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Rules and Exceptions

Using Exceptions for Empirical Research in Theoretical Linguistics

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Edited By Christopher Beedham, Warwick Danks and Ether Soselia

This book assembles a collection of papers first presented at the Summer School and Conference on the Method of Lexical Exceptions held at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, 2-8 September 2007, which explored an area of linguistics now referred to as ‘the method of exceptions and their correlations’.
Recognition of the work of Saussure was impeded during his lifetime by the Junggrammatiker (Neogrammarians) and their view of exceptions, but this book incorporates exceptions into a Saussurean approach. Exceptions to rules are treated here not as something wilful and inexplicable, but as a clue to what has gone wrong in the original rule.
The topics covered are the passive, irregular verbs, morphology, transitivity, light verb constructions, resultative verbs, compound nouns, phonology, colour terms, historical-comparative reconstruction, language teaching, Saussurean structuralism and the approach of the Junggrammatiker to exceptions. The languages addressed are English, Arabic, Georgian, Turkish, Russian, the Cushitic languages and German. Grammar and linguistics are usually thought of as purely theoretical disciplines, but this book demonstrates how to use exceptions to conduct ‘experiments’ in the manner of the natural sciences, which leads empirically to better theory.

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Christopher Beedham 1 Exceptions and their Correlations: A Methodology for Research in Grammar

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Abstract A method of empirical research is described in which unexplained exceptions to a rule and their correlations are used in a systematic way to lead the researcher to a revised version of the rule which explains and removes the rule’s anomalies, especially the exceptions which one started out with. Two rules and their exceptions in English, German, and Russian are presented as case studies in the method: the passive and non-passivizable transitive verbs; tense formation and irregular verbs. It is hoped that other linguists will try out the method on their own chosen constructions in their own languages. Introduction In this paper we will look at how unexplained exceptions to a rule and their correlations can be used in a systematic way to lead the researcher to a revised version of the rule which explains and removes the rule’s anoma- lies, especially the exceptions which one started out with.1 We will examine two constructions and their exceptions as case studies in the method – the 1 This paper was written in 2013 and is an updated summary of the summer school part of the Summer School and Conference on the Method of Lexical Exceptions held at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, from 2 to 8 September 2007. Hitherto I have referred to the method as ‘the method of lexical exceptions’. I now – i.e. from this volume – refer to it as the method of exceptions and their correlations. It is the same method, but called by a name which goes...

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