I know the は particle can function as a topic marker or contrast marker. But can it be topic and contrast marker at the same time?

Here are a few examples:

A) ビールは飲{の}まない。

B) 肉{にく}は食{た}べないけど魚{さかな}は食{た}べるよ。

C) 田中さんは日本語{にほんご}は上手{じょうず}です。

If I say the は is a contrast marker in the A) example then I'm not sure the beer is not the topic.

I know there is a rule which says: when multiple は particles appear in the same sentence, the first is generally interpreted as the topic marker and the rest are contrastive elements. That's okay for the C) example. But there are 2 subsentence in the B) example where I don't think the first は is the topic marker. If it is, that means the は is a topic and contrast marker at the same time.

Currently I think the topic has been omitted in the A) and B) examples because we already know it from the context. So if the は seems to be a contrastive marker then the topic is something else which is wrapping contrastive sentences or subsentences. Ergo the は cannot be a topic and contrast marker at the same time. Am I right?

  • 3
    I never thought about this point and can't answer the question, but it might help to think about B') 田中さんは肉は食べないけど魚は食べるよ。or B'') 田中さんは肉は食べない。田中さんは魚は食べる。
    – norio
    Mar 3 at 7:20
  • 1
    In my (limited) experience, the topic is usually omitted if it can be understood from context. So I support your conclusion that the topic is omitted in both A and B. We could try to think of the actual topic for those sentences. I would guess it could be the speaker (i.e. 私はビールは飲まない, 私は 肉は食ないけど魚は食るよ) or whatever other person A & B are referring to, just as 田中さん is the topic in C.
    – jarmanso7
    Apr 15 at 0:05
  • @jarmanso7 I recently learned that the は as topic marker only can be applied to the whole sentence. So the topic marker has been omitted in the B) example, because the sentence contains 2 subsentences. The は can be only a contrast marker in subsentences. Apr 16 at 16:59


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .