Japanese - WA, - GA, and Information Structure

Caroline Heycock

in The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780195307344
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Japanese - WA, - GA, and Information Structure


This article develops a view of -wa and -ga based on modern theories of information structure. The characterizations of the interpretations of ga and wa are both disjunctive. They have appealed to the notions of “exhaustive listing” and of “topic.” There are considerable and well-known problems with the analysis of ga as a focus marker. There is a fairly general consensus that ga should not be singled out as carrying any semantic or pragmatic information; its alternation with wa is only privileged with respect to the alternation between, say, o (the accusative marker) and wa in the sense that it appears that subjects are an unmarked choice of topic. A formal treatment of the relation between contrastive and noncontrastive wa is badly needed, both for a satisfactory description of Japanese and more generally for the light that it might shed on the concept of topic writ large.

Keywords: information structure; wa; ga; focus marker; accusative marker; Japanese

Article.  12666 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Pragmatics ; Language Families

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