Topic marker

Last updated

A topic marker is a grammatical particle used to mark the topic of a sentence. It is found in Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Quechua, Ryukyuan, Imonda and, to a limited extent, Classical Chinese. It often overlaps with the subject of a sentence, causing confusion for learners, as most other languages lack it. It differs from a subject in that it puts more emphasis on the item and can be used with words in other roles as well.

Contents

Korean: 는/은

In Korean, (neun) and (eun) function similarly to the Japanese topic marker. 는 (neun) is used after words that end in a vowel and 은 (eun) is used after words that end in a consonant.

Example

In the following example, "school" (Korean : "학교"; Hanja : 學校; RR : hakkyo) is the subject, and it is marked as the topic.

학교저기있다.
Hakkyoneunjeogieitta.
school[topic marker]over thereLOCis.
(The) school is over there.

Japanese: は

The topic marker is one of many Japanese particles. It is written with the hiragana , which is normally pronounced ha, but when used as a particle is pronounced wa. It is placed after whatever is to be marked as the topic. If what is to be the topic would have had が (ga), the subject marker, or を ((w)o), the direct object marker, as its particle, those are replaced by は. Other particles (for example: に, と, or で) are not replaced, and は is placed after them.

The English phrase "as for" is often used to convey the connotation of は, although in many cases this sounds unnatural when used in English. It does, however, convey some senses of the particle, one of which is to mark changing topics. If a person were speaking about someone else and then switched to referring to themselves, they should say 私は (watashi wa), "as for me...". After that, it would not be necessary to mention again that the person is talking about themselves.

Examples

In the following example, "car" (, kuruma) is the subject, and it is marked as the topic. The が that would normally be there to mark the subject has been replaced by は. The topic normally goes at the beginning of the clause.

新しいです。
kurumawaatarashiidesu.
car[topic marker]new[masu-form of だ: copula verb (to be)].
(The) car is new.

In the following example, "television" (テレビ, terebi) is the direct object, and it is marked as the topic. The を that would normally be there to mark the direct object has been replaced by は. The subject, marked by が, is "child" (子供, kodomo). As before, the topic goes at the beginning of the clause.

テレビ子供見ます
terebiwakodomogamimasu.
Television[topic marker]child[subject marker][masu form of 'to watch'].
As for the TV, the child watches (it).

In this third example, "today" (今日, kyou) is used adverbially, and it is marked as the topic. Normally there would be no particle marking it as an adverb, and so は is simply added without replacing any particle. The subject, which is omitted, is assumed to be "I" (, watashi). If it were made explicit, it would be marked by が. As before, the topic goes at the beginning of the clause.

今日学校行きます
Kyouwagakkouniikimasu.
Today[topic marker]school[indirect object marker][masu form of 'to go'].
As for today, (I) go to school.

Okinawan: や

Similar to Japanese above, Okinawan, a Ryukyuan language closely related to Japanese, features a topic marker ya that serves exactly the same function. However, if the topic is not a proper noun or ends with a long vowel, it tends to merge creating long vowels such as wan ya > wan nee "I am".

Example

あんまーちゅらさん.
anmaayachurasan.
mother[topic marker]beautiful.
Mother is beautiful.

Classical Chinese: 者 (Zhě)

Zhě is similar to the Japanese wa, but is used sporadically in Classical Chinese and only when an author wants to emphasize the topic. Zhě is usually omitted, unlike in Japanese where a topic marker is generally required. Note that although Zhě can be used as a suffix attached to a verb or adjective, transforming the verb or adjective into a noun, as a topic marker, its grammatical function is fundamentally different from that of a suffix and therefore cannot be viewed as a suffix.

As an example, consider the sentence "陳勝者,陽城人也" (Chénshèng zhě, yángchéng rén yě), a famous sentence from the Records of the Grand Historian :

Note that 者, as well as the sentence of "Chénshèng zhě, yángchéng rén yě," is romanized here according to modern Mandarin pronunciations. It is unclear how 者 and the entire sentence would have been pronounced 2,000 years ago (and what the proper romanization should have been).

Example

Classical Chinese
陳勝陽城也。
Chénshèngzhěyángchéngrén.
person name[topic marker]
town namepersonis.
Chen Sheng is a Yangcheng person.
<Chen Sheng is from Yangcheng originally.>

Note: The structure of this sentence <zhě + yě> is much more similar to the Japanese <wa + desu> structure than to modern Chinese, where topic markers have been completely lost and are not used anywhere. As the following,

Modern Chinese
陳勝(是)陽城人。
Chénshèng(shì)yángchéngrén.
person name(is)town nameperson.
Chen Sheng (is) a Yangcheng person.
<Chen Sheng is from Yangcheng originally.>

Note: <shì> can be omitted in some occasions.

Quechua: -qa

The topic marker "-qa" functions as a topic marker, and is added after a word. It is usually followed by the direct object marker "-ta". Other particles (for example:-pi, -wan, or -man) are not replaced, and can be placed after them. Depending on the conjugation of the verb, it can be omitted as well as the subject

Example

In the following example, Tupaq is the subject, and it is marked as the topic. The topic normally goes at the beginning of the clause.

Southern Quechua
Tupaq-qahatunruna-m.
person name[topic marker]
bigpersonis.
Tupaq is a big person.

Hindi: तो

The topic marker तो /to/ in Hindi indicates either presuppositionally shared information or shift in thematic orientation. [1] It can come after nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and even other such markers like the agreement/disagreement markers हाँ (hā̃) (yes) and ना (nā) (no), the emphasis markers ही (hī) (exclusive emphatic) and भी (bʰī) (inclusive emphatic), honorific marker जी (jī), limiters मात्र (mātr) (mere) and भर (bʰar) (just). However, if the topic marker तो (to) is to be used with a noun, pronoun, adverb, verb or attached to a postposition or followed by another marker then the topic marker must always be put after the postposition or the other marker and never before.

तुमतोअच्छेहोपरवोनहीं।
tumtoaccʰehoparvonahī̃.
You[topic marker]goodarebuthenot
Literal: You are good but he is not.
Nuance:You are the good one but not him.
तुमअच्छीतोहोपरउतनीनहीं।
tumaccʰītohoparutnīnahī̃.
Yougood[topic marker]arebutthat muchnot
Literal: You are good but not that much.
Nuance: You sure are good but not that much.
नेहातोअच्छीहै।
nehātoaccʰīhai.
Neha [name][topic marker]goodis
Literal: Neha is good.
Nuance: Speaking of Neha, she is good.

Mongolian бол, болбол

The Mongolian language is known to have topic markers. A common one is "бол" bol (in the traditional script: ᠪᠣᠯ), an abbreviation of "болбол" bolbol (in the traditional script: ᠪᠣᠯᠪᠠᠯ) but there are a few other words. These words have other uses as well.

See also

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, a copula is a word or phrase that links the subject of a sentence to a subject complement, such as the word is in the sentence "The sky is blue" or the phrase was not being in the sentence "It was not being used." The word copula derives from the Latin noun for a "link" or "tie" that connects two different things.

English grammar Grammar of the English language

English grammar is the way in which meanings are encoded into wordings in the English language. This includes the structure of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and the structure of whole texts.

Japanese grammar is the grammar of the Japanese language, an East Asian language and the official language of Japan.

Animacy is a grammatical and semantic feature, existing in some languages, expressing how sentient or alive the referent of a noun is. Widely expressed, animacy is one of the most elementary principles in languages around the globe and is a distinction acquired as early as six months of age.

Chinese grammar Grammar of modern Standard Mandarin

The grammar of Standard Chinese or Mandarin shares many features with other varieties of Chinese. The language almost entirely lacks inflection and so words typically have only one grammatical form. Categories such as number and verb tense are frequently not expressed by any grammatical means, but there are several particles that serve to express verbal aspect and, to some extent, mood.

A relative clause is a subordinate clause that contains the element whose interpretation is provided by an expression on which the subordinate clause is grammatically dependent. The expression on which the subordinate clause is grammatically dependent is called the antecedent, and there is an anaphoric relation between the relativized element in the relative clause and antecedent on which it depends.

In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure. It is generally agreed that clauses are divided into topic vs. comment, but in certain cases the boundary between them depends on which specific grammatical theory is being used to analyze the sentience.

In linguistics, word order typology is the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic sub-domains are also of interest. The primary word orders that are of interest are

Zero copula is a linguistic phenomenon whereby the subject is joined to the predicate without overt marking of this relationship. One can distinguish languages that simply do not have a copula and languages that have a copula that is optional in some contexts.

A verbum dicendi, also called verb of utterance, is a word that expresses speech or introduces a quotation. English examples of verbs of speaking include say, utter, ask and rumble. Because a verbum dicendi often introduces a quotation, it may grammaticalize into a quotative.

Japanese particles, joshi (助詞) or tenioha (てにをは), are suffixes or short words in Japanese grammar that immediately follow the modified noun, verb, adjective, or sentence. Their grammatical range can indicate various meanings and functions, such as speaker affect and assertiveness.

In linguistic typology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence always or usually appear in that order. If English were SOV, "Sam oranges ate" would be an ordinary sentence, as opposed to the actual Standard English "Sam ate oranges" which is Subject–verb–object (SVO).

Tarahumara language

The Tarahumara language is a Mexican indigenous language of the Uto-Aztecan language family spoken by around 70,000 Tarahumara (Rarámuri/Ralámuli) people in the state of Chihuahua, according to an estimate by the government of Mexico.

The Japanese language has different ways of expressing the possessive relation. There are several "verbal possessive" forms based on verbs with the sense of "to possess" or "to have" or "to own". An alternative is the use of the particle no (の) between two nouns or noun phrases.

This article is a description of the morphology, syntax, and semantics of Korean. For phonetics and phonology, see Korean phonology. See also Korean honorifics, which play a large role in the grammar.

This article describes the grammar of the Khmer (Cambodian) language, focusing on the standard dialect.

Araki is a nearly extinct language spoken in the small island of Araki, south of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu. Araki is gradually being replaced by Tangoa, a language from a neighbouring island.

Marra is an Australian Aboriginal language, traditionally spoken on an area of the Gulf of Carpentaria coast in the Northern Territory around the Roper, Towns and Limmen Bight Rivers. Marra is now an endangered language. The most recent survey was in 1991; at that time, there were only 15 speakers, all elderly. Most Marra people now speak Kriol as their main language. The remaining elderly Marra speakers live in the Aboriginal communities of Ngukurr, Numbulwar, Borroloola and Minyerri.

Iatmül language

Iatmul is the language of the Iatmul people, spoken around the Sepik River in the East Sepik Province, northern Papua New Guinea. The Iatmul, however, do not refer to their language by the term Iatmul, but call it gepmakudi.

The grammatical particles used in the Kagoshima dialects of Japanese have many features in common with those of other dialects spoken in Kyūshū, with some being unique to the Kagoshima dialects. Like standard Japanese particles, they act as suffixes, adpositions or words immediately following the noun, verb, adjective or phrase that they modify, and are used to indicate the relationship between the various elements of a sentence.

References

  1. Kachru, Yamuna (2006). Hindi. John Benjamin North America. Philadelphia PA 19118-0519: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 108, 109. ISBN   90-272-3812-X.CS1 maint: location (link)