Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Names, Derivational Morphology, and Old English Gender

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Names, Derivational Morphology, and Old English Gender

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The paper argues that names constitute a primary linguistic category: they do not constitute a subclass of nouns. What have been regarded as formal devices for signalling "name-hood", "properness", and so on, are part of a language's derivational morphology. In this context, it argues that apparent "changes of gender" of Old English nouns are the product of a type of derivational (word-class changing) morphology.

1. Introduction

This paper is concerned with the categoriality of names. (1) It argues that names constitute a linguistic category, and that what have been regarded as formal devices for signalling "name-hood" are part of a language's derivational morphology. And it will include apparent "changes in gender" of Old English nouns as resulting from a type of derivational morphology.

By categoriality, I mean word-class status, specifically in terms of the notional grammar of e.g. Anderson (1997, 2007) and Bohm (1998). "Major word classes" are primary syntactic categories. Fundamental to a notional grammar is the assumption that the morpho-syntactic distribution of members of a primary category is not semantically arbitrary. Both position and morphological expression are manifestations of the semantically-based category of a word. Such distribution is therefore not "criterial" for word-class status: rather it can be understood only in terms of the semantic bases of the elements that constitute syntactic structures.

Crucially, it is the semantics of prototypical members of a category that determine the morpho-syntactic characteristics of that category. Prototypical verbs, as "doing words", take arguments, for instance. Nouns, which prototypically denote stable entities, can function in the syntax as arguments (e.g., "subject", "object"). The secondary categories which may be associated with primary ones also follow from the semantics of prototypical category members. So verbs are associated with the secondary category of tense (which allows an event denoted by the verb to be "timed"). Nouns are associated with classifying secondary categories such as gender, and with cases which correlate with the argument-function of a noun. Distinctions within these secondary categories, such as "past"/"non-past", or "masculine"/"feminine"/"neuter", are secondary features: features of secondary categories. Association of certain secondary categories with names will contribute to their categorial classification [section][section] 4.3, 4.4., and to the account of gender change as derivational morphology in [section] 5 below.

2. Name and noun

An assumption has prevailed, and continues to do so, that names belong to the same category as nouns, echoing the tradition familiar to many that "a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing". By this traditional categorial definition, the name Peter, the name Rome, the name house all belong to the word-class (category) "noun" (all nouns are "names", and all "names" are nouns). Within this category are then distinguished "proper" names (personal and place) and "common" names. These terms, as well as "proper" noun vs. "common" noun embody the theoretical claim just stated: that a name is a noun. Gary-Prieur (1994: 243), for instance, invokes "la grammaire traditionelle, qui presente N[om]p[ropre] et N[om]c[ommun] comme deux categories lexicales subdivisant celle du nom". Anderson (2007: [section][section] 1.2, 6.2.2) offers a representative survey of works embodying such an assumption.

I have the impression that those of us who regard ourselves in some sense as "onomasts" have been beguiled by this prevalent assumption into focussing attention on a limited part of the grammar of a language, in attempts to distinguish "proper" from "common" names/nouns. This is given explicit and implicit attention in, for instance, many papers from The 21st International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (e. …

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