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It seems to me that "tja" is more a typo for "ja" than a word by its own.

I have looked in a number of websites, the only satisfying one was Wiktionary but it has nothing about its etymology as a German word.

How did the word "tja" originate?

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3 Answers 3

"Tja" is more than a typo for "ja", Like when somebody lost her mobile:

Her : "Ich hab mein Handy verloren."
Me : "Tja da kann man nix machen"

You can't put in "ja" there. Mostly used when expressing "Schicksal/Kismet"

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Thank you for you answer, I know "tja" and "ja" cannot be used interchangeably, I just guess "tja" was made of a typo when talking about its origin. –  user508 Nov 29 '11 at 9:08
Ok. I still don't think tja originated from a typo. ;-) –  Portree Kid Nov 29 '11 at 10:20
While I also don't think it originated from a typo, ja could be used in this example. Maybe this becomes clearer when the comma that belongs there is added: "Ja, da kann man nix machen" / "Tja, da kann man nix machen". –  fzwo Nov 29 '11 at 12:47
Ja doesn't transport the implication of tough luck. Ja, da kann man nix machen = Yes you can't do anything about it.Tja, da kann man nix machen. = Yes you can't do anything about it, it's just tough luck/Kismet/Schicksal. –  Portree Kid Nov 30 '11 at 6:57
@PortreeKid Add a shrug of the shoulders, and even the ja can be used in a resignative way. –  fzwo Nov 30 '11 at 9:32

"tja" is an interjection (Interjektion). Like "oh", "ah" or "pst". I wouldn't consider it as a word which has developed from something.

You could also say "nun ja", but what does that really mean? Just filling words or a filling sound to bridge the silence till your thoughts caught up.

I doubt it originated from a typo, because it is used mainly in spoken German. It get from there into the literary language. And it sounds better as "uhm" "ähm" or "äh", but fulfills the same purpose.

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My opinion: tja = shortened 'Du, ja', whereas both 'du' (= you) and 'ja' (= yes) are used as stresses.

For example:

'Du – Krieg ist halt schrecklich!'

'Ja – weißt du – Krieg ist halt schrecklich!'

= 'Tja – Krieg ...'

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