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Rules and Exceptions

Using Exceptions for Empirical Research in Theoretical Linguistics


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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Pierre Rucart 13 Prefix Verbs in Cushitic are not Exceptions


Abstract Some Cushitic languages have a small class of verbs that are exceptions in the verbal inf lec- tional system: whereas most verbs have only suf fixes, these exceptions also use prefixes. For example, one can find 5 verbs in Somali or 14 in Rendille. This class of prefix verbs exists in Afar (cf. Hayward 1978), but the number of verbs in this class is much more relevant: there are more than 300 verbs (cf. Hayward and Parker 1985). These verbs are treated as exceptions and require either a specific marking in the lexicon or specific rule adjustments (cf. Bliese 1981). I will argue that prefix verbs are not exceptions to the inf lectional verbal system of Afar and that the roots of the verbs provide enough information to understand the possibility of having prefixes for those verbs and not for others. In Afar, I claim that verbs with prefixes and verbs with suf fixes can be represented within a single template that allows one to derive every surface structure. This template unifies the verbal category within a specific prosodic domain. Following this hypothesis, I argue that the dif ference between prefix inf lection and suf fix inf lection depends on the association of the root with the verbal template: prefix verbs never exhibit a vowel between the two first root consonants whereas suf fix verbs always do. Within the Government Phonology framework (cf. Kaye, Lowenstamm and Vergnaud 1990, Lowenstamm 1999), the initial CV position (cf. Lowenstamm 1999) of verbal...

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