[Lingtyp] Question about helpful design of a comparative, multilectal grammar

Peter Austin pa2 at soas.ac.uk
Fri Jun 15 17:06:57 UTC 2018

I agree with Martin that Nick Evans' "pan-dialectal grammar" is one to look
at, but I would encourage Dr Aiuno and Rasmus Bernand to treat the topic as
a proper research question and look seriously at ways to represent the
metadata that they wish to include in the grammar, and not to think first
of presentational typographic "solutions" like colour coding (which is not
a solution if the corpus underlying the grammar is colour coded, and hence
not easily computationally accessed and processed). Have a look at the
papers in the volume on digital grammar writing by Sebastican Nordhoff (
http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/ldc/sp04-electronic-grammaticography/) for some
ideas, and especially Mike Maxwell's paper, in this instance. Please do not
create something like a colour-coded Word document or PDF as your main
representational vehicle.

Best wishes,

On 15 June 2018 at 16:32, Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de> wrote:

> A "pan-dialectal" grammar written by a prominent author (former ALT
> president) that you may want to have a look at is:
> Evans, Nicholas D. 2003. *Bininj Gun-wok: A pan-dialectal grammar of
> Mayali, Kunwinjku and Kune. 2 vols*. (Pacific Linguistics, 541).
> Canberra: Australian National University.
> I have no particular recommendation, but personally, I like the idea of
> colour coding – I think it's used much less than it could in technical
> texts (probably for reasons of typographic conservatism, not because there
> are serious functional considerations that speak against it).
> Martin
> On 15.06.18 15:02, Rasmus Bernander wrote:
> Dear members of the Lingtyp list,
> I’m currently involved in a project called “Linguistic Variation as an
> Indicator of Historical Relations and Language Contact: A Comparative
> grammar of four Mara Bantu languages (Tanzania)”. The project is funded by
> Koneen Säätiö and led by Dr. Lotta Aunio, Department of Languages,
> University of Helsinki. As implied in the title, the project aims at
> offering a linguistic description of four closely related (yet structurally
> versatile) Bantu varieties, Ikoma, Nata, Isenye and Ngoreme (known
> collectively as the Western Serengeti languages).  More information about
> the project can be found at this homepage: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/
> mara-project/
> We are struggling a bit with the question about the ideal way of designing
> the linguistic description. We would like to ask you ”Humans who read
> grammars”, i.e. you researchers who make typological (and/or comparative
> and/or specific theoretical) work and thus have great experience in reading
> grammars as well as extracting information from grammars: What would you
> consider being the most helpful and straightforward way to organize the
> structure of a multilectal grammar of this kind? We would prefer to find
> a way to systemize the data in a manner where we don’t have to prioritize
> one variety over the others and where we can also present the subsystems of
> the non-main varieties in a coherent way. It seems that some grammars use
> color/symbol coding for different varieties. Do you consider that helpful?
> Or do you have other, similar ideas on how one would succeed in creating a
> really clear and comprehensible comparative grammar?
> Many thanks in advance!
> /Rasmus Bernander
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Prof Peter K. Austin
Marit Rausing Chair in Field Linguistics
Foundation Editor, EL Publishing
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
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