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Title: A semantic and syntactic study of Japanese particle wa — A topic marker or a subject marker?
Authors: Li, Yee Na (李綺娜)
Department: Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Issue Date: 2009
Course: CTL4235 Project
Programme: BA (Hons) in Linguistics and Language Technology
Instructor: Dr. Peppina Lee
Subjects: Japanese language -- Particles
Abstract: This paper aims to re-examine the nature of the Japanese particle wa in terms of three constructions – wa-ga(-ga) sentences, wa sentences and wa-wa-ga sentences. Japanese particles wa and ga have long been considered as a topic marker and a subject marker respectively. On the basis of the previous studies (Kuno 1973, Kitagawa, 1982, Kuroda 1992), two major claims are made in this paper. First, the revisit of wa and ga as a topic marker and a subject marker supports that Japanese is a topic-subject-prominent language. Second, the alternation of wa to ga suggests that wa can mark both topics and subjects, which in turn arouses a question about the nature of the second wa phrase in wa-wa-ga sentences. Based on the assumption of one topic per clause, the observation that the first wa phrase occupies the topic position supports the claim that the second wa phrase is not a topic at least. Extending the study of topics from Japanese to Chinese, it is observed that sub-topics in Chinese and the second wa phrase in Japanese share a common feature: contrastiveness. This leads to the speculation that both Japanese wa phrase and sub-topics in Chinese are preposed to the position after the subject and adjoined to the VP, which is an issue subject to further studies.
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