lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 4. Nouns and adjectives

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
  They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
  They charmed it with smiles and soap.

(Lewis Carroll. The Hunting of the Snark)

Concrete nouns

We already can form some nouns, for example ‘war’ (the action of warring) or ‘speaker’ (the sender of speaking). ‘door’, ‘lion’ and some other words were used in the previous unit without explaining their inner cases (which were accusatives). The problem seems to be that these nouns – along with many others, say, ‘froth, soap, lace, ship, part’ – are not derived from verbs in English. In Lemizh, however, we have verbs such as:

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
psràxk.to froth something, to turn something into frothto froth
dapà.to pulverise, to turn something into powderto turn into powder, to become powder
wlàg.to produce blossoms, to blossom (of a plant)to turn into blossoms, to blossom (of a bud)
xklàj.to make soapto become soap
khlà.to make laceto become lace
àkh.to build a shipto become a ship
jmàs.to make a doorto become a door
làw.to make a lionto become a lion
skràp.to split, to produce partsto come apart

We will call these nominal verbs. As always, the plot

Looking at the verb àkh. ‘to build a ship’, the shipwright (nom) gives the building materials (dat) the properties or the function of a ship (acc). He confers, well, shipness on the materials. The shipness is sent by the shipwright, not because he is acting, but because he is the source: the image of the ship, so to say, comes from his head and materialises in wood, iron, ropes, and linen.

the shipwrightshipbuilding materials
the one producing frothfrothliquid (milk, for example)
Here is a concrete example:
khlá tryxkè grÌwi.The beaver makes lace from thread.
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.
khlà grÌwi.The thread becomes / turns into lace.
lace-fact1 thread-acc-dat2.

Now we can translate inner datives and accusatives of nominal verbs: psrìxk. froth-dat1. is a frothed thing, psrÌxk. froth-acc1. is a thing having the properties of froth. khlì. lace-dat1. is a thing made into lace, khlÌ. lace-acc1. is a thing having the properties of lace. When we are talking of ships or lions, we will usually not be interested in their making, but more in their properties or function: ‘ship’ is therefore translated as Ìkh., ‘lion’ as lÌw. (both having inner acc). The usefulness of an inner dative for the latter verb is open to doubt.

As you will have guessed, Ìkh. does not contain information about the number of ships: it can mean ‘the ship’ or ‘a ship’ as well as ‘the ships’ or ‘some ships’.

Actually, ‘nominal verbs’ are not a category of Lemizh verbs. They behave just like any other words, and it would probably be fairly difficult to explain the notion to a native Lemizh. This is simply a convenient way for an Indo-European speaking (and thinking) audience to refer to verbs which correspond, with an inner accusative, to our concrete nouns. After all, ‘to pulverise’ and ‘to split’ don’t behave in any special way in English.


Adjectives work just like nouns, making use of verbs such as:

WordTranslationTranslation (receptive)
gmrà.to heat, to make something warmto get warm
xàcg.to lighten up, to illuminate, to make (a place) lightto get light
làbv.to whiten something, to make something whiteto turn white, to whiten

lìbv. is something made white (or pale, as the butcher in our initial example); lÌbv. is something having the property ‘white’, i.e. a white thing. There is really no difference between nouns and adjectives in Lemizh. This is the same as Latin albus, which can mean ‘white’ as well as ‘the white one’. So, adjectival verbs are a subclass of nominal verbs.

làbv wÌcgi.Someone whitens a black thing.
Someone makes a white thing from a black one.
A black thing turns white (receptive).
The colour changes from black to white.
white-fact1 black-acc-dat2.

Adjectives of emotion (‘angry, happy’, from the verbs described under Ambiguous usage in the previous unit), manner and competence (‘naughty, nice’ [Non-transporting usage], ‘fast, nimble, wise, good’) describe the source of the emotion, manner or competence and are therefore constructed with an inner nominative. But adjectives of manner and competence can also be used in a different sense: in ‘nice words, a fast race, a wise deed’ they have inner accusatives because here they describe what is made nice, fast, or wise. Another adjective with an inner nominative is ‘warm’ in ‘a warm coat’, because this is a coat making me warm, a source of warmth.

We will learn about the main use of adjectives, their use as attributes (‘the dear uncle’), in the next unit.

Why is there a verb ‘to make something white’, but ‘to make it snow’ is expressed with a causative object instead (as in the previous unit)? The difference is that the latter can be expressed with a causative because there is a verb ‘to snow’, while the former does not allow ‘stepping down’ in that way without violating the principle that every word stem denotes an action. Conversely, Lemizh does not have a word meaning ‘to cause, to make someone do something’.

Abstract nouns

Adjectival verbs can take certain inner cases – most importantly the consecutive – to form equivalents of English abstract nouns that do not express actions and thus are not like gerunds. The warmth, for example, can be seen as the consequence (consecutive case) of having made something warm, or sometimes of the fact (affirmative case) of something being made warm. It can also be seen as a warm thing (accusative) in sentences such as ‘He sat in the warmth’. Likewise, ‘beauty, difficulty, whiteness, colour’ are the consequences or sometimes facts of making something beautiful, difficult, white, and of colouring something, respectively.

This use of the consecutive also illustrates why its descriptor is ‘direct consequence, effect’: the consequence of having made the waistcoat white (its whiteness) has the effect that the crew stare in wonder, wherefore the beaver’s eyes start to hurt, etc. The consequences are multiplied progressively, but only the direct ones form the consecutive case. Likewise, the causative’s descriptor is ‘direct cause’.

By contrast, the abstract nouns derived from adjectives of emotion, manner and competence (‘happiness, speed, wisdom’) refer to the actions of being happy, moving or acting fast, or behaving wisely, and therefore are gerund-like nouns with an inner factive; or sometimes an affirmative to focus on the facts.


The inner locative and scenic cases are used for place names. lemàrc. ‘the country of Lemaria’ is the inner locative of the verb lemàc. ‘to make Lemizh’. A seat is the intended or chosen location for sitting down, and thus translated as zdòrs., the inner scenic of zdàs. ‘to sit down, to seat oneself’.

Verbs of work and profession

Verbs such as ‘make lace, bake, garden, teach, host, play the trumpet, sail, ring a bell’ make use of a number of inner cases to convey different concepts:

khlè grÌwi.Solve
lace-nom1 thread-acc-dat2.
lÌbv wÌcgi.Solve
white-acc1 black-acc-dat2.
saxáf gwèti.Solve
trumpet-fact1 teach-nom-dat2a.
jirxáf gwitè dùsky.Solve
lift-fact1 teach-dat-nom2a circle-ins-acc2.

The semantic tree (the tree of meaning)

Verbs can name more or less general actions. ‘perceive’, for example, is pretty general, while ‘see, hear, smell’ are more specific – they name sub-categories of the former, which names a super-category of the latter. We can portray these relationships between verbs (and so, in Lemizh, between all words) with a tree structure, on top of which is the most general category of all, named by the verb là. do-fact1. ‘happen; do, act’. Here is a small section of the tree. The verb mà. make-fact1. ‘make something from something’, receptive ‘turn into something’ is on top of the branch of nominal (and adjectival) verbs.

là.to happen; to do, to act
dà.to give
mà.to make something from something, to turn (something) into something: topmost nominal verb
àkh.to build ships
gmrà.to warm
fràdj.to send (dative) or perceive (receptive) a stimulus: topmost perceptual verb
xOàj.to produce a sound (dative), to hear (receptive)
fpràf.to rustle
wàx.to speak
khnà.to shout
pà.to ask
dmàt.to produce an optical stimulus (dative), to see (receptive)
nàs.to produce an smell (dative), to smell something (receptive)
jàx.to move: topmost verb of movement and placement
zdàs.to sit down

The relationship of a sub-category to a super-category verb can usually be described in terms of restricting the semantic range of an object, which comes down to restricting what kinds of entities certain objects (i.e. cases) can refer to. The meaning of ‘to build ships’ is ‘turn something into something’ plus a certain accusative object, namely ships; ‘speak’ is ‘produce a sound’ plus a certain kind of transmitted sound (the accusative, again); ‘hear’ can be interpreted as a restriction of the sensual stimulus (accusative) to sounds, or the restriction of the means (instrumental) to the ear; ‘hunt’ is ‘do’ plus a specific action (factive).

The tree is only a rough representation. This is not the place to discuss the subtleties of semantics, but be aware that a verb can have more than one super-category: ‘watch television’ has the super-category ‘hear’ as well as ‘see’; ‘illuminate’ can be perceived as an adjectival verb or a perceptual verb. Besides, the structure of the tree is not fixed: whales would have been seen as a sub-category of fish a few centuries ago, not of mammals as today.

là. ‘happen, do’ has useful applications with various inner cases. lì. is ‘the recipient’, lò. ‘the intention’, lÒl. ‘the reason’, làr. ‘the place (where something is happening)’, etc.; là. used like a gerund is simply ‘the happening, the doing’ = ‘the event, the deed’. mÌ. is ‘a thing’.

Absorption and desorption

A verb can absorb an object to which it is a super-category verb. A good example is mà. ‘to turn something into something’, which can absorb nominal verbs in the accusative. Absorption works under the condition that the object has identical inner and outer cases that correspond to the semantic relationship described above – accusatives for nominal verbs, factives for ‘hunt, give, perceive’ etc., and so on; absorptions with factives always work.

A familiar example with a nominal verb:
tryxkè khlyÌ grÌwi. →(clumsy phrasing)The beaver makes lace from thread.
make-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a lace-acc-acc2 thread-acc-dat2. →
khlá tryxkè grÌwi.(elegant phrasing)
lace-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2a thread-acc-dat2.
and with a perceptual verb:
xOàj tryxkì fprèfe. →(clumsy phrasing: the rustling thing produces a sound)The beaver hears something rustle.
hear-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2 rustle-nom-nom2. →
fpràf trÌxki.(elegant phrasing)
rustle-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2.

The opposite process is called desorption.

A factive desorption for stylistic reasons:
kràt snrykÌ dmÌdor. →They are hunting the Snark on an island.
hunt-fact1 Snark-acc-acc2 island-acc-sce2. →
dmydòr kràta snrÌky.On an island, they are hunting the Snark.
do-fact1 island-acc-sce2 hunt-fact-fact2 Snark-acc-acc3.
Marking two objects as agents:
brykèl dáa tryxkì fOpysrÌfe.The dwarf makes the beaver take something from Father Christmas.
do-fact1 dwarf-acc-caus2a give-fact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat3a FatherChristmas-acc-nom3.
fOpysryfè dáa trÌxki.Father Christmas gives something to the beaver, and the beaver takes (accepts) it.
do-fact1 FatherChristmas-acc-nom2a give-fact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat3a.

Logical conjunctions


The conjunction ‘and’ is translated with sibling objects in the same outer case and inner partitives.

dná trynxkÌ skmènwy.The beaver, among others, is walking; the butcher, among others, is walking.The beaver and the butcher are walking.
walk-fact1 beaver-partacc-acc2a butcher-partnom-acc2.

As we know, there is exactly one accusative, part of which is the beaver and part of which is the butcher. Therefore, we cannot omit the partitive case suffixes because this would mean that the beaver is the accusative and the butcher is also the accusative. You can already guess what that sentence would mean; but we will learn it officially in the next unit.

The one accusative object of our example is also the main predicate’s agent; this includes the butcher. Put differently: the agent is ‘the beaver, among others’, the ‘others’ being (at least) the butcher.

To connect two predicates or two whole sentences with ‘and’, we usually need a partitive desorption. In the first example sentence, the effect is as if the objects (‘butcher’ and ‘beaver’) had two predicates.

lá skmewè wanxà gwantà trÌxki.The butcher does something to the beaver; this is speaking, among other things, and teaching, among other things.The butcher speaks to and teaches the beaver.
do-fact1 butcher-nom-nom2a speak-partfact-fact2 teach-partfact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat2.
là wánxa skmewé khlána trÌxki.Something happens; this is the butcher speaking, among other things, and the beaver making lace, among other things.The butcher is speaking and the beaver is making lace.
do-fact1 speak-partfact-fact2 butcher-nom-nom3a lace-partfact-fact2 beaver-acc-dat3a.

More on the translation of ‘and’ can be found in the dictionary.

Inclusive ‘or’

The inclusive ‘or’ (‘and/or’) is a combination of a inner and outer partitives.

xàsk snrynn bucmÌnyn.They are searching for some or one [outer partitives] of the Snark and the Boojum [inner partitives].They are searching for the Snark or the Boojum (or both).
search-fact1 Snark-partacc-partacc2 Boojum-partacc-partacc2.

The exclusive ‘or’ (‘either … or’) will be treated in the next unit.

Explain, in your own words, why inner and outer case must be identical for absorption to work.
Give three possibilities to connect these two verbs with ‘and’:
fpràf. khnà.Solve
rustle-fact1. shout-fact1.