Common names and proper nouns: Morphosyntactic evidence of a complete nominal paradigm

Samuel Jambrović


The terms "common noun" and "proper name" encode two dichotomies that are often conflated. This paper explores the possibility of the other combinations—"common name" and "proper noun"—and concludes that both exist on the basis of their morphosyntactic behavior. In support of common names, inflectional regularization is determined to result from a "name" layer in the structure, meaning that common nouns that regularize are, in fact, common names (computer mouses, tailor’s gooses). In support of proper nouns, there are bare singular count nouns in English that receive definite interpretations and seem to be licensed as arguments by the same null determiner as proper names (I left town, she works at home). Not only does a four-way distinction between nouns, names, proper nouns, and proper names achieve greater empirical coverage, but it also captures the independent morphosyntactic effects of [PROPER] and [NAME] as features on D and N, respectively.


proper names; bare nouns; allomorphy; regularization; determiners; reference; compounds; roots

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