I understand (correct me if I'm wrong) that da is a short casual form of desu. But what does it mean in this phrase? or why it is used?

Tabeta bakari da.

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    It doesn't mean anything else. Here, too, "da" is a short casual form of desu. What exactly is your question? – Earthliŋ Apr 20 '16 at 14:07
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    tabeta is to eat , bakari is "just" or something, so what meaning adds "da" to the sentence? is a verbal tense or something? – Pablo Apr 20 '16 at 14:10
  1. [食]{た}べたばかりだ。(Tabeta bakari da)
    I have just eaten.

  2. 食べたばかりなの?(Tabeta bakari nano?)
    Have you just eaten?

  3. 食べたばかりではない。(Tabeta bakari dewa nai)
    I have not just eaten.

There is a writing style named 論文調 that is for an essay in Japanese, and the end of sentence is 'da/dearu' meaning the assertion. It seems that any examples of the language textbooks use this style usually. That is a mechanical style at the opposite end of the polite style of expressions such a honorific language, and it is a kind of literary style.

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    Does "it means 1" mean 「食べたばかり means 食べたばかりだ」? – Chocolate Apr 20 '16 at 16:41
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    Where did you get 食べたばかり (without だ) from? It's not in the question. I don't quite understand how this answers the question "why do we need da in bakari da?". – Earthliŋ Apr 20 '16 at 19:59
  • I think that だ is required because it is a predicate. However, in the case of ばかり+だ, it is often omitted in spoken language. Whenever the word at the end of a sentence is not a predicate, I almost think that is abbreviated. There is a style called 体言止め as an exception tho. そう思った私。 – nariuji Apr 22 '16 at 15:40
  • @nariuji I think you should add what you said in your comment to your answer, since it's relevant to the question. – Earthliŋ Apr 23 '16 at 20:17

ばかり【bakari】 is a 副助詞 (adverbial particle), which is derived from the 連用形 (-masu stem) of the verb はかる. But the particle (and 連用形 in general) behaves much like a noun. (Join to other noun-like words with の, make into a predicate by adding だ, etc.)

Now you essentially have a noun phrase 食べたばかり. To make a sentence out of this, you have to add だ・です (or だった・でした in the past tense).

This is the same as in

hon da.
[This] is [a] book.

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    @Pablo Taberu doesn't behave like a noun. I think you may have misunderstood the answer. – snailplane Apr 22 '16 at 1:22
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    @Pablo taberu is a verb, did you mean to ask about bakari? bakari does behave like a noun. This is true for many -masu stems of verbs. Sometimes the -masu stem would be best thought of as a particular conjugation of a verb (still "flexible"), but sometimes the -masu stem has "hardened" into a noun, e.g. 受付 = 受け付け (= -masu stem of the verb 受け付ける). There shouldn't be a "list of exceptions"; as far as I can tell it is a general feature of Japanese. (I don't have any examples where the -masu stem of taberu, which would be tabe, behaves like a noun, though.) – Earthliŋ Apr 22 '16 at 6:45
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    ^ I can only think of 三角食べ 😋 – Chocolate Apr 22 '16 at 9:33
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    @nariuji そうですか。「食べたばかりよ」とよく聞くと思いますが。 – Earthliŋ May 1 '16 at 8:38
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    @nariuji 「『食べたばかり』のほうが『食べたばかりだ』よりも自然なのか」というのは、もともとの質問「なぜ『食べたばかりだ』で『だ』を使うか・使えるか」とはまた別だと思います。 – Earthliŋ May 1 '16 at 10:14

As you said, “だ” is a colloquial form of “です,” a predicate meaning “is, am,” and "食べたばかりだ” means “I’ve finished meal just now.”

“だ” here functions as I am in the state of having finished meal just now.

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