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My understanding of using at the end of a sentence is that it's essentially just for emphasis, just like using , and that only women can use it.

However, as far as I know, women can, and often do, use as well.

So is there a difference in meaning, nuance, or context which would make a woman choose to use instead of ?

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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted
  • expresses that the speaker assumes that the recipient does not know what is said.
  • does not have such implication, and it just adds feminine flavour to the sentence.
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What わ says is "I am emotionally invested in what I say in this sentence." There's no implication of "hey, this information should be news to you, so pay attention" -- in that situation, you need わよ. よ grabs lapels and demands involvement; わ waves an arm and invites it. –  Matt Aug 28 '11 at 9:14
    
@Dave M G What can I say, I'm communal-minded :) seriously, the analysis of よ is the heavy lifting here. –  Matt Aug 29 '11 at 11:29
    
@Matt Does the わ always have to come first? Can it be よわ as well? –  Ataraxia Sep 7 '13 at 13:08
    
@Ataraxia It can't be よわ. Has to be わよ. –  Matt Jan 4 at 2:49
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Disclaimer: I'm just a random Japanese native and my answer below isn't based on formal research or anything like that.

The feminine 「わ」 seem to have become almost extinct. You see it in text books and novels, but it's extremely rare to hear people actually using it.

The kansai 「わ」 is different from the feminine 「わ」. The feminine 「わ」 is used in 標準語 or 東京弁 and not in 関西弁. The kansai 「わ」 is only used in 関西弁.

The kansai 「わ」 is used by both male and female, and has no feminine effect even when used by female. The feminine 「わ」 does have an feminine effect, and is sometimes used to signal that the character in a book is a female etc. The two わ are also differently pronounced.

Interestingly, 「わよ」 is exclusively feminine 「わ」. Male usage of 「わよ」 is associated with transgender and homo-sexuality (talents like 美輪明宏 use it, presumably to emphasize their feminicity?). Usage of わよ seems to be rare among Japanese female (at least in younger generations).

So to summarize, Japanese female mostly use something else than わ nowadays.

EDIT: As an anecdotal evidence, I'll cite this chiebukuro question:

ドラマや漫画(アニメ)に出てくる女性はほとんどの人が
語尾に
「~わよ」「~よ」「~わよ」「~だわ」など
(例・「知らないわよ!」
 ・「だからアホなのよ」
 ・「そう思ったわ」
 ・「おちゃめだわ~!」) 
 つけますが、今までこういう女の子言葉使う方実際には見たことがありません。

For ppls opinion, you can take a look at the quetsion (Many obnoxious comments unfortunately, but there you go)

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Funny: I can probably not claim having as much daily experience of Japanese as you, but I am pretty sure I hear the feminine わ used on a daily basis (most often by older women, but every once in a while, by younger girls as well). I do live in Kansai, so the "Kansai わ" also happens sometimes (not all that much among my friends), but definitely also the "feminine わ"... What exactly do you mean by "extremely rare"? are you sure it does not reflect more on your social circles than on general use? –  Dave Aug 27 '11 at 15:05
    
@Dave: Well, at the end of the day it's just based on my non-scientific, personal experience so I can't really specifically tell you what "rare" means. I lived in kansai/tokyo/hokkaido if you are curious. I don't think it's possible to use feminine わ in 関西弁. I mean it depends on your definition but if わ is used in 関西弁, it doesn't have this signalling effect that the speaker is female, which a わ in 標準語/東京弁 would have. –  Enno Shioji Aug 27 '11 at 15:27
    
@Dave: I added one anecdotal evidence from chiebukuro. –  Enno Shioji Aug 27 '11 at 15:38
    
Sorry for the confusion: while I live in Kansai and while sometimes conversations have bits of 関西弁 to them, most of the people I know speak mostly 標準語. The occurrences of わ I was mentioning were most definitely not in pure 関西弁 (or 京都弁 to be exact) conversations. Anyway, as I said: I'm sure you have a lot more practice than me, so I was just honestly curious, since it never occurred to me that it was so rare... –  Dave Aug 27 '11 at 16:40
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I'm pretty sure that this is 関西弁 influence on their 標準語, I live out East and my experience correlates with Shioji's. Unless you happen to be friends with a lot of conservative-talking women! –  Matt Aug 27 '11 at 22:59
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In general, sentence final particle use varies a lot depending on the region. In Kyoto, where I live, for example, men and women both use わ freely, and even throw out the occasional 「わよ」. I think it sounds softer, more restrained and less insistent than よ but that's only my personal opinion. I haven't seen a thorough breakdown of the usage for the two, but I think you'd have to dig through academic papers to find something. I've been told that the meaning is essentially the same.

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