lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 3. More about case

‘It’s all right,’ he was shouting. ‘… It isn’t Her!’ This was bad grammar of course …

(C. S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Nominative, accusative and dative

Just to remind you:

CaseDescriptorDenoted by
nominativesource, sendere
dativesink, recipienti

Every action (denoted by a word stem) is considered a flow of information that comes from a source (sender), transports a content, and reaches a sink (a recipient). The terms ‘sender’ and ‘recipient’ are more familiar, but ‘source’ and ‘sink’ are more accurate in not necessarily meaning living beings.

Consequently, a Lemizh action looks somewhat like this:


This is called the action’s plot. Here are some examples to familiarise you with the concept:

wàx.‘speak, tell’:the one telling somethingthe talethe one who is told it
dà.‘give’:the one giving somethingthe giftthe one who is given it
làcw.‘help’:the one helpingthe help giventhe one whom is helped

Apart from the plot arrow (source → sink), there are also causal (cause → effect), temporal (starting time → closing time) and spatial (starting point → end point) arrows.

Plot usage examples

Here are some examples how the plot can be used. We will be getting pretty deep into the details. I hope this chapter won’t be too tiresome, but it should give you a good feeling for how the plot cases work.

Defective usage (a missing case)

Non-sending (no overt nominative)

Up till now, the flow of the plot was pretty clear: the tale’s path starts at the teller, the gift originates from the giver. If I open a door with a pole, I am the source of the opening, and the pole is the means. But if the wind opens a door, is the wind the source or the means, or the cause? Depending on the answer to this question, the wind can be in the nominative (e), instrumental (u), or causative cases (el), respectively – these distinctions are difficult to translate elegantly. As you know, there is exactly one nominative, so a source still exists if the wind is seen as the means or cause; it is ‘no one’, ‘nothing’ or the like (or maybe the weather gods, who knows).

[the wind]the door[to an open position]
nàt xnytè jmÌsy.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-acc-nom2 door-acc-acc2.
nàt xnytù jmÌsy.The wind is the means for opening the door.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-acc-ins2 door-acc-acc2.
nàt xnytèl jmÌsy.The wind is the cause for the opening of the door.The wind opens the door.
open-fact1 wind-acc-caus2 door-acc-acc2.

As there is exactly one causative as well, the cause for opening the door in the last example is really a set comprising the wind, the fact that the door is ajar, and maybe other things as well. We will come back to this point in unit 9.

Other verbs of movement, especially with inanimate subjects (in English), make good examples for this kind of plot usage: ‘The draught moves the curtain’, ‘The iceberg sunk the ship’. We will meet these verbs again shortly.

Non-receiving (no overt dative)

Is the ground the recipient of a cloud’s snow like someone is the recipient of a tale, or is it just the endpoint of the snow’s way through the air? Again: depending on the answer to this question, the ground can be in the dative (i, recipient) or illative case (ir, end point), or possibly in the allative case (Ur, spatial aim). These differences are easier to represent in English.

the cloudthe snow[the ground]
snàw rÌski.It is snowing at the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-dat2.
snàw rÌskir.It is snowing / Snow is falling onto the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-ill2.
snàw rÌskUr.It is snowing / Snow is falling towards the ground.
snow-fact1 ground-acc-all2.

Similar distinctions can be seen in the sentence pairs ‘I am painting the wall-datvs. ‘I am painting (applying colour) onto the wall-ill’, ‘I am jumping at you-datvs. ‘I am jumping onto/into you-ill’, etc. In a broad sense, these are also verbs of movement.

Using the elative case (er, starting point) for the snowing cloud is somewhat less convincing; the cloud is the source of the snow in much the same sense as the speaker is the source of the words.

Non-transporting (no overt accusative; factive ≈ accusative)

The content of behaviour (what is sent through the behaviour) is not much different from the action itself. Hence one would rarely use ‘behave’ with an accusative. Other non-transporting verbs are ‘be naughty, be nice, laugh, be friends with, rule, hurt’ etc.

the one behaving in some way[the behaviour]the recipient of the behaviour, the one at whom the behaviour is addressed
the dwarf’s shoulder[the pain]the dwarf
cmàbv Ryxtè brÌki.The shoulder hurts the dwarf.The dwarf’s shoulder hurts [him].
The dwarf has/feels a pain in the shoulder.
hurt-fact1 shoulder-acc-nom2 dwarf-acc-dat2.

However, there are sometimes subtle differences between factive and accusative: the action of your laughing is not quite the same as the sound coming out of your mouth (and reaching the recipient).

Ambiguous usage (dative = accusative)

‘you’ in the sentence ‘I love you’ can be seen as a recipient (sink), someone whom the love reaches, like words reach their recipient in ‘I speak to you’. Needless to say, a dative expresses this notion. (This does not necessarily mean that the love is returned, any more than you need to respond when I am speaking to you.) On the other hand, ‘you’ can be interpreted as the content of love, the one being lovingly thought of, as in ‘I speak about you’, requiring an accusative. It is the speaker’s choice which of these roles of the beloved is more important, or whether the dative is appropriate at all (which it isn’t if I love Lucy Pevensie, making this an example of a non-receiving use). It is also possible to name both roles by employing a pronoun (see Relative pronouns in unit 6), but it should rarely be necessary to affirm the identity of recipient and content of loving.

the one lovingthe beloved
the one lovingthe belovednobody at all

The same goes for other verbs of emotion (‘like, hate, scorn, fear / be afraid of, miss, be interested in / bored by’ etc.) as well as ‘search / look for something’. The difference between dative and accusative is nicely reflected in English in ‘be angry with’ vs. ‘be angry about’. Correspondingly, ‘be happy about’ has the accusative, while the dative would imply that the person who is the content of one’s happiness is being shown it.

Reflexive usage (nominative = some other plot case)

Self-receiving (nominative = dative)

Sender and recipient can be the same, as in ‘eat’ or ‘read (to oneself)’. If they are, the nominative or dative can be used depending on the more important part of the plot, or both cases can be included by means of a pronoun. If nominative and dative are not identical, the same words translate as ‘feed’ or ‘read (to someone)’, respectively. ‘think (to oneself)’ is practically always reflexive. (An exception would be telepathy.)

the one moving the forkthe foodthe one getting the food into them
the reading onewhat is readthe one being read to
the thinking onethe thoughtthe thinking one

Contrary to what Indo-European speakers might do intuitively, the dative is the better choice in most situations: you usually eat to get food into your stomach, and you read to get information into your brain. You are also usually more interested in being the recipient of your sleep or your dreams, and less in being the source.

Under a non-sending viewpoint, the reader can also be seen as the means (ins) of reading, with the text being the sender of the information.

Self-transporting (nominative = accusative)

Sender and content can also be identical, most notably in verbs of movement and placement (‘move, roll, rise, fall, lie down, hide’). Keep in mind that such verbs can be used in a non-receiving (say, with the illative as the target of placement) or receiving way (with the dative); and they can be used in a non-sending (say, with a causative) or sending way; so we have quite a number of subtle differences we can express.

the children[in a wardrobe]

If the content differs from the sender, the same words mean ‘move something, roll something, raise, fell, lay down, hide something’, respectively. Used in such a context, these verbs can also be non-sending if the moving agent is perceived as the cause (or means) rather than the sender, as we have seen above. Some words are unlikely to have a content different from the sender, examples being ‘walk’ and ‘sit down’; for ‘The dwarf walks Edmund to the witch’, see below.

the girlthe letter[in her bosom]

Causal-reflexive usage

Causal-receiving (dative = causative or persuasive) and causal-transporting (accusative = causative or persuasive)

Verbs of emotion can also equate the dative with the causative (el, cause) or persuasive (Ol, reason). Being liable to ambiguous usage, this means they can also equate accusative and causative/persuasive. If you enrage me and I think of you, um, ragefully, I can see you as the cause as well as the content of my rage. If my rage reaches you, you are the recipient. If I laugh at you, you are the reason as well as the recipient of my lauging. No offence meant. You get the meaning.


There is no rule saying which verb to use in which of these ways (if any). The limits are only drawn by common sense. Who would use ‘sneeze’ with a self-transporting plot structure and thus identify himself with the content of his sneezing?

All of these examples can be applied to inner cases, of course. iÌ. love-acc1. and iì. love-dat1. both mean ‘the beloved’, but only the latter implies that he or she is reached by the love.


For which other cases may the highlighted ones be substituted, if any? By which case markers are they represented? How is the meaning changed?
jUrxilfkà xijqjmyxè ykhÌ rÌskir.Solve
fell-fact1 iceberg-acc-nom2 ship-acc-acc2 ground-acc-ill2.
pqáb trewè pnÌbi.Solve
angry-fact1 witch-nom-nom2a faun-acc-dat2.
jUrxilfkà klyfÌ hlÌger.Solve
fell-fact1 picture-acc-acc2 wall-acc-ela2.


Look at the case endings in this sentence:
dà lusyì dwywÌ fOpysrÌfe.Lucy-dat gets a bottle from Father Christmas-nom.
get-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

If you know something about inflecting languages such as Latin, or if you recall the example with pronouns in the previous unit and think of the sentence ‘She gets a bottle from me’, you will notice that the cases in the above sentence seem to be mixed up: shouldn’t Lucy be in the nominative and Father Christmas in the dative?

But all Lemizh verbs follow the plot, and so the above sentence literally means:
dà lusyì dwywÌ fOpysrÌfe.Father Christmas-nom gives Lucy-dat a bottle.
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.

‘give’ and ‘get’ are actually the same word in Lemizh, and so it’s correct! Having one translation for both ‘Lucy gets a bottle from Father Christmas’ (the receptive viewpoint) and ‘Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle’ (the dative viewpoint) is fine in many situations, but not always. In unit 10, we will learn how to expressly distinguish dative and receptive verbs.

Other examples of English receptive verbs include ‘experience, learn, suffer, become’, as well as the passive voice. Furthermore, a number of English verbs are dative if they are used transitively (with a direct object) and receptive if used intransitively. Labelling with Lemizh cases, we have ‘The sun-nom is melting the snow-datvs. ‘The snow-dat is melting’, ‘Someone-nom broke the window-datvs. ‘The window-dat broke’. Perceptual verbs (‘see, hear, smell, taste’ etc.) are receptive when used transitively, but dative in intransitive usage: ‘I-dat taste Turkish Delight-nomvs. ‘Turkish Delight-nom tastes good-acc’, as Turkish Delight is the sender of the taste, a good thing; likewise ‘that looks/sounds/smells good’. Intransitively used verbs of movement need an accusative to translate the English subject: ‘Someone-nom moves the statue-accvs. ‘The statue-acc is moving’, ‘Snow-acc covers the land’, ‘Smoke-acc fills the room’.

dà lusyì dwywÌ fOpysrÌfe.Father Christmas gives Lucy a bottle.Lucy is given a bottle by Father Christmas. (passive)
give-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 bottle-acc-acc2 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.
dmàt lusyì lÌwe.The lion, well, conveys an optical stimulus to Lucy.Lucy sees the lion.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 lion-acc-nom2.
jàx agmÌy.Someone moves the statue. = The statue is being moved.The statue moves.
move-fact1 statue-acc-acc2.
nàt jmÌsy.Someone opens the door. = The door is opened.The door opens.
open-fact1 door-acc-acc2.

To state that the statue moves itself, we can make the sentence self-transpoting with a pronoun. To state that the statue or the door is moving of its own accord (which is subtly different), we need to specify it as the agent of the movement. We will learn how to do this shortly.

The nominative of a perceptual verb denotes the sender of the (visual, auditory, olfactory) information, the accusative the information itself (the image, sound, taste, etc., as in ‘this tastes good’ above).

dmàt lusyì lÌwy.The lion’s image is sent to Lucy.Lucy sees the lion’s image.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2 lion-acc-acc2.
Give three translations for the following sentence, one dative and two receptive (one of which in the passive voice):
lácw pnybè lusÌi.Solve
help-fact1 faun-acc-nom2a Lucy-acc-dat2.

Other cases

Most cases apart from nominative, dative and accusative correspond to English prepositional phrases, as we have already seen in the some of the examples above. There is no one-to-one correspondence between English prepositions and Lemizh cases.

lá xrywè trèwU.(The witch is the beneficiary.)The wolf did it for the witch.
do-fact1 wolf-acc-nom2a witch-nom-ben2.
lá cnyè droUkrÌstUl.(Turkish Delight is the aim.)The child did it for Turkish Delight.
do-fact1 child-acc-nom2a TurkishDelight-acc-fin2.
jàx kroblÌjUr.(The castle is the place towards which.)They went towards the castle.
They went for the castle.
move-fact1 castle-acc-all2.


As we have seen in the previous unit, there are two ways to denote a level that is lower by 1, or, in other words, to denote the first object of a predicate: either by a low or by a high pitch inner case vowel. High pitch indicates that the object is its predicate’s agent, i.e. the source of the intention or will (more informally, the one who does the action); low pitch leaves the agent unnamed.

dá fOpysryfè trÌxki.Father Christmas gives something to the beaver. The beaver gets something from Father Christmas.
give-fact1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a beaver-acc-dat2.
dà trÌxki.The beaver gets something.
give-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2.
dá tryxkì fOpysrÌfe.The beaver takes something from Father Christmas.
give-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2a FatherChristmas-acc-nom2.
dmát lusyì lÌwe.Lucy looks at the lion.
see-fact1 Lucy-acc-dat2a lion-acc-nom2.
jáx agmÌy.The statue moves [of its own accord].
move-fact1 statue-acc-acc2a.

‘give/get’ and ‘take’ are the same word in Lemizh, they only differ in their agentive object: nominative and dative, respectively. The same is true of ‘sell’ and ‘buy’. The perceptual verbs ‘look’ and ‘listen’ have an agentive dative, while ‘see’ and ‘hear’ have no agentive object (and ‘make oneself seen/heard’ has an agentive nominative).

Agentive causative objects serve as translations of ‘make someone do something’ and verbs with similar meaning, such as ‘make someone walk = walk someone somewhere’, ‘make someone be afraid = frighten someone’, and ‘make someone sit = seat someone’.

snáw trèwel.The witch makes it snow.
snow-fact1 witch-nom-caus2a.
dná brykèl edmyjdÌ trèwi.The dwarf walks Edmund to the witch.
walk-fact1 dwarf-acc-caus2a Edmund-acc-acc2 witch-nom-dat2.
xrátx xrywèl cnÌe.(verb of emotion)The wolf frightens the child.
fear-fact1 wolf-acc-caus2a child-acc-nom2.

Verbs such as ‘walk someone, frighten someone’ are usually called ‘causatives’, but we will reserve this term for the Lemizh causative case.

Some other examples of verbs with no agent given:
wàf edmyjdè htrÌy.Edmund is missing his siblings.
miss-fact1 Edmund-acc-nom2 sibling-acc-acc2.
mlàtx snÌwi.The snow is melting.
melt-fact1 snow-acc-dat2.
làxt veè droUkrÌsty.I want Turkish Delight. [It’s not my fault!]
want-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 TurkishDelight-acc-acc2.

The various shades of meaning expressed by combinations of agentive/non-agentive and nominative/instrumental/causative constructions are (again) hard to translate, but I hope they are clear from what we have learned about the language up till now.

Agent- and action-centred cases

The agent-centred cases – numbers 5 to 8 in each group, i.e. the ones having a rounded vowel in their ending – describe the action from the viewpoint of the agent: he does it for a beneficiary (benefactive case), because of a reason (persuasive), with a purpose in mind (final), using a tool (instrumental), etc. This even holds if the agent is not explicitly named. While these cases are tied to the agent’s intention, he is not necessarily aware of their characteristics or identity: if someone is heading for a haunted house (allative), he may not know it’s haunted. When a coat-maker makes a coat, he intends for someone to benefit from it, to wear it (benefactive), but does not necessarily know who the owner will be. For that matter, not everyone is always aware of their reasons and aims.

The cases with lower numbers are independent of a will; they are more in line with things like physical causes (causative) and effects (consecutive) and are termed action-centred (that is, centred on the word stem itself).

áv vèi.Solve
eat-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2a.
àv vèi.Solve
eat-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2.
áv vèe.Solve
eat-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a.
àv vèe.Solve
eat-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2.