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Question What the は?

xminus1

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Hello, friends;

I don't get it:

わたし借りたお金すぐ返します。

This is a sentence from my Minna text. Are both はs topic markers??? How can this be?

Please elucidate! ;)
 

Toritoribe

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わたしは is the main topic(主題); the topic of the whole sentence, whereas 借りたお金 is the sub topic(副題). The sub topic often has a contrastive nuance; for instance, I pay back the money I borrowed immediately, but things I borrowed are not.

Refer to the following thread.
 

xminus1

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Hi, Toritoribe-san:

Thanks for helping me understand this. You helped me a while back with は used for contrast, and I did wonder if that was possible in this sentence too, but I was not aware of the sub-topic concept at all, and I couldn't understand the sense of わたし contrasted with お金.

You summarized the idea beautifully in the thread you referenced:
主題 indicates the topic of the whole sentence, and 副題 has a nuance of the contrastive marker.

So if I may paraphrase your translation just to confirm my understanding...the meaning of the sentence is: "I return money, [at least], I borrowed right away," The implication being that "other things I borrowed are a different matter". Would that be the sense of it?

Thanks again!
 

Toritoribe

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Yes, your understanding is correct.(y)
 

xminus1

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Thank you so much, Toritoribe-san; I would NEVER have grasped the nuance of this sentence without your help. I think I will still need to re-read this sentence many more times over to make my understanding "intuitive".
 

xminus1

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I've thought about this sentence more now, and I think I might realize why I initially discarded the は for contrast explanation (before my original post on this question).

My confusion was that I felt there was no equivalency or contrasting relationship between the わたし and the お金, (the sentence topic and the sub-topic).

Thanks to your explanation, Toritoribe-san, I think I understand what's going on.

The sentence is similar in construction to our old example sentence (you helped me understand this a while back):

この車いいですが、色あまり好きじゃありません。​

Here there is a sentence topic (車), and two sub-topics in contrast with each other (形 and 色). The sub-topics are not in contrast directly with the car itself.

Similarly, in:

わたし借りたお金すぐ返します。​

The sub-topic お金 is not directly in contrast with the sentence topic わたし but instead contrasts with an implied or elliptical second sub-topic, in this case we will understand and supply a sub-topic like "other borrowed things". So my error was not realizing that お金 was being contrasted with another sub-topic that was understood and left out of the sentence.

Is my reasoning is correct?

Thank you!
 

Toritoribe

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Yes, that's correct.
The same goes to the two example sentences この机は私にはちょっと低い。 and 彼は週末は家にいる。 in the thread I linked above. 私 is in contrast with unmentioned another sub topic 他の人たち or like that, not with the main topic 机, in the first sentence. Similarly, 週末 is in contrast with 平日, not 彼, in the second one.
 

xminus1

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That's perfect! Thank you so much. 🙏👌
 

healer

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The sub topic often has a contrastive nuance; for instance,
Do I understand correctly that more than one は in one sentence is fine so long as the extra ones refer to subtopics that have contrastive nuance be it mentioned or not? You said OFTEN. Does it mean it is not necessary and one can sometimes willy-nilly have more than one は in a sentence anyway?
 

Toritoribe

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Think about the following situation.

彼は貸したお金をなかなか返してくれません。わたしは借りたお金はすぐ返します。
He doesn't readily return the money I lent to him. I (always) return money quickly after I borrow it.

In this case, although わたし is the main topic of the second sentence, it's in contrast with 彼. Thus, it's possible that the main topic, not the sub topic, has a contrastive nuance depending on the context. That's why I used "often".

Incidentally, in a single sentence 彼は借りたお金をなかなか返しませんが、わたしは(借りたお金は/を)すぐ返します。, both 彼 and わたし are considered the main topic as a set since it's a description about both him and the speaker.
 

healer

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Thanks!
The two example sentences given do have the contrastive nuance as I can see. So they do fit in with what I had learnt and what you stated.
I was wondering if there is any chance that an extra は is used without contrastive nuance.

By the way, I have expected に is used instead of は in the sentence of 彼貸したお金をなかなか返してくれません。It took me a while to understand the sentence as I thought he lent not I lent.

These are two sentences, aren't they?
彼は貸したお金をなかなか返してくれません。わたしは借りたお金はすぐ返します。
 

healer

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Sorry I didn't make myself clear. I just want to rephrase to make sure I understand.

If they are two separate sentences, we shouldn't need to worry about 彼 and わたし .anyway because there is only one each with the main topic in each sentence.. Am I correct?
We might have to worry about わたし and お金 in the second sentence.though. However they are fine if they are in the main topic and the subtopic, aren't they?
彼は貸したお金をなかなか返してくれませんわたしは借りたお金はすぐ返します。

However if we replace the full stop of the first sentence with a comma then we need to consider if there is contrastive nuance between the main topics, don't we?
彼は貸したお金をなかなか返してくれません わたしは借りたお金はすぐ返します。
So if the original two sentences are spoken instead of written, then should it be okay because the addressee can't be sure if they are two separate sentences or one sentence altogether.
 

Toritoribe

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That's always interpreted as two sentences 彼は貸したお金をなかなか返してくれませんわたしは借りたお金はすぐ返します。 even in a verbal conversation. A conjunctive particle such like が or けど is necessary to change them into a single sentence.
 

healer

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Thanks I've learnt something new. I've gathered They are always two sentences irrespective of what punctuation mark is used at the end of the first sentence.
 
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