2018, Volume 15, Issue 3

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Eugenia E. Romanova
Institute of Philosophy and Law of the Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Science
Ekaterinburg, Russia

Dmitry V. Spiridonov
Ural Federal University
Ekaterinburg, Russia

Syntactic Features of Proper Names: The Generativist Approach(es) to Properhood

Voprosy onomastiki, 2018, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp. 7–35 (in English)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2018.15.3.027

Received 1 August 2018

Abstract: The paper presents an overview of the generativist approaches to the syntactic analysis of proper names which are only very little known in the field of onomastics. The authors start with the general outline of basic theoretical ideas of generative grammar pertaining to the syntactic nature of words and phrases, the nature of the determiner phrase, and the main issues of transformational semantic syntax. The authors further proceed to present the cornerstone theories related to proper names within the generativist paradigm: Giuseppe Longobardi’s idea of proper names as determiner phrase projections, followed by Hagit Borer who elaborated a detailed analysis of nominal functional sequences; Ora Matushansky’s analysis of constructions of naming and nominating, and its critique by Alexandra Cornilescu. The overview leads the authors to conclude that, although generativism does not offer a unified syntactic theory of proper names, in some respects it can be a more promising theoretical framework than constructivism which now constitutes the basis for the modern “pragmatic” theory of properhood. Unlike constructivism, generativism considers proper names as a part of universal grammar seeking for explanations that would have crosslinguistic relevance. However, the approaches discussed in this paper clearly demonstrate the contribution of the syntactic environment to the interpretation of a noun as a proper or common name, which is a strong argument in favour of the “pragmatic” theory of properhood. The authors show that the generativist framework may also be used in the future for creating a more comprehensive description of some specifically proprial syntactic constructions.

Keywords: theoretical onomastics, properhood, pragmatic theory of proper names, syntax of proper names, generative grammar, distributional morphology, nanosyntax, construction grammar


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