Proper Name

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Proper Name


a word or word group that, unlike a common noun, designates an individual or collective person or object in its entirety and singularity, individualizes the person or object, and unambiguously stands for the person or object independently of context.

If one disregards certain semantic features of certain groups of proper names, the common distinguishing trait of proper names is the denotative character of their meaning. Personal names constitute the core group, the most “authentic” proper names. Genetically, all proper names are common nouns, and no clear line can be drawn between the two, as in the case of ethnic designations and trademarks. Proper names with internal stuctures both clear (“Novgorod,” from novyi [“new”] and gorod [“city”]) and obscure (“Moscow”) are used identically. They occupy a distinct position in relation to other units of the vocabulary, since they contain less linguistic information and significantly more cultural information than common nouns. The definition of the class of proper names and the class’s boundaries vary in the different disciplines that study proper names—linguistics, logic, philosophy, mythology, and so on.

From the point of view of mythological-symbolic consciousness, which reduces language to a collection of names and regards proper names as the words that fulfill most precisely the function of naming, proper names play a central role in the ontology of language. A number of classical and medieval theories considered proper names to be signs linked to the essence of that which was being named and symbolically connected with the deepest meaning of that which was being named. The immanent—as distinct from the phonetic or graphic—name, as understood in the light of Plato’s theories, was considered to be the root of individual existence. This theory was revived and developed in the 20th century by P. A. Florenskii, S. N. Bulgakov, and M. Heidegger. In its most extreme form, this theory identified the name with that which was being named or attributed mystical properties to the name’s sound or graphic representation; it also considered the name to be a condensation of the power of the named object, which led to the development of verbal charms and taboos.

These theories contrast with rationalist views, which originated with Democritus, who argued that every name is arbitrary in nature. K. Marx held that the name of any given object has nothing in common with that object’s nature. Linguists and logicians who develop this line of thought consider proper names to be unmotivated signs, one means of designating the various points of spatiotemporal reality; the signs can be replaced by other signs (renaming), numbers (as in the case of the streets in New York City), or algebraic symbols. The selection and total number of proper names are determined by extrasemiotic factors, as with the lists of saints’ names in Christianity or Islam. There is no connection in material reality between a name and that which is named; this connection exists only in the consciousness of the namers.


Voloshinov, V. N. Marksizm ifilosofiia iazyka. Leningrad [1929].
Bulgakov, S. N. Filosofiia imeni. Paris [1953].
Superanskaia, A. V. Obshchaia teoriia imeni sobstvennogo. Moscow, 1973.
Nikonov, V. A. Imia iobshchestvo. Moscow, 1974.


References in periodicals archive ?
Valentine, Tim, Tim Brennen, and Serge Bredart (1996), The Cognitive Psychology of Proper Names.
In this study, however, the term name is employed to refer to a broadly construed category of proper names, ranging from personal, animal, and place names to names of institutions etc.
Pietarinen holds that there can be no special class of substitution instances available in our language, whereas proper names cannot be off-the-peg "tags " to be deliberately attached to the objects of our actual world.
5) The same is true of the proper names of people and places, titles, ecclesiastical terms, and all other names that in modern times wear the distinction of a capital letter.
Fiengo's and May's theory of meta-linguistic beliefs not only offers some interesting proposals but even brings some new twists to the discussion about the meaning of proper names.
The paradox disappears when we recognize that in natural languages we use proper names, and all words, like widely diverse beads to string together into different, recognizable patterns.
Among their topics are Virgil's nomenclature of the Tiber in Aeneid, catalogs of proper names from the Metamorphosis to the Fasti, and proper names as a linking device in Martial 5.
Otherwise the authors should use the proper names for our cultures; First Nations are status Indians (a political term), Metis (politically correct term for Metis, Metis, Michif and half-breeds like me), and Inuit (politically correct term for Eskimo).
Davis narrates smoothly, nicely pronouncing the Spanish proper names.
This new Oxford Rhyming Dictionary claims to be the biggest one around, with more than 85,000 words and proper names.
Supplemented with a splendid bibliography, the book has only a partial index that excludes female recipients of poems, Petrarch himself, titles of works, and all subjects that are not proper names.
Among the labyrinthine arrangements of images and text in six examples shown here (all works undated) we find patterns of ships, naval signals, and flags, recalling Bispo's time in the navy as a young man, followed by descriptions of hallucinations, long lists of proper names, and disruptive, self-referential phrases like "Uma obra tao importante que levou 1986 anos para ser escrita" (Such an important work that it took 1986 years to be written).

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