ni, niwa

Discussion in '日本語 (Japanese)' started by John_Doe, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. John_Doe Senior Member

    Hello there!

    I'm studying "Japanese for Today" and just got stuck on the third lesson. In the grammar section the author gives some pattern sentences like
    So far so good. Then in the reading section you SUDDENLY can see sentences like 'Kono heya niwa doa ga futatsu arimasu'. Apparently something went wrong with either the explanations or the text. I'd like you to explain to me what's going on here )

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  2. Tonky Senior Member

    The explanation is not that hard, but would like some info to avoid confusions, since you seem to have just started learning.

    1) Are you teaching yourself or do you have a teacher/tutor guiding you?
    I would not want to ruin your teacher's plan. Sometimes teachers want you to skip a few complicated parts, and plan to explain in the later sessions for better understanding. Many times, teachers are prepared with a later session or two to explain things to you, saying like, "Do you remember this sentence from the earlier lesson? Now the mystery is solved!"
    (Of course, if this niwa haunts you too much and cannot get past without knowing it, then you may need to hear it anyways.)

    2) If that is "Japanese for Today; あたらしい日本語" published in the early 70s, I believe it has grammar explanations in English. What does it say there? No mentions of niwa at all? (I've heard of that textbook, but never checked the contents.)
  3. John_Doe Senior Member

    For the time being, I'm studying without a teacher.
    Yes, it is titled so, however the textbook was published, as far as I know, in 1992, not in the bygone '70s )
    The author explains the topic marker 'wa' (in the very first lesson), the particle 'ni', but there are no explanations of them being together.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  4. Tonky Senior Member

    Ah, thanks for your additional info.

    as your book says, "wa" functions as a topic marker. Important thing is that a topic is not always the subject of the sentence, grammatically.

    In this case,
    "Kono heya" is the topic of the sentence, but the subject is "doa" and its verb is "(futatsu) arimasu".
    by topic, it means it is the thing you are talking about that you, both the speaker and the listener(s), already know.

    By adding "wa" after "ni" here, the speaker gives the attention to "kono heya" for a comparison.
    Most likely, it is saying this room has two doors, unlike other rooms(though, unstated). Maybe other rooms have only one door each. (You need more contexts to be precise.)

    "wa" has more complicated functions, (and I only explained to follow the topic marking function as your textbook suggests), but I'd recommend you not to worry too much for the time being, because it can be too confusing for beginners and most textbooks bring up "wa" and "ga" comparison in later lessons.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  5. John_Doe Senior Member

    I got it. Here are additional questions )

    1. 'Koko ni denwa ga arimasu'. Is the subject 'koko ni denwa ga'? So far I can't put my finger on the esential difference between two patterns.
    2. What if we ommited 'ni' in 'kono heya ni wa doa ga futatsu arimasu.', then would it be still a correct sentence?
    3. Could the quantity of the items (futatsu) be ommited at all ('koko ni wa doa ga arimasu')?

    I'm looking forward to your answer.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  6. Tonky Senior Member

    1. denwa = subject, koko ni is showing the location.
    2. "kono heya wa doa ga futatsu arimasu" is fine too. but i believe the textbook wants you to learn "ni" in this lesson :p
    3. Are there any rooms that have no doors? I mean, most rooms need at least one door, so, unless you want to talk about this specific room that has got no door for special purpose or fiction world, you would want quantity of items.
  7. Tonky Senior Member

    ah, come to think of it, on special occasions, like when visiting a ninja house, "koko niwa doa ga arimasu" can happen.
    sometimes ninja house has rooms whose doors are not very visible for ninjas to hide.
  8. John_Doe Senior Member

    I got your drift )

    The ga/wa thing still is a vague concept for me. Maybe I'm just rushing things after all. Thank you.
  9. Tonky Senior Member

    I think I missed your edition there.
    The hardest part about learning alone is that it isn't easy to dismiss something to ignore or to focus on the major lesson. :p

    Anyways, to make it clearer,
    A is a plain sentence saying "here is a telephone", or "there is a telephone here".
    (A can have a different implication depending on the context, but let's skip that for now.)
    Now, B is saying, "unlike other locations HERE is a telephone" or perhaps "here, (look, you may not see it at a glance, but) there is a telephone".

    Now, go back to the original sentence
    there are two doors in this room (unlike other rooms). It can implicate, "you may not have noticed, but check it out, this room has two doors." can you see that the speaker is drawing your attention to it by marking it as a topic? :D
    Kono gakko (school) niwa kirei-na sensei (pretty teacher) ga imasu.
    ---This school has a pretty teacher! maybe I should join this school to learn Japanese and not other schools!
    Kono ie (house) niwa puuru (swimming-pool) ga arimasu.
    ---This house has a swimming-pool, unlike other boring houses! maybe I should buy it and I feel rich!

    All textbooks should explain further ga/wa comparison with better examples later on. (Otherwise, it is a terrible textbook.)
    What you should master here at this early stage is the simple "(location)ni (subject)ga arimasu/imasu" pattern.
    Good luck!
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  10. Tonky Senior Member

    John_Doe san,

    I've been thinking about this for a good few hours and thought I might be guessing more than I should.

    Would you please copy-paste more sentences from the "Reading part" you mentioned, where you felt you got stuck with particles, just in case your textbook is supposed to teach you more than I'm thinking? Even though important grammar pieces should have enough explanations, textbooks are not always made for self-teaching.
  11. YangMuye

    YangMuye Senior Member

    I think ha/wa is the hardest part of Japanese. Many textbooks omit it completely (and intentionally).
    I personally totally disagree with the topic-subject-theory. And most researches I can find only focu on the so-called topic-ha and contrast-ha. Anyway, they are just my complaints.
    I think the usage and function of ha strong rely on the context.

    This is exactly what I want to say.

    When my eyeball are attracted by the door (because I haven't expect it is there), I will say “Doa-ga aru”. When I am aware of the existance of the door, I first see the location of the door which is the room. Then I put “heya” before “door” and say “kono heya-ni doa ga aru”.
    I share the experience with my friend besides me by saying the same sentences.
    Then my friend hear it and look at the room, look at the door, and get the same feeling and say “honto(really!), Kono heya-ni doa ga aru ne(you are right!)”.

    When I don't avoid to express such feeling, I will use ha (or sometime omit “ni” or “ga”), not because it's the topic or something else, simply because I want to avoid the same expression.
  12. Tonky Senior Member

    Another theory I often use is "New information vs. Old information", or 未知情報/既知情報(or simply put, 新情報/旧情報), and it works quite similar as English "the" and "a" comparison, or definite vs indefinite article. I believe this is what you are trying to point out here?

    The thing is, topics you share with the listener(s) are usually old information, otherwise, you cannot share. New info cannot be a topic (or hardly can), since you do not know what it is before you utter it.

    I usually try to follow the textbook as to which theory I use for explanation.

    閑話休題 The biggest issue with は/が is that most Japanese students never learn(ed) about it at all, even at school grammar lessons. I've witnessed so many Japanese teachers (to Japanese students at schools, not for JSL) officially teaching wrong ideas on this with misleading example texts, because they themselves never learned the difference and continue calling は as a subject maker. This may be why many Japanese (JSL) teachers or textbook writers tend to emphasize on "topic maker" function because it solved many of the mysteries they had faced before.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2013

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