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Sometimes, particles are omitted.

I've read, however, that this can be analyzed as inserting a "zero particle" instead. See for example Particle omission or zero particle by Mitsuaki Shimojo. See also Matt's comment on a related question.

Are there situations where a zero particle is required? That is, situations where adding any particle would change the meaning or make the sentence incorrect?

Are there situations where a zero particle is strongly preferred?

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I can think of one instance -- a noun phrase with も "also" cannot also take は/が/を. Because the NP still has grammatical case despite having non-overt case, this can be analysed as the topic/subject/object marker being obligatorily zero.

This isn't the case for other particles like だけ or など though.

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  • 5
    (1) Although it is true that が and を are usually omitted when used with も, the combination もが and をも also exist. (2) は is not a case particle. I think that がは→は is a better example of obligatory omission of a case particle. Oct 10 '12 at 11:34
  • True enough, but I think をも is a fossilised form in the modern language.
    – jogloran
    Oct 10 '12 at 12:28
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    @jogloran: I hear をも all the time.
    – istrasci
    Oct 10 '12 at 14:30
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    @istrasci: From Martin "A Reference Grammar of Japanese" §2.3: "In standard spoken Japanese these two particles are obligatorily suppressed... where we would expect N ga wa/mo and N o wa/mo we find only N wa/mo: the opposition of the prime cases of subject vs. object are neutralised." This might be a development in the language, a register difference, or else the grammar might be plain wrong.
    – jogloran
    Oct 10 '12 at 22:40
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Yes, when the subject of a sentence of neutral description (現象文) is pronoun これ・それ or a noun modified with この・その.

(Opening the refrigerator) あっ、この納豆 φ 腐ってる!

Without この that would be あっ、納豆が腐ってる!.

この納豆が腐ってる is "it is this natto that is rotten" and would be ungrammatical for a sentence of neutral description. この納豆は… would be a contrasive sentence.

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  • But I say あっ、納豆腐ってる!
    – user1016
    Apr 11 '14 at 9:23
  • Me too. That can be considered omittion of が as well because using が is obviously fine too.
    – user4092
    Apr 11 '14 at 9:48

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