17. The challenges of less commonly studied languages: Writing a sociogrammar of Faetar

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The study of minority languages highlights the need for variationist approaches to grammars. This article addresses some conflicts that arise when we combine the enterprises of writing a descriptive grammar and constructing a sociolinguistic description of a language. Conflicts between conciseness and completeness on the one hand, and sociolinguistic accuracy and representation of competing variants, on the other, are addressed. As a case in point, I discuss documentation (in book and web formats) of the endangered language Faetar, spoken in a small village in southern Italy, focusing on (1) advantages and disadvantages of various data collection methods; (2) organization of examples that illustrate inter- and intra-speaker variation; (3) codification of an oral language; (4) value judgments necessitated by codification; and (5) coordination with other grammars.


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