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The Functions of (In)definiteness Markers with Proper Names

The Functions of (In)definiteness Markers with Proper Names

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Title: The Functions of (In)definiteness Markers with Proper Names
Author: Van Langendonck, Willy
Van de Velde, Mark L. O.
Abstract: Crosslinguistically, we observe various onymic functions of the definite article that hardly occur in
appellatives (common nouns). Since names are inherently definite, languages can ‘play’ with the redundant
overt definite articles accompanying unmodified names. They might be absent; they may be generalized to
all proprial classes; they may have a classificatory function where articulated names alternate with
articleless names. Thus, in Western European languages, we have an anthropocentric hierarchy ranging
from highly animate, i.e., human or humanized (settlement or country) names, with a ‘zero’ article ('John',
'Mary'; 'London', 'England'), to inanimate names, often accompanied by an overt article ('the Thames', 'the
Highlands'). Typically, when regions become genuine states, they lose their overt article: '(the) Ukraine'. In
such languages, a possible ‘de-humanizing’ use can spill over to personal names, as in certain Flemish
dialects, where the forename 'de Jan' (the John) is an augmentative variant of 'Jan', just as 'de Limburg' is an
augmentative variant of the province name 'Limburg'. If such a use becomes more frequent, as in German
forenames ('der Johann'), the augmentative force is reduced to mere familiarity. This familiarity may
manifest itself as a positive connotation, as in Italian 'il Petrarca', 'la Callas'. Special forms can occur, as in
Catalan 'en Joan' (the John). Even the indefinite article may adopt an emotive use in personal names ("A
devastated Claes entered the court-room"). Additional crosslinguistic data will be provided.
Subject: Indefiniteness of Proper Names
Proper Names
Definiteness of Proper Names
Type: Article
Rights: The following articles are © 2009 with the individual authors. They are made available free of charge from this page as a service to the community under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivative Works license version 3.0. For full details go to http://creativecommons.org.licenses/ny-nd.3.0
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/4044
Published: York University
Citation: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences
ISBN: 978-1-55014-521-2
Date: 2009

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