[Lingtyp] Resources on glossing choices

Daniel Ross djross3 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 31 16:26:31 UTC 2019

A quick addition: please do include clear examples of the range of forms
when discussing labels/function. This is less often a problem with current
grammars, but sometimes it can still be hard to be certain exactly which
morpheme(s) correspond to the explanation, and especially complicated in
cases of allomorphy. Sometimes this seems to be spread over three chapters:
a discussion of allomorphy under Phonology, a discussion of function under
Morphology, and examples in usage under Syntax. The result is that a
careful reader must cross-reference the forms found in examples in Syntax
with the allomorphy in Phonology to link up functions in Morphology, which
is hard to do with confidence!

On Tue, Dec 31, 2019 at 8:20 AM Daniel Ross <djross3 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Kate,
> I'm glad you're asking about this, because this is an important factor in
> the readability of grammars. As a frequent reader of grammars, I often find
> myself needing to "decode" glosses (or worse, of course, unglossed forms).
> From my perspective, the most important consideration is identifiability:
> if I am quoting an example from a grammar, I want to be able to identify
> each part, including multi-functionality of morphemes. That allows me to
> compare them to similar forms in other languages (including comparing
> multi-functionality of similar morphemes) and also, if needed, adapt the
> glosses.
> There are two obstacles that I often encounter in that task:
> 1. Obscure or idiosyncratic morpheme/category labels that make me
> uncertain about identifying a form.
> 2. Inconsistent glossing such that the (potentially) same morpheme is
> glossed differently and I'm unsure about drawing a connection.
> I would think that problem #2 is more significant, although both of these
> can be solved by having a clear explanation somewhere in the grammar: for
> example, use a single abbreviation for the form (that's somewhat
> arbitrary), then have a list of abbreviations at the beginning, with a
> label clearly corresponding to some section in the table of contents. From
> my perspective, if it's hard to understand a gloss to begin with, it's
> probably then necessary to read some background (e.g., how tense marking
> works in the language) to be confident in interpreting and quoting the
> example.
> Another consideration is that I often skim grammars, if they are available
> as PDFs, by searching for the morpheme form and/or the gloss. If the gloss
> changes in context that would be confusing, but similarly if there is a lot
> of allomorphy then searching by form might not be possible either.
> Regardless, the most important point is as you stated to be consistent*,
> and if anything is not transparent to explain it clearly. That should be
> sufficient. Explicit comments on uncertain cases of multi-functionality vs.
> homophony are also useful.
> If the glossing is complex enough (and for some languages it must be),
> then you could include an explicit section in your introduction: I rarely
> see this, but would appreciate it. Sometimes I do see footnotes when
> potentially confusing glosses are presented, but those can be hard to
> locate (or even know to look for) when reading elsewhere in the grammar.
> [*By "consistent" here I mean using a principled methodology, not
> necessarily having one-to-one pairings of morphemes to labels, although if
> possible that seems helpful too.]
> Daniel
> On Tue, Dec 31, 2019 at 7:35 AM Christian Lehmann <
> christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de> wrote:
>> Dear Kate,
>> the best system of glossing that I know of is on my website (:-)):
>> https://www.christianlehmann.eu/ling/ling_meth/ling_description/grammaticography/gloss/index.php
>> which expands on an earlier publication referenced there.
>> As for your particular problem, I agree with you that the main concern
>> is consistency. Assume you can distinguish between homonymy and
>> polysemy, then even enumerating all the polysemous senses of a
>> morph(eme) may be much to cumbersome for the gloss to be helpful. In
>> such a case, my recommendation would be to treat the set of functions of
>> each morpheme in the respective chapter of your grammar, relieving thus
>> the interlinear gloss of this task, and adding a note that your glosses
>> are, in this respect, context-dependent. To be sure, this is against a
>> more general principle of consistent glossing. However, interlinear
>> glosses serve a practical, not a theoretical function.
>> Best,
>> Christian
>> --
>> Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
>> Rudolfstr. 4
>> D - 99092 Erfurt
>> Tel.:   +49/361/2113417
>> Fax:    +49/361/2113418
>> E-Post: christianw_lehmann at arcor.de
>> https://www.christianlehmann.eu
>> _______________________________________________
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