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If Mills’ statement that “names have denotation, not connotation” was
correct, it would be utterly nonsensical to speak of truth in connection with
names. But, whether logicians like it or not, the meaning of names transcends
mere labelling. Speaking anecdotally, I named my daughter Isabel and not
XY23FO4, even though the latter would almost guarantee unequivocal
identification anywhere in the world and under any circumstance, while Isabel is
a comparatively common and thus potentially ambiguous name. Nevertheless, the
name Isabel has the important advantage that particular groups of people that
are likely to become relevant for my daughter throughout her life immediately
accepted this name as ‘normal’, ‘fitting’, ‘traditional’, but also
‘original’. Levi-Strauss (1962) provides ample evidence that names supply
the individual with a place in society and that they are chosen specifically
because of their connotations. For Frege (1892) it is, of course, clear that any
lexical item will have connotations, since it is necessarily part of a larger
(1962) argues further that the distinction between proper names and natural kind
terms is artificial and shows that both form a continuum: proper names are thus
used as the narrowest possible classifications, i.e. they denote natural classes
with ideally one member. Since proper names and natural kind terms are
conceptually related, it comes as no surprise that the latter are frequently
used as proper names, while the former are often expanded into class terms.
Again, examples abound and are provided in Levi-Strauss (1962).
consequence is to treat proper names and common nouns alike as abbreviations for
definite descriptions. If this was correct, an identifying description should be
substitutable for a name. As Burge (1973: 203) shows, this is not true for even
Russell’s minimal solution “the object called PN”, where PN stands for the
proper name in question: (14) is not equivalent to (15).
(14) Jones is necessarily a Jones.
This entity called ‘Jones’ is necessarily an entity called ‘Jones’.
Since a similarly contradictory statement can be produced
for any substituted definite description, Burge (1973) thus opts for viewing
proper names simply as predicates, leaving the exact implementation of truth
conditions up to extra-linguistic factors. The name O’Hara would thus be
interpreted as the predicate O’Hara(x), which has the truth condition “true
of any x just in case x is an O’Hara” (206). I will assume here that this
accurately describes the semantic contribution of proper names.
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© Philipp Strazny 1998
 It is often discussed whether proper names are part of a language or whether they transcend any given language system. I believe this misses the point, since any name in use will stand in a relation to the remaining language system used by the speaker. Thus, Frege’s assertion also applies to e.g. a Japanese name used by an English speaker conversing in Italian.