From corpus to grammar: how DOBES corpora can be exploited for descriptive linguistics

Bouda, Peter
Helmbrecht, Johannes
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University of Hawai'i Press
The principles and techniques of language documentation developed during the last one and half decades and the sheer amount of corpora which have been compiled for endangered languages up to now will have an impact on grammar writing in particular with respect to the data base of grammars. On the other hand, advances in computer technology allow a closer link between corpus data which are the basis for generalizations and the grammatical description itself. The future the grammatical description of a language will not only present selected illustrative examples, but will also be linked to the entire set of corpus data that are the empirical basis for it. This makes generalizations transparent to the reader and open to falsification by the scientific community. The article critically examines the relations between the DOBES corpus, the analysis and the grammatical description itself. Special attention will be laid on the particular the two fundamental perspectives of a semasiological and an onomasiological grammar, can be translated into the various kinds of search and concordancing routines to be executed in the corpus analysis. We present a typology of searches descriptive linguists need to apply. This typology defines requirements with regard to the functionality of specific software to be developed. In the second part, the article presents a technical solution, a preliminary version of a database/concordancing software specifically designed to fulfill the functions and principles outlined in the preceding sections.
Bouda, Peter and Johannes Helmbrecht. 2012. From corpus to grammar: how DOBES corpora can be exploited for descriptive linguistics. In Sebastian Nordoff (ed). 2012. Electronic Grammaticography. 129-159. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
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