After all is said and done, more is said than done.
Limits of grammar
Not every oral or written expression is a grammatical sentence. Interjections such as ‘shh’ and ‘um’, individual letters and numbers, pictograms, mathematical and chemical formulae, laughter, yawns, and meaningful silence are some counterexamples. Whenever an ending (at least an inner case) is added to such an expression, it becomes a grammatical verb – denoting an action – and can be used in a sentence. If necessary, quotes can be used to distinguish mention from use.
|hh = shh||hhà. = to make a ‘shh’ sound, to go ‘shh’|
|l = L||‹l›à. = to make (write, pronounce) an L|
|5 = 5||5à. = to make five individuals; ‹5›à. = to make (write) the number 5|
You call this a simple grammar?
Well, here is a complete reference grammar. Everything else was just an explanation of how Lemizh concepts map to English grammar.
You can download the grammar as a PDF here (4 pages).
Phonology and writing
Morphology (word grammar)
- Parts of a word: prestem + inner case + poststem + outer case
- Level as defined in this table. Only positive levels are allowed for words. The agent is the source of the intention.
- Case descriptors as defined in this table, with rows 5 to 8 being agent-centered; plus the two secondary case suffixes denoting partitive (n, ‘the set from which the sender [recipient, place, etc.] is thought to be taken’) and qualitative cases (m, ‘the basis of comparison – located in the same hypothetical world as all others – for the sender [recipient, place, etc.]’)
- The stem of a word always denotes an action, and the inner case describes the word’s relation to this action.
- The stems of the relative pronouns are defined in this table.
Derivational morphology (compound words)
- One. A compound word is constructed from a two-word sentence – predicate and object of which become modifier and head of the compound, respectively – as shown here.
- Two. In the relationship between the original predicate and object, the rules of sentence grammar are retained as far as applicable.
- Three. Regarding all outward relations, cases refer to the head.
Syntax (sentence grammar)
- 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.
- 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.
- Four. Identity of action. An instance of a word stem designates a specific action.
- Five. Completeness of cases. A case characterises the action it refers to completely with regard to its case descriptor.
- Six. Missing objects. A missing object is equivalent to the absence of information about its descriptor.
- Seven. Degree of reality. Given an object and its predicate, the predicate is considered more real and the object more hypothetical.
Strictly speaking, sentence grammar does not consist of seven separate rules, but of one complex rule, which can be easiest phrased in seven parts. (I tried some other arrangements with six parts, but the one above seems to be the clearest.) None of the seven parts makes sense on its own, and leaving out any of them would make it impossible to utter a single meaningful sentence. Axiomatic systems in mathematics have very similar properties.
And the lexicon?
The table of relative pronouns is doubtlessly part of the grammar; demonstrative pronouns, negators, verbs of comparison, temporal and spatial verbs, là. and mà., less so – they don’t behave in any special way compared with other words.
But hasn’t the grammar simply been replaced with vocabulary? There is no plural, no comparative, no moods, but there are the verbs mlà. ‘several’, tàcd. ‘more’, and modal verbs instead. But then, languages that do employ these grammatical categories don’t seem to be able to do without ‘several’, ‘more’, or modals, so Lemizh doesn’t replace grammar but only gets rid of duplicates. Retaining the words and getting rid of the grammatical categories has the advantage of greater flexibility. mlà. can be used with various inner and outer cases, compounded, and inverted, all without introducing a single additional rule.
Open questions and other things I am less than happy with, excluding this heading
Missing parts of the language
- Much of the lexicon is still missing.
- So is intonation (apart from accent) and timing.
- Dialects and registers are not described, and probably never will be (with some exceptions).
- I’m still working on the loanwords and pragmatics pages.
- The direction of writing should really be bottom-to-top to judge from the way Lemizh models time and space, but that’s really awkward to do. I have tried.
- The fricatives c z h s are sibilants, which is somewhat asymmetric – either v q should be sibilants as well, or c h shouldn’t, or there should be no sibilants at all; but none of these phonologies sounds convincing to me.
- I am not really happy with the Lemizh font, but I’m no good at font design.
- I’m not convinced I have properly understood how compounds work – re-thinking them is one of my next tasks.
- The qualitative case has a rather non-standard name; but as there is such a thing as an ‘essive’ case in Finnish grammar, this probably doesn’t matter much.
- Comparing clauses are not entirely worked out; especially sentences on the lines of ‘The horse was so fast that it won the race’ need a bit more thinking on my part.
- And how do I know I have not over-interpreted the rules?
But out here in the country you can walk all day and all the next day with an unanswered question in your head: you need never speak until you have made up your mind.
Glossary and index