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Post by CviCvraeVtMoriar » Wed 07.13.2005 2:22 pm

I've never really had any difficulty in understanding the difference between the two - but then I may have a completely a**-backwards conception of them.

This is the way I see them:

Ha indicates a topic, an item for discussion that may or may not bear any close syntactical relationship with any other word in the sentence.

Watashi ha eiga wo mite iru - Me (separate) or As for me, I am watching a movie. (The subject of this sentence is not mentioned. We can infer that Watashi is the subject; but Watashi Ha does not necessarily mark the subject. It marks the topic. The subject of this sentence is watashi ga.)
Watashi ha ringo ga hoshii da - Me (separate) or As for me, an apple is desirable.

Ga always indicates the actual subject of the verb. If you see ga, then you can bet that the noun or noun phrase which it modifies bears a significant, more 'palpable' syntactical relationship - as it were.

Watashi ga eiga o mite iru - (Plainly stating new information without contrast, emphasis, or reference to some prior question or comment) I am watching a movie.
Ringo ga hoshii da - (Plainly stating new information or a universal truth) Apples are desirable

The topic marker Ha/Wa is highly reminiscent of the Latin Dative of reference or the Ethical Dative, which describes for whom something is true, or towards what something tends, or for whom something is done.

The Dative of Reference exists in English, too (although it is not called the Dative - probably):

To me this is stupid. - 'To me' modifies the sense of the sentence as a whole and is NOT the indirect object of the verb. This is very similar to what ha/wa does.
To me you are a jerk.

Which corresponds to "Where I am concerned," "As for me," and "With respect to me".
Last edited by CviCvraeVtMoriar on Wed 07.13.2005 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ni di me non pvlchrvm paterentvr, omnia bona agerem. Dixit: Cvr se deos liqvisse? Qvid se faceret? Di se fecissent foediorem qvam qvem canis ipse videre posset. Qvaeram a qvovis, vel diabolo, vt bellvs a se fiam modo ne malam vitam vivam. Dico, si aliter egissent, fvtvrvm fvisse vt bene viverem. - me

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Post by Kojiki » Wed 07.13.2005 3:14 pm

The wa(ha) is usually dropped after it's been mentioned once or twice because it's fairly easy to know that the topic hasen't changed, and when it does change you can just use wa(ha) again to show the change.

As for -ga, I think it's extremely important. I have a book (Complete Idiots Guide to Conversational Japanese) that uses a set of 3 examples to show the use of ga. The sentence in english (if I remember it correctly) is initially, "I ate cake at the Christmas party." If you think about it, 'I', 'cake' or "Christmas party' are all viable subjects. Because the word order can be whatever you want it, leaving out the -ga skews the statement and leaves it open to being, "I ate the cake at the party", "At the party, I ate the cake" or even "Cake is what I ate at the party". All mean the same thing, roughly, but each one has a 'more correct' when used to answer a question.

That's why they haven't dropped them. And to clarify a bit about not dropping -wa(ha). If we're talking about the fact that you ate some cake at the party (with no -wa being used to denote a topic), then I could say, "Oh yeah, it was great" and you wouldn't have a clue as to whether I was talking about the cake or the party or even you eating it. -That- is why they can't drop the wa and ga. It's simply there to make the language even more easily understood.
Purveyor of the classics:

The Tale of Genji (currently)
The Kojiki (next in line)
The Houshin Engi (if I can find an English or Modern Japanese translation)

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Post by skrhgh3b » Sun 07.24.2005 6:12 pm

i'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet, but there's an exhaustive essay on wa and ga in the kodansha international book "making sense of japanese: what the textbooks don't tell you" by jay rubin. you should be able to get ahold of it through any decent bookstore. it's an increadibly enlightening read.

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