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6 - Names

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2012

Richard Coates
Affiliation:
Professor of Linguistics, University of Sussex
Richard Hogg
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
David Denison
Affiliation:
University of Manchester
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Summary

Theoretical preliminaries

The status of proper names

Names is a technical term for a subset of the nominal expressions of a language which are used for referring (‘identifying or selecting in context’) and, in some cases, for addressing a partner in communication. Nominal expressions are in general headed by nouns. According to one of the most ancient distinctions in linguistics, nouns may be common or proper, which has something to do with whether they denote a class or an individual (e.g. queen vs Victoria), where individual means a single-member set of any sort, not just a person. Much discussion has taken place about how this distinction should be refined to be both accurate and useful, for instance by addressing the obvious difficulty that a typical proper noun denoting persons may denote many separate individuals who bear it, and that common nouns may refer to individuals by being constructed into phrases (the queen). I will leave the concept [± proper], applied to nouns, for intuitive or educated recognition before returning to discussion of the inclusive concept of proper names directly. Proper nouns have no inherent semantic content, even when they are homonymous with lexical words (Daisy, Wells), and many, perhaps all, cultures recognise nouns whose sole function is to be proper (Sarah, Ipswich). Typically they have a unique intended referent in a context of utterance.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • Names
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.007
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  • Names
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.007
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Names
  • Edited by Richard Hogg, University of Manchester, David Denison, University of Manchester
  • Book: A History of the English Language
  • Online publication: 05 September 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791154.007
Available formats
×