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I'm using a new textbook, 中級を学ぼう- the blue cover, not the orange. And the grammar point is using という at the end of the sentence. It means the same as そうだ・らしい。The explanation says that it is frequently used in writing, so my question is why would I use this grammar point? Especially when I can use である。

Example sentence: 今年の冬は記録的な暖冬だという。

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The simple (possibly oversimplified) answer to this is:

  • Xである is from the copula だ・です, and it roughly translates to "(something) is X", and it states it in an authoritative tone. I think it isn't commonly used in speech, or necessarily in writing either, outside of say academic papers/textbooks etc. The という at the end of a sentence has a completely different function, and it tends to be used in formal contexts to indicate hearsay.

  • Don't confuse this with XというY/XであるY however! XであるY and XというY roughly mean "Y which is X", although the latter can also be "Y which is called X". XであるY has a literary/formal/authoratative tone, and I don't hear it much in conversation, unlike という (or colloquial variants of という such as って).

  • Thank you so much! という doesn't appear to be used very often then? At least in common texts. I've never seen it before. Unfortunately, this book doesn't have the greatest descriptions of the grammar. – Lizladyninja Apr 14 '16 at 3:54
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    @Lizladyninja XというY actually is used extremely frequently, and という at the end of the sentence is used reasonably often in newspapers etc I think, although you might not use it in day-to-day conversation. – cypher Apr 14 '16 at 3:59
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    I might just add as well, that the informal "って" used in conversation etc at the end of a sentence fulfills a similar role to this "という" (hearsay), and is quite commonly used. – cypher Apr 14 '16 at 4:05
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At the end of a sentence, you can see という as “is said to be” whereas である makes a more definitive statement.

  1. 今年の冬は記録的な暖冬だという。 This winter is said to be the most warm we ever had. (record winter in terms of warmness)

  2. 今年の冬は記録的な暖冬である。 This winter is the warmest we ever had.

In the 1. you can see that the statement is not definitive whereas in 2. it is. という is often found in newspapers and it is quite similar to そうだ as you pointed out.

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