The proprial article and the semantics of names

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Patrick Muñoz


The proprial article is a functional item that occurs in a number of languages alongside names to the general exclusion of other nouns. In the following I present an account of the semantic function of this article, and how it interacts with names as nouns to form referential expressions in argument position. In particular, I suggest that in line with what a number of researchers have claimed, names generally are count nouns in the lexicon, denoting the property of bearing the name in question. The proprial article then composes with name NPs of a certain sort to yield proprial DPs that rigidly denote individuals, which are presupposed to bear the name in question at their world of use. It follows that ordinary referential names in argument position are not definite descriptions, as related approaches to the semantics of names often suppose, and that the proprial article is a functional element distinct from the definite article. This schema is applied to DP languages with article systems generally: all such languages are taken to have the proprial article, whether it appears overtly or covertly, and to make use of proprial DPs for reference using names. The machinery used further allows for a model-theoretically precise and intuitively compelling characterization of name-bearing.

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