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Tsar Phalanxia
May 6th, 2009, 11:03 PM
Merge everything Japanese related into this thread.

Tsar Phalanxia
May 6th, 2009, 11:03 PM
Btw, what's Pro-Drop?

Pro-drop is a feature found in various languages where the arguments of the main semantical (meaningful) verb may not be expressed. The classical case is Spanish, where you usually do not have to express the subject pronoun :

(Yo) Hablo español.

As you can see, the pronoun "yo" does not have to be expressed. In Spanish, adding the subject pronoun would give some sort of emphasis.

However, Japanese goes further, being pro-drop about all its arguments. Basically :

- Did you send the letter yesterday?
- Yes, I did!

- Kimi ha, kinou tegami wo okutta?
(You THEME, yesterday letter OBJ sent?)
- Hai, okurimashita!
(Yes, sent-POLITE)

As you can see, in the second sentence, English has left off "send the letter" and "yesterday". However, it kept the auxiliary and the subject pronoun. Japanese did not get rid of the verb (the verb is not part of the pro-drop rules), but it didn't bother expressing the subject (it changes for POLITE form because I implied a situation where the first one is a boss of some sort). Take a look at French :

- Est-ce que tu as envoyé la letter hier?
(Is it that you have sent the letter yesterday?)
- Oui, je l'ai envoyé!
(Yes, I it have sent!)

In French, not only do you have to keep the verb (as in Japanese, but contrary to English), but you also have to keep the object (here, "it", because you can use a pronoun.) But that is because French is among the least pro-drop languages possible. As far as I know with my limited 7-year old English language proficiency, English would do about the same thing, if the verb had been kept :

- Yes, I sent it!
- Yes, I sent!* (A "*" means misformed sentence)

Now, depending on the language, getting rid of a pro-drop affected element or keeping it will lead to various effects. In Spanish, as I said, keeping the subject pronoun usually will mean some kind of emphasis like "I really did it". In French, since you don't have much pro-drop effects, you do the same effect by adding full-fledged noun phrases :

- Oui, je l'ai envoyé. (Nothing special)
- Oui, je l'ai envoyé moi. (I sent it, not someone else)
- Oui, je l'ai envoyé la lettre. (The letter was sent, yeah)

You can do the same effect in the question, and it is done by adding the pronoun :

- Est-ce que tu l'as envoyé la lettre?

This is going a little bit in linguistic theories, but in French, perhaps the pro-drop effect is deeper, full noun phrases when you would only use a pronoun, and the pronoun where you would use the noun phrase. But it gives the same effect as in Spanish.

In Japanese, good speech will NEVER let you use a pro-drop element. You really need a good reason for it not to drop. Indeed, this is so strong that in Japanese, you could say that you don't have those semi-dummy pronouns that most European languages have. But this has to do with Japanese grammar as well. Japanese is not subject-oriented but theme-oriented. In English, you will have sentences like :

I eat cereals and read the newspaper every weekday.

You don't have to repeat the subject, because English is said to be subject-centered. There are a few languages that are object-oriented. Called ergative languages in linguistics, you will have the same feature but reversed. Basque is such a language. In English, you can achieve the same effect with passivization (In Basque, it would be the most basic form of the verb.) :

Milk is produced by cows and drunk by men.

In Japanese, however, you have theme-oriented language. While Japanese is also marginally subject-oriented, whenever there is a theme, the theme has more importance than the subject.

Gyuunyuu ha ushi ni tsukurare, ningen ga nomu.
(Milk THEME cow IND.OBJ be-produced, human SUBJECT drink.)
Milk is produced by cows and humans drink it.

Notice how the English translation needs a final "it". This is because English is fully subject-oriented, and when the subject appears as another element in another part of the sentence, it must be expressed, as least by a pronoun. But in Japanese, as you can see, there is no such pronoun. The theme of the sentence is "milk", but both sides can use it as any argument needed. Here is another sentence :

Juu ha têburu ni ari, hannin ga te ni irete mite ita hito wo koroshita.
(Gun THEME table LOC is, criminal SUB hand LOC enter, look was man OBJ killed.)
The gun was on the table, the criminal used (got a hand on) it and with it killed the person who had seen it all.

In this sentence, you have the gun. It is only expressed once in Japanese, while in English, you will have to express it three times. Now, what is the relation between theme-oriented and Japanese style pro-drop? The presence of a theme already expressed the importance of an element in the sentence. You're already putting emphasis by declaring an element being a "theme", so you don't need to put any grammatical emphasis on it again. So, you really need a good reason to keep an argument with the verb. (One of these is actually being part of a verbal expression, like ki wo tsukau (to worry about) hara ga tatsu/hara wo tateru (to be angry/to make angry), which make no sense without the "argument")

So, in Japanese, when an element can be pro-dropped, it must be, and cannot reappear for emphasis, emphasis being done another way. Ultimately, you look somewhat silly or over-explicit when you use a pro-dropped element.

- Kimi ha, kinou tegami wo okutta?
- Hai, tegami wo okurimashita.

As you can see, I kept "tegami wo" here. It is not incorrect, unlike the Englsih "Yes, I sent"*. But there is something heavy about that sentence in Japanese, as if you were saying to much. Notice however the following discussion :

- Kimi ha, kinou tegami wo okutta?
- Tegami ha okurimashita ga nimotsu ha dame datta no desu.

As you can see, tegami is there, and this sentence is fully correct. However, notice the "ha" instead of "wo" being used. This is because you are making two things into a theme, comparing them. You would so the same thing in English :

- I sent the letter, but I couldn't send the package.
- The letter I did, but the package I couldn't. (Closer to the acutal Japanese sentence)

So here, since it's not a pro-drop case, in Japanese, you will keep them as well.

I hope it will be an interesting read :)


May 7th, 2009, 01:06 PM
So you finally made it :) Yay.

So, if anyone has questions, I'll answer as best as I can. :)