Grammar writing & typology

Martin Haspelmath has an interesting piece about the intersection between grammar writing and typology on his website, responding to a recent article in the journal Linguistic Typology:

Should descriptive grammars be “typologically informed”, and what does this mean?

The thrust of the post is probably this quote here:

“While the language documenter’s and describer’s work is no doubt “greatly enhanced” by knowing about typology, are description and comparison also part of the same enterprise? I have argued that they are not, even though they are of course mutually beneficial (Haspelmath 2016). The difference is that description relies exclusively on language-internal distribution (Croft 2001), while comparison relies on substantively defined semantic and/or formal concepts.”

As someone currently working on a grammar project, this is food for thought. It seems to me that there’s a case to be made for a greater inclusion of typological information in a grammar depending on the intended audience. The intended audiences of writing a grammar of a well-known language vs. the writing of a grammar of a heretofore undocumented language are going to be different.

(also: Happy Easter!)

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