So, what I am wondering about is what I should look up to study the following. From my understanding, there is a limited number of ways languages are implemented. That is, there is a set of abstract constructs which languages utilize. For example, declensions, tenses, moods, etc. Those are then either implemented in a language in a certain way or thrown out altogether. In the latter case, the language somehow makes do without it.

What I would like to study is this grammar in the general sense, without necessarily being attached to a particular language. However, I then plan to use those things in the study of some languages. To give you an idea, after this study, I would know exactly what Acusativus, sg. means and so on. I actually already do know what it means because we have six noun declensions in Russian. But two of them all but disappeared, when compared to, say, eight original declensions found in vedic Sanskrit. Hence, some of them I am not necessarily familiar with. The goal would be to study this abstract grammar first, know what these concepts are and then be able to use them in the study of languages.

If you know any books on this or at least what the area of study is called, I am all-ears.

  • 2
    You might want to start with something very introductory, like the grammar section of Mark Rosenfelder's Language Construction Kit. It probably won't teach you what you want to know, and may not even have references to follow, but it will teach you how things are broken down and what the major things are called, which is enough to figure out what you actually do want to look up and get into more depth on.
    – abarnert
    Jan 24 '19 at 0:14
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    A good introductory book about parameters across languages is 'The Atoms of Language' by Mark C. Baker (available through www.basicbooks.com science/linguistics)
    – amI
    Jan 25 '19 at 6:40

There is a theory of language which has the concept of Universal Grammar, but that refers simply to "Whatever is necessarily available to all human languages". It does not include such things as "accusative" or particular tenses and moods. There is no "specification" for Universal Grammar written up, whereby you can see what is supposed to be in UG -- there's no "rference grammar of UG". There are many publications about things thought to be part of UG.

It sounds to me like you are more interested in Indo-European historical grammar, i.e. the fact that Indo-European had a richer inflectional system than Russian does, and Vedic Sanskrit is much closer to that that Russian is. You might then want to look at Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics or Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction. The problem is that if you study PIE and become conversant with its structure, you won't be in particularly good shape for studying Sinhalese, which has changed substantially from the Ur-Sprache.

Alternatively, if you are not just interested in Indo-European linguistic reconstruction, and you want to know what kind of things various languages of the world do, you may want to delve into linguistic typology, and books like Introducing Language Typology, An Introduction to Linguistic Typology, Describing Morphosyntax or Language Universals and Linguistic Typology: Syntax. Unfortunately, these surveys are necessary superficial. If it becomes relevant to you, there is plenty written about noun class systems, but you won't learn that kind of detail from such books -- you probably will learn what "noun class" means, though.

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