The Functions of (In)definiteness Markers with Proper Names
Van Langendonck, Willy
Van de Velde, Mark L. O.
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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.