Nihongo - Let's Learn Grammar

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  • 公開済み: 21 8 2013
  • アップデートされたもの: 14 7 2015
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This movella teaches you straightforward the grammar of Japanese. From 助詞 to 動詞, you will be able to get a complete and organised movella that includes all major particles and essential grammatical usages to make cool Japanese sentences! 行きましょうね!


13. は • Discussion Particle; Bipolar Disorder

*Gulp* Looks like I've finally reached the dreaded two particles. The particle は is extremely intimidating for a lot of learners of Japanese. And believe it or not, Japanese natives sometimes fall victim to は's treacherous fight over who's greater.  い、行きましょう?



This particle is, as you were probably taught in the classroom, the subject marker. Notice how I didn't bold "subject marker"? That's because, well, it's not. It is... (ready for it?) ... It is a discussion marker! I bet you're like, "Isn't that the same thing, Aaronちゃん?"


In English it's very hard to differentiate what is a topic and what is a subject, since basically they're the same cheese, right? Well, in Japanese grammatology, a subject may have the same concept as in English, but a topic in Japanese is not the same as a topic in English. In fact, if you go by Japanese rules for English, there is no such thing as a topic in English!


私 【わたし】= I/Me

元気 【げん・き】= Fine/Healthy


• 私は元気です。= I am fine.


Believe it or not, this sentence is incorrectly translated. Yes, all this time you were speaking in a very, very redundant Japanese pattern in the classroom. I'm not saying that it is wrong for teachers to teach Japanese that way, because where else will you start? I'm just implying that suspecting learners to synthesise both languages will not help learners understand the actual grammar of Japanese.



The Copula です

Ever wondered what the です was for? I'm sure you were just taught that this was the "polite" way of ending your sentences.


• です。


That, my friends, was a complete sentence. What does it mean, you ask?

It means whatever you want it to mean: "I am," "It is," "That is so," "Yes," "No," "Sure," "I agree."


These all can be read from the simple...です. That is the beauty of Japanese. A simple だ can mean "Definitely," or something more complex than one word. Japanese builds itself on context, intertwining conversations with each other, needing not to repeat things over and over like we do in English. If someone says, "How are you?" in English, we hardly ever say a complete sentence like, "I'm fine," or "I'm good." All we say is, "Good," or "Fine." That's exactly how です works, too.



は Does Nothing Else

Believe it or not, your Japanese textbooks are turning you into robots. They're feeding you "programs" to help you synthesise English in the Japanese world, which is a big mistake.


What I mean by "Nothing else" here is that は has really no connecting aspect of the thing you marked it with. Instead, it only makes the listener aware of what the rest of your blurbs will be about.


Take 私は for example.


私は does not mean, "I am," or even "As for me." All it does is pinpoint the area for the rest of the sentence to stick on. So, with that being said, 私は has no real translation (a correct one, if any)! The only thing translatable is the 私, meaning "Me." (And "I" and "Myself" and "Self.")



Now, take 犬は for example.


I bet now that I gave you the "real translation" of は, you're probably thinking, "It has no translation." Thanks for listening, because it doesn't. The only thing translatable to the most correct interpretation is 犬, meaning "Dog."


Imagine This...

When you do not say は, the topic of the sentence is automatically about you. The speaker. Imagine that your entire body is a walking は. Ready to begin your sentences as soon as you speak, needing you not to say 私は, because your body has already said it for you.

This is why the pattern ~が好きです does not need 私は. We don't need to know who likes what, because it's already implied. Moreover, this is also why just a verb is all Japanese needs to be grammatically correct. A lot can be said with just that verb.



The Bipolar は

Another big thing about the particle は is that sentences may lose their backbone if you address something particular with it.


• 夏は暑いです。そして、冬は寒いです。= Summer is hot, and winter is cold.

That was a pretty simple sentence. Or sentences. Hmm...


Try this, now:


• 夏は暑く、冬は寒いです。= Summers are hot, (and/but) winters are cold.

Whoa, back up. Why is "And" and "But" there at the same time, you might ask. This is called the double は. Two は particles can show up in one sentence if one は is contrasting the other.


• 犬はやさしく、猫はきびしいです。= Dogs are calm, (and/but) cats are vicious.


Depending on the context you want to give off, you are either making comparisons or a description. Usually, you will be making a contrast, unless you state it otherwise.


Now, take a look at something like this:


私は嫌いです。= I don't like it.

That looks rather simple, doesn't it? Well, if you're thinking in English, yes. But Japanese is much different. Because the whole language depends on context, this sentence is saying a whole lot more than just "I don't like it."


• 私は嫌いです。= I don't like it, but I bet others will.

• 私は嫌いです。= I don't like it, but maybe you will.

• 私は嫌いです。= I don't like it, and I probably won't like the other things similar to it.

• 私は嫌いです。= I don't like it, but perhaps I'd like that other one.

• 私は嫌いです(よ)。= I don't like it, so stop asking me.


See? Coming from a simple sentence, a lot can be said if you address something unnecessarily with は. This is why a lot of textbooks are not actually teaching real (correct, maybe) Japanese.


Take this bipolar sentence:


• 今日はお前の弁当を食ってるね。= You're eating your bento today, huh?

Pretty simple, basic and almost very clear and descriptive, right? Well... take a look at the は marking 今日. Remember, は particles marking obvious things create a feel of contrast, something out of place or different.


• 今日はお前の弁当を食ってるね。= You're chowing down today. Anything the matter?

• 今日はお前の弁当を食ってるね。= Why are you scarfing down your food today?

• 今日はお前の弁当を食ってるね。= Seems like you're a lot hungrier today, huh?


With は marking such an obvious thing, you're giving "Today" a spotlight, making it as if it's different or odd than the other days your buddy's been eating bento. This is why a lot of time expressions, especially broad, general ones, don't have は marking it. It's not the highlight of the sentence, nor is it anything out of the ordinary (if the context doesn't need to distinguish it).



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