Sage of Winds (sagesoren) wrote in linguaphiles,
Sage of Winds

Conversational Question

I notice that, from time to time, in things like anime, characters will sometimes address the person they're speaking to as if they're not actually there. I always chalked this up to being the fault of poor English localization and assumed it was an Asian language thing I just didn't get.

However, I was reading a book sometime last year that took place in India. It was written in English originally, and was not a translation. However, I encountered more of the previous problem: people sometimes addressed their conversational partner as if they weren't actually speaking to them.

This is totally bizarre and I'm really confused by it. If you speak or know a lot about any language that does that, can you explain to me why it's done? Not knowing is driving me nuts.

Here's an example, in case you don't quite get what I mean. Say Kate is talking to Sarah. In good conversational English, something like this might happen:

KATE: [to Sarah] I know it's not what you wanted me to do with my life, but I hope you're not mad.

And again, in the weird style I mentioned before:

KATE: [to Sarah] I know Sarah didn't want me to do this with my life; I hope she's not mad at me.

See what I mean? In the second example, Kate is talking to Sarah as if she is talking about her to a third party. Why does this happen, and in what languages does it occur?

EDIT: I got some very good responses that answered my question. To sum up, in some languages, it's rude to address people as "you", and so they use the name. In bad translation of dialogue (or hypothetical translation), the translators sometimes leave the name use intact, which makes for pretty wonky English. This happens in a number of languages, but in English, generally only happens with words like "sir", rather than with actual names.
Tags: english

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