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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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Christian Bassac 3 Rules and Exceptions: Neogrammarians and the Lexicon

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Abstract In the second half of the nineteenth century, a group of German linguists known as the Junggrammatiker, or Neogrammarians, firmly expressed the belief that language changes were caused by phonological factors, that they were regular, and consequently could be captured by exception-free rules. Should exceptions to a rule appear, this would be an indication that the rule is inadequate. After Grimm had established the law codifying the changes from Indo-European to Proto-Germanic, apparent exceptions remained unexplained. This was not a problem for the comparative tradition, but faith in exception-free rules later led Verner, a Danish Junggrammatiker, to show that such examples are not exceptions but can be explained by another rule. Verner’s law (1875) then states that Grimm’s law applies only if some suprasegmental conditions are met, namely if the word in Indo-European received stress on the syllable preceding the consonant. Other apparent exceptions to Grimm’s law were explained by laws discovered by Thurneysen and Grassmann, thus completing the demon- stration that Grimm’s law has no exception. Some hundred years later, however, the belief that lexical change is exceptionless was challenged by the alternative theory of ‘lexical dif fusion’. This paper is a presentation and assessment of this theoretical journey through the motivations of lexical change and the status of exceptions. Introduction In a conference on the method of lexical exceptions,1 it seems apt to analyse the methodology of the linguistic school known as the Junggrammatiker, 1 Now known, from the publication of this volume, as the method...

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