How should I start creating/writing my (reference) grammar?

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Dulunis
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How should I start creating/writing my (reference) grammar?

Post by Dulunis »

I've been working on my first real attempt at a conlang, Ligodu. I have a phonology that I like, and the phonotactics are done as well. The logical next step is to create Ligodu's grammar. I have some ideas for what I want to include, and what I don't. However, the whole task seems so daunting that the whole project has ground to a halt, to the point that I haven't touched the language for almost a month. Does anyone have any tips for where to start, or any tools to help me organize?
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lsd
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Re: How should I start creating/writing my (reference) grammar?

Post by lsd »

grammar is a whole other job, you can very well develop your language without ever writing any (the age of my conlang is in decades and I have no formalized grammar)...
most languages were spoken long before they had grammar, grammar is above all descriptive and one cannot describe what does not exist...
prescriptive grammars are tools for population control, nothing more...
so, translate translate translate, choose your way of doing things as you go along, note them down informally if you are afraid of not finding them again, and move on with your creation...
Salmoneus
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Re: How should I start creating/writing my (reference) grammar?

Post by Salmoneus »

In terms of making things easier for yourself, I'd have two suggestions:


- don't intimidate yourself by trying to write The Grammar right away. Instead, pick a particular topic and write about that. How does your language handle possession? How does it handle negation? Etc. Include examples. Then move on to another topic. Once you've done a whole bunch of topics, you'll find you've pretty much written your grammar, and either you can leave it at that or you can compile it all into a single neat document.

- be willing to make changes. You'll probably find that as you're writing the examples for one topic, you'll have to make some decisions about another topic while you're at it. Then when you go and actually write up that other topic, you'll find that sometimes you've changed your mind from your initial decision. This is OK. I'd suggest not necessarily immediately going back and changing the first document - unless it's a really simple change - because you can end up in an endless cycle that way and not make any progress. Instead, it's more important to get some ideas on all the topics down first, and then worry about making it all consistent later on. This helps your ideas about the language evolve more naturally as a whole. Likewise, you may want at some stage to write a grammatical sketch, while acknowledging that it's subject to change when you actually write the complete grammar.

I'd suggest seeing a conlang more as an evolving process, rather than a single concept that you have to get down on paper all in one go. Then again, my method has resulted in me failing to get much of anything concrete down on paper ever, so... feel free to ignore this perspective!
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LittleLynx_53
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Re: How should I start creating/writing my (reference) grammar?

Post by LittleLynx_53 »

Keeping the above advice in mind, here's a small tip from another beginner:

For all I know you may already do this, but try doing some stages of the work on paper in a notebook rather than on a computer. Paper notebooks lend themselves wondrously to experimenting, iterating, scrawling down ideas etc., while computer text and writing programs are better for organizing and refining already-formed ideas.

This is NOT a strict guideline, but I feel less intimidated about my own project (I'm also just in the stage of jotting down ideas for what I want in the grammar of my conlang) when I start out to make a "messy notebook" full of useful ideas I can refine later.

It's also a place to put random-ass etymology ideas and experimental translations. Bookmark the pages you want to come back to with a stickynote, leave the rest as an archive-wasteland of the history of your language-building process. Who knows, you might flip through all that old garbage later and find something useful.
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