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When a word is capitalised in the middle of a sentence (not the beginning, not in the title, etc), is it necessarily a proper noun?

Do we have grammatical rules for capitalising a word, which is not a proper noun, in the middle fo a sentence?

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  • Three types of examples come to mind: each line of most poems; emphasis (I think usually seen in an ad, pamphlet, or brochure, but visit a corpus for validation); and quotes (although you might have meant to exclude that). I would say usually but not necessarily a proper noun. As I just observed in my own statement but Jason Bassford reported first, "I".
    – BillR
    Aug 7, 2019 at 23:26
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    I is not a proper noun, yet is is always capitalized. (I deleted my original comment because I'd commented on something else that I realized I shouldn't have.) Aug 7, 2019 at 23:52
  • See also: English Language Learners.
    – Kris
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:37
  • Wikipedia Proper Noun has some useful exception classes (although not exhaustive) and examples plus guidance. Wikipedia Manual of Style Capital Letters or a traditional style guide (Chicago, AP, MLA, etc.) might be more useful for rules but each addresses only a few of the many grey areas and they can conflict (compare "Mountain Bluebird" in the previous wiki citations). Rules also vary by region (US v. UK), subject (legal jargon is baroque, err, specialized), and era.
    – BillR
    Aug 15, 2019 at 2:58

1 Answer 1

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Not all capitalized words are proper nouns. Words in the middle of a sentence can be capitalized for various reasons. Jason Bassford pointed out that the first-person singular pronoun I is always capitalized, even though it is generally not classified as a proper noun. Some adjectives related to proper nouns are capitalized, such as French and Christian in the following sentence:

Points of narrative return and departure, they comprise fantasies of itineraries that the very French and very Christian subjects of the novel will make in the world at large.

("There's a New World Here: Pantagruel via Oronce Finé", by Tom Conley, in French Global: A New Approach to Literary History, edited by Christie McDonald and Susan Suleiman, p. 35)

The use of very makes it clear that these words are adjectives and not nouns in this context. (In other contexts, Christian can be a noun, as in the sentence "You are a Christian.")

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  • The same principle can be used to get some verbs (related to proper nouns) that are capitalized. Example: "For Englishing the play he'd take half the royalties and share my billing."
    – GEdgar
    Aug 10, 2019 at 13:31

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