1. Demographic and ethnographic information
1.1. The name of the language
What is the language known as to outsiders?
What term do the people use to distinguish themselves from other language groups?
What is the origin of these terms (if known)?
What is the dominant economic activity of the people?
Briefly describe the ecosystem, material culture, and cosmology (these will be intimately related).
Where is the language spoken, and how are the people distributed in this area?
Are there other language groups inhabiting the same area?
What is the nature of the interaction with these language groups? Economic? Social? Friendly? Belligerent?
In social/economic interactions with other groups, which groups are dominant and which are marginalized? How so?
1.4. Genetic affiliation
What language family does this language belong to?
What are its closest relatives?
1.5. Previous research
What published and unpublished linguistic work has been done in this language and/or its close relatives?
1.6. The sociolinguistic situation
1.6.1. Multilingualism and language attitudes
What percentage of the people are monolingual? (Treat men and women separately).
What language(s) are people multilingual in, and to what degree?
As far as you can tell, what is the attitude of the speakers of this language toward their language, as opposed to other languages they know? If possible, give evidence for your claims even though it may be anecdotal.
1.6.2. Contexts of use and language choice
In what contexts are multilingual individuals likely to use the language described in this sketch? When do they use other languages?
Are children learning the language as their first language? If so, how long do they remain monolingual?
What pressures are there on young people to (a) learn another language, and (b) reject their own language? How strong are these pressures?
Are there partially competent speakers?
1.6.4. Loan words
Does the lexicon of this language contain many words from other languages? If so, in what semantic domains do these tend to occur? Give examples.
Is there significant dialect variation? What kinds of differences distinguish the dialects? Give examples.
What dialect is represented in this sketch?
2. Morphological typology
2.1. Traditional morphological typology
Is the language dominantly isolating or polysynthetic?
If the language is polysynthetic, is it dominantly agglutinative or fusional?
Give examples of its dominant pattern and any secondary patterns.
2.2. Morphological processes
If the language is at all agglutinative, is it dominantly prefixing, suffixing, or neither?
Illustrate the major and secondary patterns (including infixation, stem modification, reduplication, suprasegmental modification, and suppletion).
2.3. Head/dependent marking
If the language is at all polysynthetic, is it dominantly "head-marking", "dependent-marking", or mixed?
Give some examples of each type of marking the language exhibits.
3. Grammatical categories
3.1.1. Types of nouns
22.214.171.124. Proper names
126.96.36.199. Count vs. mass nouns
3.1.2. The structure of the noun word
3.1.3. Pronouns and/or anaphoric clitics
What are the distributional properties of nouns?
What are the structural properties of nouns?
What are the major formally distinct subcategories of nouns?
What is the basic structure of the noun word (for polysynthetic languages) and/or noun phrase (for more isolating languages)?
Does the language have free pronouns and/or anaphoric clitics? (These are distinct from grammatical agreement. Agreement will be discussed later. Also, the functions of pronouns and clitics will be discussed later).
Give a chart of the free pronouns and/or anaphoric clitics.
3.2.1. Verb classes
188.8.131.52. Weather verbs
184.108.40.206. Involuntary processes
220.127.116.11. Bodily functions
3.2.2. Verb structure
What are the distributional properties of verbs?
What are the structural properties of verbs?
What are the major subclasses of verbs?
Describe the order of various verbal operators within the verbal word or verb phrase.
Give charts of the various paradigms, e.g., person marking, tense/aspect/mode, etc. Indicate major allomorphic variants.
Are directional and/or locomotional notions expressed in the verb or verb phrase at all?
Questions to answer for all verbal operations:
(a) Is this operation obligatory, i.e., does one member of the paradigm have to occur in every finite verb or verb phrase?
(b) Is it productive, i.e., can the operation be specified for all verb stems, and does it have the same meaning with each one? (Nothing is fully productive, but some operations are more productive than others).
(c) Is this operation primarily coded morphologically, analytically, or lexically? Are there any exceptions to the general case?
(d) Where in the verb phrase or verbal word is this operation likely to appear? Can it occur in more than one place?
3.3.1. Descriptive adjectives
3.3.2. Non-numeral quantifiers
1 If you posit a morphosyntactic category of adjectives, give evidence for not grouping these forms with the verbs or nouns.
What characterizes a form as being an adjective in this language?
2 How can you characterize semantically the class of concepts coded by this formal categories?
3 Do adjectives agree with their heads (e.g., in number, case, and/or noun class)?
4 What kind of system does the language employ for counting? Decimal, quintenary?
5 How high can a fluent native speaker count without resorting either to words from another language or to a generic word like many? Exemplify the system up to this point.
6 Do numerals agree with their head nouns (e.g., in number, case, and/or noun class)?
1 What characterizes a form as being an adverb in this language?
If you posit a distinct class of adverbs, argue for why these forms should not be treated as nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
2 For each kind of adverb listed in this section, list a few members of the type, e.g., where they can come in a clause, any morphemes common to the type, etc.
3 Are any of these classes of adverbs related to older complement-taking (matrix) verbs?
4. Constituent order typology
4.1. Constituent order in main clauses
General questions for all units of structure:
(a) What is the neutral order of free elements in the unit?
(b) Are there variations?
(c) How do the variant orders function?
Question specific to main clause constituent order: What is the pragmatically neutral order of constituents (A/S, P, and V) in basic clauses of the language?
4.2. Verb phrase
Where do auxiliaries occur in relation to the semantically "main" verb?
Where do verb-phrase adverbs occur with respect to the verb and auxiliaries?
4.3. Noun phrase
Describe the order(s) of elements in the noun phrase.
4.4. Adpositional phrases (prepositions and postpositions)
Is the language dominantly prepositional or post-positional? Give examples.
Do many adpositions come from nouns or verbs?
Does the language have one or more grammaticalized comparative constructions?
If so, what is the order of the standard, the marker, and the quality by which an item is compared to the standard?
4.6. Question particles and question words
In yes/no questions, if there is a question particle, where does it occur?
In information questions, where does the question word occur?
5. Noun and noun-phrase operations
Is there noun-noun compounding (e.g., windshield)?
How do you know it is compounding?
Is there noun-verb (or verb-noun) compounding that results in a noun (e.g., pickpocket, scarecrow)?
Are these processes productive (like noun-verb-er in English can-opener)?
How common is compounding?
Are there any processes (productive or not) that form a verb from a noun?
An adjective from a noun?
An adverb from a noun?
Is number expressed in the noun phrase?
Is the distinction between singular and non-singular obligatory, optional, or completely absent in the noun phrase?
If number marking is "optional", when does it tend to occur, and when does it tend not to occur?
If number marking is obligatory, is number overtly expressed for all noun phrases or only some subclasses of noun phrases, such as animates?
What non-singular distinctions are there?
Do nouns exhibit morphological case?
If so, what are the cases? (The functions of the cases will be elaborated in later sections).
5.5. Articles, determiners, and demonstratives
Do noun phrases have articles?
If so, are they obligatory or optional, and under what circumstances do they occur?
Are they separate words, or bound morphemes?
Is there a class of demonstratives as distinct from articles?
How many degrees of distance are there in the system of demonstratives?
Are there other distinctions besides distance?
How are possessors expressed in the noun phrase?
Do nouns agree with their possessors? Do possessors agree with their possessed nous? Neither, or both?
Is there a distinction between alienable and inalienable possession?
When the possessor is a full noun, where does it usually come with respect to the possessed noun?
5.7. Class (including gender)
Is there a noun class system?
What are the classes, and how are they manifested in the noun phrase?
What dimension of reality is most central to the noun class system (e.g., animacy, shape, function, etc.)? What other dimensions are relevant?
Do the classifiers occur with numerals? Adjectives? Verbs?
What is their function in these contexts?
Does the language employ diminutive and/or augmentative operators in the noun or noun phrase?
Questions to answer for all nominal operations:
(a) Is this operation obligatory, i.e., does one member of the paradigm have to occur in every full noun phrase?
(b) Is it productive, i.e., can the operation be specified for all full noun phrases and does it have the same meaning with each one? (Nothing is fully productive, but some operations are more productive than others).
(c) Is this operation primarily expressed lexically, morphologically, or analytically? Are there exceptions?
(d) Where in the noun phrase is this operation likely to be located? Can it occur in more than one place?
6. Predicate nominals and related constructions
6.1. Predicate nominals
How are proper inclusion and equative predicates formed?
What restrictions are there, if any, on the TAM marking of such clauses?
6.2. Predicate adjectives (attributive clauses)
How are predicate adjectives formed? (Include a separate section on predicate adjectives only if they are structurally different from predicate nominals).
6.3. Predicate locatives
How are locational clauses (or predicate locatives) formed?
How are existential clauses formed? (Give examples in different tense/aspects, especially if there is significant variation).
How are negative existentials formed?
Are there extended uses of existential morphology? (Provide pointers to other relevant sections of the grammar).
6.5. Possessive clauses
How are possessive clauses formed?
7. Grammatical relations
7.1. Systems for grouping S, A, and P
7.2. Functional explanations for groupings of S, A, and P
7.3. Split systems
7.4. "Syntactic" ergativity
Exemplify some simple intransitive, transitive, and ditransitive clauses. Three-argument clauses may not unequivocally exist.
What are the grammatical relations of this language? Give morphosyntactic evidence for each one that you propose.
(d) Direct object?
(e) Indirect object?
There are basically four possible sources of evidence for grammatical relations:
(a) morphological case on NPs;
(b) person marking on verbs;
(c) constituent order;
(d) some pragmatic heirarchy.
Is the system of grammatical relations in basic (affirmative, declarative) clauses organized according to a nominative/accusative, ergative/absolutive, tripartite, or some other system?
Is there a split system for organizing grammatical relations? If so, what determines the split?
(a) Is there split intransitivity? If so, what semantic or discourse/pragmatic factor conditions the split?
(b) Does the system for pronouns and/or person marking on verbs operate on the same basis as that of full NPs?
(c) Are there different grammatical-relation systems depending on the clause type (e.g., main vs. dependent clauses, affirmative vs. negative clauses)?
(d) Are there different grammatical-relation assignment systems depending on the tense and/or aspect of the clause?
(e) Are there any syntactic processes (e.g., conjunction reduction, relativization) that operate on an ergative/absolutive basis?
8. Voice and valence adjusting operations
8.1. Valence increasing operations
How are causatives formed in this language? There are basically three possible answers to this question:
(a) lexical kill
(b) morphological die + cause
(c) analytic/periphrastic cause to die
Give examples of both causatives of intransitive verbs (e.g., He made Shin Jaa laugh), and of transitive verbs (e.g., He made Shin Jaa wash the dishes).
What happens to the causee in each type of causative?
Does the causative morphosyntax also serve other functions (e.g., permissive, applicative, benefactive, instrumental, etc.)?
Are there any other interesting or unusual facts about causatives in the language?
Are there any operations by which a participant which has a semantic role normally expressed in an "oblique" phrase can "advance" to direct object status?
What semantic roles are subject to these operations and how common are these constructions?
8.1.3. Dative shift
Is there a dative-shift construction?
What semantic roles can be "dative-shifted"?
Is dative-shift obligatory?
8.1.4. Dative of interest
8.1.5. "Possessor raising" or external possession
8.2. Valence decreasing operations
8.2.1. Reflexives and reciprocals
How are reflexives expressed?
Are reflexives and reciprocals formally identical?
Are there any "unusual" uses of reflexive/reciprocal morphosyntax? For example, does a reflexive marker appear in a noun phrase to indicate that the possessor of the noun phrase is the same as the subject of a clause?
Does reflexive/reciprocal morphology ever indicate interclausal coreference?
Are there other "extended" uses of reflexive or reciprocal morphosyntax?
18.104.22.168. Kinds of passive
Which type(s) of passive construction does the language have? Exemplify each type, and describe its function or functions.
Are there "impersonal" passives, i.e., passives of intransitive verbs, or passives where there is not necessarily an AGENT implied?
Is a passive construction obligatory in any particular environment, e.g., when a PATIENT outranks an AGENT on some pragmatically defined heirarchy?
Are there other types of passives?
22.214.171.124. Both direct and inverse explicitly marked
126.96.36.199. Marked inverse
188.8.131.52. Special verb agreement markers for inverse situations
184.108.40.206. Word order ("functional" inverse)
Does the language have a grammatically instantiated inverse construction?
If so, what type is it?
8.2.4. Middle constructions
Are there grammatically instantiated middle constructions?
Are there any grammatical structures that specifically function as antipassives?
Is some other structure used to express transitive concepts when the P is very low in topicality?
8.2.6. Object demotion and omission
Does the language have object demotion or omission constructions (as distinct from antipassives)?
8.2.7 Object incorporation
9. Other verb and verb-phrase operations
9.1.1. Action nominalization
9.1.2. Participant nominalization
220.127.116.11. Agent nominalizations
18.104.22.168. Patient nominalizations
22.214.171.124. Instrument nominalizations
126.96.36.199. Location nominalization
188.8.131.52. Product nominalizations
184.108.40.206. Manner nominalizations
Describe the processes (productive or not) that form a noun from a verb. Include at least:
(a) action nominalizations
(b) agent nominalizations
(c) patient nominalizations
Is there a distinction between agent nominalizations that refer to characteristic activities (e.g., teacher) and those that refer to specific events (e.g., the one who is teaching)?
Describe any other participant nominalization strategies (e.g., instrument, location, product, or manner nominalizations).
9.2. Compounding (including incorporation)
9.2.1. Noun incorporation
Can subject, object, and/or other nouns be incorporated into the verb?
9.2.2. Verb-verb incorporation
Are there verb-verb compounding processes that result in a verb?
Is there a tense system? How does it operate? Future/non-future, past/non-past, past/present/future, or other? (You may want to treat these separately or group them, depending on how the language works).
How is aspect expressed?
Is there a clear dividing line between tense/aspect and mode (probably not)?
What are the modes?
Is the case-marking pattern influenced at all by TAM?
Does the language employ verbal affixes or verb-phrase grammatical functors that specify the spatial orientation or grounding of the situation?
9.5. Participant reference
Does the language mark the person and/or number of verbal arguments or speech act participants on the verb?
Provide charts of the various paradigms.
9.6. Evidentiality, validationality, and mirativity
Are there any grammaticalized indicators of evidentiality, validationality, or mirativity?
Does the language have any other "miscellaneous" verb or verb-phrase operations?
For any such miscellaneous operations, argue for why you have not treated them as TAM or location/direction marking.
10. Pragmatically marked structures
10.1. The morphosyntax of focus, contrast, and "topicalization"
10.1.1. Constituent order
10.1.3. Cleft constructions
Are there special devices for indicating pragmatic statuses in basic clauses, e.g., special constituent orders, left- and/or right-dislocation, affixes, or particles indicating referentiality, specificity, topic, focus, contrast, etc.?
Describe cleft constructions. If possible, give a characterization of their discourse functions.
What different types of pragmatic status is the grammar of this language sensitive to?
What is the standard means of forming a negative clause in this language?
What secondary strategies are there? When are they used?
Is there constituent negation? Derivational negation?
How is morphology normally associated with negation employed in creative ways in discourse?
10.3. Non-declarative speech acts
10.3.1.1. Yes/no questions
10.3.1.2. Question-word (information, content) questions
How are yes/no questions formed?
How are information questions formed?
How are imperatives formed?
Are there "polite" imperatives that contrast with more direct imperatives?
Are there "first person" imperatives (e.g., Let's eat)? If so, how are they used?
11. Clause combinations
11.1. Serial verbs
Does the language have serial verbs (or "co-verbs" in the East Asian tradition)?
Which verbs are most likely to occur in serial constructions?
Are there any that are losing their semantic content and becoming more like auxiliaries, adpositions, or TAM markers when they occur in serial constructions?
11.2. Complement clauses
What kinds of complement clause does the language have?
Are particular complement types common for particular classes of complement-taking verbs?
Does the language allow subject and object complements, or just object complements?
11.3. Adverbial clauses
How are adverbial clauses formed?
What kinds of adverbial clauses are there, e.g., time, manner, purpose, reason, consequence, sequence, conditional?
Can adverbial clauses occur in more than one place in a clause?
If so, are there any differences in meaning associated with the various allowable positions for any given adverbial clause type?
Among the conditionals, are there any subdivisions, e.g., contrafactual (If I had done it differently, that wouldn't have happened), hypothetical (If I were you, I'd do it differently)?
What restrictions are there on the TAM marking of conditional clauses?
11.4. Clause chaining, medial clauses, and switch reference
Does the language have any grammaticalized device that explicitly indicates whether a participant in one clause is the same as or different than some participant in another clause?
If so, answer the following questions:
(a) What direction does the dependency go? That is, does a marker signal coreferentiality with a yet to be mentioned participant, ar an already mentioned participant? (Maybe both, depending on other factors).
(b) What can "antecede" one of these markers? That is, is coreferentiality always with respect to a "subject" participant, or can non-subject AGENT, or nominals of other grammatical relations also antecede a coreference form?
(c) On what categories of elements can these markers go, e.g., verbs, nouns, conjunctions, etc.?
Can one clause be inflected for the person/number of the subject of some other clause?
Do the markers of interclausal coreference also carry other information, e.g., tense/aspect or semantic relations between clauses?
How extensive is this phenomenon?
11.5. Relative clauses
What kind or kinds of relative clauses does the language have?
(c) Internally headed?
What positions on the following relativizability heirarchy can be relativized?
subject > direct object > indirect object > oblique > possessor
What RC type or "case recoverability strategie" is used for each position?
How are the following kinds of logical relations between clauses typically expressed?
(a) Conjunction (a and b)/(neither a nor b)?
(b) Disjunction (a or b)
(c) Exclusion (a and not b)
12. Conclusions: the language in use
12.1. Continuity (cohesion) and discontinuity
12.1.1. Topic (referential) continuity
12.1.2. Thematic continuity
12.1.3. Action continuity
12.1.4. Episodic prominence
What are the discourse functions of the various referential devices? That is, which code highly continuous referents, and which code highly discontinuous referents?
Related questions: how are referents introduced into narrative and/or conversational discourse?
Are referents introduced differently depending on whether they are "destined" to figure prominently in the following text? (That is, does the language clearly distinguish introductions of "discourse manipulable" referents?)
Are there different coding devices used to introduce referents that have some honorific status?
How is tense/aspect marking deployed in discourse? (Answer will probably vary according to genre).
What morphosyntactic devices are used to signal the "events" in a narrative discourse? What about the "non-events", i.e., collateral descriptive material?
What devices are used to ascribe special prominence to portions of text?
Can you isolate the kinds of prominence that the language is sensitive to?
Are there special morphosyntactic devices characteristically used at the climax or peak of a narrative?
Is there a recognizable peak in other genres?
Are rhetorical questions and/or negation used as "highlighting" devices in discourse? Give examples.
220.127.116.11. Personal experience
18.104.22.168. Folk stories
12.2.7. Ritual speech
What discourse genres are demonstrably distinct in this language? Exemplify and discuss the significant characteristics of each.
12.3. Miscellaneous conclusions
12.3.1. Idiomatic expressions / proverbs
12.3.2. Sound symbolism
Does the language make extensive and productive use of sound symbolism?
What are some common ideophones?
How is the phonological system of ideophones and sound symbolism different than that of the rest of the language?
How is the morphology different? How is the syntax different?
12.3.3. Typological findings
What are the features of this language that are particularly interesting?
What typological surprises does it present?
How does this work contribute to our understanding of the notion "possible human language"? What directions for further research do you recommend and/or plan to undertake yourself?
Can you qualitatively describe the "character" of this language? What are its dominant features?
What are the characteristics of a skilled orator in this language?
Can you provide some explicit examples that will contribute to the reader's sense of how this language is used? Some possibilities might be jokes, prayers, metaphorical expressions, or other culturally relevant discourse samples.