21.4355, Disc: Considerations on the Capitalization of Pronouns in English

Mon Nov 1 15:27:04 UTC 2010

LINGUIST List: Vol-21-4355. Mon Nov 01 2010. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 21.4355, Disc: Considerations on the Capitalization of Pronouns in English

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Date: 01-Nov-2010
From: Edward Wells II [ecw.the.2nd at gmail.com]
Subject: Considerations on the Capitalization of Pronouns in English

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 2010 11:25:42
From: Edward Wells II [ecw.the.2nd at gmail.com]
Subject: Considerations on the Capitalization of Pronouns in English

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Considerations on the Capitalization of Pronouns in the American English Language

Proper nouns have among their sources of their distinction the reference of a particular. Their distinction is denoted by the capitalization of their first letter. The connection between capitalization and singularity, or proper status, is a factuality that has likely become innate in the practice of their use. Perhaps it is a lack of active consideration of the language by its users that has led to long overlooking some aspects of further development within American English. Pronouns may be one area that has suffered such neglect. 

Capitalization is one of the facets of language that is more varied from language to language, and the rules defining capitalization are more liberal than other rules in American English. In some languages, such as German, all nouns are capitalized. In English the same practice was in place until around 1800. Today, capitalization is used more conservatively. Among the primary instances of capitalization are the beginning of a sentence and  in the case of proper nouns. 

It is a significant point that the words that are used as proper nouns are not used based on any meaning, but instead on the reference of a particular. In this way proper nouns function more like basic symbols than words whose definitions match the thing referenced. In some cases a name may be chosen because of an accepted meaning, but by definition that is not what classifies the name as a proper noun and merits the use of capitalization. Similarly, the use of a fitting noun to reference someone does not qualify the noun for proper status and does not merit capitalization. 

Pronouns are used in the place of proper noun phrases. They are in essence versatile symbols that stand in the place of these proper noun phrases. They share another quality with proper nouns as well. They are not relegated to the role of nouns selected based on meaning in the typical sense. In these ways they are quite similar to proper nouns that merit capitalization. Furthermore, there is little merit to an argument against proper pronouns based on their generic quality alone. This is aptly illustrated in the example of the many individuals that share the same name. In each case the noun is considered proper and capitalized despite the fact that the same word is used to refer to each particular. 

As the reader has likely noted, there are a good many similarities between pronouns and the proper noun phrases that they sometimes function in place of in American English. The similarities include a commonality of what they reference, but extend to the more subtle levels of a referencing that is not based on the matching of definition with subject, as in the case of common noun phrases. There is also a marked coincidence of grammatical placement among many personal pronouns and the noun phrases that they are used in place of. These similarities alone are not likely to be sufficient cause for the defining of new grammatical rules regarding the capitalization of pronouns, as there are similarities between many elements of language. What seems to be revealed in this research is that there is sufficient grammatical/linguistic allowance to begin capitalizing additional pronouns in American English. There also seems to be adequate merit for a scholarly discourse on the inception of "proper pronouns" or refining grammatical rules that distinguish which pronouns are capitalized. 

Solicitation of Specific Discussion:

-Has anyone carried out additional research or know of additional research relevant to the capitalization of pronouns in American English?

-Has anyone developed an opinion on this subject?

-Some may find that there are sociolinguistic aspects to both this topic and the implementation of such a shift in capitalization. What are your thoughts on those aspects and appropriate methods for instigating such a shift?

Edward Wells II
Please see the complete article with works consulted at Ling Forum dot com.

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

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