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I was talking to a native German speaker and he tends to introduce himself like this:

Ich bin der Philipp.

Why "der"?

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I thought you were female ;p – Em1 Feb 20 '12 at 9:18
cf. Zwiebelfisch – musiKk Feb 20 '12 at 10:40
@musiKk Which nicely highlights the issue: no matter the of regional differences, the version including article sounds like inarticulate baby-talk to people who are not used to it (as in: this is how people talk to small children). – Konrad Rudolph Feb 20 '12 at 10:45
Genau hierzu gibt es in der aktuellen Umfragerunde im Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache eine Frage (Nr. 2) :-) – Jan Feb 20 '12 at 12:57
This answer discussing remnants of the Vocative in German might be an interesting read in this context. – fifaltra Dec 31 '13 at 12:59

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

@Geziefer is right. It is more common in the South to add the article whereas the North left it out. I (West Germany) use the article, too.

I want to add some further thoughts. I copy the example

Das gehört dem Alex.

Imagine there are more than one Alex and you point at one of them and say that sentence. Now you emphasizes to whom exactly it belongs.

But note in your question's example it is a bit odd as the following excerpt highlights:

"Hallo, ich bin der Daniel", sagte Daniel. "Und du bist die Barbara, stimmt's?" Die Reaktion fiel nicht ganz so euphorisch aus, wie Daniel erhofft hatte. "Ich heiße Barbara!", stellte die Angesprochene richtig, "ob ich die Barbara bin, hängt davon ab, was du dir unter der Barbara vorstellst. Es gibt allein in dieser Stadt mehrere hundert verschiedene Barbaras. Um sicher zu sein, dass ich die eine bestimmte bin, die dir vorschwebte, als du mich ansprachst, müsste ich wissen, wie du die Barbara definierst!" SPIEGEL

In the Alex-example you can also differentiate between two people with different sex but same name (Alexandra, Alexander).

Das gehört der Alex(andra).

In addition to that another excerpt:

[...] Es sei denn, man ist in einer Kita, einer Kindertagesstätte. Dort wird jedes Kind mit einem "der" oder "die" versehen. Dies macht es den Kindergärtnerinnen leichter, sich das jeweilige Geschlecht ihrer Schützlinge zu merken. Bei Vornamen wie Eike, Kim, Dominique, Marian, Kersten, Elia, Yael oder Sidney ist schließlich nicht für jeden gleich ersichtlich, ob sich dahinter ein Junge oder ein Mädchen verbirgt. [...] SPIEGEL

Some people won't like it if you add a die in front of their name (or leave out):

  1. (Die) Diana vs (Die) Jana

  2. (Die) Diana vs (Die) Anna

"Es heißt nicht die Jana, sondern einfach nur Jana." SPIEGEL

Denn wenn sie sich als "Diana" vorstellt, verändert das bayerische Ohr das automatisch in "die Anna". SPIEGEL

Just for your information: In some region female person are neuter ;p

Im Rheinland und Umgebung werden Frauennamen traditionell mit dem bestimmten sächlichen Artikel ("dat") versehen: dat Gerda, dat Uschi, dat Chantal. SPIEGEL

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In Saarland, we say "es Gerda" ... or even "s Gerda". – hmundt Feb 20 '12 at 9:12
@hmundt Correct, it is also given on Spiegel but I omit it in my summary. – Em1 Feb 20 '12 at 9:17
Lol, Bastian Sick is pretty entertaining - but should be treated with caution by learners. His column is series of highly opinionated and satirical comments on German usage aimed at fellow OCD-sufferers (and I include myself here :) - He has definitely got to be kidding when he talks about Kitas. Both reasons for the usage of articles with the kid's first names are utter bollocks imo. As far as I can see, it is just something people do. He's right about the North-South distinction, but fails to notice the connection of the examples, the student story and the Kita thing. [...] – Mac Feb 20 '12 at 9:43
[...] Both cases come from a demographic with a stereotypical use of language. Even more so if my suspicion is correct that they are 100% made up. The use of the definite article is used very frequently in comedy as a marker for a overly PC and socially/ecologically conscious character (in German the stereotypical SozPäd student). So - Sick is often right and often has good points, but he's an entertainer, not a scientist. :) – Mac Feb 20 '12 at 9:48
I agree that he often brings up good points - the problem I have with many of his answers is that he never distinguishes between research and things he's made up. There are a lot of Germans who think he's the last word on language usage and take his word for everything. – Mac Feb 20 '12 at 10:37

Just wanted to add: I live in west Germany and I know many people who say this (including myself). So I wouldn't say that this is not common here.

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Of course, if someone introduces himself, it should be (but not always ;-) obvious which gender is appropriate - but here it's something regional, if one uses the article when speaking of ones name.

This difference occurs even more clearly when speaking about someone, so for example you can say

Das gehört Alex. Kommt Alex heute mit?


Das gehört dem Alex. Kommt der Alex heute mit?

I personnaly use the latter form, but you'll find both versions.

On a not-able-to-show-references basis, I would say that using the article is more common in the south; not using it, in the north of Germany.

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Geziefer and Em1 are right - it's primarily a North-South thing.

In my experience this has little to do with real practical reasons - the clarification thing Em1 mentions feels like something entirely different to me (it also is always characterized by a strong emphasis on the article which isn't there in the usage you're referring to, Gigili).

Another distinction is a social rather than geographical one: there's a stereotype that overly PC and socially/ecologically conscious people talk like that (cf. "Ich bin der Martin, ne?".

Also, it appears to be a feature of kiddie-talk: "Das sag ich dem Papa!" (a threat to tell Daddy about something) sounds much more stereotypical (and 'younger') than "Das sag ich Papa!"

(Educators - at least according to the stereotype - fall in both categories :))

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