The sneaky “ja”, it just crops up all over the place. I hadn’t paid much attention to it beforehand, because you can almost get away with not knowing about it. Without it, you’ll get the gist of the sentence, but not the nuances.
I don’t know why I left it so long to look it up. It’s quite prettiful.
(Little note, remember to pronounce it “ya”!)
It’s function is to emphasise. This is often achieved using English “do” or words like “certainly” or “indeed”:
- Mi ja legas = I do read.
- Vi ja kuraĝas = You certainly are courageous
- Mia amiko ja ekzistas = My friend does exist (indeed exists)!
I think the sound of the word really nicely fits its function. Something about also stressing the sound gives it a real feeling of emphasising the phrase. Whereas “do” and “does” feels a bit empty to me now.
Notice how it emphasises the truth of the phrase. If you combine it with a negative word, it can (you guessed it) emphasise the negative!
- Via amiko ja ne ekzistas! = Your friend certainly doesn’t exist!
Now a warning from the PMEG. Even though alone “ja” emphasises the truth or positiveness of a phrase, it is not a replacement for “yes”.
The Esperanto word for “yes” is “jes” (pronounced the same). You can even emphasise your yes: “Jes ja!” It’s like saying “Yes, it is indeed such!” (since the main verb here is implicit: “it is such” (“yes, it is such”. Which will hopefully help you remember not to say “Ja jes” which is not correct, because the “ja” is supposed to refer to this implicit “it is such” phrase after “jes”. It does not modify “jes”:
- Jes, tiel estas. = Yes, it is such (yes, it is that way )
- Jes, tiel ja estas = Yes, it is indeed such
Overall, a handy little word.