"Topic" of a sentence

I was reading through one of the elementary level grammar books that was recommended and I noticed something I wasn’t sure of.

The book pointed out that

“にほんご”

in the sentence

“せんこうはにほんごです。”

was the topic of the sentence, but wouldn’t it be “せんこう”?

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It doesn’t ? It says that _____ in _____は is the topic of the sentence. So the topic is せんこう.

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せんこう is the topic which is “later in the sentence identified as nihongo”.

The copula です behaves like an equal sign, it says that one thing is another thing.

あなたは arranmcpです

The topic of the sentence is あなた (you), which is identified as aranmcp (also you). Notice that you can revert the sentence and it means basically the same thing (you are arranmcp; arranmcp is you; my major is the Japanese language; the Japanese language is my major).

Don’t waste too much time figuring out what a “topic” is, it’s one of the first things you learn in most Japanese grammars, but it’s also paradoxically one of the trickiest because later on you’ll meet が and then you’ll have to figure out what’s the difference between は and が and when they should be used and it gets all kinds of confusing if you try to come up with an all-encompassing ruleset. It’s better to get a feel for it and then familiarize yourself with it intuitively as you encounter it in various situations.

If you want a different take on the subject I can recommend the Cure Dolly videos who take the problem backwards and introduce が before は (which isn’t necessarily better or worse IMO, but it’s interesting).

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