LD&C Special Publication No. 8: The Art and Practice of Grammar Writing

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    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014-12) Nakayama, Toshihide ; Rice, Keren
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    Corpus linguistic and documentary approaches in writing a grammar of a previously undescribed language
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014-12) Mosel, Ulrike
    Drawing on her experiences with writing a grammar in the course of the Teop language documentation project, the author explores how corpus linguistic methods can be employed for the analysis and description of a previously undescribed language. After giving a short introduction into the creation of a digital corpus and complex corpus search methods, the chapter focuses on the importance of creating a diversified corpus. It demonstrates that different text varieties such as spoken and written legends, procedural texts and descriptions of objects show different preferences for certain ways of expression and thus represent valuable resources for various grammatical phenomena. Accordingly, a grammar which is based on texts should account for this variation by incorporating a detailed description of the corpus, giving references and metadata for each example and providing information on the kind of contexts particular grammatical features are usually associated with.
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    Walking the line: Balancing description, argumentation and theory in academic grammar writing
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014-12) Genetti, Carol
    This chapter explores how to incorporate linguistic typology, argumentation, and theor- etical innovation into a reference grammar. It provides recommendations on how to produce a balanced grammar that is firmly grounded in theory, responsible to the unique structures of the language, and comprehensible now and over time. Linguistic typology provides a set of widely recognized linguistic categories used in the classification of grammatical patterns. These can be taken as starting points from which the structures of the language can be compared, contrasted, explored, and explained, profiling the unique shapes of language-particular categories. Argumentation for particular analyses provides clarification and explanation, although excessive argumentation can obscure descriptive facts. Simply asserting facts is appropriate for lower-level linguistic features, simple canonical structures, or uncontroversial elements or their functions. Argumentation is appropriate when structures differ from typologically-expected patterns, when the analysis counters descriptions in the literature, and in cases of multiple interpretations of a structure. Grammar writing immerses researchers in the structure of a language, revealing new vistas of understanding and novel ways of interpreting structure. Theoretically innov- ative analyses that reflect these insights can be incorporated as long as they are motivated, well-explained, and balanced by a typologically-informed descriptive base.
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    Endangered domains, thematic documentation and grammaticography
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014-12) Terrell, Jacob
    When setting out to document a language with the intended goal of describing it (typically through a grammar and dictionary), fieldworkers prefer to collect an array of linguistic data, ranging from elicited words and paradigms to an assortment of texts based on conversa- tions, narratives, procedures and so forth. Capturing a wide variety of speech acts provides a clearer record of the language and its use, and thus offers the potential for a richer description of the language at hand. However, without controlling for content, one may collect linguistic data based on an open-ended amount of topics or themes. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the notion of endangered linguistic domains and themes in language documentation and description. Even in thriving minority languages, domains such as indigenous music or knowledge of flora and fauna come under pressure from the same forces that eventually lead to language endangerment. Gathering linguistic data based on a particular domain or specialized knowledge can generate a corpus applicable to a wider audience without sacrificing the needs of linguists. Similar to thematic dictionaries in lexicography, this introduces thematic grammars to grammaticography.
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    Toward a balanced grammatical description
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014-12) Payne, Thomas
    The writer of a grammatical description attempts to accomplish many goals in one complex document. Some of these goals seem to conflict with one another, thus causing tension, discouragement and paralysis for many descriptive linguists. For example, all grammar writers want their work to speak clearly to general linguists and to specialists in their language area tradition. Yet a grammar that addresses universal issues, may not be detailed enough for specialists; while a highly detailed description written in a specialized areal framework may be incomprehensible to those outside of a particular tradition. In the present chapter, I describe four tensions that grammar writers often face, and provide concrete suggestions on how to balance these tensions effectively and creatively. These tensions are: • Comprehensiveness vs. usefulness. • Technical accuracy vs. understandability. • Universality vs. specificity. • A ‘form-driven’ vs. a ‘function-driven’ approach. By drawing attention to these potential conflicts, I hope to help free junior linguists from the unrealistic expectation that their work must fully accomplish all of the ideals that motivate the complex task of describing the grammar of a language. The goal of a description grammar is to produce an esthetically pleasing, intellectually stimulating, and genuinely informative piece of work.