w08c Proper names in object position can have an article

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    Proper names in object position

    To code for all possibilities, and for ease of the task, there are four property definitions for proper names in object position:

    can be 'bare', must have an 'article', can have an 'article', must have a 'special article'

w08_c: Proper names in object position can have an article

This property is set to 'yes' if proper names in object position can:
(i)    occur with an “article” (or, if the language doesn’t have article, a phonologically weak, deictically unmarked demonstrative).
(ii)   (for languages without articles but with classifiers, noun classes, case, adpositional endings…) exhibits no structural alternation with noun phrases containing a definite singular count noun.

[ More contexts]

Elicitation contexts

I invited John
I saw Mary

Additional instructions

  1. This property applies only to proper names (I saw Mary), not to definite singular count nouns (I saw the girl)
  2. Please, do NOT use kinship nouns (like mum, dad, …) to test this property
  3. The proper name must be unmodified (no adjectives, no possessors, no relative clauses, no other modifiers …)
  4. [ More contexts]
  5. If there is more than one object position in your language, test this property for each position.
  6. [ More contexts]
  7. If you notice any difference between affirmative and negative contexts (i.e. I saw John vs. I didn’t see John), please comment (or contact us).



German is “yes” for this property. In vernacular, spoken varieties (often depending on the register), proper nouns in subject and objects can cooccur with an article (or be bare).

(i) ich habe den Hans Gesehen
1S.NOM have.S the.M.S.ACC Hans seen
I have seen Hans


Italian is “yes” for this property. In vernacular (spoken, non high-register) varieties, alternations between proper names occurring with and without articles are attested.
Example (i) shows a pattern widespread mostly in Northern Italy: in both object position, proper names of female individuals occur with an article (ia), while proper names of male individuals are bare (ib) (in some local areas of Northern Italy, proper names of male individuals take the article as well).

(i) (a) Ho incontrato Gianni al supermercato
have.PR.1s met John at.the.S.M supermarket
I met John at the supermarket
(b) Ho incontrato la Maria al supermercato
have.PR.1s met the Mary at.the.S.M supermarket
I met Mary at the supermarket

Example (ii) shows that the alternation is also visible with surnames of “distinguished” individuals.

(ii) (a) Ho letto Leopardi a scuola
have.PR.1s read.PRT Leopardi at school
I read Leopardi in school
(b) Ho letto il Leopardi a scuola
have.PR.1s read.PRT the.M.S Leopardi at school
I read Leopardi in school


English is “no” for this property. Proper names in subject and object position are always bare.

(i)     I met John

They cannot have an article.

(ii)    *I met the John

The following example does not lead to a “yes” setting:

(iii)   I met the John that you know


Greek is “no” for this property. Proper nouns in subject and object position must have an article.

(i) sinàntisa ton Jannis
meet.PST.1S the.ACC.SING John
I met John

They cannot be bare.

(ii) * sinàntisa Jannis
meet.PST.1S John
Intended: I met John

Contributed by: Cristina Guardiano and Hilda Koopman
Language Value Contributor Comments
  Words: Me frɛ -ɛ Kofi no
  Gloss: 1SG call –Pst Kofi Def
  Translation: I called that Kofi
  Comment: When a proper noun is used with the definite determiner, it has a derogatory interpretation.
  Contributor: AUGUSTINA OWUSU
  Words: Me frɛ -ɛ Kofi no mu.
  Gloss:  1SG call –Pst Kofi Def pl.
  Translation:  ‘I called Kofi and company.’
  Comment: When the proper name is used with a plural (associative plural) and a definite article, it is not derogatory. In spoken Akan, the no can be dropped.
  Contributor: AUGUSTINA OWUSU
  Words: ɔmmo gye -e Kofi no
  Gloss: 3PL collect - Pst Kofi Def
  Translation: ‘They accepted Kofi’
  Comment: It has a derogatory interpretation.
  Contributor: AUGUSTINA OWUSU
   Ancient Greek Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Armenian (Eastern) Yes Sona Haroutyunian
   Basaa NA Paul Roger Bassong
   Calabrian (Northern) Yes Giuseppina Silvestri
   Cantonese (Guangzhou) No Zixian Qiu
   Cypriot Greek No Marios Andreou
   Danish Not Yet Set Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Dida Lakota (diéko) No Gohon Fabienne Stéphanie Attéby
   Dutch No Hilda Koopman
   English No the property authors
   Faroese Yes Hjalmar Páll Petersen in dialects (Suðuroy) it is possible to have Eg sá John 'I saw John' and also Eg sá Johnin 'I saw John-the'. The same holds for subject position: Johnurin er her 'John-the is here'
   French No Hilda Koopman
   French (Ivorian) Yes Akpoué Josué
   Greek No Giorgos Spathas
   Greek (Calabria) No Cristina Guardiano
   Greek (Cappadocian) No Petros Karatsareas
   Greek (Homer) Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Hebrew (Biblical) No Massimo Gargiulo
   Italian Yes Cristina Guardiano
   Italian (Reggiano) Yes Giovanni Roversi Feminine names take the definite article; masculine names do not.
   Korean No Shin-Sook Kim
+ Kusaal Yes Hasiyatu Abubakari
  Words: N sa bᴐᴐl Asibi
  Gloss: 1sg PRT call Asibi
  Translation: I called Asibi yesterday
  Contributor: Hasiyatu Abubakari
   Latin No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Oluwanga (Eji) No Ceciliane Odangah
   Portuguese Yes Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Romanian Yes Monica Alexandrina Irimia
   Russian No Nina Radkevich
   Sicilian No Cristina Guardiano
   Spanish Yes Alejandro Rodriguez
   Teramano No Iara Mantenuto
   Tupi (Ancient) No Fabricio M. F. Gerardi
   Turkish No Sozen Ozkan
   Vietnamese No Jimmy Nguyen
   Wuhu Chinese Yes Zhuo Chen