My mind, my thoughts, my words

La Gina

ginaI’ve been wanting to write this post for more than three months, and I wish I had done it earlier because now I have not only less time than before, but it’s also longer ago so remembering the details is a little harder. Well, let’s give it a try…

I spent part of my summer holidays on a farm in Spain. Among other things, I looked after the kids, Kata (2 years) and Pippa (9 months). As soon as Kata had grasped my name she would call me “La Gina” (my name is Gina and “la” is the feminine definite article in Spanish) even though no-one else ever called me so, and generally no-one ever used the definite article with a personal pronoun (at least in my presence). She didn’t use the article for any other personal names. She never simply said “Gina”, she used the article throughout until I left. How come?

The usage of the definite article with a personal name is fairly common in some languages; a couple of German dialects use it in colloquial speech, sometimes when talking to children, or to clarify or emphasise (e.g. “Ich bin die Gina” (I’m the Gina), “Nein, das ist der Klaus” (No, that’s the Klaus)), Austrian German uses it pretty much all the time and in Catalan it is not only used for forenames, but also surnames. In Spanish however, it is not very common (Demello, 1992). So this doesn’t really explain Kata’s usage of the definite article with my personal name.

Possible explanations then…

  • Articles generally precede given names (especially female ones) in northern Italy (Meyer-Lübke, 1890), Kata’s left over universal grammar made her use the article with my Italian name.
  • Her parents or other people around her did/do sometimes use the article with personal names and she just spontaneously decided to use it for my name, cos it just sounds fancy!
  • She thought my name was not a ‘personal name’ but a ‘proper noun’ (such as ‘computer’, ‘internet’ etc)… does that mean she saw me more as a ‘thing’ than a human being? Oh dear… well, or
  • She found me particularly nice and wanted to let me know how special and unique I was for her by equipping my name with a definite article.

Any more suggestions?

Obviously, I’d go for latter point.


Demello, G. (1992), El artículo definido con nombre propio de persona en el español hablado culto contemporáneo. Studia Neophilologica, 64(2), 221-234.

Meyer-Lübke, W. (1890). Grammatik der romanischen Sprachen / von Wilhelm Meyer-Lübke. Leipzig: Fues’s Verlag (R. Reisland), 1890-1902.

2 comments on “La Gina

  1. d.m.t.arnold

    How was she phonetically saying your name?
    Like this: [la.d?i?n?]?

  2. Gina

    yes, just like everyone else

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This entry was posted on 15/10/2011 by in Academia, Linguistic Musings, Psychological Issues and tagged , , .
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