Walking the line: Balancing description, argumentation and theory in academic grammar writing

Date
2014-12
Authors
Genetti, Carol
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University of Hawai'i Press
Abstract
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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