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Wiktionary:Votes/pl-2011-12/Merging proper nouns into nouns

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Merging proper nouns into nounsEdit

  • Voting on: Merging nouns and proper nouns. Details:
    1. The POS headers ===Noun=== and ===Proper noun=== will be unified into a single header for all nouns, using the existing name ===Noun===.
    2. Proper nouns will also be categorized together with other nouns in Category:English nouns, Category:Russian nouns and so on, and not in their own category (Category:English proper noun et al.). Categories for various specific kinds of proper names, such as surnames, male and female given names, cities, rivers, etc., are not affected.
    3. The fact that a particular sense is (chiefly or solely) that of a proper noun may be indicated with a context tag (e.g. {{context|proper noun}}). This will, however, not be necessary in most cases, as the sense often either obviously mandates properness (such as with placenames, although all of them can theoretically also be used metonymically) or all such senses as the one in question have both proper and common noun aspects (as with demonyms, which are usually common when in the singular or when used with numbers, but proper when used to refer to). As a general rule, the context tag will not be required (or recommended) for simple given name, surname, placename, or language senses, such as e.g. # {{given name|male}}, # {{surname}}, # The capital city of the United Kingdom, # A North Germanic language, the national tongue of Iceland), but might be useful for senses that less obviously make the noun a proper noun, or to contrast with a similar common noun sense (which might be specifically marked as such as well). For difficult borderline cases, such as Monday, no tag should be used, but a usage note explaining the different usage and context is strongly recommended. To recap: the default is no tag, but if a given sense is proven to be proper and the editor deems it necessary (and the sense does not fall under the cases described above except in exceptional circumstances), a context tag ({{context|proper noun}}) may be used.
    4. Wiktionary:Entry layout explained and Wiktionary:Entry layout explained/POS headers and any other relevant policy and guideline pages should be modified in accordance with this new policy (only minor adjustments will be required).
  • Rationale:
    1. Many nouns that are chiefly proper nouns can be used intuitively as common nouns and vice versa, and in some cases the principal quality is unclear, e.g. names of days, demonyms, surnames, and even given names (to varying degrees in different languages)
    2. The entry structure can be simplified where there were previously two POS headers for what is arguably the same word, grouping the related senses together, even though one of them usually makes the noun proper while the other does not (e.g. Egyptian, language vs. person from Egypt)
    3. The distinction between proper and common seems mostly semantic rather than lexical, although it has a certain, limited, effect on word usage (e.g. allowing the dropping of articles in English), and therefore belongs in the definition line (much as transitivity in the case of verbs); in most cases, however, it is obvious whether the noun in question is proper or not
    4. Although, as previously mentioned, nouns can behave slightly differently when in a proper sense (“Christian has passed away.” vs. “A Christian has passed away.”), the feature demonstrated here (dropping of indefinite article) is not unique to proper nouns, being shared by mass nouns, such as sugar.
    5. Proper nouns and common nouns cannot be clearly split into separate lexical categories, as the individual words can often be both common and proper nouns
    6. Languages which use indefinite articles (most notably the main West Germanic and Romance languages) make some distinction in usage, as mentioned above. This is, however, mostly for semantic reasons (indefinite article specifically marks a word as unspecific and non-unique, in contradiction to a proper noun sense). Additionally, there are differing degrees to which the definite article is normally used with proper nouns (although sometimes it is even required, as with e.g. the Thames). With proper nouns that require a definite article, that usage is explicitly stated already, and should continue to be so. With proper nouns that are mostly used without a definite article, the conventions associated with that word, it's general class (placename, etc.), or the language it belongs to, need to be discussed in a usage note or in the appropriate language appendix anyway.
    7. Many languages don't distinguish in any syntactic way between common and proper nouns, such as languages which don't have indefinite articles, e.g. most (if not all) Slavic languages (Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Czech, Russian, etc.), Latin (well, Classical Latin, anyway), Chinese, Japanese, and more; the specific proper noun header makes even less sense for these languages.
  • Vote starts: 00:01, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Vote ends: 23.59, 29 January 2012 (UTC)


  1.   Support Brett 01:15, 1 January 2012 (UTC)--Brett 01:15, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
  2.   Support Ivan Štambuk 21:17, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
  3.   Support —Stephen (Talk) 06:35, 5 January 2012 (UTC) They’re already marked by capitalization...unnecessary duplication. —Stephen (Talk) 06:35, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    Sorry, but that makes no sense. As I'm sure you're aware, plenty of common nouns are also capitalized. Unless you're suggesting that we move [[American]] to [[american]] to avoid marking it as a proper noun, capitalization doesn't serve this purpose. —RuakhTALK 13:48, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    As far as I’m concerned, American is a proper noun (unless you’re talking about the adjective). It shouldn’t be a proper noun, but then neither should many other nouns that are called proper nouns. —Stephen (Talk) 15:46, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    That's . . . wow. So I guess you would say that in German, all nouns are proper nouns (because they're capitalized), while in Hebrew and Arabic, no nouns are (because there are no capital letters)? I can certainly see why you'd want to get rid of the header, then. —RuakhTALK 16:07, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    German is not English. All German nouns are capitalized. As far as I’m concerned, very few Arabic nouns are proper nouns, except for the ones that have been borrowed from other languages, like company names. —Stephen (Talk) 16:20, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    @Stephen G. Brown, this vote doesn't only concern English though, it concerns all languages, including German and Arabic. Mglovesfun (talk) 16:30, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    I know what this vote concerns. Applying the English concept of proper nouns to all languages is foolish and serves no useful purpose. It isn’t even of much use in English, since English capitalization already distinguishes them sufficiently. —Stephen (Talk) 17:02, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    This vote proposes to take the choice away from editors by forcing them to use noun instead of noun and proper noun. So you're advocating having your own hands tied. There's nothing stopping us looking into the rules for distinguishing nouns from proper noun for each individual language. Unless/until this vote passes, when it does such discussions will be irrelevant to the main namespace. Mglovesfun (talk) 17:06, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    I’m advocating nothing of the sort. You do not comprehend what I am saying. —Stephen (Talk) 17:08, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    Doesn't really matter what you advocate! That's what the vote's on. Mglovesfun (talk) 17:11, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    Then why are you droning on and on with your interminable nonsense? —Stephen (Talk) 17:15, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    He's not writing nonsense. You have voted in support of a proposal to forbid a ===Proper noun=== header from being used in any language. You then say that you're "advocating nothing of the sort", as though it were your advocacy, rather than your vote, that were under discussion. —RuakhTALK 18:25, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
    (re: "American" and capitalization as proper-nounhood indicator): Stephen, do you say that "Frenchman" (A man of French birth or nationality) is a proper noun in your book? --Dan Polansky 15:08, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
    @Dan Polansky: Yes. @Ruakh: Do you mean that you think that my denying that I am advocating having my own hands tied means that this discussion is about my advocacy that my own hands are tied? If that’s what you think, then it follows that if I had agreed and said that, yes, I am advocating having my own hands tied, then that would have meant that this discussion is about the vote and not about my advocacy of having my own hands tied. If you really think like that, you and I are on completely different wavelengths and I have no idea what is going on inside your head...and you don’t understand me any better. But if you don’t think like that, then I cannot imagine why you said it. —Stephen (Talk) 10:36, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    I'm sorry, but now you're talking nonsense. If I say, "Red is a color", it follows that I think we're talking about red and/or about colors; and if I say, "Red is not a color", then it still follows that I think we're talking about red and/or about colors. If I didn't think we were talking about red or about colors, then I wouldn't say either of these things. Capisce? —RuakhTALK 14:22, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Ranking "Frenchman" as a proper noun is very surprising to me. I do not know what definition and what detection criteria you are using for proper nouns, but it seems that, in your book, any English word that is capitalized is a proper noun by definition, other than those appearing in multi-word proper names and other than those that start a sentence. I wonder whether you have checked your view against some external academic sources, that is, whether there are academic sources that share your view that "Frenchman" (or "Englishman") is a proper noun. I find it fairly obvious that "Frenchman" is a common noun. One source agreeing with me: 'The rule that nouns derived from proper nouns begin with a capital, often leads children to assume that such common nouns as "Englishman" and "American" are themselves proper nouns.' in School Management and Methods of Instruction by George Collar, Charles W. Crook, 1905. --Dan Polansky 11:24, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    You may be confusing different things. I don’t mean that I believe Frenchman is a proper noun, I only mean that I consider that English treats it as a proper noun. As far as I’m concerned, nationalities are not proper nouns, language names are not proper nouns, days of weeks and months of the year are not proper nouns. But in my opinion, English treats them all as proper nouns. —Stephen (Talk) 12:27, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── What are the ways in which English treats "Frenchman" as a proper noun? English has "I saw a Frenchman" with an indefinite article, which is a standard use of the word, typical for common nouns and untypical for proper nouns. (Proper nouns can be rarely used with an indefinite article, but that is a use atypical of them.) Furthermore, "There were some Frenchmen" is a pluralization typical of common nouns and untypical of proper nouns, it is a pluralization typical of "Frenchman" rather than being its unusual use. (You can speak of "Martins", but that is an atypical or uncharacteristic use of a proper noun.) I am constraining my focus on words that refer to individual people by their nationality, excluding "Monday", "April" and the like from the discussion.--Dan Polansky 13:18, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Capitalizes it. —Stephen (Talk) 13:38, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    But then you are using only a single indicator of something's being a proper noun: capitalization, disregading every other indicator. What is your source of the assertion that capitalization is the sole and reliable indicator of something's being a proper noun?
    By contrast, User:EncycloPetey/English_proper_nouns correctly (IMHO anyway) lists several heuristic (unreliable) indicators of something's being a proper noun: it has its initial letter capitalized, it is not used in the plural (beware of "Martins"), it is not preceded by adjectives, articles, numerals, demonstratives, or other modifiers (beware of "The Thames"), it has a unique referent (beware that "Martin" refers to many individuals via reuse of the name but not via shared characteristics of the individuals). --Dan Polansky 13:46, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    That’s right. It’s what I learned in school many years ago. Why do you feel it is so important? I don’t create these entries in English and I don’t edit the English once written. The fact that I learned them as proper nouns has no effect on anything. And all of those heuristics other than capitalization are merely hints. There are lots of Steves in this world. A Steve called and left a message. My uncle is called "Big Steve". Where are you going today, our Steve? This Steve is taller than that Steve. —Stephen (Talk) 14:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    It seems improbable to me that you have learned in school that all capitalized words are proper nouns: see my quotation from George Collar and Charles W. Crook above. If you try to find a book or an article, whether a school grammar or a proper academic source, that supports your thesis that all intra-sentence capitalized nouns are necessarily proper nouns, you'll find that it is very hard; I have found none. You have not demonstrated that capitalization is the main thing while the other indicators are mere hints. EncycloPetey has pointed out that philosophers were discussing what a proper noun is at the time at which English commonly capitalized also common nouns; it was proper nounhood that has driven the capitalization of some words to the exclusion of others later on, not the other way around.
    "A Steve called and left a message" is an atypical use of "Steve", possible but atypical. --Dan Polansky 14:55, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    I’m sure the books I used are no longer around. Again, why do you think it is so important that it deserves a gigantic discussion. I don’t create or edit these English entries, and we are not voting on how to recognize a proper noun, or on what kinds of nouns to consider proper. It is something that I learned over 50 years ago that has no effect on anything. —Stephen (Talk) 15:02, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    I think marking nouns as proper nouns is important, as proper nounhood drives the typical grammar, including lack of article and lack of pluralization. Yes, there are also atypical uses, as those you have mentioned with Steve, but these are not typical. "A Frenchman called and left a message" is a typical use of "Frenchman", while "Steve called and left a message" is a typical use of "Steve". And yes, there are many exceptions as regards the use of definite article, including "The Thames". The main reason I took issue with the statement that capitalization is a reliable marker of proper nounhood is that I find the statement blatantly false; I did not ponder too much about the practical importance of its falsity. A further reason why proper nounhood is of interest to this dictionary is that dictionaries often exclude proper nouns; proper nouns (which in Wiktionary parlance also include proper names) are subject to exclusion debate to an extent to which common nouns are not. Thus, having a category for proper nouns seems worthwhile, if only to see how many of them Wiktionary has. --Dan Polansky 15:16, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    That is a separate issue. Whether to mark proper nouns as proper nouns is one thing. Which nouns qualify as proper nouns is another thing. This vote is not about which nouns are proper nouns, it is only about whether to mark proper nouns as proper nouns. If it is decided that proper nouns are to continue to be marked as proper nouns, then it might be a good time to have a discussion about which English nouns are to be considered proper nouns. But this is not that vote...this vote is only about whether to continue to mark proper nouns as proper nouns. If it is decided to continue to mark proper nouns as such, and if you decided to hold a discussion about which English nouns to consider proper, I will not be taking part in that discussion, because I do not make those kinds of edits and I have no interest in the subject. You are engaging in a discussion over which nouns to consider proper at the wrong time, and you are engaging with the wrong person, because I don’t make those kinds of edits and I the topic is not of any interest to me. If you are going to continue with this off-topic discussion, as it seems you intend to do, I may have to save myself the time and effort of repeating the same thing over and over by cutting and pasting a pat reply. —Stephen (Talk) 15:34, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I think I don't understand you. The discussion started with your statement that "They[proper nouns]’re already marked by capitalization...unnecessary duplication". That statement appears to be an explanation of why you voted the way you did. I am arguing that this statement is false. If you thought the statement was unimportant, you did not need to make it, and you did not need to discuss it. If that statement--an explanation of your vote--would turn out to be false, your reason for voting as you did would no longer be there, so you would have to reconsider your vote. Thus, the discussed statement seems to be of some consequence. Feel free to consider this discussion over, as long as it seems pointless to you. --Dan Polansky 15:48, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Then you should have been discussing that statement instead of all of this other stuff. I find almost no advantage to separating noun and proper nouns. The only thing concerning nouns and proper nouns that pass CFI is capitalization. I don’t see that it is of any consequence in a dictionary whether proper nouns are somewhat less likely to take certain articles or adjectives. The only thing about them is whether or not they are capitalized. Due to the fact that our software alphabetizes upper and lowercase separately, the capitalization alone is sufficient to mark capitalization, and going the extra step of marking them (or some of them) as proper nouns is gilding the lily. I see no additional profit in doing that. The capitalization fully satisfies the needs related to this matter. By the way, this is yet a third discussion. This issue that you have belatedly brought up is whether marking proper nouns as proper nouns offers a meaningful and worthwhile advantage over what capitalization alone offers. My statement above reflects my feeling that there is little or no advantage to it. Marking proper nouns is not useful, and not marking them will not result in a loss. —Stephen (Talk) 16:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Re: "The only thing about them is whether or not they are capitalized". That is wrong. You have provided no source or any other argument to support your assertion that each capitalized intra-sentence noun is a proper noun. That assertion seems to be an unproven assumption of yours. I do not see what makes you think you are above external sources as regards the definition of "proper noun"; you seem to have redefined "proper noun" as an intra-sentence noun that is capitalized. That is your private definition, one that is of little use in a public discussion. --Dan Polansky 16:22, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    You are still trying to tie in the other discussion which is unrelated, as I kept telling you. It does not matter whether all capitalized nouns are proper nouns or if some capitalized nouns are not proper nouns. Almost all proper nouns are capitalized, although there are a tiny few that are not. The few that are not are an insignificant number. The only interesting thing about the capitalized nouns that pass CFI is that they are capitalized. I don’t think that it is meaningful in a dictionary whether proper nouns are somewhat less likely to take certain articles or adjectives. The only thing about them is whether or not they are capitalized. I see no additional advantage in marking the proper nouns as proper nouns, completely and utterly disregarding the definition of proper nouns that we use. The capitalization fully satisfies the needs related to this matter. I think that marking the proper nouns as proper, even if some capitalized nouns are not proper, is gilding the lily and unnecessarily duplicative. The assertion that each capitalized intra-sentence noun is a proper noun is unrelated to this, no matter how hard you try to connect them. What matters is whether there is any significant advantage to marking proper nouns as proper, and you are not offering a single advantage. I don’t think you can find any real advantage, because I believe there is none. —Stephen (Talk) 16:40, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Re a significant advantage to marking proper nouns as proper: I have already provided that significant advantage: the reader learns that these words are usually used without an indefinite article, are usually not pluralized, are usually not modified by an adjective. You seem to say that learning about that usual grammar is not a real advantage; here we can agree that we disagree. --Dan Polansky 16:48, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    I have already addressed the iffy questions of articles, adjectives and plurals several times here above. The only thing that you have said so far that I find interesting is that we can agree that we disagree. I can absolutely agree with that. —Stephen (Talk) 16:54, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    The questions are not iffy; they are neither "of dubious authenticity, legitimacy or legality" nor "uncertain or chancy". You try to refute my assertions about usual or default grammar by pointing out atypical uses, but that does not do. --Dan Polansky 17:10, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  4.   Support --Vahag 14:33, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
  5.   Support --Anatoli (обсудить) 03:26, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
  6.   Support Ƿidsiþ 10:40, 7 January 2012 (UTC) I'm indifferent, and open to argument, on points 2 and 3, but I am convinced on point 1 that this is the way to go and I will support the vote for that alone.


  1.   Oppose, for the various reasons I gave on the talk-page. I'm on board with the idea of covering English proper nouns under the ===Noun=== header, together with countable and uncountable common nouns, but I disagree with most of the details. I think we should keep Category:English proper nouns; I think we should consistently mark proper nouns using context labels and/or inflection-line notices; and I don't think we should apply a single vote to all languages without at least making explicit that some languages may be handled differently. (The cross-linguistic rationale strikes me as even poorer than the English-specific rationale.) —RuakhTALK 01:19, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
  2.   Oppose. At least, I don't think this should cover all languages willy-nilly, and don't agree with getting rid of the proper-noun category. See also the vote's talkpage.​—msh210 (talk) 19:40, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
  3.   Oppose. At least, I see no reason why Category:English proper nouns and its likes should be deleted; as I understand the proposed point 2, it proposes to delete that category. Merging part-of-speech headings could be okay. As an aside, I disagree with may statements made in the rationale, but that alone does not make me oppose. --Dan Polansky 08:20, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
  4.   I oppose points 2 and 3, as well as any application of point 4 that does not follow directly from point 1. Proper nouns frequently have common applications and vice versâ, as explicated at length by Ruakh (in his post on the talk page, timestamped: 19:04, 14 December 2011), which means that treating the two categories of noun under the same POS header makes sense; however, this does not mean that the distinction should be obliterated entirely (at least not in English). In English, the common–proper distinction matters and is natural; this may not be the case in other languages, and editors who work on those languages may consequently be right to reject the imposition of what is, in those languages, an artificial distinction. In the same way that Japanese ought not to be expected to do without its categories of noun distinguished by social context (see Eiríkr Útlendi's post on the talk page, timestamped: 17:51, 20 December 2011), so English ought not to eschew the long-established common–proper distinction. The ideal solution for English, I think, is for all kinds of noun to be treated under a single Noun POS header, but for common and proper senses to be marked as such consistently and in all cases with the use of {{common noun}} and {{proper noun}} context tags (this marking is mentioned in point 3, but where it dismisses such context tags as unnecessary in most cases, I would favour their universal use). I don't know what the ideal solution for other languages would be, but I suspect that this proposal, in its intended application to all languages, is misguided in its scope. — Raifʻhār Doremítzwr ~ (U · T · C) ~ 23:42, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
  5.   Oppose - -sche (discuss) 23:54, 5 January 2012 (UTC) for many of the same reasons as Ruakh
  6.   Oppose at least point 2. Point 1 should be decided, IMHO, on a per language basis, as posted on WT:Ax for each language x. If there have been discussions and votes on which kinds of proper nouns meet and which do not meet CFI, then it should be helpful to have proper noun categories. —AugPi (t) 16:00, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Also note that, it should be perfectly possible for a Proper noun in English to translate to a common Noun in another language, or vice versa: it should not be something to get hung up over. —AugPi (t) 16:20, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
    Points 1 and 3 could still be appealing, if only for aesthetic reasons such as: having all POS headers each consist of a single word. (Assuming this vote fails) that could be decided in a vote which excludes point 2. (Then, if that vote were to pass, there could later on be another vote for point 2). Concerning point 3, for English: a noun which is capitalized could be assumed to be proper, and if it were not to be, then that is when it would require a "common" context tag. —AugPi (t) 17:45, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  7.   Oppose. See my proposal on talk page. But note that all proper nouns may be used as common nouns without becoming common nouns (it's a figure of speech), and these usess normally do not justify a common noun entry. Lmaltier 17:51, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  8.   Oppose I think that the English noun forms should be merged. The vote needs rewriting (succinctly). —Saltmarshtalk-συζήτηση 07:29, 9 January 2012 (UTC)


  1.   Abstain Mglovesfun (talk) 16:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC). I quite like the idea in many ways, for the reasons set out in the introduction, but it has too many drawbacks for me to support it. It treats all languages the same, so it takes away the possibility of using Wiktionary:About [language] pages, also it does take away choice from all editors, as they can no longer use the proper noun header and categories. Furthermore I'd be more likely to support it if tags like {{context|common noun}} and {{context|proper noun}} were banned instead of encouraged. If you want to do away with discriminating between common nouns and proper nouns, do it 100% full on, not 95%. Mglovesfun (talk) 16:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  2.   AbstainInternoob 22:09, 20 January 2012 (UTC) Per MG.


  • Fails 6–8–2.​—msh210 (talk) 22:16, 30 January 2012 (UTC)