I'm toying with an idea for my next project:

Remember those old-fashioned grammars of heavily infected languages with reams of paradigms for declensions, conjugations, and agreement rules--not to mention irregular forms? Generally, these grammars had a teeny tiny half-page about syntax at the end. I am thinking of writing a grammar of a fictitious language called "Old High Middle Arcanian" with a similar format, though the syntax section is going to have to be longer than in the actual grammars I referred to.

Since this project is (ultimately) tongue-in-cheek, I wonder what other features I should add to my reference grammar to do justice to the old-fashioned format that I've chosen.

  • Modern texts for learning Lithuanian might be helpful. Of course it depends on the specific features of OHMA.
    – Theodore
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


General Scheme

You've pretty much got it! I use the same general framework found in Wright's grammars (Germanic) and Allen & Greenough (Latin):

Phonology (pronunciation, accentuation)
Accidence (all the paradigms)
Miscellaneous (writing system, numerals, etc)
Two Way Lexicon
Topical Index


I'm not sure I'm familiar with the particular format you have in mind. When I think of a "grammar of heavily infected languages with reams of paradigms for declensions", I think of The Georgian Verb by Tamar Makharoblidze (pdf), which is 645(!) pages along of which at least 500 is just conjugation tables.

Some tidbits I notice about it:

  • One page on the orthography (p.10) that consists of nothing beyond just showing you the alphabet, and then assuming you can read it fluently for all the conjugation tables thereafter. (If you think that's that not that bad for Georgian with only 33 lettters to memorize, I remember an Amharic grammar doing this too that required you to have all of the Ge'ez abugida memorized before you could read any of the Amharic, because absolutely none of it was romanized.)

  • Half a page on word order (p.99) that basically just says "Georgian is usually SOV but it doesn't have to be"

  • Throw in some opinions out of the blue that sound extremely confident despite being completely unsubstantiated. From the above orthography page: Mkhedruli has 33 letters. The number of sound is equal to the number of letters: We read as we write. There are 33 letters for 33 sounds. That's why Georgian alphabet is considered one of the best among 14.

  • 3 pages of "additional items" at the end of the non-conjugation table pages that just say "oh by the way you could classify verbs according to this scheme instead", drop several tables out of nowhere without explaining what any of the cells correspond to, say nothing more about it, and then go straight into the bibliography

  • Use one and only one example for each new grammatical concept you introduce

  • Explain how a conjugation is formed without explaining what it is or how it's used. e.g. the book's treatment of so-called "dynamic passives" in 2.11.4, which... from the one example verb per subsection, it sounds like "dynamic passive" is what they're calling an obligatorily intransitive verb in the active voice, but I don't know for sure because they don't actually tell you what they mean by "dynamic passive", they just show 1 conjugation table for each of 3 ways to form the "dynamic passive", and none of those examples sound like a passive.

  • To give some fair evaluation of this kind of grammar: It is not meant to be used alone as the sole teaching material of a language. It is always assumed that you have additional teaching material, and the grammar gives a condensed overview on the grammatical forms.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 9:48

Not having my Latin School grammar anymore I remember the following structure and features:

First comes a section on phonology, but it is not called that, but something like "Writing system and pronunciation".

Second part is a longish section on morphology (called Formenlehre in my German based school grammar, but that is essentially the same) Exposing the morphology and inflection paradigms of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. The fully irregular verbs (like ire, ferre, velle, nolle, malle, and fieri) are included here, and there is mention of defective paradigms and deponent verbs. The long list of verbs with their principal parts is relegated to an appendix in the end of the grammar.

Third comes a part on the usage and translation of the different forms, differentiating the cases in many subtypes like objective and subjective and partitive genitive, and so on.

Fourth comes a part on some famous Latin constructions, like accusative with infinitive, double accusative, absolute ablative, and joined participle.

Fifth is a part on conjunctions and what mode of the verb they govern. It was rather lengthy, especially on conjunctions like ut, cum and quod.

There is also a chapter on relative clauses.

Somewhere was a list of prepositions with the cases they govern, but I don't remember its placement. Also a list of basic parts of speech was somewhere.

That's what I remember right now.

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