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Many things that seem normal in English look arrogant in Japanese. I think I found a special case where the reverse is true. In Japanese is it normal to speak in the third person when referring to oneself? I have seen this done before on Twitter.

What about in face to face conversation or other conversational situations? Is it normal to refer to oneself in the third person?

Whenever I try to speak in the third person about myself in English I always get accused of looking pompous. This is not the case in Japanese?

What's the difference when using the third person to refer to oneself instead of words like 私、僕、or 俺?

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It is also done regularly in English. For example, when you write a CV or an introduction of yourself, the formal way is to refer to yourself in third person. The same is in academic paper. –  user458 Jul 30 '11 at 0:57
It's often said that Japanese doesn't have true pronouns and that the words that are used for the purpose are better thought of as nouns. In any case Japanese pronouns diverge from language universals in ways including that they change frequently over time where in most languages pronouns are the least changing word category. –  hippietrail Jul 30 '11 at 10:35
I have nuked most of the comments in this thread, as they were off-topic and argumentative. –  Amanda S Aug 2 '11 at 4:48
@sawa: Since I noticed that you tagged this question as [mood], can you add a tag wiki for the tag? I have trouble understanding terms “mood” and “modality” even after reading Wikipedia. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 30 '11 at 2:18
@TsuyoshiIto Sorry. That was my mistake. I should have tagged it as "narration" or "perspective". I retagged it as "perspective". Thanks for adding the tag wikis to the tags that I have created. –  user458 Dec 30 '11 at 3:46

2 Answers 2

Update: I didn't comment on the fact that speaking about oneself can also be a matter of using "he" or "she" for oneself, as well as using one's own name.

I have never heard anyone in Japanese use 彼【かれ】(he) or 彼女【かのじょ】(she) to refer to themselves. As far as I can tell, it has more or less the same implications that it would in English, and you can follow the same instincts. So, for example, you might use the third person when writing a bio on a web site when it's understood you're writing about yourself.

The point is that using he or she has no special place in Japanese for referring to yourself.

Using one's own name to refer to oneself, however, is something that is done in Japanese and different from English.

Women up to around 30 or so use their own name in place of a first person pronoun commonly enough. However, it is reserved for certain social contexts, like within their relationship, family, or close friends, and definitely not for circumstances like work or school.

Some people think of the use of one's own name as being "girlish", but that is debatable. I think it's a matter of opinion as well a context.

Men can also use the term, but in even a far, far more restricted sense. A father talking to his young child, or a man in a very specific context with his girlfriend/wife/partner.

For men learning Japanese, I would absolutely recommend not ever using one's own name in place of 私【わたし】, 僕【ぼく】, or 俺【おれ】. If the circumstance comes up when it might work, as it has with me in some relationships, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt. Or, put another way, if there is a shadow of doubt, you shouldn't do it. (Note I'm not saying it's an indication of closeness, just that it's the result of a context far too specific and complicated to describe here.)

For women learning Japanese, you would have the option to try it, but it's an art, not a science. You would have to watch your female peers as a guide to see if they felt comfortable using it given their age, standing, and social context.

For both men and women learning Japanese, it is far more beneficial to learn how to drop the first person pronoun altogether than it is to master using one's own name for that purpose.

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A young girl can use her first name to refer to herself in informal situations. And this gives the impression of acting cutesy. There's no rule that says it's only limited to girls, but statistically speaking this method of self-address is more common in girls than boys, men, or even women.

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I'd say it's common in young children, period. –  Amanda S Jul 30 '11 at 6:29
No. Definitely a children and female form. I know countless 20-something (women) that commonly use their own name in declarative sentences. I only know of one male: he is over 60 and a professor. The consensus is that it makes him sound: 1) cute, 2) quaint, 3) ever so slightly provincial... I definitely don't think a non-Japanese, non-60-yo-professor male could pull it off. –  Dave Aug 1 '11 at 7:49

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