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I know that, in Japanese, you can say X達【たち】 or Xら (where X is a first person pronoun) to say we.

However, what rules should be followed for choosing that "X". Can I use whatever I would use to refer to myself and then add 達 / ら, or should I use a pronoun that would be acceptable for both myself and the other people included.

Here's a specific example: Could a female say あたし達 to refer to herself and some males, or would あたし達 imply that everyone in the group is female (as it would in Spanish and probably similar languages)?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

In informal settings, you might use あたし達, to your parents-in-law you might use 私達, and in business settings, you might use 我々 or 私共. It can depend on many things, including possibly your gender, but it doesn't generally depend on whether there is somebody of the other gender in the group you refer to.

The Japanese plural marker 達 as well as ら and others AFAIK, can work as associative plurals. This means that you can use 田中君達 to mean "Tanaka and others associated with him (whose names are not necessarily Tanaka)". Compare this to English "the Joneses" in which you would usually expect all of the people referred to to have the name "Jones".

Thus, あたし達 can be thought of as "I and others associated with me". Semantically, this isn't really different from "we", but it might give an explanation of why you don't need to change あたし to something else, just because there is a male in the group.

All this being said, I venture the statement that 達 and other Japanese plural markers can also be used an additive (normal) plural. For example, unless the speaker has a specific 部長 in mind, you would usually understand うちの会社の部長達 as the group of 部長s (and only 部長s) from the speaker's company.

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達 or ら is not especially for first person. Although there are combinations that you cannot use, they can be used with other persons.

あなたたち, あなたら, 君たち, 君ら

達 is different from pluralization. It means "and others". 私たち means "I and others". The others do not have to fit the original noun or pronoun. But for the pronoun part, I don't think you see much difference from English "we". "We" does not refer to a group of people who are all "me" (which is an impluasible situation); it is rather me and other people. The same with Japanese.

Regarding your gender part with Spanish, I think you are mentioning markedness of the feminine feature. That is, feminine is a marked gender as opposed to masculine that is the default. I am not sure about Spanish examples, but from Portuguese examples that I have seen and from what you wrote, I am guessing that a mixed group of male and female can be referred to with the plural of the masculine third person pronoun, but not with a feminine one; is this what you mean? I think there is a confusion between first and third person in the question. In Japanese, 彼ら can refer to a mixed gender group including at least one male. 彼女ら can refer to a mixed group including at least one female.

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