Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics

Typological tools for field linguistics



Books in this category play a role similar to questionnaires. They aim to guide the inexperienced field worker in both data collection and grammar writing.

The ALT Grammar Watch 2005/2006. A Compendium of published grammars and family or area surveys, provided as a service for those with a professional interest in linguistic diversity and unity.
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Bickford, John Albert. 1998. Tools for Analyzing the World's Languages: Morphology and Syntax. Bickford, Summer Institute of Linguistics. ISBN: 155671047X This is a rather simple syntax textbook that provides the background for understanding what might be of interest in the various structures that the field linguist will encounter. The formalism is generative in the sense that trees are provided, structures are discussed explicitly etc., but the formalism employed is roughly that of the generative grammar of the 1960's and 1970's. This is not, in fact, a deficit, since many important typological properties of syntactic structure can be discussed using very simple trees, but the user will need to be sufficiently sophisticated to convert these structures into his favorite formalism. This is not a guide to follow while doing field work as much as a useful preparation for planning your work.

Bliss, Heather & Ritter, Elizabeth 2001. Developing a Database of Personal and Demonstrative Pronoun Paradigms: Conceptual and Technical Challenges, In Steven Bird, Peter Buneman, and Mark Liberman (eds). Proceedings of the IRCS Workshop on Linguistic Databases. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. This paper describes some of the conceptual and technical issues in the development of Ritter's Pronoun Database. It should be helpful to field workers interested in studying the pronominal system of a previously unstudied language.

Donohue, Mark. n.d. Grammar Sketch Outlines. This provides a five page outline of how to write a grammatical sketch, based on the author's work on languages of Irian Jaya.
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Donohue, Mark. 1999. Annotated Warembori Sketch. This provides an annotated seventy-six page sketch of Warembori with discussion of how to apply to other languages this description of a specific language of Irian Jaya.
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Farr, Cynthia J. M. (with Bomi Terrence Furoke and James Buyers Farr) 2006. Tafota Baruga Grammar Notes. A sketch grammar of a Tafota Baruga grammar intended to serve as a model for reduced descriptions (of about 50 pages or so) of Papuan languages. It is accompanied by an introductory cover sheet explaining the intended use of the model grammar as a guide to writing new grammar sketches.
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Healey, Joan. 1977. Writing a Non-Technical Grammar of Mangga Buang. Studies in Phillipine Linguistics, Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 36-52 Healey shows how she would approach the writing of a non-technical reference grammar by applying her ideas to Mangga Buang. (This article is provided in PDF format.)
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The Journal Language Typology and Universals (Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung (STUF): The contents of STUF are in general of interest to field linguists. STUF has a special issue on linguistic fieldwork: Volume: 60 | Issue: 1/2007. The issue contains seven articles on field linguistics.

Payne, Thomas E. 1997. Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists, Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 0521588057 This book provides a possible outline for a typologically oriented grammar of a previously underdescribed or undescribed language. The book is written from the perspective of a functionally oriented typologist, but most of the issues raised are relevant for generative descriptions as well. This would be a very good starting point for any field linguist interest in the syntax of a relatively undescribed language. The generative syntactician might wish to add additional structural detail, but Payne's book provides a secure foundation for syntactic investigation.

Payne, Thomas & Weber, David (Eds.) 2006. Special issue of Studies in Language 30:2, Perspectives on Grammar Writing. A wealth of information on how to write a grammar is provided in a special issue of the journal, Studies in Language, which appeared in 2006.

Seibert, Linda. 1981. Nontechnical Grammars: Audience, Purpose, and Method. Notes on Linguistics 20:5--12. Linda Simons presents a bibliography of publications (including Healey 1977) on grammar writing and related topics.