Reinder wrote: linguoboy wrote:
Korean is a topic-prominent language
and "은/는" is the topic particle. Topicalisation is not something which can be explained in a paragraph or two; you really need to consult a good grammar with lots of examples.
I do know what "은/는" is/means, but I don't know the difference between "은/는" and "이/가".
Sorry, but if that's the case, then you don't
know what "은/는" is/means, you only know what it is called
. モモンガ is right--you could
write a book on these particles (and in fact several people have
). Did you even try to read the short article I linked to?
Reinder wrote:I know enough for now, I guess I'll learn more about it later after I read more about Korean.
Really, the only way to learn this distinction is through exposure. It's not so much about "importance" but about new information vs old information. In the first example:
누가 김치를 먹니?
Who eats kimchi?
여자가 김치를 먹어.
A woman eats kimchi.
the woman has not been mentioned before. It's new information, so it can't be the topic. instead, it takes a particle appropriate to its role in the sentence[*].
But in the second example, we already know there is a woman involved:
여자는 뭘 하고 있니?
What is the woman doing?
여자는 김치를 먹어
The women eats kimchi.
so she is "old news". This is indicated is by using the topic particle. Note how in the translation this corresponds to the definite article. Definiteness is one of the ways we indicate "old news" in English (and other Western European languages). If I say "the woman", I'm assuming that you know which woman I have in mind because she's been mentioned already. It's the same with 여자는.
[*]In this case, 여자 is the subject so it takes the subject particle -가. But you can also say:
김치는 여자가 먹어.
A woman eats the kimchi.
with the topic particle replacing the direct object particle -를. (The topic particle doesn't always replace another particle; sometimes it combines with one.)
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons