📖 Publishing grammars

Okay this isn’t exactly a check-in, but a question for the group. I’m writing this grammar. I’d say I’m about 1/4-1/3 done, depending a lot on at what point I give up and decide it’s done. Once it’s done, though, what do I do with the damn thing? Do I send it to a journal or something?

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I just published mine this year. It really depends on your linguistic area. Publishers differ in their interest and funding,


Oh wow! Congratulations! So do you just look up publishers that have published other stuff from that language family and then email them? Or is there a more formal process?

It depends on many things. There is generally a formal process for seeking a publisher (their websites will have strict instructions on how to format the initial draft and to whom you should email questions. There are many issues to consider here: are you prepared to (re)format your own document according to their standards? Some presses, for example, demand a document in LaTex, while others (including the publisher I used) demand Word and Times New Roman font.

Grammars are generally not capable of producing revenue for a publisher, so you will have to find a publisher who has funding to do a project like this. In my case, the press has a generous grant to publish on the Indigenous languages of America. Other things will also matter: who are you? Who will be willing to write a blurb for you? Is your grammar any good? I would suggest that you not worry too much about these last questions: they’ll come up on their own and you’ll surely be able to find a way to handle them.

An editor will review your manuscript and suggest initial changes to make it suitable for review. In my case, I had to cut out about 40,000 words (most came by removing appendices, but I had to cut out another 40 pages of content from within the grammar.) If an editor agrees to consider your manuscript, it will go to anonymous reviewers. To what degree these reviewers are going to prove a help or hindrance has more to do with the publisher’s work culture than anything else. In my case, my reviewers had few significant concerns. I had to change the title and one section title and fix some errors, and I had to edit and gloss a narrative text to add as an appendix.

Once you get the green light from the reviewers and the editor, you’ll likely be handed off to a new editor and her/his assistants. You’ll then be asked to do a variety of things. In my case, this included reformatting 600+ examples as tables. It was hell! I had to do each one individually. There is also a fairly detailed multi-document list of things to do to prepare the manuscript for the junior editor. This list includes LOTS of things, such as how to prepare images, drawing up lists of people who are to receive gratis copies, writing the summary for the cover, providing ideas about cover art, etc. Then an editor (generally through her/his junior editor) goes over every word and symbol in your text.

In my case, I was not working with a linguist, which caused some problems. You will then be asked to make X number of changes (typos, missing references, etc.) and approve many more (some are changes due to the “house style” of your publisher). Then the publisher will prepare a pre-pub version that is formatted exactly as it is to appear in publication. You must address any errors therein and submit. You might then be asked to make your own index (I was spared this after initially be asked to make one). And then the press works to make your dream a reality.

To put things in perspective, I submitted my query to the press in early 2018; I submitted the finished manuscript in March 2018, I responded to changes requested by reviewers and made all formatting changes by Dec 2018; I was given the editors’ comments on my draft in June 2019; I made the last of such changes in July 2019; my book came off the presses in Feb 2020.


Oh wow. That sounds really hardcore. I thought they’d just be happy that I wrote the damn thing for free. :sob:

Well in a sense all grammars and community materials are written for free. True, sometimes we have funding to cover the basics, but nothing that would ever come close to being paid for the hours we put in.
That being said, I would’ve recommended Language Science Press, because it’s free and completely open source. They do publish grammars (after review, editing, etc.) but I think not pedagogical grammars like yours. But it could be worth checking.
Since you’re following an SIL template and using their terminology etc. couldn’t you ask them to publish it? I don’t think they peer review their stuff, so might also be much less review work. But maybe someone who actually knows how they publish could chime in.


Thanks for the ideas! I will check with some SIL people and see what they think. I sent an email to Tom Payne and I’ll see what he says.

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Not to take any discussion away from this group, but there’s an independent group of us who chat on slack and meet on Skype most Thursdays to discuss grammar writing. Some of us have agreements with MGL and others are publishing elsewhere. If you’re interested, send me a message!


I would love to meet your colleagues! I haven’t used slack much but I could learn

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The Language Science Press diversity linguistics series has a good set of grammars and publishing with LSP is a pretty good experience.