lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 5. Attributes

Fundamental observations – demonstrated by means of strange individual achievements of the contrariness of everyday life, which is probably a bit too long as a title, the more so as it contains a (let’s be honest) most inelegant genitive chain.

(Title of a play by Gunkl)

We are now pretty much finished with the basics. Now, in the second quarter of the tutorial, things will be getting more serious.

Bracket and coordination

A bracket is a two-word construction where the object’s outer case equals the predicate’s inner case.

  The second and third words in this sentence form a bracket:
speakà mechanicèi nexwaklÌje.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 mechanic-nom-dat2 Nechwatal-acc-nom3.

Here we have a predicate ‘mechanic’ (‘the sender of doing mechanics’) with ‘Nechwatal’ as its nominative object, which means that Nechwatal is, yes, the sender of doing mechanics: the mechanic just mentioned. This is the first application of brackets: the translation of English appositives, which are essentially attributes consisting of a noun (and this will become important in a moment).

A coordination consists of two sibling objects in the same outer case.

  speakà mechaniceì nexwaklÌji.Someone speaks to the mechanic Nechwatal.
speak-fact1 mechanic-nom-dat2 Nechwatal-acc-dat2.

This also equates ‘mechanic’ with ‘Nechwatal’ as both are the recipient of speaking. Recall there is only one recipient, so we can exclude the possibility of Nechwatal and a mechanic being spoken to (which would be phrased with an inner partitive). And the exact reason why there is only one recipient is still to come.

We will be using brackets more often because they clearly indicate that their object (‘Nechwatal’ in our example) characterises their predicate (‘mechanic’). Coordinations, by contrast, consist of two separate objects of the main predicate; it has to be deduced from their matching outer cases that both contain information about the same person. In this sense, brackets are better suited to translate appositives and similar constructions.

Actually, we have already seen brackets (in the factive) in the previous unit when we treated desorption, and also coordinations when we translated ‘and’ and ‘or’.

Adjectives and participles as attributes and adverbs

As you know, Lemizh does not make any difference between nouns and adjectives. It also doesn’t distinguish nouns and participles: just as whiteÌ. can mean ‘the white one, a white thing; white’, giveè. can mean ‘the giver; giving’, and giveÌ. ‘the given thing; given’. Hence we can use brackets (and coordinations) to translate attributes consisting of an adjective or a participle.

Ìx lÌbvy.a man, a pale onea pale man
male-acc1 white-acc-acc2.
Ìx speakèy.a man, a speakera speaking man
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2.
xmlÌg spillÌy.milk, spilt one (the content of spilling)spilt milk
milk-acc1 spill-acc-acc2.

While in English ‘a speaking man’ refers to a man speaking at the present moment, and ‘spilt milk’ refers to the effects of milk having been spilt in the past, the Lemizh phrases do not contain any temporal information. The perfect aspect of ‘spilt milk’ will be treated in the chapter on the perfect in unit 10, temporal distinctions (‘a speaking man’ vs. ‘a man, which will be speaking’) in the chapter on tense in unit 12.

Make sure you don’t confuse active participles (‘a speaking man’), gerunds (‘Speaking is difficult with one’s mouth full’) and the continuous forms of verbs (‘He is speaking’).

Feel free to include additional information in the form of objects of the bracket’s object, keeping in mind that the outer case of a word defines its relation to its predicate’s stem (as in ‘the teller of a war’).

Ìx speakèy elefyÌ cnÌi.a man speaking to a child about elephants
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2 elephant-acc-acc3 child-acc-dat3.
xmlÌg fmÌxky rÌskir.milk spilt on the ground
milk-acc1 spill-acc-acc2 ground-acc-ill3.

Adverbial adjectives and participles work just the same. The English verb is translated as the bracket’s predicate, the adverb as the object. Because we are translating verbs with an inner factive, the bracket’s case is also the factive. (But we will use other inner cases for translating verbs in the chapter on topic in unit 10.)

  behaveà strangeÌa.the behaviour (the behaving), the strange oneHe behaves strangely.
behave-fact1 strange-acc-fact2.

Coordinations and brackets within brackets

A further object of the bracket’s predicate can result in a coordination inside the bracket, and an object of the object can result in nested brackets.

By the way: a wise person is the producer or sender of wisdom, hence the inner nominative; for wise actions or sayings, it has an inner accusative. The same is true for other adjectives of competence such as ‘good’ (a good-nom person vs. a good-acc deed), ‘nimble’ (a nimble-nom climber vs. a nimble-acc climb), or ‘fast’ (a fast-nom horse vs. a fast-acc race).

Ìx mevÌ2 lÌbvy2.a wise, pale man; a wise and pale man
male-acc1 wise-nom-acc2 white-acc-acc2.
Ìx mèvy2 lÌbvy3.a pale wise man
male-acc1 wise-nom-acc2 white-acc-acc3.
Ìx lÌbvy2 mèvy3.a wise pale man
male-acc1 white-acc-acc2 wise-nom-acc3.

The first phrase uses a coordination to desribe a man who is wise as well as pale. Note that this use of English ‘and’ differs from the one we saw in the previous unit. The man is wise and pale at the same time (the man = the wise one = the pale one), so we don’t use an inner partitive here. The second phrase uses a bracket to describe a wise man, who is also pale (say, as opposed to a wise man who is red-faced). The third one describes a pale man, who is also wise.

Also note that the second and third phrases differ only by an inversion. A bracket is the only situation in which an inversion works even though there is no main predicate involved; this is rather unimaginatively called a bracket inversion.

Attributes and adverbs that are not brackets

Sometimes an attributive adjective does not translate as a bracket.

  speakè goodÌa.a good speaker
speak-nom1 good-acc-fact2.

‘good’ specifies the speaking, not the speaker. You can think of this as of an inversion of goodá speakày. ‘He makes the speaking good’, the gerund ‘speaking’ being translated with an inner factive. A bracket would mean something like ‘a speaker who is a good person’.

The same applies to adjectives that are used adverbially to describe participles. Adverbial adjectives describing other adjectives translate a bit differently.

  maleÌ speakèy goodÌa.a man, a good speakera man speaking well
male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2 good-acc-fact3.
windÌ hotÌy terribleÌil.(The wind is a hot thing, and the heat is terrible.)terribly hot wind
wind-acc1 hot-acc-acc2 terrible-acc-cons3.

The second example contains an inversion of terribleà hotìly. ‘Someone makes the heat terrible’, ‘heat’ being an abstract noun related to an adjective and therefore containing an inner consecutive, as we have seen before.

Partitive bracket and coordination

The brackets we have discussed up till now (outer case of the object = inner case of the predicate) are called cumulative brackets because they accumulate information: it is a man and it is a wise one and it is a pale one. A partitive bracket (partitive outer case of the object, but plain inner case of the predicate) is quite a different matter: it defines a basic set for its predicate.

Ìx mèvyn.a man from the set of wise ones
(The wise ones are the set from which the man is taken.)
a wise man
male-acc1 wise-nom-partacc2.
mèv Ìxen.a wise one from the set of mena wise man; a wise one among the men
wise-nom1 male-acc-partnom2.
There are partitive coordinations as well:
speaká yxè mèven.A man from the set of wise ones is speaking.A wise man is speaking.
speak-fact1 male-acc-nom2a wise-nom-partnom2.
speaká mevè Ìxen.A wise one from the set of men is speaking.A wise man is speaking.
speak-fact1 wise-nom-nom2a male-acc-partnom2.

The exclusive ‘or’ (‘either … or’) is a partitive bracket or coordination of ‘one’, ‘some’ or another suitable numeral with an ‘and’-construction (i.e. inner partitives), which results in the numeral plus an inclusive ‘or’ construction (i.e. inner and outer partitives). If possible, the inclusive ‘or’ – without the numeral – is to be preferred, as it is shorter.

  searchà rÌy snrynkÌn bucmÌnyn.They are searching for one from the set consisting of the Snark and the Boojum.
They are searching for either the Snark or the Boojum.
search-fact1 one-acc-acc2 Snark-partacc-partacc3 Boojum-partacc-partacc3.
searchà ryÌ snrynkÌn bucmÌnyn.(coordination)
search-fact1 one-acc-acc2 Snark-partacc-partacc2 Boojum-partacc-partacc2.

Other partitives in brackets

An outer partitive of the bracket’s predicate sometimes, but not always, poses a problem; this is mainly the case with instrumental nouns.

dmàt veì Ìxen mèvy.I see some of the wise men.
see-fact1 PIn−2-nom-dat2 male-acc-partnom2 wise-nom-acc3.
jirxáf veè sailùyn lÌtu.I am hoisting part of the heavy means of sailing.
lift-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a sail-ins-partacc2 heavy-acc-ins3.

The first example is about wise men, some of which I see – all is fine here. But the second, intended to mean ‘I am hoisting a heavy sail’, claims that the means of sailing is heavy, when only part of it – the sail – is. This problem can be solved by inverting the bracket or by using a coordination, resulting in partitive brackets or coordinations.

  liftá veè heavyÌy sailùyn.Partitive bracket: I am hoisting a heavy thing from the set of the means of sailing (a sail).I am hoisting a heavy sail.
lift-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a heavy-acc-acc2 sail-ins-partacc3.
liftá veè sailuÌn heavyÌy.Partitive coordination: I am hoisting a sail, a heavy thing.
lift-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2a sail-ins-partacc2 heavy-acc-acc2.

A predicate with an inner partitive is no problem; the object’s outer case is still a plain (non-partitive) case despite the fact that the two cases don’t match.

  speaká maleÌne paleÌy.The pale man, among other [people], is speaking.
speak-fact1 male-partacc-nom2a pale-acc-acc3.


Translate (both as bracket and coordination where applicable):
I see a rogue baker.Solve
I see a strangely behaving good dancer.Solve
I see one strangely behaving among (= from the set of) the good dancers.Solve
He is playing a black trumpet.Solve
Explain why bracket inversions are possible, in contrast to other inversions inside a sentence.
If a bracket’s predicate has an inner partitive case, why is the object’s outer case not a partitive?
What does a bracket with an inner partitive of the predicate and a corresponding outer partitive of the object mean?


The noun phrase speakè warày. ‘the teller of a war’ is derived from speakà warày. ‘She tells about a war’ by a simple change of the main predicate’s inner case. The same process can be used to translate noun phrases describing materials.

laceà threadÌi. →He makes lace from thread. The thread becomes / turns into lace.
lace-fact1 thread-acc-dat2. →
laceÌ threadÌi.lace made from thread
lace-acc1 thread-acc-dat2.
doorÌ woodÌi.a door made of wooda wooden door
door-acc1 wood-acc-dat2.
saladÌ zmywxalÌi.salad made from tomatoestomato salad
salad-acc1 tomato-acc-dat2.

These phrases are nearly, but not quite, brackets. doorÌ woodÌy. would equate the door with the wood (‘the door, [which is] wood’), while the dative object in doorÌ woodÌi. makes clear that the door is what we are speaking about, while wood is the thing (or material) that was made into a door.


Translated with the benefactive

The genitive marker ‘-’s’ as in ‘the mechanic’s coat’ and the preposition ‘of’ as used in ‘the tower of the castle’ have more or less the same function, so we will call them both ‘genitives’ here. Their most prominent function is to mark possession. In Lemizh, the benefactive case (U, beneficiary) can express possession as well as some non-possessive uses of the Indo-European genitive: ‘a man’s world, the teacher’s lounge, runner’s high’ etc. Depending on the situation, the causative (el, cause) or persuasive cases (Ol, reason) might also be appropriate.

wmÌf jhèjU.The coat is made for the mechanic.
The mechanic is the beneficiary of coat-making.
the mechanic’s coat
coat-acc1 machine-nom-ben2.
prÌg kroblÌjU. prÌg kroblÌjOl.The tower is made for the castle.
The castle is the beneficiary of / reason for tower-making.
the tower of the castle
tower-acc1 castle-acc-ben2. tower-acc1 castle-acc-psu2.

Translated with other cases

Quite often, though, the genitive has other functions, and the benefactive case does not suit our purpose. ‘the man’s gift’ is not a gift made for the man, but one given by him. In such situations it is a good idea to transform the construction into a seperate sentence to find the appropriate case, and then replace the predicate’s inner factive with a different case (unless we are dealing with a gerund-like abstract noun). Note that some of the objects are agentive.

dá Ìxe. → dý Ìxe.The man gives.the man’s gift
give-fact1 male-acc-nom2a. → give-acc1 male-acc-nom2a.
musicý malÌce.Mahler made music.Mahler’s music
music-acc1 Mahler-acc-nom2a.
woolÌ goatÌe.The goat produces wool.goat’s wool
wool-acc1 goat-acc-nom2.
colourìl snÌwy.The snow is coloured.the colour (abstract noun) of snow
colour-cons1 snow-acc-acc2.
dmùt cnÌi.The child sees.the child’s eyes (tool noun)
see-ins1 child-acc-dat2.
sleepà babyÌi.The baby sleeps.the baby’s sleep (gerund-like abstract noun)
sleep-fact1 baby-acc-dat2.
bookÌ cnÌUl.Someone makes books for children.children’s books
book-acc1 child-acc-fin2.
dreamÌ nightÌaR midsummerÌy.Someone dreams in a midsummer night.A Midsummer Night’s Dream
dream-acc1 night-acc-temp2 midsummer-acc-acc3.
warà dÌhyR yearìly.War is made for ten years.ten years’ war (gerund-like abstract noun)
war-fact1 ten-acc-dur2 year-cons-acc3.
Ìx lemÌcar.Men have been made at something Lemizh [at a Lemizh place].men of Lemaria
male-acc1 Lemizh-acc-loc2.

Kinship verbs express a sender-content relationship between two people. This is easiest to see with fatherà. ‘to make/father a child’: the mechanic’s child-acc was made by the mechanic-nom. But, as already mentioned, the nominative has nothing to do with the mechanic acting. An uncle-acc is ‘made’ (from the receptive viewpoint: a man is turned into an uncle-acc) by its nephew or niece-nom through their birth. It follows that a genitive construction having a kinship term with an inner accusative for a predicate needs an object with an outer nominative, and vice versa.

  psrÌb mechanicèe.the mechanic’s child
father-acc1 mechanic-nom-nom2.
frÌs bakeèe.the baker’s uncle
uncle-acc1 bake-nom-nom2.
frès monarchèy.the king’s nephew
uncle-nom1 monarch-nom-acc2.

Translated with brackets

Lastly, we have got appositive genitives and other genitives that are translated as brackets (or coordinations).

  maleý teachìy.a man, one having been taught; a learned mana man of learning
male-acc1 teach-dat-acc2a.
countryÌ lemàrcy.a country, Lemariathe country of Lemaria
country-acc1 Lemizh-loc-acc2.
artà rideàa.an art (gerund-like abstract noun), riding (gerund)the art of riding
art-fact1 ride-fact-fact2.
glassÌ fillìy wineÌy.a glass filled with wine (receiving use of a verb of movement)a glass (full) of wine
glass-acc1 fill-dat-acc2 wine-acc-acc3.

Brackets also serve to paraphrase genitives of all kinds to express finer differences.

wmÌf djýy jhèji.the coat bought by the mechanic (receptive)
coat-acc1 sell-acc-acc2 machine-nom-dat3a.
wmÌf bvrýcy klìpi.the coat worn by the thief (receptive)
coat-acc1 dress-acc-acc2 steal-dat-dat3a.
trÌgc wýwby malÌce.music created by Mahler
music-acc1 create-acc-acc2 Mahler-acc-nom3a.

Indo-European genitives cover a wide array of meanings. We will meet some further ones in later units: for ‘a group of people’, see Grouping numerals in unit 7; for ‘day’s work’ see Distributive numerals in unit 8; for ‘the inside of the ship’ and ‘the coutyard of the castle’ see Adverbials in unit 12; for ‘two weeks’ notice’ see Measuring in unit 12; for ‘a painting of the child’ (as opposed to ‘a painting of the child’s’) see ‘about’ and language related objects in unit 14.

Adjectives of possession

Adjectives indicating possession are translated like the genitive.

  houseÌ fatherèU.father’s housethe paternal house
house-acc1 father-nom-ben2.

Adjectives indicating the possessed thing are inversions of the genitive (in its various translations).

riverÌ damÙy.a dammed river, a river having a dam, an river with a dam
river-acc1 dam-ben-acc2.


the beaver’s furSolve
the beaver’s damSolve
the love of musicSolve
the [biological] family of tortoisesSolve
a bearded bakerSolve
a plastic bottleSolve