When I create a bibliography, do infixes of names always go with the surname as follows?

Van de Sompel, Herbert

van Leeuwen, Theo

The examples come from bibliographies I have within my collection where this style is used. My question is more about whether this claim is generalizable. More precisely, are there differences between different style guides or depending on the background of the name?

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    I have a 100 page book on this sort of issue, which basically boils down to "Its complicated". – Lyndon White Nov 12 '15 at 1:38
  • This might not directly relate to the question, but if you use LaTeX for bibliography management, you could use the tilde glue (~) as a work around if the BST file doesn't mitigate this. E.g, van~de~Sompel, Herbert. – Ébe Isaac Nov 12 '15 at 5:46

Unfortunately, it's complicated. The proper organization and alphabetization of names is dependent on the identified nationality of the person in question. Thus, a German "van" name is handled differently than a Dutch "van" name. It may change further again upon immigration, e.g., Americans of Dutch or German origin typically follow English conventions or even remove the space.

Here is a nice guide to navigating these muddy waters, as well as a question from the German Language SE.

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This answer may be a little disappointing, but I’ll give it a try:

I assume that the author’s name is [First Name] [infix] [Surname] (omitting other possible pecularities for simplicity’s sake) and you want to decide between the following ways of citing:

[infix] [Surname], [First Name]
[Surname], [First Name] [infix]

Obviously, your question boils down to whether the infix is considered to belong to the surname or the first name, i.e., whether the first name is [First Name] [infix] or the last name is [infix] [Surname]. Now, in all European cultures/languages that I am aware of, such infixes go with the surname. Moreover, I am not aware of anything comparable in other cultures.

Now, I cannot possibly know every styleguide, but given the influence of European cultures on academia, I do not expect many to group the infix with the surname as a default or general rule. Going by this answer, at least some seem to do this, however. Moreover, the bibliography software BibTeX considers every non-capitalised part in a name a prefix to the surname by default.

However, if there is a culture in which such an infix does not belong to the surname, I would consider it appropriately to group it differently. As already mentioned I am not aware of any culture that does this (but you could probably ask for this on Linguistics).

What is much more problematic than listing is sorting, i.e.: do you ignore the infix when sorting or not? Even for a given language, there may be different approaches to this. You could devise some complicated rules here that treat names differently depending on their origin, but I consider this a horrible idea: As you cannot expect readers to be familiar with those rules, not using a consistent approach for all languages here is a disservice to them, as they are more likely to search entries at two positions. After all, facilitating the look-up of entries is why we bother with sorting in the first place.

Finally, note that infixes may also occur in between two parts of the last name, e.g., in the German surname Schmoll genannt Eisenwerth.

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  • My recollection of the Amsterdam phone book is that, while the infix goes with the last name, they were ordered by the last name itself with the infix following the last name. – Jon Custer Nov 12 '15 at 2:06

Now, in all European cultures/languages that I am aware of, such infixes go with the surname.

That's incorrect. Examples, all from the Chicago Manual of Style, 16e, 16.71:

Beauvoir, Simone de

Costa, Uriel da

Keere, Pieter van den

Kooning, Willem de

La Fontaine, Jean de

Medici, Lorenzo de’

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  • 1
    Those examples are not counterexamples to the quoted claim. Neither of these infixes are considered part of the first name. Simone de Beauvoir’s father was Georges de Beauvoir; Willem de Kooning’s father was Leendert de Kooning; and so on. What this example does demonstrate is that there are style guides which prefer to ignore the semantic grouping when splitting names (which is pretty silly in my opinion, in particular “La Fontaine, Jean de”). – Wrzlprmft Mar 21 '16 at 19:25

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