lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 14. Dependent clauses: non-finite

Human fate is fulfilled in failure. And from failure to failure, you get used to never getting beyond a draft.

(Guillaume Laurant / Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

We should now have a solid idea how to translate infinitive clauses, exemplified by sentences with modal verbs. Let us take a closer look at non-finite constructions in general, and let’s not shy away from the subtleties of English infinitives and gerunds.

Infinitive clauses

As we have seen, there is only one difference between a dependent clause and a whole sentence in Lemizh. The dependent clause is, well, dependent. Recall that the agent of the dependent clause has to be omitted if it is known from the main clause.

dmetfáw amelÌi.Amélie is watching television.
television-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a.
láxt veè dmetfáwy amelÌi.(construction b)I want Amélie to watch television.
want-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a.
Ràks dmetfáwy amelÌi. dmetfawRáks amelÌi.(construction c)Amélie should watch television.
should-fact1 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a. television-fact-should-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a.
wráj amelyè dmetfàwy.(construction a)Amélie dares (to) watch television.
dare-fact1 Amélie-acc-nom2a television-fact-acc2.
wílv amelyè dmetfàwy.(construction a)Amélie has decided to watch television.
decide-cons1 Amélie-acc-nom2a television-fact-acc2.

Construction b (‘I want Amélie …’) is phrased with Amélie in the dependent clause. The other possibility, with Amélie as recipient of the wish, would also be possible here as she is clearly the dative object of watching TV.

You surely have noticed that not all examples translate with a full (‘to’) infinitive. This is due to irregularities of English grammar – some verbs want the full, others the bare infinitive. It does not make any difference in Lemizh.

Topicalisation of infinitives

Infinitives, like finite verbs, can be topicalised.

láxt veè gwìlty oranutnyÌ amelÌi.I want Amélie to know about orangutans.
want-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a teach-cons-acc2 orangutan-acc-acc3 Amélie-acc-dat3.
láxt veè ganéRy amelÌe.I want Amélie to start singing.
want-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a sing-ing-acc2 Amélie-acc-nom3a.


In all of the above sentences, the dependent clause is the accusative object of the main predicate. However, some infinitives have final meaning.

fná amelyè gwáty veì strÌgy.Amélie is trying to learn about the box.
try-fact1 Amélie-acc-nom2a teach-fact-acc2 PIn−2-nom-dat3a box-acc-acc3.
xOáj amelyì gwátUl viì strÌgy.Amélie is listening to learn about the box.
hear-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a teach-fact-fin2 PIn−2-dat-dat3a box-acc-acc3.
dà wytxÌ àshUl.I give you a book to read.
give-fact1 book-acc-acc2 read-fact-fin2.

Subtly different from the final is the tentive case, which does not express a purpose (an intended consequence) of, but an intended identity to, the main action. (The final is the agent-centered equivalent of the consecutive, while the tentive is the agent-centered equivalent of the factive.)

xOáj lywè ujrào.The lion produces a sound (intending) to roar.
The lion produces a sound that is meant to be a roar.
hear-fact1 lion-acc-nom2a roar-fact-ten2.

Infinitives in combination with ‘enough’ and ‘too’ are straightforward. An exception is ‘enough’ with an infinitive having final meaning, which is best phrased as a comparison.

lýxt yhwè Ìvyn.There is what the horse wants of the food.The horse has got enough to eat.
want-acc1 horse-acc-nom2a eat-acc-partacc2.
fát yhwè rístem làqky.The horse is as fast as a winner of the race.The horse is fast enough to win the race.
fast-fact1 horse-acc-nom2a win-dat-qualnom2 race-fact-acc3a.
jàx prÌir.to move to the front of someone-nomto overtake someone
move-fact1 front-acc-ill2.
fattácd yhwè prèem jìrxy.The horse is faster than overtaken ones.The horse is too fast to be overtaken.
fast-fact-more-fact1 horse-acc-nom2a front-nom-qualnom2 move-ill-acc3.

Some infinitives convey modal information and are translated accordingly.

gwatdáxt viì strÌgy.You must learn about the box.You are to learn about the box.
teach-fact-must-fact1 PIn−2-dat-dat2a box-acc-acc2.
ìlx waxRìksy.He is the man one should speak to. The man should be the recipient of speaking. (modified object)He is the man to speak to.
male-cons1 speak-fact-should-dat-acc2.

Gerund clauses

Gerund clauses translate just like infinitives. Again, the difference is only in English grammar.

dmetfáw amelÌi.Amélie is watching TV.
television-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a.
dmàt veì dmetfáwy amelÌi.I see Amélie watching TV.
see-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a.
dmàt dmetfáwy amelÌi. dmetfawdmát amelÌi.Amélie is seen watching TV.
see-fact1 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a. television-fact-see-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a.
màxk.He is lying.
mìl maxkÌ lày giljdkÌa.(depictive predicate noun)Telling lies / Lying is bad behaviour.
make-cons1 lie-fact-acc2 do-fact-acc2 good-cons-opposition-acc-fact3.
dàcj.She plugs it in.
smradnilsbvà dàcju.Maybe it works by plugging it in-ins.
function-fact-certain-cons-1/2-fact1 plug-fact-ins2.

Perceptual verbs are yet another example of how the agent of the dependent clause can alternatively be placed as an object of the main clause, only this time it is the nominative: dmàt veì dmetfawÌ amelÌe. see-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-nom2..

Topicalisation of gerunds

Topicalising a gerund, e.g. for marking a verb as receptive, is not necessarily a good idea. For example, topicalising the dative in ‘I see Lucy getting a bottle from Father Christmas’ drops the information that I see the action of her getting the bottle. If it is important that I actually saw the transaction, the factive should remain in place.

dmàt dày lusyì dwywÌ fOpysrÌfe.I see Lucy getting a bottle from Father Christmas.
see-fact1 give-fact-acc2 Lucy-acc-dat3 bottle-acc-acc3 FatherChristmas-acc-nom3.
dmàt dìy lusyì dwywÌ fOpysrÌfe.(topicalisation with unwanted result)I see [the image of] the one getting / the one who got a bottle from Father Christmas, [which is] Lucy.
see-fact1 give-dat-acc2 Lucy-acc-dat3 bottle-acc-acc3 FatherChristmas-acc-nom3.

More subtleties

English gerunds can (like nouns) be modified by adjectives and genitive attributes, or (like verbs) by adverbs, subjects and objects – making no difference in Lemizh. We have already encountered a similar situation when we talked about the genitive: ‘the baby’s sleep’ (genitive attribute of a noun) = ‘The baby sleeps’ (subject of a verb).

lacwnà nenàe fÌta.Fast running / Running quickly didn’t help.
help-fact-not-fact1 run-fact-nom2 fast-acc-fact3.
sklàg sráji amelyè ninyjí grÌy.Amélie’s / Amélie meeting Nino proved difficult.
prove-fact1 meet-fact-dat2 Amélie-acc-nom3a Nino-acc-dat3 difficult-acc-acc2.

Gerund clauses also appear as attributes, in which case they typically form factive brackets.

xàc yhwì fÌta.He is riding a horse fast.
ride-fact1 horse-acc-dat2 fast-acc-fact2.
tàx xàca yhwì fÌta.(used as a genitive attribute)the art of riding a horse fast
art-fact1 ride-fact-fact2 horse-acc-dat3 fast-acc-fact3.


Given that the accusative denotes the content of an action, there is a difficulty with language related verbs. The following encompasses a number of perceptual verbs, especially ‘hear’ and its sub-category verbs ‘speak, shout’ etc., ‘read’ (a sub-category verb of ‘see’), as well as ‘write, think, teach’, the latter being in a way also a perceptual verb. It has already been mentioned that ‘know’ translates as ‘having seen / read / been taught etc.’, so it belongs here as well. (See Stative verbs in unit 10 and the footnote for ‘can’ in unit 13.) Accusative objects of such verbs sometimes translate as ‘hear/speak/etc. something’ (a direct object), sometimes as ‘hear/speak/etc. about something’ (a prepositional object).

When we say we hear a living being or a thing, we mean it is the source of the sound, so we phrase it as a nominative object; the accusative object names the conveyed information. Thus, we say ‘Lucy hears the lion-nom’ and ‘Lucy hears about the lion-acc from the beaver-nom’. This correlates to the distinction ‘Lucy sees the lion-nomvs. ‘Lucy sees the lion’s-acc image’ from unit 3. When we say we hear actions – words with inner factives, corresponding to English gerunds and abstract nouns with gerund-like meaning – the difference is less marked; we always say we hear the lion’s roaring whether we think of it as the source or the content of the sound. When Lucy hears about the lion’s roar, the content of hearing is not the action itself but the fact of the lion roaring, wanting an inner affirmative.

The upshot is: the Lemizh accusative object translates as an English direct object if and only if it has an inner factive; otherwise it translates as a prepositional object with ‘about’. To translate an English direct object which is not a gerund or abstact noun, we need to switch from the accusative to a different object, typically a nominative; but we will also meet factive objects further down. Conversely, to translate an English gerund in a prepositional object, we have to use a non-factive inner case: the affirmative suits our needs here. Now it helps that topicalising a gerund results in something that isn’t a gerund. Lastly, for translating gerunds in direct objects, the nominative is an alternative to the accusative, depending on whether we see the action as the source or the content of the information.

Maybe some examples are in order here:
xOàj bÌe.The girl produces a sound.I hear the girl.
hear-fact1 female-acc-nom2.
xOàj bÌy.The girl is the content of the information.I hear about the girl.
hear-fact1 female-acc-acc2.
gwìlt xaxsày.I have been taught the action of waltzing.I have been taught the waltz. I know how to waltz. I can waltz.
teach-cons1 waltz-fact-acc2.
gwìlt xaxsàly.I have been taught the fact of waltzing.I have been taught about the waltz. I know about the waltz.
teach-cons1 waltz-aff-acc2.
xOìlj dmetfàwe|y.The action of watching TV produces a sound / is the content of the sound.I have heard her watching TV.
hear-cons1 television-fact-nom/acc2.
xOìlj dmetfàlwy.The fact of watching TV is the content of the sound.I have heard about her watching TV. I know about her watching TV.
hear-cons1 television-aff-acc2.

‘I hear about the girl-acc’ is near-synonymous with ‘Someone speaks or sings [to me] about the girl’: both ‘speak’ and ‘sing’ are sub-category verbs of ‘hear’.

English also uses direct objects for hearing/teaching/speaking ‘a lot, a bit’, but such qualifying information really comes under strengthening and weakening of the verb. ‘hear good/bad things about someone’ translates into a predicative-like coordination: ‘hear good things about the girl’ is to ‘hear about the good girl’ as ‘drink one’s coffee black’ is to ‘drink black coffee’.

xOàj dmyà bÌy. dmà xOàjy bÌy. xOajdmà bÌy.I hear a lot about the girl.
hear-fact1 3/4-acc-fact2 female-acc-acc2. 3/4-fact1 hear-fact-acc2 female-acc-acc3. hear-fact-3/4-fact1 female-acc-acc2.
xOajdmìl bÌy.I have heard a lot about the girl. I know a lot about the girl.
hear-fact-3/4-cons1 female-acc-acc2.
xOàj gyjdÌy.I am hearing good things about the girl.
hear-fact1 good-acc-acc2 female-acc-acc2.

With some other verbs, the accusative translates as ‘about’, even with an inner factive: for example ‘speak’ (as we can’t speak an action of giving or a war, only about it), ‘read, write, think, be angry/happy about, be certain about, be indifferent about’. Still other verbs cannot be phrased with ‘about’ in English; for example, translating dmàt lÌwy. see-fact1 lion-acc-acc2. as ‘She sees about a lion’ would be more tangible than ‘She sees the lion’s image’, but unfortunately the former sentence means something else in English.

Objects related to language

Language related nouns such as ‘language, sentence, word; story, poem, text; book, letter’ in prepositional objects with ‘about’ translate as accusative objects, as expected. The same words in direct objects of verbs such as ‘hear, teach, speak, read, write, think’ can often be treated as qualifying information in the above sense, amounting to factive objects. Sometimes, however, the better solution is to view them as the source of the information and translate them as nominatives.

Sentences with predicates indicating production, e.g. ‘write’, lend themselves to translation with an inner plus an outer factive.

wàx oÌy.I tell you about a poem.
speak-fact1 poem-acc-acc2.
wàx oyà lÌwy.The action of telling is a poem.I tell you a poem about a lion.
speak-fact1 poem-acc-fact2 lion-acc-acc2.
xOìlj oÌa|e.I know a poem.
hear-cons1 poem-acc-fact/nom2.
ásh tryxkù wytxè lywÌ cnÌi.(non-sending ‘read’)The beaver reads a book about a lion to the children.
read-fact1 beaver-acc-ins2a book-acc-nom2 lion-acc-acc2 child-acc-dat2.
ásh tryxkì lywÌ wÌtxe.(agentive dative: The beaver reads to get the information into his brain.)The beaver reads a book about a lion (to himself).
read-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2a lion-acc-acc2 book-acc-nom2.
sráb tryxkè lywÌ wàtxa.The action of writing is the action of making a book.The beaver writes a book about a lion.
write-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a lion-acc-acc2 book-fact-fact2.

As always, we get attributive constructions by inversion. Along the same lines, ‘He writes a book’ can be generalised and inverted to express ‘a writing’ and similar concrete nouns.

wàx oyà lÌwy. oÌ wàxy lÌwy.I tell you a poem about a lion. a poem told about a lion
speak-fact1 poem-acc-fact2 lion-acc-acc2. poem-acc1 speak-fact-acc2 lion-acc-acc3.
sràb màa. mÌ sràba.something made in writinga writing, a text
write-fact1 make-fact-fact2. make-acc1 write-fact-fact2.

But then, ‘a writing, a text’ can often be translated loosely with srÌb. write-acc1. ‘something about which is written’, as in àsh srÌby. read-fact1 write-acc-acc2. ‘read a text’, lit. ‘read about what has been written’.

We can also interpret ‘a poem about a lion’ – and analogous constructions – as a phrase of its own (as it is in English) by thinking about the lion as the material from which the poem was made. This demotes the lion from the content of speaking to a characterisation of the poem. This phrasing is sometimes more concise.

wàx oÌa lÌwi3.I tell you a poem made from a lion.I tell you a poem about a lion.
speak-fact1 poem-acc-fact2 lion-acc-dat3.
qázg tryxkè wÌtxy lÌwi3.The beaver thinks about a book about a lion.
think-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a book-acc-acc2 lion-acc-dat3.

Shared properties of infinitives and gerunds

Passive and perfect

Infinitive and gerund also have passive and perfect forms, which are translated accordingly – with a pronoun if necessary. Topicalisation of the consecutive is not a problem, even with gerunds. (See the exercises for an infinitive example.)

ràh lusyè dày veì dwÌwy.Lucy likes being given a bottle.
like-fact1 Lucy-acc-nom2 give-fact-acc2 PIn−2-nom-dat3 bottle-acc-acc3.
fnàsf gyjdà sklìlOl.(The reason for feeling good is having built a bridge.)Having built a bridge-psu feels good.
feel-fact1 good-acc-fact2 bridge-cons-psu2.

Degree of reality

Another point to watch is the degree of reality. In some of the above examples, the dependent clause is only pragmatically real like the mice in ‘I see white mice’ (see Rule Seven): if I see Amélie watching TV, or Lucy getting a bottle, that is very likely to really happen (although it might be a hallucination). A different situation is ‘I didn’t see Amélie watching TV’ in a context of ‘Sorry, I missed that completely’. The seemingly obvious translation dmatnà veì dmetfáwy amelÌi. see-fact-not-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a. says absolutely nothing about whether she was actually watching the telly. This problem can be solved by swapping degree of reality with an inversion. Just as in the chapter on modal adverbs, the resulting bracket serves for conferring reality on my failure to see her.

dmatnà veì dmetfáwy amelÌi.I didn’t see Amélie watching TV [so I don’t know whether she did].
see-fact-not-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 television-fact-acc2 Amélie-acc-dat3a.
dmetfáw amelyì dmatnÌa zèi.Amélie watched TV unseen by me. (adverbial participle)I didn’t see Amélie watching TV [but she did].
television-fact1 Amélie-acc-dat2a see-fact-not-acc-fact2 PIn−3-nom-dat3.
là laxtkýa zèe.It happened unwanted by me.I didn’t want this to happen.
do-fact1 want-fact-opposition-acc-fact2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a.

Differences between infinitives and gerunds

Sometimes English uses the gerund to express a difference to the infinitive. This can affect person …

ràh veè dráwy vèe.I like to dance. / I like dancing [my dancing].
like-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 dance-fact-acc2 PIn−2-nom-nom3a.
ràh veè dráwy gwÌe.I like dancing [watching someone dance].
like-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 dance-fact-acc2 any-acc-nom3a.

… aspect/tense …

rahkà veè waRxvày.(present tense)I hate to speak [now].
like-fact-opposition-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 speak-temp-PIn−2-fact-acc2.
mìl veÌ rahkèy wàxy.(gnomic aspect)I [generally] hate speaking.
make-cons1 PIn−2-nom-acc2 like-fact-opposition-nom-acc2 speak-fact-acc3.

… inner case (typically factive vs. affirmative) …

smàj byì wàxy lòy zìe.She remembered to tell me her intentions.
remember-fact1 female-acc-dat2 speak-fact-acc2 do-ten-acc3 PIn−3-dat-nom4.
smàj byì wàlxy lòy zìe.She remembered telling me her intentions.
remember-fact1 female-acc-dat2 speak-aff-acc2 do-ten-acc3 PIn−3-dat-nom4.

– or with an inversion to make it quite clear that the telling really did happen …

wàx loÌ smÌja.She told me her intentions, having remembered it.She remembered to tell me her intentions.
speak-fact1 do-ten-acc2 remember-acc-fact2.

… outer case (in other words, a different object) …

fnà khnày.She tried to shout [but this was difficult because of her sore throat].
try-fact1 shout-fact-acc2.
fnà khnàu.She tried shouting [as he hadn’t heard her when she had spoken quietly].
try-fact1 shout-fact-ins2.

… or something else, depending on the main predicate. In other words: don’t memorise, analyse.

khnà prilcÌwbaR.She shouted immediately afterwards.She went on to shout.
shout-fact1 front-cons-1/8-acc-temp2.
khniRnà.(negated topic)She went on shouting.

I hate to repeat myself, but: keep in mind that you need not express the differences if they are irrelevant or clear from context.

ràh veè dràwy.I like to dance/dancing.
like-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 dance-fact-acc2.
rahkà veè wàxy.I hate to speak/speaking.
like-fact-opposition-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 speak-fact-acc2.

Actually, I rather like repeating myself.

Participial clauses

Participial clauses have already been discussed in the chapter on adjectives and participles as attributes in unit 5: ‘milk spilt on the ground’, ‘a man speaking to a child about elephants’. Being attributive clauses, they are translated with cumulative or partitive brackets or coordinations.

Circumstantial clauses are participial clauses at the beginning (or end) of a sentence that are separated from the main clause with a comma: ‘Convinced of his knowledge, the man spoke to the child about elephants’; ‘Speaking to the child about elephants, the man forgot to buy the artichokes’. These are treated in the next unit.


Amélie hopes to find Nino.Solve
She is running to do so (i.e. to find him).Solve
Amélie didn’t want to be seen.
(three possibilities, one stating that she was seen)
The sweet’s joy of having been eaten astonishes me.Solve
I have heard about a lot of things.Solve
a song [concrete noun] by the girl about riding a horse
(two translations with different meanings)
What if we drop the requirement that ‘song’ be a concrete noun?
She stopped to speak to me vs. She stopped speaking to me.Solve
Can ‘book’ be absorbed in the following phrase?
sràb wàtxa.Solve
write-fact1 book-fact-fact2.