LINGUIST List 2.804

Wed 20 Nov 1991

Disc: Names

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. "Mimi Klaiman", John jLimber's qurery: Parsis
  2. , Grammar of names
  3. Ellen Prince, Re: 2.790 Queries: Yiddish
  4. Sergio Balari, Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Romance
  5. John Bro, conventionality & syntax of names: French
  6. Joel M. Hoffman, 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Hebrew
  7. Tom Wachtel, Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names

Message 1: John jLimber's qurery: Parsis

Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1991 18:35:19 -0600
From: "Mimi Klaiman" <klaimanux.acs.umn.edu>
Subject: John jLimber's qurery: Parsis
John Limber has inquired about nonarbitrary surnames.
The Parsis of India have a custom of adopting surnames
consisting of the English words for professions, so one
finds surnames Doctor, Lawyer and, in the bizarrest
instance I've ever heard (involving a family whose patriarch
had started a factory to make bottle openers), Sodabottleopenerwallah.
--Mimi Klaiman
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Message 2: Grammar of names

Date: Sat, 16 Nov 1991 10:16:59 GMT
From: <MCCONVELL_PDARWIN.NTU.EDU.AU>
Subject: Grammar of names
With reference to John Limber's query on whether names exhibit syntactic
peculiarities in any languages: in the southern dialects of the Western
Desert Language, Australia (Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara etc.) names
have the suffix -nya in the S (intransitive subject) and O (transitive
direct object) forms, and the ergative -lu in the A (transitive subject)
form. This contrasts both with other nouns, where -nya is not used, and
with pronouns where it is used only for O, not for S. The -nya is dropped
in the vocative form of names.
I think in a number of European languages surnames cannot pluralise in the
way they do in English e.g. the Simpsons.
Patrick McConvell, Northern Territory University, Australia
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Message 3: Re: 2.790 Queries: Yiddish

Date: Fri, 15 Nov 91 11:36:16 EST
From: Ellen Prince <ellencentral.cis.upenn.edu>
Subject: Re: 2.790 Queries: Yiddish
john limber writes:
>I have two questions about names that some of you probably can answer. The fir
st
>concerns the conventionality of surnames. Are there still language cultures
>where surnames are not for the most part conventional? (It would be foolish,
>for example, for anyone to infer from my name "Limber" that I am particularly
>agile or that Drs. Head, Brain and Pons interest in neurology had anything to
>do with their names.) I'd appreciate any examples.
don't know if this is what you mean, but in iceland 'surnames' are still
patronymics--so, if my name were ellen bjornsdottir, you could infer that my
father's name is bjorn.
>	The second question is to what extent are names in languages more or
>less "syntactic"--that is participate or not in whatever formal structures
>other NPs do? Again, I'd appreciate any examples or references on this.
in yiddish, proper names of people get case-marked in a way that other nps
don't. the actual situation is still somewhat mysterious (to me), but it's
roughly as follows. most common nouns aren't case-marked at all but a handful
of common nouns are. these are high-frequency nouns mostly denoting people--the
words for mama, papa, grandpa, jew, rabbi, person,... and one inanimate--heart.
and these get marked regardless of what else is in the np. proper names, on the
other hand, get marked, but only at the end of the whole np containing them.
for example:
no marking (the default case):
ikh hob gezen a melamed 'i saw a teacher'
ikh hob gezen a melamed an alt-n' 'i saw a teacher an old-acc' = 'i saw an
	old teacher' (adjectives always get case-marked)
special common nouns:
ikh hob gezen a reb-n 'i saw a rabbi-acc'
ikh hob gezen a reb-n an alt-n 'i saw a rabbi-acc an old-acc' = 'i saw an old
	rabbi'
proper nouns:
ikh hob gezen shmuel-n 'i saw samuel-acc'
ikh hob gezen shmuel gold-n 'i saw samuel gold-acc'
ikh hob gezen shmuel (gold) dem alt-n 'i saw samuel (gold) the old-acc'
ikh hob gezen shmuel (gold) dem reb-n 'i saw samuel (gold) the rabbi'
ikh hob gezen shmuel (gold) dem melamed 'i saw samuel (gold) the teacher'
one last thing--in case you think these postnominal modifiers are restrictive
and make the proper name into a common noun, no, they can be (and generally
are) appositive.
proper names of places or things or god are never case-marked.
it's very weird. if you hear of an analogous situation in any other lg, i'd
be very interested in learning about it. thanks.
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Message 4: Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Romance

Date: Sun, 17 Nov 1991 16:20:02 +0000
From: Sergio Balari <balaricoli.uni-sb.de>
Subject: Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Romance
I would like comment on a bit David Gil's query (Linguist Vol-2-794) about
the syntax of names and their (apparent) capacity to function as NPs
without being in construction with an article, a quantifier, etc.
There are, at least, two more counterexamples to this generalization we
could add to the Tagalog example Gil mentions. These are Portuguese and
Catalan, where the presence of an article preceding the name is obligatory.
In Portuguese the same set of articles as with common nouns is used; thus,
we have:
(1) a. O Jo~ao canta "The-MASC John sings"
 b. A Maria canta "The-FEM Mary sings"
but not,
(2) a. *Jo~ao canta
 b. *Maria canta
(Unless this is interpreted as an imperative, meaning, YOU, John, sing, in
which case it is pefectly good.)
On the other hand, in Catalan, there exists a special set of articles for
proper nouns: EN for the masculine and NA (but also LA) for the feminine:
(3) a. En Joan canta "The-MASC John sings"
 b. Na/la Maria canta "The-FEM Mary sings"
Again, as in the Portuguese examples in (2), the absence of the article
renders the construction ungrammatical (again, the imperative reading is
possible).
(4) a. *Joan canta
 b. *Maria canta
A slightly different situation holds in other Romance languages. In
Peninsular Spanish, for example, the use of articles with proper nouns,
although forbidden by the Academic norm and classified as a "colloquial
use, common among illiterate people", is extremely widespread even among
such not so illiterate speakers as linguists. Of course, given this double
life that languages with an Academia live, these constructions sound
perfectly good both with the article and without it, which basically means
that we will probably always supply an article when speaking, but we will
never write such a thing. In Spanish there is no specialized set of
articles, though.
However, there are specific uses of the article+name construction which are
accepted by the norm. These are uses involving the *last name* of some
notorius person, specially in the feminine gender. Thus Maria Callas and
Greta Garbo, can be perfectly referred to by the NPs "La Callas" or "La
Garbo" without violating any Academic norm. (I strongly suspect that sexism
of language is very much involved here since "El Goya" or "El Beethoven"
sound extremely awkward, but not "El Sting" or "El Pavarotti", which seems
to indicate that the sexist constraint affects mostly "classics" for
historical reasons.)
Note that these latter comments hold for Italian as well, even if this
language seems to be very much reluctant to adopt the article+name
construction. Things like
(5) a. La Callas
 b. Il Veronese
 c. Il Brunelleschi
are good in Italian.
Concerning then the possiblity to pluralize proper names in construction
with quantifiers, this is perfectly possible in Catalan and Spanish (and I
conjecture that in Portuguese as well, but I am not completely sure):
(6) Catalan
 a. Hi ha tres Joans en aquesta habitacio'
 "LOCATIVE_CLITIC-is three Johns in this room"
 b. Tots els Joans de Barcelona s'han reunit en aquest congre's
 "All the Johns from Barcelona SE_CLITIC-have met in this conference"
(7) Spanish
 a. Hay tres Juanes en esta habitacio'n
 "Is three Johns in this room"
 b. Todos los Juanes de Barcelona se han reunido en este congreso
 "All the Johns from Barcelona SE_CLITIC-have met in this conference"
In Italian, however, this sounds pretty unacceptable; there is not even an
obvious way to pluralize many proper nouns (Mario/??Marii, Luca/??Luchi).
Thus, while "Ci sono tre Giovanni in questa stanza" seems to be acceptable,
it is not "*Ci sono tre Mario/Marii in questa stanza". In the latter case,
the alternative construction "In questa stanza ci sono tre persone chiamate
Mario (In this room there are three persons called Mario) would be used.
Sergio Balari
--
Sergio Balari, U of Saarbruecken, Dept. of Computational Linguistics
balaricoli.uni-sb.de -- +49 (681) 3024502 -- fax +49 (681) 3024351
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Message 5: conventionality & syntax of names: French

Date: Sun, 17 Nov 91 00:50 EST
From: John Bro <BOUGIEPINE.CIRCA.UFL.EDU>
Subject: conventionality & syntax of names: French
>From: David Gil <RHLE813HAIFAUVM.bitnet>
>Subject: conventionality and syntax of names
>I would be interested to hear from other LINGUIST participants
>how NPs such as "three Johns" are rendered into typologically
>diverse languages.
>An interesting problem is posed by constructions involving a
>proper noun in construction with a quantifier, eg. English
>"There are three Johns in the room". What seems to be happening
>in such constructions is that the proper noun is undergoing a
>"type shift" from proper to common.
 This kind of construction is simply a shift in the focus via
a kind of metonymy (or synecdoche). The focus is on the name itself,
more than on the person carrying it.
A similar effect has been noted (i forget by whom) as a
counterexample to the identity of reference test for homonymy,
such that you can't say:
 *I fished from the bank, and then deposited my money in ONE.
But you can say:
 No, not a bank you fish from, ONE you put money in!
 In the second sentence, the focus is on what IS common between the
homonyms--their form. Pragmatics determines the grammatical form.
David Gil also says:
>The most salient example of this is the capacity of names to
>constitute a full NP in languages that otherwise require the
>presence of an article, eg. English "John sang" vs. "*boy sang".
 Spoken French readily uses an article with a proper name.
 Especially when respectfulness is not relevant (not necessarily
 disrespect):
 Tiens, c'est _l'_Albert qui se repointe!
 well, it's the Albert who is coming back
 "Well, look who's coming back, (ol') Albert"
 V'la _la_ Marie-jeanne qui s' en va
 there's the M-j who rflx away go
 "There (ol')Marie-j. going away"
 However, French does not pluralize family or given names,
 nor make liasons with them.. eg
 les Dupont ont 3 enfants (no liaison between t & o)
 the Duponts have 3 kids
 il y a 3 Jean ensemble (no liaison bet. n & o)
 there are 3 Jeans together
 -------------
 John Bro
 Univ.Fla
 Gainesville FL
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Message 6: 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Hebrew

Date: Sat, 16 Nov 91 12:28:32 -0500
From: Joel M. Hoffman <joelwam.umd.edu>
Subject: 2.794 Conventionality of Names: Hebrew
David Gil <RHLE813HAIFAUVM.bitnet> writes:
.>An interesting problem is posed by constructions involving a
.>proper noun in construction with a quantifier, eg. English
.>"There are three Johns in the room". What seems to be happening
.>in such constructions is that the proper noun is undergoing a
.>"type shift" from proper to common. However, other languages
.>appear to be less tolerant of such constructions. For example,
.>in Hebrew, the corresponding construction with a pluralized
.>proper noun sounds awkward; most speakers prefer to either
.>retain the basic non-pluralized form of the name (in spite
.>of the preceding numeral) or else construct a paraphase such
Two thoughts come to mind re Hebrew. First, there is a reasonably
well-known song that mentions ``all the Dalias, all the Rinas, all the
Rivkas,'' using the plural form for each name (``Dalia,'' ``Rina''
and ``Rivka'' are all popular names).
Also, it's not uncommon in Hebrew to use non-pluralized forms after
numerals. ``Five dollar,'' e.g., or ``five man.''
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Message 7: Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names

Date: Sun, 17 Nov 91 11:59:52 GMT
From: Tom Wachtel <wachtelcanon.co.uk>
Subject: Re: 2.794 Conventionality of Names
David Gil writes:
> The most salient example of this is the capacity of names to
> constitute a full NP in languages that otherwise require the
> presence of an article, eg. English "John sang" vs. "*boy sang".
Like pronouns, no? This is what you would expect of definite noun
phrases in general, especially when, like names, they are intended to
be referentially unique relative to the given context. When they are
not referentially unique in this way, you find articles: "Will the John
standing behind Mary please aplogise to the John under the table."
> This seems to be a common cross-linguistic pattern. (The closest
> thing to a counterexample that I am familiar with is provided by
> Philippine languages where there is a separate series of articles
It is quite common to use the definite article with a personal name in
Italian, with no semantic/pragmatic marking. (I'm not sure, but I
believe it may be restricted to women's names.)
tom
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