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
'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)
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
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
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
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
- Nouns end in o
- Verbs end in en
- Adjectives end in ol
- Adverbs which modify a verb end in or
- Adverbs which modify an adjective or adverb end in ors
All endings started with a vowel. If the stem ended with the same
letter the ending starts with, a y
was appended before the
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.
|Conditional capability -- it's
possible if something else is true
|Imperative mood (never the
|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 be requested, intended, or
|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".
"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",
<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
we've actually made a mildly amusing pun.
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.
|Simple declarative sentences are
|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.
When an auxiliary is used, the verb whose mood is being modified
is placed at the end
time context clause follows the verb whose action it applies
the verb whose action is being negated
|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
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.)
|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.
||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.
|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".
|Adverbs which modify an adjective
or another adverb come after it, also, and are also stacked
right-to-left (if necessary).
|Optional, used only when needed, or
for emphasis. Articles are used to establish the number and
uniqueness of the object in question.
|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...
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
"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
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.)
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
"Yesterday I went shopping" -> <I shop yesterday> == "aȓt ioniȓ
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
"Yesterday I wished to go home" => <I wish yesterday toward home my
== "aȓt zhio vjtu oȓtui onaȓt su oun"
"I wish I had gone home yesterday" => <I wish toward home my go
== "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.
|late (relative to the
present, or to a time under discussion)
|earlier (relative to the present,
or to a time under discussion)
|then (relative to a time under
|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"
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
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
|Notes on the
|After, either in time or in
location. A relative location placing something "after"
something else is more often indicated with "oheau", meaning
|around, near, approximately (appears to be somewhat like German
|at, colocated with something
|Similar to the phrase "because
of". The subject is a direct consequence of the
|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
|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
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;
Also used in to mean passing near or passing by,
as in "cat walks by" = "yȓfa zfyȓ eep"
|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'.
|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
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
||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"
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
his hat on, sled
down the hill, see if the dog
a raccoon, the cat is busy mousing
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
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
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
versus a request to make several paintings:
"Make some paintings!" = <do multiple
paint make> = "yn leti
versus a request to make a quantity of paint:
"Make some paint!" = <do some
paint make> = "yn inaȓt
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
". 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
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
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
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
I am making paint -> "I be busy some paint make" = "aȓt eet eelig inaȓt
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
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
|I, me, we, us
|he, him, they, them
|she, her, they, them
|it, they, them (neuter, mixed, or
|who, which, that
|someone, someones (used with
|himself, herself, itself,
themselves (used to form reflexive constructs, and to form
intransitive constructs from transitive verbs; "they wash
themselves" -> "har zfio it")
|its, their (neuter, mixed, or
|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"
I, at least, can't write more than about 5 sentences in a row without
using passive voice. Luckily for me, Iemy does
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Note particularly that possession
shown by the article
, 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".
|This singles out one unit from
several (or many) interchangeable units. "<a> cat
|This refers to a selection of
more than one, typically from a larger collection of
interchangeable units. "<several> cats walked by"
|This is used with collective
nouns, such as "<some> water".
|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".
|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
|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:
(see below for discussion of quantity names)
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.
||payag. Note the insertion of
"y" between the trailing "a" and the "a" of the suffix.
||aosi net 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
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
", 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
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
(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.