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So i was reading 吾輩は猫である and i came across these sentences.

「吾輩は投げ出されては這い上り、這い上っては投げ出され、何でも同じ事を四五遍繰り返したのを記憶している。その時におさんと云う者はつくづくいやになった。」

For this following line:

その時におさんと云う者はつくづくいやになった。

I initially thought that it meant おさんは(私が)嫌になった。 Osan came to dislike/hate me.

But i am told instead that it's the opposite; (私は)おさんが嫌になった。 I came to hate Osan.

Did i miss something here? Does the は somehow function as a が in this sentence?

Thank you in advance.

  • (also, i'm already somewhat familiar of the different usages of は・が, such as topic marker, contrastive / neutral, interrogative, subject marker respectively). this still confuses me – 朦朧状態 May 16 '18 at 7:49
  • I asked this on HiNative, and got this useful answer that might help: {{First, you can see that these two sentences are monologue of "我輩". If the second sentence is described from objective viewpoint, it does not use "云う者" and would goes その時におさんはつくづく(彼のことを)いやになった。 Next, if you would like to tell that おさん dislikes about 我輩, you should say like this. その時におさんと云う者はつくづく(我輩のことを)いやになったのだろう。 Because 我輩 is not おさん and wouldn’t know how おさん feel about him, you have to change the end of the sentence into a guessing form. }} In this case, は then is used as a contrastive marker? – 朦朧状態 May 17 '18 at 3:21
  • or perhaps just a general topic marker. so confused. lol – 朦朧状態 May 17 '18 at 3:37
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You might already understand this, but let me check the basics again. First, the case particle that marks the subject and the object for 嫌い or 嫌になる is, either way, が. i.e. Aが Bが 嫌い (though this topicless sentence can't be a valid sentence without some conditions). When the subject is topicalized, it becomes Aは Bが 嫌い. When it comes to the object, Bは Aが 嫌い. When it happens to both, Aは Bは 嫌い.

Now, the reason the example uses は is, for one, because the sentences around the example one are already speaking of the woman(?) おさん and we want to indicate it as the topic, though how it uses その時 is a factor that inclines to use of が, on the other hand.

For another reason, I feel how the predicate stands for a negative feeling is perhaps a factor. This is something difficult to explain but sense of separating it with topicalization perhaps has something common with so-called contrastive は or how English speakers prefer "that" to "this" in a certain situation.

Edit: Reasons for topicalization are the same, even if multiple words are topicalized.

  1. Indicates shared information (often called topical or thematic は): ◯◯さんは こういうのは どうですか? → そうですね…私は こういうのは 嫌いです (In this reply, these repeated words tend to be omitted in practice.)*

  2. Contrastive は: (△△さんは好きなようだが)私は…、(そういうのうはともかく)こういうのは…嫌い

  3. Agrees to the negative predicate (a kind of the contrastive usage): This can be important when you highlight the word to negate among multiple words. e.g. 私は 昨日 そこには 行っていない vs 昨日は そこに… However, it's often used just because the predicate is negative even if there's only one word before it.

These factors are independent from (thus don't necessarily contradict with) each other. In the example case, if the questioner has asked someone else before hand and s/he has answered the opposite, or は is pronounced with stress, it's more likely to be interpreted as a contrastive usage. However, it still indicates the shared information. When it's neither really topical or contrastive, it tends to be explained with the remaining factor, the third one.

* I often hear a theory that claims there should be only one thematic は, but I wonder which should be the theme in this case.

  • thank you for the answer. i'm confused about this: "First, the case particle that marks the subject and the object for 嫌い or 嫌になる is, either way, が. i.e. Aが Bが 嫌い (though this topicless sentence can't be a valid sentence without some conditions). When the subject is topicalized, it becomes Aは Bが 嫌い. When it comes to the object, Bは Aが 嫌い. When it happens to both, Aは Bは 嫌い." Are you saying that "Aは Bが 嫌い" could mean the same thing as "Bは Aが 嫌い", that が can be used for both subject and object in the same sentence (i assume the conditions you mention refer to the construction being in embedded – 朦朧状態 May 16 '18 at 13:40
  • sentences?), and that Aは Bは 嫌い is a possible sentence? I especially don't understand " When the subject is topicalized, it becomes Aは Bが 嫌い. When it comes to the object, Bは Aが 嫌い." How can the object be topicalised in a sentence with 嫌い and が in it? – 朦朧状態 May 16 '18 at 13:44
  • Arikijin, almost anything can be topicalized in Japanese. "As for A, B dislikes it." "As for A, she dislikes B." AはBは嫌い is absolutely a valid sentence. It means "As for A, she dislikes B (but doesn't dislike C, which we were also talking about)." Does this help? – mamster May 16 '18 at 14:31
  • do you mean AはBは嫌い : A(topic marker は) B(contrastive marker は)? In that case in the original sentence, how do i know that the は is actually a contrastive marker and not the topic/subject marker? Especially when it's the only marker in the sentence, and is near the front of the sentence (i think). Also, i could see how [Aは Bが 嫌い "B dislikes A"] = [A(topic/ie object of dislike は) B(subject が) 嫌い] and when inverted to mean the same thing, [B(subject/topic は) A(object of dislike が) 嫌い], but doesn't this mean that interpretation can basically go in any way and が・は 'loses' any 'practical' meaning? – 朦朧状態 May 16 '18 at 14:53
  • @arikijin It's not that the second は or the one for the object are immediately interpreted as contrastive. The object can be a (not necessarily contrastive) topic too. – user4092 May 17 '18 at 11:48

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