesn’t eat it because of the vitamins’ in unit 8).

Dative and receptive verbs

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

  giveè bottleÌy.The giver of a bottle (exists.)Someone gives a bottle.
give-nom1 bottle-acc-acc2.
giveì bottleÌy.The recipient of a bottle (exists.)Someone gets a bottle.
give-dat1 bottle-acc-acc2.
giveà bottleÌy.The action of giving a bottle (exists.)Someone gives / Someone gets a bottle. (neutral form)
give-fact1 bottle-acc-acc2.

As you remember, verbs can also be qualified with different agents (‘give’ vs. ‘take’), allowing for a number of different shades of meaning.


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).

bridgeìl 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.

We can now also express the aspect of a passive participle (although this is only rarely necessary) by building a consecutive into a compound.

  spillìly. spillilwÌ.The content of the parole is the consequence of spilling.a spilt thing
PIn−1-fact1 spill-cons-acc2. spill-cons-PIn−1-acc1.
milkÌ spillilvÌy.(Note the change of the pronoun.)spilt milk
milk-acc1 spill-cons-PIn−2-acc-acc2.

Stative verbs

English stative verbs such as ‘have got, possess’ (‘have been given’), ‘mean’ (‘have been given [a] meaning’), ‘know’ (‘have been taught’, but also ‘have seen, have heard, have read’ etc.), ‘be, exist’ (‘have been made’) are typically receptive and perfect, and are translated accordingly. ‘wait’ is the perfect of waità., which translates somewhat awkwardly as ‘start waiting’, in the same sense as ‘be given a meaning’ equals ‘start meaning something’. Note that the literal translations (‘have been given’) are somewhat misleading: it is not required that someone has given it. (Recall that a case can denote ‘no one/nothing at all’, but it will still exist.)

  dìl lusyì bottleÌy.Lucy has been given a bottle. (The consequence of this action exists.)Lucy has got / possesses a bottle.
give-cons1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2.
seeìl edmyjdì beaverÌe.Edmund has seen beavers.Edmund knows beavers.
see-cons1 Edmund-acc-dat2 beaver-acc-nom2.
gwìlt edmyjdì oranutnÌy.Edmund has been taught about orangutans.Edmund knows about orangutans.
teach-cons1 Edmund-acc-dat2 orangutan-acc-acc2.
zdìls cnÌy.The children have been seated.The children are sitting.
seat-cons1 child-acc-acc2.
faunìl.Fauns have been made.There are fauns. Fauns exist.
tortoiseìl 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.
mìl bakeèy.Bakers have been made.There are bakers. Bakers exist.
make-cons1 bake-nom-acc2.

The last sentence is a pseudo-desorption, a contruction that would be a desorption if bakeè. were a sub-category verb of its predicate mà. (that is, if it were a nominal verb), with an inner accusative. In this way, bakeè. can be treated grammatically as if it were a nominal verb with an inner accusative. The sentence is parallel to mìl faunÌy., only that the latter can be absorbed into faunìl..

‘This is my tortoise’ is equivalent to ‘I possess this tortoise’, which means that ‘have got, possess’ can often be translated simply as a genitive (possibly, but not necessarily, with a topicalised consecutive).

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

Recall the remark in unit 3, Ambiguous plot usage: ‘be happy’ isn’t simply a state like being tall or brown-haired. On the other hand, having been seated is enough for sitting: in this case, nothing else needs to happen. ‘sit’ is a genuine static verb.

Achieving a purpose, or not

Some English verb pairs are in a relationship of trying and achieving to each other: examples include ‘search – find’, ‘ask – (getting an) answer’, ‘command – obey’, as well as ‘try – achieve/manage’ itself. To express any of the second verbs in these pairs, we use the first and topicalise the final case (Ul, purpose, aim).

  xÙlsk snrÌki.The aim of searching (exists.)I’ve found the Snark-dat.
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 real world. Contrast this construction with the verb discoverà. ‘discover, find’, which does not imply having looked for it. Also note that the Snark is the dative object of ‘search’, as opposed to the accusative above; this is another example of ambiguous usage.

A purpose not achieved can be denoted by negating the final, a construction called a negated topic. Note the difference in degree of reality that is caused by an inversion: the second example does not claim that the thing is not found.

  nà xÙlsky. xUlsknà.I don’t (can’t) find it.
not-fact1 search-fin-acc2. search-fin-not-fact1.
xàsk nÌUl.I am searching aimlessly.
search-fact1 not-acc-fin2.

Beginning and ending; ordinal adverbials

To express the beginning or ending of an action, we want the ingressive (eR, starting time) or egressive cases (iR, closing time), respectively. Another negated topic follows.

  singèR.She starts to sing.
singiRnà.She doesn’t stop singing. She continues to sing.

A grammatical form expressing the beginning of an action is generally called inchoative aspect, one expressing the ending of an action is called cessative aspect.

As ordinal numerals are formed with an inner egressive, we can use topicalisation to express ordinal adverbials such as ‘for the second time’ and, with an egressive bracket, ‘at first’.

dwìR sràjy.I met her for the second time.
two-egr1 meet-fact-acc2.
rìR rOsàciR iceÌi.The first thing is the making of ice crystals.At first, ice crystals form.
one-egr1 crystal-fact-egr2 ice-acc-dat3.

Other cases

Needless to say, each and every case can be topicalised. The tentive (o, intention), for example, signifies that just the intention to perform an action exists; and the affirmative (al, fact) can be used to highlight the factual statement as opposed to the action itself.

Objects of topicalised verbs

How shall we translate ‘I found it by chance-caus’? Because of Rule Three (‘The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem …’), searchÙl chanceÌel. would mean something like ‘I found it, having searched for it by chance’. To solve this, we convert the ‘aim of searching’ (the ‘finding’) into an action in its own right by a pseudo-desorption; the new action can then accept objects. Recall that là. is ‘the act’.

là xUlskà strÌgor.The aim of searching is an action; this action happened in or at the box.I found it in the box.
do-fact1 search-fin-fact2 box-acc-sce2.
là wíRxa zeè oranutnyý txÌskOl.I stopped talking about orangutans because of the noise-psu.
do-fact1 speak-egr-fact2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a orangutan-acc-acc3 loud-acc-psu2.
lá veè jìRxa.I stopped him.
do-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a move-egr-fact2.
lá veè pUlà <flÌcy>.I answer ‘blue’.
do-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a ask-fin-fact2 ‘blue-acc-acc2’.

The example ‘I stopped talking about orangutans because of the noise’ only needs this kind of construction because of the persuasive object; the others (‘I’ and ‘orangutan’) are objects of ‘talk’. ‘I stopped him’ needs a pseudo-desorption because ‘I’ is the agent of ending the movement rather than the movement itself; and ‘I answer “blue”’ is based on the same idea. Don’t overuse this kind of construction: if all objects can be assigned to the same predicate, it isn’t necessary.

zdìls cnyÌ chairÌi.The children have been seated on chairs-dat.
(receiving use of a verb of placement)
The children are sitting on chairs.
seat-cons1 child-acc-acc2 chair-acc-dat2.

An object in the case of the topic, including the corresponding partitive case, never needs a construction with là.; a bracket serves just as well.

  readíR veì midnightÌiR.I stopped reading at midnight.
read-egr1 PIn−2-nom-dat2a midnight-acc-egr2.

Topic nesting

We can also apply a factive pseudo-desorption like the ones above and then topicalise the new main predicate là. to convey two (or more) topics at once. This is called a topic nesting.

lèR pÙla.I’m starting to answer.
do-ing1 ask-fin-fact2.
lìl srìRja.I have stopped meeting her.
do-cons1 meet-egr-fact2.
lìl RìRjga.He has stopped living.He is dead (implying that he has lived before; compare this translation).
do-cons1 live-egr-fact2.

Adverbs of topicalised verbs

We have learned that adjectives and participles used adverbially form a factive bracket with their predicate. Now topicalising the predicate does not change the outer case of the adverb, even though the resulting construction isn’t a bracket any more. The same is true of other factive brackets, notably multiplicative numerals.

  behaveà strangeÌa.He behaves strangely.
behave-fact1 strange-acc-fact2.
behaveèR strangeÌa.He is beginning to behave strangely.
behave-ing1 strange-acc-fact2.
  sneezeà dwÌa.She sneezes twice.
sneeze-fact1 two-acc-fact2.
sneezeàl dwÌa.She does sneeze twice. It’s a fact that she sneezes twice.
sneeze-aff1 two-acc-fact2.


Why do adverbially used adjectives keep the outer factive when their predicate is topicalised? What would the following bracket express instead?
behaveèR strangeÌeR.Solve
He ate his fill.Solve
He knows the sound of a trumpet.Solve
The beaver has taken my lace.Solve
I loudly answer ‘blue’ to your question.
(Include the pronouns.)


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 displayed in the table above are lost. Predicatives of both subject and object turn into accusative or dative objects (the difference between these two cases being described 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 stative verb), so we topicalise the consecutive case.

  laceìl threadÌi.The thread-dat has become / has been made into lace.The thread is lace.
lace-cons1 thread-acc-dat2.
gooseìl childÌi.The child-dat has been made a goose.The child is a goose.
goose-cons1 child-acc-dat2.
  Mark the difference:
gooseìl childÌy.It’s a child goose, a young goose.
goose-cons1 child-acc-acc2.

The first two constructions are again examples of the dative (thread and child, respectively) describing the ‘raw material’ onto which the accusative, the properties of being lace or goose, respectively, are imposed. Predicatives of this type are called resultative (describing the result of an action) in Indo-European grammars. On the other hand, some predicatives do not imply ‘making’ something, but rather describe an inherent property of a subject or object; these are called depictive. We met this situation in last sentence, which is an absorption of the second accusative of mìl childyÌ gooseÌy. – an accusative coordination, equating ‘goose’ and ‘child’. (The term ‘resultative’ should not be confused with topicalisation of the consequence, which is expressed by the consecutive case.)

From the latter example we can also derive the bracket gooseÌ childÌy. and the inverted compound gooseychildÌ. ‘child goose, young goose’ – compare these compounds from brackets.

  Predicatives with overt (not absorbable) accusative objects include:
mìl beaverlaceèy.The beaver has been made a lace-maker.The beaver is a lace-maker.
make-cons1 beaver-acc-dat2 lace-nom-acc2.
proveá lusyì heroèy.Lucy proved a hero.
prove-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2a hero-nom-acc2.
meanìl 3/4yÌ vèU.It means a lot to me-ben.
mean-cons1 3/4-acc-acc2 PIn−2-nom-ben2.

We have previously translated ‘The beaver is a lace-maker’ simply with laceá beaverÌe., which centers on the beaver’s action as a lace-maker. The new translation focuses on his position (as in ‘Royal Lace-Maker by Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’).

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. Again, the object is in the dative for resultative and in the accusative for depictive predicatives.

prìlj bÌi.The woman has become / has been made beautiful.The woman is beautiful.
beautiful-cons1 female-acc-dat2.
prìlj bÌy.the woman = the beautiful one
beautiful-cons1 female-acc-acc2.
Rìlcj snÌwy.snow = a coloured thingThe snow is coloured. The colour of snow exists.
(see Genitive: Translated with other cases)
colour-cons1 snow-acc-acc2.

Now it should become clearer why we have kept using the consecutive case for abstract nouns (see Adjectives in unit 4, Negators in unit 6, Weighted words in unit 8): the first two examples also translate as ‘The beauty of the woman exists’. What’s more, negation gives beautifulìly femaleÌy. beautifulilfemaleÌy. femaleÌ beautifulilnÌy. ‘the ugly woman’.

In English, we can restrict the scope of the adjective with ‘for’; in Lemizh we can use a partitive coordination.

  beautifulìl axileysÌ raceÌyn.The racers are the set from which the beautiful ones are taken.Achilles is beautiful for a racer.
beautiful-cons1 Achilles-acc-acc2 race-acc-partacc2.

Infinitives are better seen as part of the subject, not the predicative.

  easyìl paintài bridgeÌi.To paint the bridge has been made easy.
[e.g. Someone has given me an easy-to-handle brush.]
The bridge is easy to paint.
easy-cons1 paint-fact-dat2 bridge-acc-dat3.
easyìl paintày bridgeÌi.to paint the bridge = an easy thing
easy-cons1 paint-fact-acc2 bridge-acc-dat3.

Object predicate adjectives again have main predicates with a non-consecutive case.

làxw bridgeÌi.(resultative)She makes (colours, paints) the bridge green.
green-fact1 bridge-acc-dat2.
paintà lyxwÌ bridgeÌi.(resultative)She paints the bridge green.
paint-fact1 green-acc-acc2 bridge-acc-dat2.
drinkà wycgÌ bunÌy.(depictive)She drinks [her] coffee black.
drink-fact1 black-acc-acc2 coffee-acc-acc2.

Compare the second sentence to the plot of the grouping numerals. ‘He sorts the umbrellas by colour’ works exactly the same way.

Why don’t we use a bracket for the depictive sentence? drinkà coffeeÌy blackÌy., where ‘black’ is an object of ‘coffee’, means ‘She drinks black coffee’ (an adjectival attribute). Using a coordination, we make ‘(the) black (thing)’ an object of ‘drink’, placing it nearer to the main predicate than to the object ‘coffee’. This is a similar concept as our predicative, if not exactly the same.

Adjectives as adverbs, take two

In the chapter on adjectives and participles as attributes and adverbs, we translated adverbs in ‘-ly’ (‘He behaves strangely’) as factive brackets. This is not necessarily a good method with adjectives expressing emotion. ‘The tortoise is greeting me happily’, for example, does not mean that the action of greeting is happy, but that the greeting tortoise is happy (is the sender of happiness). Likewise, ‘She sings sadly’ means that she, not the singing, is sad. A coordination comes rather close to this meaning, placing the adjective of emotion nearer to the main predicate than a bracket without attributing the emotion to the action (similarly to our translation of depictive predicatives).

singá byè sadèe.The singing woman is sad.The woman sings sadly.
sing-fact1 female-acc-nom2a sad-nom-nom2.


The sky is blue [i.e., and that’s a fact].Solve
The sky is blue [i.e., again after the rain].Solve
They elected me chief. (include the first person pronoun)Solve
The tortoise is greeting Achilles happily.Solve