lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

Unit 9. Sentence grammar

And this is the reason why every man should expend his chief thought and attention on the consideration of his first principles: – are they or are they not rightly laid down? – and when he has duly sifted them, all the rest will follow.

(Plato. Κρατύλος)

Caution! We have to think!

(Franz Schoberleitner)

Halfway through this tutorial, it is time we had a closer look at sentence grammar.

Lemizh does not distinguish full sentences from incomplete sentences such as ellipses, clauses or phrases, and other kinds of speech. Every grammatical unit above the word is considered a sentence (or a sequence of sentences) and thus subject to the rules of sentence grammar. Indeed, even words are cited as one-word sentences – with a full stop at the end: sxnèz. –, as you have seen in previous units.

You already know three of the rules from unit 2. Here they are again:

One. Sentence structure

A word of level n is subordinate to the nearest word of level n−1 in front of it; the parole acts as a word of level zero.

Two. Definition of objects

An object of a word in a sentence is a word subordinate to the former, its predicate, plus all of its own objects.

There is no rule defining the word order of sibling objects. Possible reasons for deciding on an order include, but are not limited, to:

Inversion, including bracket inversion, and desorption allow for even greater freedom of word order.

Three. Outer case

The outer case of the first word of an object defines its relation to its predicate’s stem via its descriptor; the outer case of a level 1 word is zero.

These are the remaining rules:

Four. Identity of action

An instance of a word stem designates a specific action.

When you instantiate (say or write) a word stem, for example the one in wmàb. ‘weave’, you are thinking of one certain action – one of weaving in our example. This may involve the action of several weavers (as in ‘We are weaving’), the use of several threads or the production of several cloths. It need not even be temporally or spatially connected (as in ‘We are weaving every Thursday morning’). In other words, you are thinking of a certain subset of all the weaving there is. Everything referring to your instance – i.e. the word itself, its objects and relative pronouns – refers to this same subset, to this action of weaving.

This set model has nothing to do with the one we encountered in the chapters on partitive cases.

Naming the same word stem (wmàb.) for a second time creates a second instance, which may or may not be identical to the first instance. Recall the difference between wáx wìe. speak-fact1 PIn−1-dat-nom2a. ‘He is speaking to himself: the sender of speaking is the recipient of the same action of speaking’ and wáx wìxe. speak-fact1 speak-dat-nom2a. ‘The one being spoken to is speaking: the sender of an action of speaking is the recipient of an action of speaking, but not necessarily the same’.

Even the stem of a relative pronoun instantiates an action: one that is identical to the referred stem’s action (or to the parole).

We informally say that wmèb. instantiates a person or a group of people when we really mean its stem instantiates the action of weaving that defines the weaver(s).

The following two rules qualify or narrow down this subset; they provide additional information about it. They are the actual reason why wmàb. can refer to a subset of weaving (as opposed to all the weaving there is).

Five. Completeness of cases

A case characterises the action it refers to completely with regard to its case descriptor.

When you have instantiated a word stem, you can add objects to describe its associated subset more specifically, to restrict it. For example, you could add a nominative object. If you do so, it has to name the complete sender – meaning that a nominative object ‘father’ excludes from your instance of wmàb. all weaving that is not done by father. A temporal object ‘every Thursday morning’ excludes all other times he weaves. A dative ‘wool’ … but you get the idea. In this way you can say more and more precisely what subset of all weaving you meant when you said wmàb.. Likewise, if you add to your instance of wool a nominative object ‘goats’ (a word of level three), this restricts the set of wool, which in turn restricts the weaving. (And restricting xacgàzw. ‘twinkle’ with a dative object ‘Seamus’ excludes all the twinkling light that doesn’t reach Seamus’s eyes.)

By the way, restricting a set does not necessarily mean reducing it. If father is only weaving on Thursday mornings anyway, the temporal object will not reduce the size of the set, but it will still add meaning to the sentence. Rule Seven will make this clearer.

The stems of objects are in turn restricted by their predicate and its other objects: the mentioned wool can only be wool woven by father on Thursday mornings. This can be formally shown by an inversion.

The instance of weaving we have been talking about so far cannot include a group in which father is weaving, since naming the nominative object ‘father’ has already established him as the complete sender. We can, however, instantiate a new action of weaving (that is, say or write wmàb. for a second time) with the group as nominative, of which father can be a part: wmáb qmiè psrènbe. weave-fact1 group-dat-nom2a father-partnom-nom2. ‘Grouped people, one of which is father, are weaving’. (The coordination has to equate father with part of a set of grouped people, not with a set of groups; therefore qmì. needs an inner dative.)

The same applies to inner case. Brackets (and coordinations) are important applications of Rules Four and Five. In the phrase Ìx wèxy. male-acc1 speak-nom-acc2., the man is the same as the speaker because both words cover the content of the same instance (Rule Four) of man-making completely (Rule Five); the predicate via its inner case, the object via its outer case. Finally, the inner cases of relative pronouns are also covered by this rule: using pronouns to refer to things that have already been introduced ensures that we are referring to the same things, not to new ones of the same kind; recall these two examples.

Partitive revisited

The mechanism described above implies that Lemizh objects are inherently restrictive in the sense of English restrictive clauses and phrases (‘the man that is speaking, the speaking man [as opposed to the silent one]; Nechwatal the mechanic [as opposed to Nechwatal the cardiologist]’): these help identify their referents, or, in Lemizh terms, the instances of ‘man’ and ‘Nechwatal’, respectively. Contrast this with non-restrictive clauses and phrases (‘the man, which is speaking; the speaking man; Nechwatal, the mechanic [the only Nechwatal I know]’): these provide additional information about their referents, which are already identifiable beforehand.

In Lemizh, all objects are restrictive with the exception of cumulative brackets and coordinations. Brackets cannot restrict their predicate because the restriction has already been done by the predicate’s inner case. (The man is the same as the speaker.) And this is the reason why we need partitive brackets to express restrictiveness: technically, they aren’t brackets because their outer case does not match their predicate’s inner case, and so this argument does not apply. The same case can be made for coordinations. However, we do not need to translate all English restrictive constructions with partitives, as we will see in a moment.

The same affair, seen from a different viewpoint: xacgàzw meqxèn hemÌsi. twinkle-fact1 star-nom-partnom2 Seamus-acc-dat2. ‘Some [or possibly all] of the stars twinkle at Seamus’ differs from the non-partitive phrasing in that the stars that twinkle at Seamus are not necessarily all of the stars instantiated (Rule Four) by the word mèqx.. This becomes important whenever this instance of stars – but now the whole instance – is referenced a second time, as by an object or a pronoun. The reference to the whole instance need not necessarily be grammatically overt, as in the third of the following examples.

xacgàzw mèqxen tyé hemÌsi.The twinklers are thought to be taken from the set of these stars.
That which twinkles at Seamus is from the set of these stars.
Some [or possibly all] of these stars twinkle at Seamus.
twinkle-fact1 star-nom-partnom2 this-acc-nom3 Seamus-acc-dat2.
jerxilfkà mèqxy. xacgàzw fyèn hemÌsi.The twinklers are thought to be taken from the set of rising stars.The stars are coming up. Some [or possibly all] of them twinkle at Seamus.
rise-fact1 star-nom-acc2. twinkle-fact1 PIIn−1-acc-partnom2 Seamus-acc-dat2.
wèx Ìxen.The speaker is thought to be taken from a set of men.
a speaker from a set of men
the speaking man (restrictive)
speak-nom1 male-acc-partnom2.

While omitting the partitive in the first two examples would definitely change their meaning, this is not so for the speaking man example: as Ìx. is the only instantiation of ‘man’ here, it can instantiate any set of men, notably that of speaking men (or a subset of it). This renders the partitive unnecessary in most situations, even those that are restrictive in the above sense. Conversely, the partitive case implies that the speaker has a larger set of men in mind, perhaps the ones he is pointing at, or the ones present in the room, or the ones he will refer to in the next sentence. Sometimes, though, we want to mark a clause or phrase expressly as non-restrictive, i.e. as not necessary for identifying the referent; strategies for doing so will be discussed in unit 16.

Now let’s have a look at inner partitives. The first of the following examples refers to the weavers twice (once completely and once via a partitive). In the second the reference to the whole set of walkers is not overt, as there is no accusative object without an inner partitive, but it is implied to consist of the beaver and the butcher.

wmáb qmiè psrènbe.Father is thought to be taken from a set of weavers, grouped people.Father is weaving in a group. Father is part of a group of weavers.
weave-fact1 group-dat-nom2a father-partnom-nom2.
dná trynxkÌ skmènwy.The beaver and the butcher are thought to be taken from a set of walkers.The beaver and the butcher are walking.
walk-fact1 beaver-partacc-acc2a butcher-partnom-acc2.

The fact that an object has to name its complete descriptor poses a problem with a number of cases, notably instrumental, benefactive, causative and consecutive, which are often used to describe just one of several tools, beneficiaries, causes, and consequences, respectively (or more precisely: just part of the set which constitutes the tool etc.). If the wind-caus opens the door, there are normally other causes such as the fact that the door was ajar. The mechanic’s-ben coat may have seen other owners and thus beneficiaries of coat-making. The literal, purely grammatical solution would be to construct such objects with inner partitives. The practical solution is to ‘talk loosely’ by omitting the partitive. This results in a sentence that is literally false but usually good enough, just like saying ‘There are cubes of Turkish Delight’ is false but good enough if there are roughly cube-shaped bits of Turkish Delight. The same is true for words with an inner instrumental, i.e. tool nouns, which would need an outer partitive if we were to speak literally because at least the wind is also part of the means of sailing. (You cannot just avoid Rule Five by omitting partitives at will. See Noninstantiability narrowing and Widening with a partitive case on the pragmatics pages for more on this.)

Completeness of cases is also the reason for the somewhat weird descriptors for partitive cases. The sender of an action could be taken from any number of sets, so the partitive nominative could never be a complete characterisation – save for the addition of ‘thought to be taken’ to its descriptor, which uniquely pins down the set the speaker is thinking of in the current context. (I have often omitted this part of the descriptor, or paraphrased it, in example sentences because it is just a technicality and adds nothing to clarity.)

Six. Missing objects

A missing object is equivalent to the absence of information about its descriptor.

Normally, you will not add objects in all existing cases to your instance of wmàb.. If you leave out, say, the locative object, Rule Five cannot restrict the weaving with respect to its location. But thanks to Rule Six this does not mean you refer to all locations where father is weaving wool every Thursday morning. It rather means that you omitted any spatial information about your instance of weaving. Leaving out the nominative object of ‘wool’ does not mean this instance of wool refers to wool by all woolly animals. It might still be only about goat’s wool, but this information has not been included in the sentence.

Typical reasons for omitting objects are:

An example that may not be obvious: jnÌ sklÌxtyn. 1/1-acc1 room-acc-partacc2. ‘all rooms’ does not necessarily describe all rooms there are, because ‘room’ could have a missing accusative object ‘green’. If so, the object of the main predicate would only be the ‘green rooms’ (which is, incidentally, a good example of the importance of Rule Two). But of course the information that the rooms are green can only be omitted if it is clear from context anyway. If this isn’t the case, the addressee can safely conclude that the mentioned phrase is really intended to mean ‘all rooms there are’. (We will further discuss this issue in the chapter on real-time interpretation on the pragmatics pages.)

Rules Five and Six imply that every instance of a word has exactly one action, one sender, and so on: Five excludes additional senders if one nominative object is already present, and Six gives meaning to missing objects, establishing them as an integral part of Lemizh sentence grammar.

Seven. Degree of reality

Given an object and its predicate, the predicate is considered more real and the object more hypothetical.

Four levels of reality: the real world contains the parole (level 0); the world the sentence is talking about (the world of the parole) contains ‘I want …’ (level 1 = grammatical reality); the world of my wish contains ‘… to hear …’ (level 2); the world of my hearing contains ‘… Socrates.’ (level 3).

The sentence làxt xOàjy sokrateÌse. ‘I want1 to hear2 Socrates3’ contains the information that I want1 something (i.e. to hear Socrates), but not that I actually hear2 someone (i.e. Socrates). The main predicate ‘want’, so to speak, lives in the world the sentence is talking about (more formally, the world of the parole), which is the more real, while its object ‘hear Socrates’ lives in the world of my wish, which is the more hypothetical of these two worlds. The parole, having level zero, acts as the predicate to the sentence as a whole and is therefore still more real. This reflects the fact that the parole is part of the real world; it is as real as anything linguistic can be. Turning this around, we see that the sentence is more hypothetical than reality: it can be a metaphor or some other figure of speech, a statement about a fictional or otherwise imagined world, an error, a lie, a linguistic example sentence, etc. We call the main predicate’s kind of reality, the one that is just one level more hypothetical than the parole and the real world, grammatical reality. Every sentence claims grammatical reality of its main predicate, or, loosely speaking, claims its main predicate.

The sentence qàzg làxty xOàjy sokrateÌse. ‘I think1 I want2 to hear3 Socrates4’ claims that I think something, while the other two verbs, so to say, are pushed down one degree of reality: ‘want’ becomes more hypothetical, and ‘hear’ even more so.

In the sentence dmàt mÌse lÌbvy. ‘I see1 white mice2’, the object ‘white mice’ is hypothetical as well: there is no claim that the mice actually exist. But, depending on the situation, the addressee might still justifiably conclude that the mice do exist, if there are no other good explanations such as a hallucination; but this is a question of meaning and context, not grammar. In ‘Lucy2 gets1 a bottle2 from Father Christmas2’, Lucy is only as real as the mice: her existence is a logical consequence of the fact that an inexistent person cannot be given a bottle. The same is true, of course, of Father Christmas and the bottle. Such conclusions, which are not licensed by Rule Seven but by logic and/or context, are called pragmatic reality. Pragmatic reality even works for missing objects: ‘Lucy gets a bottle’ implies the existence of a giver even if the nominative object is not overt. Whether and to what extent an object is pragmatically real can depend on many factors: in ‘She eats1 it because of the vitamins2’, the existence of the vitamins is questionable because she might only think there are vitamins. In ‘The beaver makes1 lace2’, the lace at first only exists in the hypothetical world of the beaver’s lace-making intentions, but when it is finished it becomes pragmatically real.

Here are some consequences of Rule Seven:

Compounding Rule Two revisited

Per Rule Two of compounding, ‘in the relationship between the original predicate and object (modifier and head of the compound, respectively), the rules of sentence grammar are retained as far as applicable’.

Punctuation and other symbols

Here is an overview of the puctuation marks. We already know the pauses of speech, the separators and the straight quotes.

Pauses of speech
space[space][space][space]barely audible
comma ,,,a bit longer
full stop ...the longest one (the pause at the end of a sentence)
emphasising space[double space][double space](!)have the same grammatical functions as the ordinary pauses, but add emphasis to the preceding sentence or object; similar to an exclamation mark
emphasising comma ;;,(!)
emphasising full stop ::!
straight dash a-y--separate parts of text: letters, moræ, words, objects, sentences, paragraphs, etc., for stylistic reasons such as enhancing readability of compounds or long sentences. The straight dash is the weakest, the pointy dash the strongest separator.
round dash a~y~
pointy dash a^y^
straight parentheses (y)( )( )enclose parts of text. A sentence without the contents of the enclosure must be grammatically complete: for example, when enclosing a word, all of its objects must be contained in the enclosure as well.
The straight enclosures are the weakest (also outermost), the pointy enclosures the strongest (also innermost). The accent of the last word in front of the enclosure determines the level of the first word in the enclosure.
round parentheses [y][ ][ ]
pointy parentheses {y}{ }{ }
straight quotes <y>< >‘ ’enclose mentioned parts of text, as in ‘“Socrates” has eight letters’. This includes quotations.
round quotes ‹y(none)“ ”
pointy quotes «y»(none)“‘ ’”
short ellipsis –(none)marks omission of one or several letters, as in abbreviations
long ellipsis —(none)marks omission of one or several words
Astronomical symbols
These symbols are used for enumeration (e.g. in lists and footnotes) and as abbreviations for exponential numbers (see appendix, Units of measurement), weekdays (see Date), planets, gods, as well as for more specialised purposes.
NameSymbolKeyboardTranscriptionCommon uses
SunÀ(none)unnumbered (e.g. for bulleted lists), Sol/Helios, day
MoonÉ(none)256, Luna/Selene, night
MercuryÁ(none)#1, 65536, Wednesday, Mercury/Hermes
VenusÂ(none)#2, 65536², Friday, Venus/Aphrodite, born
EarthÃ(none)#3, 65536³, Saturday, Terra/Gaia, female
MarsÄ(none)#4, 65536⁴, Tuesday, Mars/Ares, died
JupiterÅ(none)#5, 65536⁵, Thursday, Jupiter/Zeus, male
SaturnÆ(none)#6, 65536⁶, Monday, Saturn/Kronos, land
UranusÇ(none)#7, 65536⁷, Sunday, Neptune/Poseidon, sea (see here for an explanation of the Uranus/Neptune difficulty)
NeptuneÈ(none)#8, 65536⁸, Midwinter day, Midwinter God

Draft of a Lemizh keyboard. The labelling is incomplete.


How many different actions occur in the following sentence?
gané ganìe.Solve
sing-nom1 sing-dat-nom2a.
Which actions do the cases in the following sentence characterise completely?
wáx wiè dmÌaR.Solve
speak-fact1 PIn−1-dat-nom2a 3/4-acc-temp2.
What can you conclude from the presence of the word lÌxw. ‘green’ in the following sentence, apart from that we are talking about all the green rooms?
jnÌ sklÌxtyn lÌxwy.Solve
1/1-acc1 room-acc-partacc2 green-acc-acc3.
Can you tell whether the beavers in the following sentences exist, and by which kind of reality?
dmàt trÌxki.Solve
see-fact1 beaver-acc-dat2.
dmàt trÌxke.Solve
see-fact1 beaver-acc-nom2.
dmèt trÌxke.Solve
see-nom1 beaver-acc-nom2.
ià veè dmèty trÌxke.Solve
love-fact1 PIn−2-nom-nom2 see-nom-acc2 beaver-acc-nom3.
Translate and compound, and invert the translations unless inversion ban applies:
He eats nothing-acc.Solve
The sound of a trumpet came from nowhere-ela.Solve