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I watch an animation called Detective Conan, which is about a detective. I read translations, but try to listen in Japanese. Sometimes, when he is asked "who are you?", the main character answers by saying "探偵さ" (or is it "探偵さあ"?).

In this case, what does さ means?

Thank you for your explanations.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

This さ is similar to だ in meaning, but it is less assertive. Unlike だ, it attaches not only to nouns and the stem of na-adjectives but also to the dictionary form of verbs and i-adjectives.

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A minor point. "na-adjective" = "the stem of 形容動詞". You do not need to mention "the stem of" when using the term "na-adjective". – user458 Mar 11 '12 at 12:57
@sawa: My understanding is that “na-adjective” is simply an informal English translation of the term “形容動詞” (whereas a more formal translation is “adjectival noun”). Am I off? – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 11 '12 at 13:13
It is not. The term 形容動詞 is a useless notion invented in traditional 国語学 (However, there are already criticisms within 国語学 such that there should be no category as 形容動詞, and what is called its stem should be regarded a noun). "Adjectival-noun" is a term that was created under modern linguistic perspective, and is more appropriate. "Na-adjective" means the same as "adjectival noun", but is used mainly in education of Japanese as second language. – user458 Mar 11 '12 at 13:27
@Vincent Hiribarren: I am not completely sure. I feel that 探偵さ is a little masculine, but 探偵だってさ sounds gender-neutral. I cannot explain why. – Tsuyoshi Ito Mar 11 '12 at 16:00
@sawa ね is gender-neutral. Omitting copula before it is feminine, though. – dainichi Mar 11 '12 at 16:54

It doesn't change the meaning much as far as I know.

According to the second definition of Edict:

(sentence end, mainly masculine) indicates assertion

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