Proper noun

A proper name, also noun proprium, referred individual things or beings. Proper names form a separate class of words. Together with the genus name ( appellatives ) and the substance name ( Kontinuativa ) they form the nouns (names in the general sense ). Nouns ( as nouns ) have a naming function and practice broadly the same functions in the set from. However, the proper names have all linguistic levels to special features.

The delineation and demarcation of the proper name of the genus name is described in detail doubtful and disputed (see further below for proper name and meaning).

The linguistic term is fuzzier than the logical concept of the proper name. In logic proper names ( by definition ) only those expressions that refer to a single object. This includes proper names in the narrow sense (eg: Alexander the Great), labels (eg: the son of the Macedonian king Philip II, who lived 356-323 BC) and deictic expressions (eg example: this commander here who are residents of Artacoana (after Alexandria ) sold into slavery ). Name in terms of logic are only proper names. Several significant items genus names are not names, but predictors ( predicates in the logical sense ) in the logical sense.

The focus of this article are the linguistic characteristics of proper names. Historical and genealogical aspects of proper names, however, be dealt with under the lemmas name, first name and surname.

  • 8.1 General
  • 8.2 philosophy, logic, semantics

Spelling of proper names

A cross-linguistic nature of the proper names in the typeface is their spelling with a capital letter. In many languages, proper names are thus easily recognizable in texts, since in these - all the words are written in lower case - except for the capitalization at the beginning of a sentence. Because all nouns are capitalized in German, it is for that language but not a differentiator. In multi-unit proper names (only ) the nominal constituents capitalized ( eg: the United States of America).

The writing of proper names tends, mainly because of their identifying function for invariance. The spelling of proper names changed less significantly than in other areas of vocabulary. This is especially true for hard- variable proper names, eg for family and place names, too. This applies both to the sequence of letters that can differ ( Günther vs. Günter ), as well as other manifestations of spelling as separate or coupled together and the letters with or without a hyphen (see Neubrandenburg, New Luebbenau, Neu-Bamberg ). In many areas, the case is officially regulated and thus removed from the language change.

Occupy a special position proper names from other language areas. In language areas with their own system of signs, such as Cyrillic or Arabic, the names must be adapted to the local Graphemsystem (transcription and transliteration). While the proper names are used mostly unchanged from other language areas ( Pyotr, Vaclav ), there are many place names

A) double nominations, especially when the place name, which fall in early German -speaking area of ​​settlement ( Brno vs Brno). ;

B ) In rare cases, adjustments to the German typeface (Cairo, Brussels).

The fixing of a particular spelling of proper names in German applies to persons name since the 18th century as completed, in the place name since the late 19th century. A remarkable adaptation of the place name spelling was the substitution of K for the C (eg Cassel Cassel or Cologne → → Cologne, in both cases, the official change of notation, but was only during the Weimar Republic).

See also: Coupling

Morphology and word formation

The diffraction of words ( flexion) provides a way of distinguishing proper names and generic names where these are otherwise identical in shape ( the Finks vs. Finches ).

By deriving ( Derivation ) can of whole families of words arise proper names ( Russia → Russian, Russian, Russian ( language ), Russification, etc.). In most cases, the derivatives are regular. There are also a variety gewillkürter formations ( arbitrariness ), such as France → French; → Israel Israeli. Sometimes multiple derivations coexist (eg Jena and Jena ).

In the formation of nouns by composition with proper names, the coupling is often preferred hyphenated opposite of the usual coupled together. This is especially true when the proper name is orthographically not integrated ( Mekong offensive, but stay in Italy ) or the risk of misinterpretation could occur (Fischer ) initiative.

Categories of proper names

Proper names can be categorized on which type of object they denote:

  • The most common name carriers are safe people. For persons name ( Anthroponymen ), one can distinguish first and last names in many cultures. In earlier historical periods were also epithets and nicknames in use. A special kind of person name is the pseudonym ( as a cover or artist name) dar. proper names can not only real, but also fictional characters be resolved (eg " Anna Karenina ").
  • Also other living beings can own names are resolved. This is more likely the closer to us these creatures are ( a pet is most likely self- bearers of the name, a wasp or flower rather not );
  • Another large group are the place names ( toponyms ). These can be further subdivided into Dörfer-/Städtenamen, country names, river names, field names, and the like. Here you can expect the names of celestial bodies ( Astronyme ).
  • Carrier of proper names are also typically institutions.
  • Another large group are the product name.
  • In addition, there are other, but rather marginal categories of proper names carriers, such as events (such as the Second Punic War).


The outstanding syntactic peculiarities of proper names are:

  • The connection with determinative nouns in complex noun phrases
  • The other use of the article and other Determinativpronomina
  • The connection with prepositions to prepositional phrases

( Complexes) proper names in noun phrases

In the German first and last name of a person form a noun phrase, with the surname of the head of this noun phrase is (see: Karl Mueller new car ). The Determinativverhältnisse within these phrases are controversial.

In conjunction with a title usually the title is the head of the phrase ( on behalf of the Dean Professor Schmidt, mail for Mr. Karl Weber), in conjunction with a attribuierenden noun the proper name forms the head of the phrase ( Chancellor Schröder's trip to Iraq ) unless the proper names are used appositiv ( the journey of our Chancellor Schröder in Iraq ).

Proper name and use of articles

Proper names as well as generic names can be associated with an article and adjectives into a complex noun phrase. The specific tasks and indefinite articles are, however, different from the function which they have in common nouns. For the use of articles with proper names is to distinguish, especially if it concerns personal names, geographical names or other proper nouns.

Personal names

In standard German proper names are used in most cases without the article.

Should the person be attributed to a particular property, however, is to use the definite article ( " the young Goethe "). If the definite article before the surname related, it pushes either a derogatory attitude from ( " The Miller has once again his invoice is not paid " ) or a famous person out ( " the Callas sang "). At reenactments of a proper name of the item is mandatory ( you will actually loved by all who Sandra).

The use of the indefinite article before a persons name is allowed as an exception when the speaker has a specific meaning intention. It can be the proper name give by the use of the indefinite article an exemplary character ( A Margaret Thatcher would have since had no scruples ), a metaphorical use of the proper name Show ( John Major was just no second Margaret Thatcher ) or rejection or distance to express ( a Franz wanted to talk to you - suppressed with this: I do not ) know this Franz, highlight the modalisierenden use of a proper name ( a deeply disgruntled Margaret Thatcher left the meeting room ) or a whole clan designate ( a Weizsäcker has never been tried ).

The demonstrative article before proper names: a) makes a proper name the topic after it was introduced in a distancing way ( A Franz wanted to talk to you This Franz directed from you that he can not come to the sample ). ; b ) individuated a speaker when the speaker has to assume that the listener knows two speakers of the same name ( We have three miller in the club One comes from Bodelshausen, and that Mueller is national champion in wrestling become ). ; c ) marks a special relationship of the speaker to the support of the proper name (I can not stand these easy Müller ); d) can a particular aspect of the representative designated by the proper name entity highlight (do you know Leipzig perhaps from GDR times. This Leipzig there are certainly not more).

Geographical Names

The use of the article with geographical names is inconsistent. No item will be placed in front of city names. Country names are most often used without the article. However, there are some exceptions (eg, Iran, Maldives, Turkey, Mongolia, Switzerland). A neuter use of articles found here, however, will always take place if the city or the country is attributed to a property ("the beautiful Vienna " )

Names of rivers, oceans, stars and mountains on the other hand, always wear a particular item on.

Within the geographical names can be obtained by the use of the definite article therefore name classes differ ( Fulda (city), the Fulda (river) ).

Proper nouns and prepositions

In some marginal prepositions there seems to be sortal restrictions for proper names:

  • You can only go to Switzerland, and only to France. The exclusion of items without proper names as arguments of the directional preposition seems to be related to the fact that as a non-marked case the dative is understood - see, they traveled in France ( dated ), with case marking: they drove into northern France.
  • In conjunction with proper names the archaic meaning has survived from to: University of Cologne, to poor knight.
  • The departure time and arrival time of transport, by the combination of off and on with place names, but no article can be expressed (from Zurich at 11:17, at 17:33 Göttingen ).

Own name and meaning

The most obvious proper names and common nouns differ in terms of their importance. The prototypical proper name is used on a singular object ( a person, place, etc.) to give a lecture. The extension or the scope of meaning of the proper name is so tight. The more difficult and controversial in the scientific debate remains is to determine the conceptual content ( the intension ) of proper names. Some semanticists assume that proper names are empty of meaning and its function is limited to the reference ( the references ). Other semanticist postulate the opposite and subsume all the facts and circumstances that are expressible through the authority designated entity under the meaning of the proper name.

While the advocates of the position of the importance emptiness of proper names can not explain that with some proper names an albeit minimal importance of knowledge in the form of features is mediated - for example, is a person we designate by the name of Bernard, male - fail importance maximalists mind that they can at the meaning Description draw any precise limit and can not explain that may require a minimal knowledge of the bearer of a name is sufficient to use the name correctly (eg: " Goethe was a writer "→ I've never read something by Goethe ).

A compromise position between these two positions is that the knowledge of a proper name carrier from person to person can be very different, but must have a minimum common core, so that these people can communicate meaningful about these proper names support.

In the ideal-typical normal case, a proper name refers to one and only one object and a generic name is generic or several possible items.

However, ( Supposed ) proper names can also refer to several objects ( original ) generic name can refer to only one object; Some words can be simultaneously used as a proper name and a generic name:

  • " Proper name " as a generic name: In this high-rise is home to many miller.
  • " Generic name " as a proper name: the green bike in front of the door is mine.
  • Proper name and generic name: The sun is only one of many suns in the universe.

It is (partially) accepted that there are only minor differences between equity and common nouns, proper names have evolved from common nouns - except artificial proper names - and can be made ​​of proper names generic names.

Proper names and lexicography

There is consensus among lexicographers, that proper names are not treated as part sprachlexikographischer works. The knowledge of the carrier of proper names is mainly encyclopedic article proper names are only treated in sprachlexikographischen works if a) they have evolved through the generic use to appellatives or even lexical signs of other types of words (Zeppelin, Duden, X-ray, morse, canning ); b ) proper names, for example, physical quantities denote ( Beaufort; ohms); c ) the status as a proper name is unclear (Mittwoch, May).

In the mixed type of encyclopedic dictionary you will also describe proper names when they are characteristic eg for the local culture. Some conversion lexicons (eg Larousse ) have separate departments for terms and proper names. There are special names dictionaries; an important representative of this genus is the name book.


Metonomasie (Greek μετονομασία, renaming ) refers to the translation of a proper name in a different language.


  • At the time of humanism in the 14th - 16th Century many scientists translated their names into Greek or Latin, and so a kind of related pseudonym: Philipp Schwartzerdt: Philipp Melanchthon
  • Ludwig Bauer: Ludwig Agricola
  • Georg Pawer: Georgius Agricola
  • Christoph Rabe: Christoph Corvinus
  • Wilhelm Holzmann: Wilhelm Xylander
  • Fortezza Fortezza
  • Altenburg: Castelvecchio
  • Grünberg in Silesia: Zielona Góra