「でも私は全然太ってヘンで」「まて!『私は』って言ったな!!」 About 助詞 が/は

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Mar 1, 2011 16:06 Japanese_language 「は」 「が」 助詞 主語 「、」 partial_negation
A conversation between two young women in Japan:
“I am tired of hard work…”
“You could think of it as a slimming exercise.”
“Indeed, but I am not fat.” (確かに。でも,私は太ってないよ。)
“Wait, you said, “I”, didn’t you?” (ちょい待て!「私は」って言ったな!!)

This is funny in Japanese, but I think that readers cannot understand what's so funny. This is a typical mistranslation.
(This post continued from http://lang-8.com/222346/journals/828498/ )

Lesson 1

‘私は’ of the “私は太ってないよ” is not the subject. It should be “As for me”, the topic of the sentence. However, many learners of Japanese would understand this so far. Well then (では), can we rewrite it into the following?

確かに。でも,私が太ってないよ。

This does not make sense at all. Not only is it an unnatural sentence, but it makes no sense. Why? The difference shows that the Japanese language does not only need the subject, but also you must not sometimes find the subject in a sentence. If we find the subject in the sentence with all our might, it could be the following:

確かに。でも,例外がある。私は太ってないよ。(but there is an exception. I am not fat.)
確かに。でも,「私は太ってない」という例外があるよ。(but there is an exception, "I am not fat.")
That is, the ‘hidden’ subject of the sentence is ‘an (the?) exception’. However, no Japanese would think of such a thing, except English grammar lovers (like me?).

Lesson 2

By the way, why is the conversation funny? Because the sentence “でも,私は太ってないよ。” sometimes implies, “I am not fat, but you are fat.” Though, this is not always true. It depends on the context, but here the person being talked to responded, “「私は」って言ったな?” and this means that she (the responder) understood, “I am not fat, but you are fat.” Well, why?

As I wrote before, ‘は’ is used as partial negation. ‘は’ indicates where a speaker denies. That is, ‘私は太ってないよ’ denies only ‘私’. In other words, it sometimes means that all persons, including you, are fat except 'me'. What a speaker affirms depends on context and he/she cannot often control it by him/herself, like this conversation... Therefore, be careful!

See also:
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/828534/ (田中先生は,ロシア語が分かる。 v. ロシア語を分かる。)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/825059/ (Why/how does the Japanese language not need the subject?)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/871307/ (Aizu says, “You are still an old enemy, but we are thankful to you.”)

Appendix:
確かに。でも,私は太ってないよ。
確かに。でも,私,太ってないよ。
(I changed my mind after I posted this.) ‘私,’ may be different from ‘私は’. ‘私,’ seems not to imply partial negation. Give me more observations. At any rate, the ‘、’ is one of the characters like kanji and kana (not mere signs) in Japanese and more important than how Japanese speakers consider.
See also:
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/898527/ (みんな、とても恥ずかしかったのです。)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/929126/ (「私は」 and 「私は、」 are quite different.)
http://lang-8.com/satoshi/journals/834211/ (その後に / そのごに / そのあとに / その後, / そのご, / そのあと,)