Dr Christopher Beedham

Department of German, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews

PhD research: The method of exceptions and their correlations

Proposals for a PhD using the method of exceptions and their correlations (formerly known as the method of lexical exceptions) under the supervision of Dr C. Beedham are invited.  The method of exceptions and their correlations has been used by Dr Beedham on the passive and non-passivizable transitive verbs, and on tense and irregular verbs, in German, English, and Russian.  You must choose a construction which is formally present in one, two, or three languages, and which has a substantial set of unexplained lexical exceptions, as in the foregoing two examples (passive and tense).  The languages chosen may be:

  • modern German, English, or Russian;
  • one or two of the above plus one or two others;
  • any language(s) you choose, not necessarily any of the above;
  • a historically earlier stage of a language, e.g. Old High German, Old English, Latin, Sanskrit.

You must have a university degree in languages and/or linguistics.  If you choose a language other than German/English/Russian we will appoint a second supervisor, a specialist in that language.  The premise of your work will be that your chosen lexical exceptions are not genuinely there in the actual structure of your languages, but are a mistake, an artefact of a faulty grammatical analysis.  You will investigate your chosen lexical exceptions empirically and in detail, in order to arrive at a new analysis of your construction, an analysis which does not lead to the unexplained exceptions you have investigated (see Christopher Beedham, Language and Meaning: The structural creation of reality, Benjamins 2005).
You may choose to examine:

  • the passive in a language other than German, English, or Russian, to see if Dr Beedham's aspectual analysis of the passive in German/English/Russian applies in your chosen language;
  • irregular verbs in German, English, or Russian.  Dr Beedham's research is ongoing in this area, and you will work in close conjunction with him;
  • irregular verbs in a language other than German, English, or Russian;
  • any area of grammar whatsoever which has a substantial set of unexplained lexical exceptions (your first task may well be to establish that your chosen area of grammar does indeed have such unexplained exceptions).

A good area to choose is one in which the form in question is considered not to have a meaning, e.g. gender of the noun, noun plurals in German.  The method lends itself well to people with both a theoretical and practical interest, e.g. in language teaching, translation, interpreting, lexicography;  and to people interested in both the arts and the sciences.

The normal requirement is a 2(i) (or its equivalent) in a languages or linguistics degree.  Applicants whose native language is not English must provide evidence of the necessary competence in English.  A PhD is normally completed within 3 years.  For information on funding click here.  If you are working on German you may apply to the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) for funding to spend your second year in Germany.

For further information please write to the PhD Administrator, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews, Buchanan Building, St Andrews, KY16 9PH, Scotland/UK; e-mail: modlangs@st-andrews.ac.uk.  You may discuss your proposal informally with Dr Beedham first, before applying (e-mail: c.beedham@st-andrews.ac.uk).

PhDs using the method of exceptions and their correlations supervised by Dr Beedham


Michelle Leese, The impersonal passive of the type Es wurde getanzt in modern German. Started September 2014.

Samirah Aljohani, 'An aspectual analysis of the adjectival passive in English: Subsective gradience in 2nd participles'. Started 2012, Negated passive participles in English and Arabic', started 2012, submitted 26 January 2017, viva 12 April 2017.

Warwick Danks, 'The Arabic verb: form and meaning in the vowel-lengthening patterns', co-supervised with Catherine Cobham, Dept. of Arabic, 2009, published by Benjamins in 2011, reviewed in Language 2012/88.634-36.


Benjamin Catchpole, 'An experimental approach to the strong verbs of German, English and Swedish'. Started September 2016.

PhDs on other topics supervised by Dr Beedham

Edith Shame, 'The Linguistic Contribution of Heroes and Villains in the English-Language Press of Malawi: From Totalitarianism to Democracy, 1964-2012', joint St Andrews/University of Malawi degree, co-supervised with Prof. Moira Chimombo (University of Malawi), 2016.

Jennifer McKenna, 'Idioms with a Viable Literal Interpretation in German Advertisements'.  2004.

Natalie Braber, 'The German Language and Reunification 1990:  The Effect of Emotion on the use of Modal Particles in East and West Berlin'.  2002.  (Included a DAAD-funded year at the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin under the supervision of Prof. Norbert Dittmar).