Vol. 57 No. 4 (2009)
Research Article

Naming Differences in Divided Germany

Published 2009-12-01


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This article analyzes differences in naming between East and West Germany. After World War II, Germany was split by the allied forces. Two Germanies emerged: the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The country's division lasted about forty years (1949–1989), a time span in which vastly different geo-political frameworks — Eastern bloc versus Western bloc — shaped people's lives and eventually their name choices as well. The results of this complex relationship are addressed here with the following questions: to what extent can different naming patterns and name preferences be observed in the two parts of divided Germany, regardless of their common language and cultural heritage? Can differences in taste be identified, and how did these differences develop over time? These questions are answered here using the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). The SOEP offers the rare opportunity of examining patterns of occurrence of first names among a representative sample of 56,000 individuals born since 1900. Moreover, this study includes a wide range of variables revealing the social and economic backgrounds of the “name givers”: the parents.


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