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 wèx nàgcy. speak-nom1 war-fact-acc2. actually means ‘A teller of a war exists; there is a teller of a war’, and dmèt mÌse lÌbvy. see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3. means ‘There are seen things, white mice’. These are sentences with the nominative topicalised, claiming reality of their main predicates’ senders.

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. I see the white mice.
see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3.
sklè bÌe.A bridge builder, [i.e.] she, (exists.)It’s her who’s building bridges.
She builds bridges.
bridge-nom1 female-acc-nom2.

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 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.

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).

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.

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

wà fmìlxky. fmilxkwÌ.The content of the parole is the consequence of spilling.a spilt thing
PIn−1-fact1 spill-cons-acc2. spill-cons-PIn−1-acc1.
xmlÌg fmilxkvÌy.(change of pronoun)spilt milk
milk-acc1 spill-cons-PIn−2-acc-acc2.

Stative verbs

English stative verbs are typically perfect and often receptive, and are translated accordingly: ‘sit’ = ‘have sat down, have been seated’, ‘know’ = ‘have been taught’, but also ‘have seen, have heard, have read’ etc., ‘mean’ = ‘have been given [a] meaning’, ‘be’ =‘have been made’. ‘wait’ is the perfect of wràks., which translates somewhat awkwardly as ‘start waiting’, in the same sense as ‘be given a meaning’ equals ‘start meaning something’. 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.
dmìlt edmyjdì trÌxke.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.
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.

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 world of the parole. Contrast this verb with ràdj. ‘discover, find’, which does not imply having looked for it. Also note that the Snark is the dative object, which additionally expresses that the search reaches the Snark. This is another example of ambiguous usage.

A purpose not achieved can be denoted by negating the final case, 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.

We have actually met a few negated and other modified topics before we had the terminology: the verb for the recurring part of a number, ‘He hardly ever queues’, ‘He never queues / Nobody is queuing’ and some of the exercises in unit 7 as well as ‘eat up’ in unit 8; and we will meet some with modal verbs in unit 13.

Beginning and ending

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.

ganèR.She starts to sing.
ganiRnà.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.

Other cases

Needless to say, each and every case can be topicalised. The tentive (o, intention), for example, signifies that 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 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.
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 drÌzdi.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.

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

Pseudo-desorptions also occur in other cases; we will encounter an accusative example in unit 12.

Topic nesting

We can also apply a pseudo-desorption 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 of ‘dead’).
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.

là xlÌja.He behaves strangely.
do-fact1 strange-acc-fact2.
lèR xlÌja.He is beginning to behave strangely.
do-ing1 strange-acc-fact2.
ftràsk dwÌa.She sneezes twice.
sneeze-fact1 two-acc-fact2.
ftràlsk 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?
lèR xlÌjeR.Solve
do-ing1 strange-acc-ing2.
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 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 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.
Rìlj cnÌi.The child-dat has been made a goose.The child is a goose.
goose-cons1 child-acc-dat2.
Mark the difference:
Rìlj cnÌy.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 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. This is exemplified in the last sentence, which is an absorption of the second accusative of mìl cnyÌ RÌjy. make-cons1 child-acc-acc2 goose-acc-acc2. – 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 RÌj cnÌy. goose-acc1 child-acc-acc2. and the inverted compound RyjcnÌ. goose-acc-child-acc1., both meaning ‘child goose, young goose’ – compare these compounds from brackets.

Predicatives with overt (not absorbable) accusative objects include:
mìl tryxkì khlèy.The beaver has been made a lace-maker.The beaver is a lace-maker.
make-cons1 beaver-acc-dat2 lace-nom-acc2.
sklág lusyì bèsty.Lucy proved a hero.
prove-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2a hero-nom-acc2.

We have previously translated ‘The beaver is a lace-maker’ simply with khlá trÌxke. lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a., 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 nà prìljy bÌy. priljnÌ bÌy. bÌ priljnÌy. not-fact1 beautiful-cons-acc2 female-acc-acc3. beautiful-cons-not-acc1 female-acc-acc2. female-acc1 beautiful-cons-not-acc-acc2. ‘The beauty of the woman does not exist’ ‘the ugly woman’.

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

prìlj axileysÌ lÌqkyn.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.

English infinitives are better seen as part of the subject, not the predicative, and translated accordingly.

grilcrìl mràxti sklÌi.To paint the bridge / Painting the bridge has been made easy.
[e.g. Someone has given me an easy-to-handle brush.]
The bridge is easy to paint.
difficult-cons-1/4-cons1 paint-fact-dat2 bridge-acc-dat3.
grilcrìl mràxty sklÌi.to paint the bridge = an easy thing
difficult-cons-1/4-cons1 paint-fact-acc2 bridge-acc-dat3.

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

làxw sklÌi.(resultative)She makes (colours, paints) the bridge green.
green-fact1 bridge-acc-dat2.
mràxt lyxwÌ sklÌi.(resultative)She paints the bridge green.
paint-fact1 green-acc-acc2 bridge-acc-dat2.
nàgw 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? nàgw bunÌy2 wÌcgy3. drink-fact1 coffee-acc-acc2 black-acc-acc3. 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 concept very similar to our predicative.

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).

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

If the woman isn’t sad but is singing as if she were, we use a qualitative object, to which we turn in the next unit.


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.)
The tortoise is greeting Achilles happily.Solve