Let's say I am citing a person called Emilia Di Martino. How would she go in my MLA reference list?

Possibilities I can think of:

Martino, Emilia di.
Martino, Emilia Di.
Di Martino, Emilia.

And how would I refer to her work inline?


One thing to keep in mind is that there is a substantial difference in several continental languages between uppercase and lowercase versions of a last name: it is wrong to write "de Martino" if the person's last name is normally written "De Martino." This is a historical artifact, where the use of the capital letter indicates nobility, while the lowercase letter denotes a more traditional relationship. Similar rules apply to "von" in German and "van" in Dutch, but not to "de" in French or Spanish.

Therefore, when capitalized, the particle should always be treated as part of the last name. If lowercase, you can treat it as a suffix that goes after the first name. The exception are names like "de Gaulle" where "de" is followed by a one-syllable name.

So, it's:

Beethoven, Ludwig van

Clausewitz, Carl von

de Gaulle, Charles

Di Martino, Emilia

Martino, Emilia di

Maupassant, Guy de

Van Allen, James

My source is the MLA Handbook.

  • 7
    Following this rule requires that you know the nationality of the author, or at least their last name. My Dutch colleague Mark de Berg is properly alphabetized under B, but my British colleague Vin de Silva is properly alphabetized under D. (Yes, his last name starts with a lower case letter.) – JeffE Jan 4 '14 at 1:20
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    You'll have to take it up with the MLA, then. It's their rule, not mine. – aeismail Jan 4 '14 at 9:06
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    I am afraid that the upper/lower case rule for “de/di” in Italian surnames is expressed backwards here. To quote linguist Luca Serianni, «si oscilla con de, di che propriamente richiederebbero la d minuscola quando introducono un predicato nobiliare: duchi d'Alba, Antonio di Rudini; la D negli altri casi: Di Maria, De Amicis» («the use is irregular as regards de, di, which properly would require a lower d when prefixing a nobility title: dukes d'Alba, Antonio di Rudini; a D in all other cases: Di Maria, De Amicis»). – DaG May 3 '15 at 8:47
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    And anyway, giving a general answer encompassing arbitrary languages is doomed to be wrong: every language has its rules. – o0'. May 3 '15 at 13:32

I searched her name in Google Scholar and the first paper "CLIL implementation in Italian schools..." includes a footnote on how to cite it:

Di Martino, E. & Di Sabato, B. ...

So, in short "Di Martino" is the surname and cite/use it as such.

  • How do you know that this is not another house style that's been used? Are you sure this is MLA? – Bram Vanroy Jan 3 '14 at 18:44
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    In this case, it doesn't matter, because "Di" is an inseparable prefix (as opposed to "di"). But see my answer below for more information. – aeismail Jan 3 '14 at 19:13
  • @bram-vanroy's You are right to note that I did not check the MLA (read the question so quickly that I missed that part!) so my answer was not regarding the MLA style, but rather regarding how the author considers her surname should be written. – cabad Jan 3 '14 at 22:20
  • An answer by Dave that should have been a comment: "The "Google" result has nothing to do with the author's preferences necessarily!" – Tommi Nov 15 '18 at 9:16
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    @TommiBrander Dave should read better before critiquing other people's answers. I did not say "Google" suggests citing it that way. I said I Googled the author and downloaded one of her papers AND, the paper, written by her, clearly indicates how to cite the paper. – cabad Nov 16 '18 at 17:06

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