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Iemy Grammar

On this page we'll be discussing the grammar of Iemy.  If you have no idea what Iemy is or how you got here, you might do well to peruse the Book of Iem page before proceeding.

Elsewhere on this site we've occasionally implied that very little is known about the structure of Iemy and the Iemic numbering system. Until recently, that was quite true.  However, all that changed when one of the grad students helping to excavate Professor Felix Resilleserre's office thought to extract a wadded up scrap of paper the Professor had jammed into one of the hinges of a rickety folding table he was using to hold his desktop computer.  The first thing the student discovered was that the hinge was broken -- with the scrap removed the table tended to collapse when jostled, dumping pens, pencils, papers, the computer, and an occasional cup of coffee onto the floor to mix with the mass of detritus left behind by the missing Professor.

However, a far more momentous discovery was made when the paper was unfolded.  It seems that, in his hurry to find a prop for the table,  Felix had used some of his Iemy notes.  In pariticular, a comprehensive list of Iemy prepositions and a handful of (vague and rather confusing) grammar rules were found, along with a remarkably clear description of the Iemy numbering system, which had been thought forever beyond comprehension given the lack of other notes describing it.

On the remainder of this page we will present what we've been able to piece together about Iemy grammar, both from the Professor's grammatical notes on Iemy, and by deduction from his fragmentary translation of passages of the Book of Iem.

Tenses, Cases, and All That

There are no tenses, cases, conjugations, inflections, declensions, or plurals.   All uses of all words (nouns as well as verbs) just use the stem.

Iemy is not just missing simple tenses.  There are (almost) no compound tenses, either; Iemy does not just substitute auxiliary verb use for the simple tenses (which, as you may have noticed, is something we do much of the time in English).

Simplicity comes at a price.  Expressing complex time relations, such as the past and future anterior tenses, can be a little tricky.  However, the harder problem seems to be moods; any usable language must provide a mechanism for expressing "if ... then" constructs and must provide some way of saying "I'd like another cup of coffee please" without being offensive, and with no conditional or subjunctive moods these can be difficult to do.  Iemy, which the Professor's notes suggest was once used by an entire culture, can certainly express linguistic moods.  We will go into how it does it a little later.

However, even relatively simple situations can pose interesting problems if one has no tenses.  In English, one can write some rather horrible sentences, such as:

s1)   "I am going to go get started cooking"

which contains six verbs and one pronoun.  It might contain a preposition, as well, if "to" is a preposition and not just part of the infinitive of "to go" (in English it can be hard to be sure).  And, of course, the last verb, "cooking", might be considered a gerund (which is a noun) rather than a present participle (which is a verb).  However, I'm chronically confused about gerunds and participles, so I'm not sure, and I'm going to simply claim it's a verb.  (In English the gerund and present participle look identical and, like many of us who grew up speaking only English, I have a hard time telling them apart.  Professor Resilleserre probably knew the difference quite well but he never bothered to write anything about gerunds in Iemy, so we're left largely to our own devices, feeble though they may be.)

A case where "cooking" is clearly a participle might be:

s2)   "I am cooking"

A case where it could be a gerund would be:

s3)   "I like cooking"

So how do we express these sentences without any declensions?  The first monster, (s1), must be unraveled and reduced to its bare meaning, which, if the time context is already known, we can then express as:

   <I start cook>  =  "Aȓt iafua yȓmyȓ"

If there's some question as to when this will take place -- like, we don't know whether it's describing what the person is doing right now or whether it's describing what they'll be doing as soon as they get off the phone -- then a time context word can be included, as:

  <I start soon cook> = "Aȓt iafua ime yȓmyȓ"


  <I start now cook> = "Aȓt iafua enz yȓmyȓ"

That was pretty easy.

Now let's look at "I am cooking", which, unless it's spoken by a megalomaniac chef who is trying to take over the world ("I AM COOKING ... I AM *ALL* OF COOKING...") is clearly using a participle.  How do we capture its meaning without any tenses?  We just need to realize the participle is totally unnecessary; in English, for reasons which escape me, we never miss an opportunity to use the progressive tense, and this is a fine example.  One can simply say

  <I cook> = "Aȓt yȓmyȓ"

and be done with it.

When we look at (s3) we have a small problem; when we cast it in Iemy-form, we get

  <I like cook> = "Aȓt arhyȓt yȓmyȓ"

and it's ambiguous:  Do we like the concept of cooking (gerund), or do we like to cook (verb)?  If we're watching a cooking show when we say this, we probably mean the former; if we're baking muffins, we probably mean the latter.  But then, when we look back at the English we realize it's ambiguous, too.  We live with it in English; we can presumably live with it in Iemy, too.

In Old Iemy there was no ambiguity:  Gerunds and participles looked different, because one's a noun and one's a verb.  We'd have

  <I like-en cook-o> = "Ât arhÿten ÿmÿo"


  <I like-en cook-en> = "Ât arhÿten ÿmÿen"

depending on which was wanted.

The endings are optional in New Iemy, and are nearly always omitted.  However, there is always the option of using an ending to indicate the part of speech if something needs to be clarified.

Word Endings in Old Iemy

Old Iemy used specific endings to (almost) uniquely identify the part of speech of all verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs (though there were no inflections, even then).  Combined with the strict word order, this appears to make Old Iemy parsable as a context free grammar: You could (probably) write a Yacc program which understood Old Iemy.  In New Iemy, in which the part of speech endings are optional and nearly always omitted, the parsing is more difficult, particularly since it appears that it's still legal to use any word in any grammatical position (if it makes semantic sense).

In Old Iemy, in principle, any stem could be used as a noun, verb, or modifier, since the ending tells you what it's doing and prevents ambiguity.  In New Iemy you can do the same thing but in many cases you shouldn't.   For  example, the perfectly comprehensible English sentence, "A racer races in a race", translated naively into Iemy, comes out "Ufit ufit he ufit" and nobody's going to have a clue what you're talking about.  Say, rather, "Arn yȓk ufit ufit he ufit".  It has the same structure but is far more comprehensible.  Word for word, it transliterates to "One who race race in race" which has an obvious meaning.

In Romanized Old Iemy, the part of speech endings would be written such that:
All endings started with a vowel.  If the stem ended with the same letter the ending starts with, a y was appended before the ending.


Even though the verbs are not inflected, Iemy can none the less express moods.  It uses modal auxiliaries, in an approach not totally unlike that of German.  Of course, modal auxiliaries are verbs, and, like all verbs in Iemy, they are uninflected, so there is a separate auxiliary for every mood which can be expressed this way -- the option of using the subjunctive or conditional form to "soften" the statement does not exist.  Instead, Iemy uses separate auxiliaries for different levels of emphasis and certainty.

Capability (not permission)
Conditional capability -- it's possible if something else is true
Imperative mood (never the progressive)
Used as a subordinating conjunction, not a modal auxiliary.  An "if ... then ..." construct is expressed as "hir ... farnui..." or "farnui ... hir ..." (clauses can appear in either order).  But see notes on "farnui", which is a true modal auxiliary, not a conjunction.
To be permitted or allowed (never indicates possibility or capability)
Possibility -- it might happen, I might do it; result is uncertain
To be required to do something, by circumstances or rules
To need
To be requested, intended, or strongly suggested
Conditional clause -- it's true if something else is true.  Differs from "yȓsy" in that it's absolute, not just possible; however, this is still used as a modal, with word order SAOV, where "farnui" goes in the "A" slot.  Typically used with "hir".
Conditional action

"I would like a cup of coffee"


<I would cup of coffee like> = "Aȓt ssy yȓliȓ no yȓnirird arhyȓt"

As in the English, it means, "If a cup of coffee happened to wander over to me, I would like that".  Contrast

"I want a cup of coffee"

<I want cup of coffee> == "Aȓt zfea yȓliȓ no yȓnirird"

To give a more complex example, "If I go to that party I'll be bored", becomes

<If I go to/toward party I then bore be then> == "Hir aȓt oun oȓtui irtat aȓt farnui teerj eet aote"

Note that "farnui" and "aote" are both translated into English as "then" but mean different things.  The former is the conditional auxiliary, while the latter indicates a relative time.

It's worth taking a little excursion here to point out that in English, "bore" is a three-way pun.  "It bores me to bore holes all day" covers two of them.  In Iemy, it's not; the kind of bore you meet at a party is "teerj", but when you want to bore a hole the verb you need is "vlou".  Similarly, in English you could say, "Don't invite Joe to the party, once he starts talking he just rolls over everybody.  He really is a tidal bore" and it would be considered an attempt at an overly cerebral pun.  In Iemy, it would merely be senseless, because "teerj" never means "big wave that moves really fast down a narrow channel".  (Come to think of it, I have no idea how to say "tidal bore" in Iemy.  Perhaps you can't.  It's interesting to note that the only languages with a simple expression meaning "tidal bore" must be languages whose speakers live near the ocean ... and, of course, languages whose speakers live on a planet which has a moon.)
Iemy also has its own homonyms and its "natural puns", of course.  One example is "yȓnhe", which means "money", but can also mean "right angle" or "corner".  So, in Iemy, if we say the economy has "turned the corner" we've actually made a mildly amusing pun.

Word Order

According to Felix's notes, word order in Iemy is extremely strict.  (This makes sense; otherwise, with the lack of inflections, the language would be pretty much unparsable.)  In the following table we summarize all that we've discovered in his notes along with all that we've been able to deduce about the word order and general form of a number of common sentential forms.

Phrase Word order
Declarative Sentence
Simple declarative sentences are Subject-Verb-Object
When both indirect and direct objects are present, the indirect object comes first.  It doesn't matter whether the objects are proper or common nouns, pronons, or prepositional phrases.
Subject-Auxiliary-Object-Verb -- When an auxiliary is used, the verb whose mood is being modified is placed at the end (verb-last position).
Time Clause
A time context clause follows the verb whose action it applies to.
Negation precedes the verb whose action is being negated
AS... or VS...
Simple questions are expressed by reversing the subject and verb (or auxiliary).  However, there is quite a bit of complexity associated with question forms; see the section on "Questions" a little farther on.
[S] "yn" OV
The imperative is just another mood, which uses the auxiliary "yn".  Unlike other moods, the subject is optional in the imperative mood.  Note that the auxiliary is not optional (at least in written Iemy) -- a sentence in the form "VO" is generally indistinguishable from "VS".  So, for instance, the phrase "tfa aȓvli" == <eat mouse> can mean "Does the mouse eat?".  Consequently, the imperative must be formed as "yn aȓvli tfa" == <do mouse eat>.  (Note that Iemy has several words for "mouse", which appear to be used interchangeably, depending on the taste of the author.)
Multiple Auxiliaries
SA1 O VAn...A2
When multiple auxiliaries are used, they are each pushed to the end of the sentence in turn.  So, for example, we'd have "I may want to drink a cup of coffee" ==> "aȓt aȓhat yȓliȓ no yȓnirird eenhut zfea" ==<I might cup of coffee drink want>.
Subscripts in our "word order diagram" indicate the order the auxiliaries would appear in an equivalent English sentence.
Adjectives N An ... A1 The adjective comes after the noun, and additional adjectives which are also applied to the noun come after the earlier ones.  Subscripts in our "word order" diagram reflect English order.
V An ... A1
Analogous to adjectives, except applied to a verb.  The adverb comes after the verb, and additional adverbs come after the earlier ones.  Subscripts in our "word order" diagram reflect English order.  Note that the words used as adjectives and adverbs are interchangeable in Iemy; for example, "oȓtu" can mean both "very" and "much".
Adj Adv...
Adv Adv...
Adverbs which modify an adjective or another adverb come after it, also, and are also stacked right-to-left (if necessary).
Art N
Optional, used only when needed, or for emphasis.  Articles are used to establish the number and uniqueness of the object in question.
Prepositional Phrases
The preposition occurs at the front of the phrase (i.e., it is a preposition, not a postposition or imposition, and it's never split).
When a prepositional phrase is used as an adjective or adverb it goes exactly where an adjective or adverb would have gone in the sentence, and when it takes the place of an indirect object, it goes exactly where an indirect object would have gone.  Thus, "they hide from me" becomes "ti ohyt oȓtui aȓt it", which, translated word for word into English, is "it/they hide at i/we self".  The indirect object is "I/we" in the prepositional phrase "oȓtui aȓt"; the direct object is the reflexive pronoun "it", meaning "self".  To our anglophone ears the "self" seems misplaced.


As we stated above, when sketching out the word order of various sentences, simple questions are expressed by reversing the subject and verb (or auxiliary), as either VS... or AS....  However, several additional constructions are also used.

Yes-or-no questions may be asked by making an ordinary statement, but appending "yȓv", which tags the sentence as a question.  This is something like "n'est ce pas?" in French or "right?" in English.  "Do you like it?" can thus be asked either as "Teuenj ar ti" == <like you it>, or "Ar teuenj ti yȓv" == <you like it, right?>".  However, the particle "yȓv" is part of the sentence proper, rather than a separate independent clause as in the English and French examples, and it can be placed at either end of the sentence.

"How" questions are expressed with a question word at the start or end, with the main body of the sentence in SVO order: "<How>SV...".  For example, "How do I eat this?" => <how I/we eat this> = "Onz aȓt tfa tiat?" or "Aȓt tfa tiat onz?"

"Where" questions can be formed by substituting the question-word "sotut" for the location or destination of an action which requires one, or "sotut" can be placed at the start or end of the sentence to tag it as a question and ask where one should perform some action.  For example:
"Where do we go?" -> "Aȓt oun sotut?"  <we go where>
"Where do we eat?" -> "Aȓt tfa sotut?" <we eat where> or "Sotut aȓt tfa?" <where we eat>

To ask about the object of an action, the question word "sofa" <what> is used as the object.  However, to ask, "Eat what?", in Iemy we need to know the subject.  If we mean "What can I eat?" then we might say "Aȓt iȓtla tfa sofa?", <I can eat what?>.  To ask "What is that smell?", we might say "Aȓt iaȓtarar sofa?" <I smell what?>, or we might ask "Sofa nynu?" <what smells?>.   (Note that while in English, "smell" can mean "detect an odor" or "stink", in Iemy they're two different verbs.)

To ask about the actor, rather than the object, one usually uses the pronoun "yȓk", which, in this context, means, "who".  So, to ask "What is eating?" one would typically ask, "Yȓk tfa?" which, word for word, is closer to <who eat?>.    Note that "yȓk" is also used as a relative pronoun meaning who, which, or that, as mentioned elsewhere on this page.  In certain cases, where the actor is clearly inanimate, "sofa" may be used in place of "yȓk"; for example, "What is over there?" can be asked as "Sofa tyȓihia fararv?" <What exists there(distant)?>

To ask what action is being performed, the undetermined verb "irvhut" is used.  It means, roughly, "do".  So to ask "What is it doing?" one would say "Irvhut ti sofa?" -> <do it what?>

The "sofa" at the end of "Irvhut ti sofa?" is needed because "irvhut" can also be used as a sort of "pro-verb" (in analogy to a "pronoun") when the antecedent action is known.  So we can have:
"He is eating now."  -> "Har tfa enz" (He/they eat now.)
"He is?"  -> "Irvhut har?"  (Do he/they?)
"Yes, he is." -> "Uev, har irvhut."  (Yes, he/they do.)

Time Context

The time context of a sentence or clause is the time, relative to the present, at which it takes place.  Since there are no tenses in Iemy, a sentence which doesn't explicitly include a time context is assumed to be set in the time context of the surrounding conversation.

To set the time context in a clause, one places a time context word immediately after the verb.  So, for instance, we have:

"Tomorrow I'm going shopping" -> <I shop tomorrow> == "aȓt ioniȓ anaȓnuunz"

"Yesterday I went shopping" -> <I shop yesterday> == "aȓt ioniȓ vjtu"

If there are multiple verbs, the context word follows the verb to which it most closely applies.  So, for instance,

"It was eaten yesterday" -> <it is eat yesterday> == "ti eet tfa vjtu"

"Yesterday I wished to go home" => <I wish yesterday toward home my go>
    == "aȓt zhio vjtu oȓtui onaȓt su oun"

"I wish I had gone home yesterday" => <I wish toward home my go yesterday>
   == "aȓt zhio oȓtui onaȓt su oun vjtu"

Any word or phrase which indicates when an action took place can be used to provide the time context.  Some common time context words and phrases are given in the following table.

Context Iemy Word
late (relative to the present, or to a time under discussion)
arfat iȓarr
earlier (relative to the present, or to a time under discussion) tfuarj iȓarr
then (relative to a time under discussion)
ago (any time in the past)

Several more examples may help to clarify this:

"I already went shopping" -> <I shop ago> = "aȓt ioniȓ foun"

"I bought a car 3 years ago" -> <I buy ago 3 year car> = "aȓt eerj foun aoudao gtfu yȓfu"

Compound Nouns

There aren't any (except by accident, and in borrowings).  Nouns in iemy are never casually glued together to make new words.  Instead, one must chain them, using adjectives, prepositions,  or other subordinating conjunctions.

So, for example, we have

  hovercraft = <craft which hover> = "yȓufira yȓk onoȓtu"


The list of prepositions which was found stuck in the hinge of Felix's computer table leg was divided up into groups, almost like the case groups of prepositions in certain European languages.  Since Iemy has no inflections it's not clear what purpose there might be to such a division.  We have, therefore, discarded his formatting, and sorted the prepositions based on what we felt was the closest equivalent English word.

Notes on the meaning
After, either in time or in location.  A relative location placing something "after" something else is more often indicated with "oheau", meaning "behind".
around, near, approximately  (appears to be somewhat like German "um")
at, colocated with something
Similar to the phrase "because of".  The subject is a direct consequence of the prepositional object.
In front of the object -- not typically used for times, though it can be.
behind.  But see also "efio", meaning "after".
next to or adjacent to the object
Caused by, as a "craft fill by eels" = "yȓufira irharar iȓfu dar".  On the other hand, this could also be considered to be a craft that has been filled using eels, in which case it would be "craft fill using eels" = "yȓufira irharar eep dar".
The author of a book is noted using "iȓfu", also, as it is the author who caused the book.
despite, in spite of
intended for; used for; in favor of  (somewhat like German "für")
from or of, as in "to come from", "to fall from", "to hail from", "to be a citizen of", or "to (all) be of".
For example, "people of the Snood" = "iȓtuine oȓne arv iemy".
On the other hand, if the Snood refers primarily to a group of individuals, then a single person of the Snood would usually be considered to be a member of the Snood, rather than hailing from or originating from the Snood.  So, even though person and people are the same word in Iemy, the sentence "person of the Snood" would translate differently.  It would be "person of the Snood" = "iȓtuine no arv iemy".
In contrast, a "person of Russia" would definitely hail from Russia, rather than being a member of Russia, and so would be "iȓtuine oȓne Russia".
in or into
doing or residing with; near; using.
Also used in to mean passing near or passing by, as in "cat walks by" = "yȓfa zfyȓ eep"
of (member)
A member of; a part of; an example of.  "finger of a glove" = "irheoutu no ouarnoȓt".  This is also used when describing the contents of something:  "book of Snoo", or "cup of coffee".  If x is a member of the set A then A is a set of x's (but see also the article itan meaning "set of").
But see also the preposition 'from/of'.
of (owned)
Belonging to, or owned by, as "glove of John" = "ouarnoȓt yt john".  Note that there is no genitive case in Iemy, unlike English (and German).  Consequently, yt  sees substantial use.
Note that "John's finger" can sensibly be translated either as "irheoutu no John" or as "irheoutu yt John", as one can argue that John certainly owns all his fingers.  However, it would usually be considered more correct to use no in this case.
on top of, upon (a thing), falling on (a date)
outward -- the direction
outside of (physical thing); except for; aside from
oȓtui toward; to something (direction); as in "je cours vers Johanne".
For example, "hovercraft flies to Sniggles" = <hovercraft fly to Sniggles> = "yȓufira yȓk onoȓtu irarj oȓtui sniggles".  No strict distinction between "to" and "toward" is made.

see "near/using"

Gerunds, "Verbing" a Noun, and Related Issues

Attrition, attrit, question (someone), "I like swimming", ablate, ablation ...

These all are examples of ways of switching a word from a verb to a noun or back.  It's been said that in (casual) English you can verb any noun just by using it as a verb.  There are lots of examples which are "correct idiomatic English" as well as a number of solecisms which are used occasionally and are easily understood. (He's come unhatted again, tape his hat on, sled down the hill, see if the dog has treed a raccoon, the cat is busy mousing...)  "Attrit", mentioned above, was used by an American general somewhere to describe what was going on with the troops.

Often we use "up" with a noun when we want to put something into that state ("this fertilizer will green up the plants") but often we don't ("the greening of America" is clearly using "green" as a verb stem, with "greening" being either a gerund or a present participle).

A painting, a building, "my knitting" ... these are examples of the use of a gerund to refer to the result of an action.  "This painting is the result of my painting for three weeks".  "The building went on for a year to build this building".  In English there is ambiguity here.  Usually we just avoid horrible constructions like the two examples just given, and the ambiguity doesn't cause trouble.  In some cases the cues which let us determine what's meant are very subtle:  Consider "The building went up in a year" versus "The building went on for a year".

In Iemy the situation is also ambiguous.  The lack of inflections means there is no way to distinguish between, for example, (a can of) "paint" and (a finished) "painting" simply by looking at the word; in both cases, the word is "iȓvheao" (where we have included the noun ending "-o").

The rule in Iemy regarding interchange of nouns and verbs is that any word (stem) can be used for anything as long as it "makes sense" and expresses your meaning.  In general, we live with the resulting ambiguity, which can typically be resolved from the context.  When a word is used in a location where it could sensibly be more than one part of speech, a part-of-speech ending may be used.  So, for instance,

"I like painting" = <I like paint> = "aȓt arhyȓt iȓvhea"

is highly ambiguous.  If we mean we like to paint, we can use the "-en" ending to force the interpretation:

"I like to paint" = <I like paint-en> = "aȓt arhyȓt iȓvheaen"

If we mean we like a particular painting, we can use an article:

"I like that painting" = <I like that paint-o> = "aȓt arhyȓt tiav iȓvheao"

There can also be ambiguity when the stem is a noun, and the gerund is a different noun.  So, for instance, we have two imperative sentences:

"Make a painting!" = <do paint make> = "yn iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"


"Make paint!" = <do paint make> = "yn iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

Use of an article can reduce the ambiguity in this instance, as "a painting" is a unitary noun, while "some paint" is a collective noun, and Iemy articles distinguish between these cases:

"Make a painting!" = <do a paint make> = "yn let iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

versus a request to make several paintings:

"Make some paintings!" = <do multiple paint make> = "yn leti iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

versus a request to make a quantity of paint:

"Make some paint!" = <do some paint make> = "yn inaȓt iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

Progressive Tense

In Iemy we never use the English-style formal progressive tense using the verb "to be".  That is because the verb stem, the present participle, and the past participle are all identical.  Consequently the following two English sentences, translated word for word into Iemy, would be identical:  "it is eating", versus "it is eaten".  In both cases the verb is tfa.

Yet their meanings are totally different:  With the present participle, it's an action "it" is performing; with the past participle, it's an action which was done to "it".  In Iemy, the former (which can be easily expressed in other ways) is disallowed, and  <it be eat> = "ti eet tfa" always means "it is eaten".  The assertion, "it is eating", is typically expressed simply as "it eats now" = "ti tfa enz".

A formal progressive tense is not strictly necessary, even for cases where one seems to need it; the progressive can be constructed using pieces which are already present.  In fact, that's what has been done in Iemy.
It may help to review briefly the French progressive, to which the Iemy progressive is somewhat similar.  In French, even though one has present participles, one does not normally express "it is eating" as "il est mangent".  Instead, one says "il est en train de manger", or "it is in the process of eating".

When a Iemy speaker wants to express the progressive, they do something very similar, using the adjective busy = eelig:  "it is busy eating" -> "it be busy eat" = "ti eet eelig tfa".

Some additional examples:

I am painting -> "I be busy paint" = "aȓt eet eelig iȓvhea"

I am painting a painting -> "I be busy a paint paint" = "aȓt eet eelig let iȓvhea iȓvhea"

I am making a painting -> "I be busy a paint make" = "aȓt eet eelig let iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

I am making paint -> "I be busy some paint make" = "aȓt eet eelig inaȓt iȓvhea aȓfyȓt"

Note that the word order we've given here is verb-last, with "eelig" in the position of an auxiliary.  This might seem wrong, given what we know about Iemy prepositions; if "busy"/"eelig" is acting as a preposition, shouldn't the order be "aȓt eet eelig iȓvhea let iȓvhea"?  We don't know what the order "should" be, but Felix's notes describe the order which is actually used in this case as being verb-last.

Pronouns and Possessives

Iemy indicates possession using adjectives, not articles.

Iemy pronouns, like Iemy nouns, have no plural forms.  "I" and "we" are both "aȓt".  There is, however, gender in Iemy pronouns and Iemy possessive adjectives.  Note that this gender follows the owner, as in English, not the ownee, as in French.

In the following table we show the pronouns, and the possessive adjectives.

Pronoun Meaning Iemy Pronoun
I, me, we, us
he, him, they, them (masculine)
she, her, they, them (feminine)
it, they, them (neuter, mixed, or unknown)
who, which, that
someone, someones (used with passive voice)
himself, herself, itself, themselves (used to form reflexive constructs, and to form intransitive constructs from transitive verbs; "they wash themselves" -> "har zfio it")
Possessive Meaning Iemy Adjective
my, our
its, their (neuter, mixed, or unknown)
his, their (masculine)
her, their (feminine)

There are no separate possessive pronouns.  Instead one uses "the" with the possessive adjective.  For instance, "the hovercraft is mine" = <hovercraft be the my> = "yȓufira yȓk onoȓtu eet arv su"

Passive Voice

I, at least, can't write more than about 5 sentences in a row without using passive voice.  Luckily for me, Iemy does include a passive voice locution.

In English, we express passive voice by naming the object and eliding the subject.  Often this is done with the verb to be and the past participle.  So, for instance, we have "The glass was broken",  "The drink was spilled", and "For the window to open, the 'start' button must be clicked".  This is possible in Iemy, too.
However there's a second construct in English whose translation is less obvious, and I used it above:  "This is done with the verb..."  "It is finished"  "It is said that..."  What's the antecedent of "it" and "this" in these sentences?  It's not obvious, and in fact these are idioms; there aren't really any natural antecedents for those pronouns.

In Iemy all of that is handled using the pronoun arn, "someone".  This is, in fact, rather similar to the French approach, in which "It is said that..." becomes "On dit que...".  So, in Iemy, we can translate the above examples as:

The glass was broken -> "Glass be break" = "ouarfii eet eeutfyȓ"

The glass was broken -> "Someone break ago glass" = "arn eeutfyȓ ouarfii"

Note that in both the preceding examples the English is ambiguous:  The "glass" could be something you drink from or it could be somebody's windshield.  In Iemy it's not ambiguous:  It's the material, amorphous silicon dioxide (with impurities).  A drinking glass would be "oȓtuut".

It is said that... -> "Someone say ..." = "arn ivj..."

It is finished  -> "Someone finish" = "arn irhehio"

Things In Places

What is in the road?
"There are 17 ducks in the road"
"Il y a 17 canards dans la rue"

This is a somewhat idiosyncratic use of the passive voice.  It can be inverted to the active form:

"17 ducks are there, in the road"

The active form can be expressed in Iemy.  The passive form probably can as well, but we have as yet found nothing in Professor Resilleserre's notes indicating how it would be done, and we have found no examples of it among the Iemy texts in his office.

The Weather

We have found nothing in Professor Ressilleserre's notes indicating how the weather is described in Iemy.

In English, "it" does stuff:  "it" rains, "it" snows.  "it" has no natural antecedent in these cases.  The equivalent form in Iemy is as yet unknown.

Articles and Adjectives

Articles go before the noun, adjectives go after the noun. 

An adjective can be a simple word or can be a prepositional phrase.

Articles are optional and are only included as needed.  The article has one main job, which is to fix the number and uniqueness of the noun.  Since articles fix the number, numbers can also precede the noun, and take the place of the article when they're used in that position.  Furthermore, since any word described here as an article can also be employed as an adjective (or an adverb, if it makes sense), one occasionally finds the "articles" following the nouns to which they apply.

Note particularly that possession is not shown by the article.  The possessives are always adjectives, and come after the noun.  Thus, if there are several hovercrafts under discussion, and one particular hovercraft among them belongs to me, then I may use the clause <the craft my which hovers> = "arv yȓufira su yȓk onoȓtu".

a, one
This singles out one unit from several (or many) interchangeable units.  "<a> cat walked by"
some, multiple leti
This refers to a selection of more than one, typically from a larger collection of interchangeable units.  "<several> cats walked by"
some, portion
This is used with collective nouns, such as "<some> water".
the (unique) arv
Like "the" in English, this singles out a unique instance of the noun.  It may be made unique by modifiers which follow or it may be the unique item which was already under discussion.  "<the> hovercraft which is mine" implies I have just one, and that's what we're talking about.  "<the> hovercraft landed" implies we were already talking about some particular hovercraft and that's the one which landed.
Applies to all instances of the noun.  "<All> cats are felids".  Could also be translated as "every".
set of
This refers to the collection of all of a thing, treated as a single object.  So, for instance, in English, we might say, "The set of all mice is large, but all mice are small."  In Iemy, this could be expressed using 'itan', as "itan aȓsit eet ouufeyt , eela asat aȓsit eet arhaart" == <set-of mouse be large, but every mouse be small>
Applies to no instances.  "<No> cats are blue"

Selects a set of <number> members.  See the section on numbers, below.  "<3> cats walked by".   If we want to indicate that 3 cats are the particular three cats which we were already talking about, then we can use the number as an adjective:  "<the> cats <3> walked by".


The Iemic numbering system was entirely unknown until the recent discovery of a description among the Professor's notes.  In addition to specific information regarding numbers, he included some speculation regarding the origin of the system.  He seemed to place great significance on the fact that they do not use base 10 (though it's worth recalling that not all previously known cultures used base 10, either -- the Babylonians are a notable example).  In particular, the Professor made a number of rather vague allusions to polydactyly among a number of species, and in particular he seemed to feel there might be some connection with the colonies of polydactylous cats which are known to exist in certain locales.

Vague speculation aside, what's now known is that Iemy uses the base 12 number system, with digits represented as 0, α, β, ..., λ.  The general structure of the number system, with the scheme used for naming the numbers up to a bit past 1296 (which is ysuȓtfuy), is shown via the examples in the following table:

Iemy Digits
Iemy Sequential Name
(see below for discussion of quantity names)
α net
ysuȓt  or  netag.  This is redundant, of course, just as "ten" is redundant with "onety".
netag net.  This can also be called "ysuȓt fey net", and the succeeding numbers up to "ysuȓt fey neuȓt" can be called similarly, but that usage is uncommon.
αβ netag azn
αλ netag neuȓt
β0 aznag
aznag net
γ0 aoudag
γα aoudag net
δ0 irnuag
ε0 irhoȓtag
ζ0 ihyȓiag
η0 itoȓteag
θ0 payag.  Note the insertion of "y" between the trailing "a" and the "a" of the suffix.
ι0 ehetag
κ0 ateag
λ0 neuȓtag
α00 itea
α0α itea net
αα0 itea netag
β00 azn itea
α000 oley
α,0000 aosi
α0,0000 aȓhar
α00,0000 oneytua
α000,0000 avlifey
α,0000,0000 netfuy
α,0000,0000,0000 aosi netfuy
α,000α,0000,0000 aosi net netfuy
α,0000,0000,0000,0000 aznfuy
α,0000,000α,0000,0000 aznfuy netfuy




The names given in the table above are for members of a sequence.  When a quantity of something is named, the suffix "-ao" is appended.  So, "third" is "aoud", but "three" is "aoudao".  This distinction is drawn more consistently and sharply than it is in English.  So, for example, contrast

"three cats arrived" = "aoudao yȓfa yȓnaȓt"


"the third cat arrived" = "aoud yȓfa yȓnaȓt"

The Iemy is clear enough, but only because of the distinction drawn between "three" and "third".  Just to make this clearer, we should point out that the nth item is singular, but n items are plural.  Since Iemy doesn't distinguish plurals from singulars via inflections it's important that the article carry the information.


In English we inflect adjectives to form comparitives and superlatives, as

"this tree is green"

"this tree is greener"

"this tree is greenest"

In Iemy we don't inflect anything.  Instead we use a form of "more",  "iȓarr", to indicate one is more extreme than the other.  So we have,

"this tree is green" = "aohi aud eet ouude"

"this tree is greener" = <this tree is green more> = "aohi aud eet ouude iȓarr"

For the superlative we use the more, or "arv iȓarr", as:

"this tree is greenest" = <this tree is the green more> = "aohi aud eet arv ouude iȓarr"


Little Iemy text has been found, beyond the Book of Iem.  Felix's grammar notes included some additional words, and some additional short phrases and sentences which he may have written as examples, or to help him in figuring out obscure details of the language.  All that we have found so far, along with a few things we've been able to deduce, has been compiled into a short Iemy-English dictionary (in PDF format).

And this ends the description of as much of the grammar of Iemy as we've learned to date.  Work is continuing to sift through Felix's remaining notes, and if more information becomes available we will update this page with it.


Page created on 6/20/2009.  Link to Iemy-English dictionary added on 11 July 2009.