‘は’ of the 猫みたいな少女 About a Postpositional Particle

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Feb 28, 2011 12:45 Japanese_language
This post is for advanced learners of Japanese. (However I want to write this so that it would be useful for other learners.)

I came across an interesting example. It concerns ‘は’, a postpositional particle (助詞).

Sample:
いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に着き、寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めた彼女は、その時とても小さくみえた。
(I referred to http://lang-8.com/151073/journals/826775/ It is written very well. I am too ashamed to translate it into English. 私は恥ずかしくて英語に訳せない。)

Correction:
いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に
着き、

着いた。
寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めた彼女は、その時とても小さくみえた。
That is:
いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に着いた。寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めた彼女は、その時とても小さくみえた。
I split the sentence in two, since the topics of the first and second half are different. Although they might look the same, the first half's ‘subject’ is ‘小柄な彼女は’ and the second's ‘subject’ is ‘体を縮めた彼女は’. Indeed, they are the same person. So why are they different?

As many learners of Japanese know (皆さん知っての通り), the postpositional particle ‘は’ is the sign for the topic, not the subject. The two parts of the sentence above have different in topics. Nevertheless, each topic refers to the same person. Therefore, if both topics occur in a single sentence, I feel it unnatural. (I say 座りが悪い,落ち着きが悪い) (Note: This does not mean that we should not write different topics in a single sentence. Read again.)

The topic of the first half is a woman like ‘いつも厚いコートを着た彼女’.
The topic of the second half is a woman like ‘寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めた彼女’ in the situation of ‘静かな一番奥のソファー席に着いた’.
The subject of the first half is ‘the woman’.
The subject of the second half is ‘the woman’, that is, the same person. The subject does not matter one’s personality nor the development of a story, but rather only whether he/she is the same person or not.

The topic of a sentence depends on context, and it is changing according to the development of a story every second. This is a matter of reading comprehension, not grammar.


Alternative:

いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に着いたが、寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めた彼女は、その時とても小さくみえた。
is more natural than the original. Almighty, the conjunction 'が'.

いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に着いたが、彼女は、寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めていて、その時とても小さくみえた。
is more natural than one above.

いつも厚いコートを着た小柄な彼女は、傘を少し振った後、静かな一番奥のソファー席に着いたが、彼女は、寒そうな小猫みたいに体を縮めていて、その時とても小さくみえた。
is more natural than one above. The difference is only the existence or nonexistence of '、' after the first '小柄な彼女は'. The ‘、’ is one of the characters like kanji and kana (not mere signs) in Japanese and more important than how Japanese speakers consider.
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