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妻は私が自分を今でも愛していると信じている
(Tsuma wa watashi ga jibun o ima demo aishite iru to shinjite iru.)
My wife believes that i still love her.

In the book it is said that:

When a reflexive pronoun jibun is used, speaker tends to empathize with the referent of jibun, which implies that the speaker's viewpoint is that of the referent.

I don't seem to find any contradictions between the sentence and the rule no matter how many times i read it. For instance, this is said to be more acceptable but, in my honest opinion, has the same structure:

花子は太郎が自分を愛していると信じていた。
(Hanako wa Tarou ga jibun o aishite iru to shinjite ita.)
Hanako believed that Taro loved her.

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  • Did anyone tell you the first sentence is grammatically incorrect?
    – aguijonazo
    Apr 7, 2023 at 22:59
  • @aguijonazo "A dictionary of basic Japanese grammar" by Seiichi Makino, and i exaggerated when i said it was GRAMMATICALLY incorrect; there it is said to be unnatural to a native. I have discovered some other confusing points in the book though, but they became clear once i saw the examples. This one, unfortunately, i couldn't comprehend.
    – Hejaj
    Apr 8, 2023 at 10:41
  • Does it suggest how it should be changed?
    – aguijonazo
    Apr 8, 2023 at 11:08

2 Answers 2

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I had no difficulty understanding the sentence the way it was intended. It is definitely not grammatically incorrect. It might just sound more natural, or easier to read, if 自分 were closer to the verb of which it is the object.

妻は私が今でも自分を愛していると信じている。

If the question is whether the sentence is ambiguous, the answer is certainly yes. But the second sentence is equally ambiguous. I don’t think this ambiguity has much to do with 自分 because the following sentence is also ambiguous as to who 彼女 refers to. It could easily be another woman. 自分 at least avoids the risk of this misunderstanding.

妻は私が今でも彼女を愛していると信じている。

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Personally I find both of these sentences a bit confusing, because I rarely see 自分【じぶん】 when more than one person is mentioned. However, the first sentence feels more off because first person is mentioned.

自分【じぶん】 is generally used to show a viewpoint of a speaker and with 私【わたし】 the speaker is clearly not the person before は. Therefore, viewpoint is inconsistent.

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