ESL speakers referring to their names using a definite article

This question is somewhat inspired by the movie “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.” In running a message board for more than a decade, on several occasions members from non-English speaking areas, all in the Middle East and southern Asia, have posted introductory threads or sent email to me using the definite article for their names. For instance …

“I am hello to you very much please. I am the Abdulkadir and I am great interest in your site.”

Just made that last sentence up, but you get the idea about the flavor of English they speak/write.

Are there languages where people’s names are referred to in the definite article?

Wikipedia, in its article titled “Article (grammar)”, offers the following:

Another point: in Arabic, many surnames do, in fact, begin with a definite article, e.g. Gamal Abd an-Nasir and Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat (former presidents of Egypt).

In Arabic, all nouns, including family names, are preceded by the definite article. However, this is not true of South Asian languages, so I would be confused as to why an Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Nepali/Sri Lankan might do that.

It happens among English-as-a-first-language people, too. Some of my friends, seeing me arrive, exclaim, “The Nott!” I know a guy who, when talking to his sons, calls himself the Dad.

Am I being whooshed? Obviously you are The Nott, and obviously he is the dad. You are also a nott, and he is also a dad.

However, English is not very tolerant of first person usage of proper nouns with definite articles in phrases that could not conceivably answer the question “which?”
It is not correct to say “My name is the Bob” unless the intended meaning is that your name is, in fact, “the bob”.

This does, however, reveal why it’s such a common mistake for foreigners. If your first language

a) Does not make a significant grammatical distinction between proper and common nouns.


b) Does not have the definite article


c) Uses the definite article with proper nouns

you are liable to make this mistake – between the three criteria that’s a lot of languages.

Catalan is another language in which articles are used with names.

The article is often used to distinguish between the ‘direct address’ form and the ‘reference’ form (sorry, I don’t know the correct technical terms). ie. when I’m talking to elmwood, I might say ‘hey elmwood, interesting question’. When I’m talking about elmwood I might say ‘the elmwood asked a really dull question’. Some languages use declensions to perform the same function.

I don’t know if this applies to the specific languages you’re interested in.