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

Claire Bowern clairebowern at gmail.com
Mon Jun 18 17:03:27 UTC 2018

I've used pan-dialectal grammars but haven't written one. A problem
with all the grammars I've read is that, when there is no explicit
mention of dialectal difference -- it's impossible to know how much to
generalize. That is, if the grammar is about dialects X, Y, and Z, and
a section mentions only X and Y, does it also apply to Z and the
author didn't mention it? Or does Z have a different construction,
covered elsewhere?
On Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 3:03 AM Sebastian Nordhoff
<sebastian.nordhoff at glottotopia.de> wrote:
> Dear Rasmus,
> this is a very interesting topic. The most important principle to follow
> would be, in my view, the separation of content and presentation.
> This means that your text should code which passages refer to Ikoma,
> Nata, Isenye, Ngoreme, respectively, but it should NOT say how this is
> to be represented visually.
> This will allow you to adapt the presentation of your content for
> different audiences later on.  Depending on the audience, you could opt
> for color coding, borders, fonts for the different varieties, or no
> visual distinction at all.
> This kind of semantic coding is the standard way of doing things in
> HTML+CSS or LaTeX, but you can also use MS Word styles to achieve this.
> One fundamental question would be whether the outcomes of this project
> are to be represented in book form (linear representation), or whether a
> non-linear approach (think Wikipedia) might be more useful. There are
> arguments for both approaches.
> In addition to the 2012 book which Peter Austin mentioned, you might
> find the following article interesting:
> Nordhoff, Sebastian. 2008. Electronic reference grammars for typology:
> Challenges and solutions. Language Documentation & Conservation
> 2(2):296–324.
> https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/4352?mode=full
> Best wishes
> Sebastian
> On 06/15/2018 03:02 PM, 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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