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Waidner-Spahr Library

Citing Sources: Capitalization and Personal Names in Foreign Languages

Capitalization and Personal Names in Foreign Languages

This page contains reccomendations for writing personal names and for capitalizing in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. If you need information on romanizing from languages that do not use the Latin alphabet, such as Russian or Chinese, consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd ed.; New York: MLA, 2008; print; 3.6-7, 3.11)

All of the following samples are taken from:

The Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2009. Print

French

Personal Names

With some exceptions, especially in English-language contexts, French de following a first name or title such as Mme or duc is not used with the name alone.

Maupassant (Guy de Maupassant)
Nemours (Louis-Charles d'Orléans, duc de Nemours)

However, when the last name has only one syllable, de is usually retained.

de Gaulle (Charles de Gaulle)

The preposition also remains, in the form of d', when it elides with the last name also beginning with a vowel.

d'Arcy (Pierre d'Arcy)

The forms du and des- combinations of de with le and les- are always used with last names and are capitalized.

Du Bos (Charles Du Bos)

A hyphen is frequently used between French given names, as well as between their initials (Marie-Joseph Chénier, M.-J. Chénier) Note that M. and P. before names may be abbreviations for Monsieur 'Mr.' and Père 'Father' (M. René Char, P.J. Reynard)

 

Capitalization

In prose and verse, French capitalization is the same as English except that the following terms are not capitalized in French unless they begin sentences or, sometimes, lines of verse.

1. The subject pronoun je 'I'
2. The names of months and days of the week
3. The names of languages
4. Adjectives derived from proper nouns
5. Titles preceding personal names
6. The words meaning "street," "square," "lake," "mountain," and so on, in most place-names

There are two widely accepted methods of capitalizing French titles and subtitles of works. One method is to capitalize the first word in titles and subtitles and all proper nouns in them. This method is normally followed in publications of the Modern Language Association.

La chambre claire: Note sur la photographie

In the other method, when a title or subtitle begins with an article, the first noun and any preceding adjectives are also capitalized. In this system, all major words in titles of series and periodicals are sometimes capitalized.

La Chambre claire: Note sur la photographie

Whichever practice you choose or your instructor requires, follow it consistently throughout your paper.

German

Personal Names

German von is generally not used with the last name alone, but there are some exceptions, especially in English-language contexts, where the von is firmly established by convention.

Kleist (Heinrich von Kleist)

but

Von Trapp (Maria Von Trapp)

In alphabetizing a German name with an umlaut (the mark over the vowel in ä, ö, and ü), Germanists treat the umlauted vowel as if it were followed by an e; thus, Götz would be alphabetized as Goetz and would precede Gott in an alphabetical listing. Nonspecialists, however, and many libraries in English-speaking countries alphabetize such names without regard to the umlaut; in this practice, Götz would be alphabetized as Gotz and would therefore follow Gott in an alphabetical listing. Whichever practice you choose or your instructor requres, follow it consistently throughout your paper.

 

Capitalization

In prose and verse, German capitalization differs considerably from English. Always capitalized in German are all nouns- including adjectives, infinitives, pronouns, prepositions, and other parts of speech used as nouns-as well as the pronoun Sie 'you' and its posessive, Ihr 'your,' and their inflected forms.

Generally not capitalized are

1. The subject pronoun ich 'I'
2. The names of languages and days of the week used as adjectives, adverbs, or complements of prepositions
3. Adjectives and adverbs formed from proper nouns, except when the proper nouns are names of persons and the adjectives and adverbs refer to the persons' works or deeds

In letters and ceremonial writings, the pronouns du and ihr, 'you' and their derivatives are capitalized. In a title or subtitle, capitalize the first word and all words normally capitalized.

Thomas Mann und die Grenzen des Ich

Italian

Personal Names

The names of many Italians who have lived before or during the Renaissance are alphabetized by first name.

Dante Aligheri
Leonardo da Vinci
Michaelangelo Buonarroti

But other names follow standard practice.

Boccaccio, Giovanni
Cellini, Benvenuto

The names of members of historic families are also usually alphabetized by last name.

Este, Beatrice d'
Medici, Lorenzo de'

In modern times, Italian da, de, del, della, di, and d' are usually capitalized and used with the last name alone.

Da Ponte (Lorenzo Da Ponte)
Della Robbia (Andrea Della Robbia)

 

Capitalization

In prose and verse, Italian capitalization is the same as English, except that in Italian centuries and other large divisions of time are capitalized (il Seicento) and the following terms are not capitalized, unless the begin sentences or, usually, lines of verse:

1. The subject pronoun io 'I'
2. The names of months and days of the week
3. The names of languages and nationalities
4. Nouns, adjectives, and adverbs derived from proper nouns
5. Titles preceding personal names
6. The words meaning "street," "square," and so on, in most place-names

In a title or subtitle, capitalize only the first word and all words normally capitalized.

Bibliographia della critica pirandelliana

Spanish

Personal Names

Spanish de is not used before the last name alone.

Rueda (Lope de Rueda)

Spanish del, formed from the fusion of the preposition de and the definite article el, is capitalized and used with the last name alone.

Del Río (Angel Del Rio)

A Spanish surname may include both the paternal name and the maternal name, with or without the conjugation y. The surname of a married woman usually includes her paternal surname and her husband's paternal surname, connected by de. Alphabetize Spanish names by the full surnames (consult your sources or a biographical dictionary for guidance in distinguishing surnames and given names).

Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de
Matute, Anna María
Sinues de Marco, María del Pilar
Zayas y Sotomayor, María de

Even persons commonly known by the maternal portions of their surname, such as Galdos and Lorca, should be alphabetized by their full surnames.

García Lorca, Frederico

 

Capitalization

In prose and verse, Spanish capitalization is the same as English except that the following terms are not capitalized in Spanish unless they begin sentences, or, sometimes, lines of verse:

1. The subject pronoun yo 'I'
2. The names of months and days of the week
3. The names of languages and nationalities
4. Nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns
5. Titles preceding personal names
6. The words meaning "street," "square," and so on, in most place-names

Note: In a title or a subtitle, capitalize only the first words and words normally capitalized.

Brenes Tencio, Guillermo. “Lealtad y fidelidad: La proclamación del rey Fernando VII en Cartago, provincia de Costa Rica, 1809.” Fronteras de la Historia 14.1 (2009): 66-97. Historical Abstracts with Full Text. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Some instructors follow other rules. In the titles of series and periodicals, they capitalize all major words

Revista de Filología Española.