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I don't know if this question is appropriate for this site or not, but I am going to ask this question hoping for clarification.

When I hear について It feels like the declaration or introduction of something and somehow I expect a comment (wathever it is I can understand the sentence immediately.) but when I hear は I immediately think about it as a subject marker.

For example

りんごについて、食べた。 りんごは食べた。

I perceive them differently.

りんごについて、食べた。 I declare it's about apples. I comment "Ate".
Or I declare that it is regarding the apple. I comment "Ate".

りんごは食べた。 I see this as apples ate. But I know that it is not correct. I know that it should sound something like what I hear with について.

So my question is: Is について a topic marker too?
If in my mind I uset について instead of は, but while talking I would say は, would make my sentence weird to someone hearing.

Example:

剣ほどの大きさにまで膨らんだ青白い閃光は、情け容赦なく上条(かみじょう)の首へと叩き込まれる。

When reading it like this I get lost when I see は because while subsconsciouly I think about it as the subject marker I consciously know that it is not and I am not sure how to perceive it.

剣ほどの大きさにまで膨らんだ青白い閃光について、情け容赦なく上条(かみじょう)の首へと叩き込まれる。

This feels easier for me. I literally hear it like this: It's about "The flash of light which expanded to the dimension of a sword". I comment "Without any mercy it is being thrust at Kamijo's neck". Or
"The flash of light which expanded to the dimension of a sword" I declare it regards this, The comment is "Without any mercy it is being thrust at Kamijo's neck".

The feeling I get with について is:
剣ほどの大きさにまで膨らんだ青白い閃光 is just an introduction and a declaration and it needs a comment, what really matters is what I say about that "情け容赦なく上条(かみじょう)の首へと叩き込まれる。"

1)Would it sound weird as a sentence to a native speaker if instead of は there was について in a case like this?
2)To you natiev speakers, does は sound kind of like について sounds to me?

  • I feel weird to use について instead of は as a topic marker. – Yuuichi Tam Dec 2 '16 at 16:06
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    I know that it would feel weird to a native speaker, but would the meaning change? I think I have to adapt my は to this feeling. I was told at the beginning that it was a subject particle and whenever I asked I was told to keep thinking about it as if it always marked the subject. Only after I finished college I discovered it was the topic particle and now it's hard for me to think about it differently so I have to re-adapt my thinking. Anyway, is my understanding of how は feels correct? Just an answer to these 2 questions would help me immensely. – Splikie Dec 2 '16 at 16:10
  • Do you want to know the usage of は? If so, について isn't related with it. We rarely use について instead of は as a topic marker so I think it doesn't make sense. – Yuuichi Tam Dec 2 '16 at 16:29
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    I am just saying how it feels to me. Xについて feels like after that a comment regarding that is coming. No matter what it is I understand it as: It's about X. I comment "sentence". While with は it feels as if it's the subject while I know it is not. So would that feeling I described be the one you feel with は? – Splikie Dec 2 '16 at 16:32
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Is について a topic marker too?

No. On one hand は has some grammatical function as a topic marker, and on the other hand, について doesn't.

But I think, the meaning of について is indeed somewhat close to the interpretation of topic markers.


1)Would it sound weird as a sentence to a native speaker if instead of は there was について in a case like this?

Yes. Your example りんごについて、食べた。 can never be a natural phrase. This is because there is no topic nor subject. Instead you can say りんごについて、食べた。 Here, ついては is ついて + は where は is a topic marker. I feel ついては has stronger "regardedness" than は alone.


2)To you native speakers, does は sound kind of like について sounds to me?

Partially yes. Sometimes は is interpreted to "introduction and comment", but not always. This style of writing is often seen in laws. For example:

第百七十六条から前条までの罪の未遂、罰する。 (刑法 第一七九条

Whenever I hear は, I at first think of it as marking a subject, recognizing a topic at the same time. In most cases we don't have problem with it.

Well, as you might know, your example りんごは食べた is the same as りんごは私が食べた. Grammatically, the subject is not りんご but 私. I, however, as a native speaker, interpret it more like "The apple is what I ate."

  • Thank you lot for this answer. So I have some other questions: 1)"Sometimes は is interpreted to "introduction and comment", but not always." This kind of feels the way I perceive は at times, but not always. I kind of perceve は as something strictly only connected to a verb (Main verb), I don't feel like it's connected to other parts of the sentence. Is this correct? Online I found 主題と述語 and it was said that the topic is connected to the end Verb. 2)"Whenever I hear は, I at first think of it as marking a subject, recognizing a topic at the same time. I see, what if it's a long sentence? – Splikie Dec 2 '16 at 18:31
  • 1) Yes. Whenever は marks a subject, it can be only connected to a main verb. That is, は can't be used this way in a relative clause.     2) Sorry but I don't really distinguish short and long sentences, as most native speakers don't. – Faily Feely Dec 2 '16 at 18:44
  • I see thanks. I was told that to natve speakers it sounded like Xについて言えば Is this true? To me it feels like what comes after は goes back to what comes before it. XはY=Y regards X=X<-Y – Splikie Dec 2 '16 at 18:55
  • Well, Xについて言えば is close to Xについては. In some cases it is almost the same as Xは.     And I agree on "XはY=Y regards X=X<-Y". Whether X is a subject or not, I also feel something like "X<-Y". – Faily Feely Dec 2 '16 at 19:06
  • I see. Thank you again. So would it be correct to say that in XはY,は acts kind of like a divider for the sentence. What comes before は is divivided from what comes after it in the sense that Xは signals that from after the は until a main verb it all regards X? Kind of like Xは (Y) as if X is detached from what comes after it? So does this mean Xは means something like: Regard X, all of Y until the main predicate? Sorry for all this (maybe stupid-sounding) questions, but は is the last big problem that I can't seem to overcome. – Splikie Dec 2 '16 at 19:13

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