Finding a Grammar

So you need to find a grammar or phonological description for a class project? Where should you look? How can you judge the credibility of a source?

Where to look

Your library

This site

Publicly accessible databases

One of my first stops when looking for grammars in any language is Glottolog. Glottolog catalogs a wealth of information about languages, dialects, and language families. But most relevant for searching for a grammar, each language has a "references" section containing citations about the language (scroll to the bottom of the page for your language). The "doctype" column tells you what type of document each source is: full grammar, grammar sketch, phonological description, etc.

Glottolog also links to pages for each language at various other databases (under the "Links" heading). These include the following, and are worth investigating to find grammars even if you don't use Glottolog. (Most of these allow you to search using the language's three-letter ISO 639-3 or the eight-character glottocode, which are provided on Glottolog in a blue-green box at the top right.)

There are also a number of databases not linked directly from Glottolog. You can find a more complete catalog at the list of linguistics databases page. Among these, though, the following are particularly useful for finding grammars:

Other sites

I don't maintain these lists, so can't vouch for the quality of every source, but most have proven to at least be worth taking a look.

Forming a search query

If you are searching for a grammar for a specific language, there are a few ways to make your searches more successful. Many grammars have a title of the form "grammar of X", "the X language", or "X grammar" (phonological descriptions often have titles like "phonology of X", or "X phonology"). Search for these variations (with the quotes, substituting your language for X), and make sure the search is querying the title field.

These tips will work on databases (like LLBA), but also on general search engines and Google Scholar.

Evaluating sources

Grammars in general

A good grammar will usually...

Signs a book is probably not a good fit:

Phonological descriptions

If you are aiming to write a phonological description, or need to include substantive commentary on the language's phonology, you can check general grammars or look for books specifically on the language's phonology.

In both cases, look for the following properties:

If you're looking at general grammars, try to find one(s) with a phonology section not less than 10 pages long.

If you're looking for phonological descriptions specifically, look for titles like "phonology of X" or "X phonology".