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Apparently, Japanese used to not have any personal pronouns (words for "I", "me", "you", "they") at all.  When they decided they needed some, they adopted words with other original meanings - so it's said.  I do know that if you look up a number of the words listed below as personal pronouns in a comprehensive Japanese-English dictionary, you'll find some non-pronoun meanings.

Note: AlexChurchill is reifying this page since it's been a ReifyRequest? for a while, but is well aware that any number of ToothyWikizens are better informed than him about any matters discussed herein.  So please make corrections, clarifications and amendments if you know better - I'd like to learn too :)

First Person Pronouns: I, My, Me

(but no Strawberry Egg)

Amongst the Japanese words used for "I" or "me" (there's no difference in Japanese -- case is indicated using particles rather than changing the noun) are:
Normal for females; normal / polite for males.
Very polite. I've seen it recommended for foreigners to use in "teach yourself Japanese" books. I've only ever heard it used by four anime characters (all either princesses or women who would dearly love to be princesses), and one male English airline steward ^^;;
Also used by butlers (Shinigami-Walter!) and people with a "humbler-than-thou" attitude (Kuja from FF9) --Kazuhiko
Normal / informal for males. When used by females denotes a definite tomboyish inclination.
Humbler than Watashi I believe.  Very polite for a male, tomboyish for a female (although this may be anime rather than reality usage) -K
Very polite for a male?? Intriguing - not the impression I'd got. But could be. --AC
Hmm, maybe 'very' is too much, but I remember a punk-character astounding the main female in HanaYoriDango when he suddenly switched from 'ore' to using 'boku' when talking to her parents...  The comment was something like 'model-student speak'.  Certainly it's a more respectful way of speaking -K
Informal for males. Has the associations either of a little boy or of a badass fighter. The connection might be that the big thick musclebound blokes never grew out of using this.
Not just a mis-hearing of "watashi" but a different word. For females. What connotations does it have?
Polite, feminine, "Don't mind me, I'm part of the furniture." -K
More like, middle-school to high-school student.  It's a young/immature way of refering to oneself. --Nataku
One's own name
Sounds young or childish, but commonly heard. I'm told that some Japanese children are taught use their name rather than any of the above to save them from having to choose which one to use :) You can often identify the character in an anime who's trying to be cute by seeing which one refers to herself with her own name.
Like "ore", but attaching one of the /Honorifics which you're never meant to attach to your own name. Denotes someone ridiculously stuck up and self-important.
Munto from (big surprise) "Munto" and more than one character from "Bastard" are the only ones that spring to mind -K
Tends to be heard in the plural "wareware", where I believe it can be translated "We (evil committee of corrupt leaders whom your spaceships will destroy shortly)".
Cool, I think I'll use this one from now on :) -K
It's also a very old/formal style of speech.  Hinoto from "X" uses it. --Nataku
Very humble way of referring to oneself, now generally heard only in samurai dramas, "Rurouni Kenshin," and "Chouja Raideen."

To say "we", the common form seems to be to append "-tachi" to whatever of the above "I" words you'd normally use.

(Since "my" was mentioned semi-flippantly above: To say "my", you append the standard possessive particle "no": so "watashi no kuruma" means "my car", as do "atashi no kuruma" or "ore no kuruma". The speaker in the second case is likely a young female, and in the third case is likely male.)

Second Person Pronouns: You

Amongst the words used for "you" are:
The person's name
It's not rude or strange to say "So how was Mike's day?" when talking to Mike.
- as long as the appropriate honorific is used --Bobacus
Literally means "dear" or "darling", I'm told, and is still used with that meaning between couples. But also a respectful second-person pronoun.
Quite familiar or friendly, I think, but not as respectful as "anata". Is it only to be used by females or only to be used to females?
I would have said to females. This is based on knowing "I love you" in a great many different languages, including Japanese. One of the forms in Japanese, for male to female, is Kimi o aishteru. --[SF]
I think by females, but I'm only going by the words to the Escaflowne OP, which are sung by a woman and include the phrase 'kimi wo ai shiteru'. I always assumed it was Hitomi singing  - SunKitten
Jeffrey's lists it as "masc term for female".  It's not the UltimateAuthority?, but gives us a guide.
Is that the word a male uses to refer to a female or the word for male used by a female? Ah, ambiguousity, isn't English great? :) - SunKitten
I would have interpreted the Jeffrey's phrase as meaning "term used by male for a female", but...
Isn't 'kimi' supposed to be applied to men?  It descends from the Heian era 'kimi' which originally meant 'captain' as a court rank.  See Kaoru no Kimi from TaleOfGenji? as an example.  The kanji is also read '-kun' as an appellation, such as 'Ranma-kun,' which implies masculinity. --Nataku
They have a kanji for "-kun"? Ooh, that's interesting. I've only ever seen -chan, -kun, -san written in kana. (Except for things like "Fuji-san" where it's a different "san", of course)  Are there kanji for the other suffixes, do you know, Nataku?  And is it a kanji which is becoming less widely used, or some such?  --AC
I only know the kanji for "-kun" and "-sama."  According to my dictionary, the kanji for "-sama" is also used for "-san" (wherein you need furigana to tell the difference, I guess).  If "-chan" has kanji, I haven't run across examples yet. --Nataku

The consensus appears to be that we have no consensus, having two points each way... :o) 
Unfriendly, impolite. See OmaeWoKorosu.
Literally, 'you there in front of me.' --Nataku
Again a genuine different word to "anata", although probably derived from it. Significantly less respectful, but seems to indicate a familiar or close relationship. Became known to thousands of otaku by AsukaLangley's high-frequency cries of "Anta baka?"
Not just "anata" said quickly, then? Japanese has a tendency to make unstressed vowels silent.. - MoonShadow
AIUI, the unstressed vowels tend to be U, or I in SHI or CHI.  But regardless, I've seen written in hiragana "a-n-ta", where the "n" is not the "na" in "a-na-ta".  --AC (ahh, [Jeffrey's dictionary server] lists it as "a familiar form of anata")
It's a slangy descendant of 'anata,' I believe.  Much like 'mina' versus 'minna.' --Nataku

Some of the above can be used for a second person plural form too. Other ways to say "you" to more than one person include:
Append "-tachi" (or "-dachi") to the above
so kimidachi, etc
written with the "ditto" character following "anata".

Third Person Pronouns: He, She, Them

The person's name again
Not actually a pronoun, you know, being a, well, noun. (Technically not a pronoun in the other sections either, but deserves to be there as it's a noun used where a pronoun would be in English... but here is it in fact just a noun).
Again, with the honorific. --Bobacus
Kare or kareshi
means "he", as well as "boyfriend"
means "she", as well as "girlfriend"
Not very polite. Seems to be commonly translated as "that fellow" by people whose first language isn't English.
"ano hitsu" said quickly, possibly? - MoonShadow
I don't know the word "hitsu", so I can't comment on that. But [Jeffrey's online J/E dictionary] lists: aitsu: (noun, colloquial, usually written in kana) he; she; that guy
Ano hito
"That person". Tends to be used in anime when the scriptwriters want to show some characters discussing "someone who the audience aren't meant to know about yet". Seems to be actually used in the sense of "you-know-who", but it is much more widespread than that would suggest.  To specify gender, the forms "Ano otoko" or "Ano otoko no hito" for "that man" and "Ano onna" or "Ano onna no hito" for "that woman" are sometimes used.


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Last edited September 22, 2004 4:12 pm (viewing revision 20, which is the newest) (diff)