I have trouble understanding the following sentence:


Is it. Mister Lukas wants to get called by his first name but it's hard to do so because he is 3 years older than the speaker. Or does the speaker wants to call him Tom?

I don't know to whom 自分 is pointing, isn't it always pointing to the speaker? In this case the sentence wouldn't make sense since the speaker wants to receive something "もらいたい".

I think I am confusing either the 自分 or the もらいたい part.

  • It looks like 自分 refers to Lucas-san here. Where did you learn that 自分 can only refer to the speaker? Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:11
  • Well in this case why wouldn't one just say ルーカスさんを... And in the case the structure is something like "Lucas-san himself" it still sounds like the speaker wants to receive it. But all in all I think that Lucas-san is offering it. I'm a bit confused. Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:16
  • Well since you already said ルーカスさんは, saying ルーカスさんを in the same sentence would sound redundant and clumsy. It's similar to saying in English "Lucas wants Lucas to be called by his first name". Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


Although it isn't a great analogy, I sometimes think of 自分 as the Japanese counterpart to the "reflexive" (just because 自分を sometimes translates to "himself" or "herself"). That doesn't really work here, but in any case, 自分 still points to ルーカスさん, even though he isn't the speaker:

自分を ファーストネームで呼んでもらいたい
he wants to get people to call him by the first name
he wants to be called by his first name


Mr. Lucas says that he wants to be called by his first name, but him being three years older than me makes it really quite hard to call him "Tom".

  • Thanks that cleared it up. I often have trouble understanding who says what but when I read the explanation it always seems so simple and I don't know how I possibly could miss that. I think I just have to get used to the structures. Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 2:51

In a basic sentence, 自分 is a reflexive pronoun which refers back to a subject. It can often be translated with English reflexives like himself or herself. It doesn't necessarily point to the speaker.

However, in this case we have 自分 in indirect speech, which is a little different:

ルーカスさんiは、[ 自分iをファーストネームで呼んでもらいたい ]-と 言うけれども、三年も年上の人なので、どうも「トム」とは呼びにくい。

…and in cases like these it's a logophoric pronoun, a way of referring back to ルーカスさん in the main clause from the indirect speech.

There's also a dialectal usage of 自分 as a first-person pronoun, and when it's used that way it does point specifically to the speaker. I point this out in case it was the source of your confusion when you wrote "isn't it always pointing to the speaker?".

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