The topic is "the milk that (someone) drinks". On grammatical grounds 남자가 "the man" could be the subject either for the verb "to be cold" or for the verb "to drink" (but not both at once), The first option leads to an incoherent sentence: "as for the milk that (someone) drinks, the man is cold". It is incoherent because the statement "the man is cold" seems not to be related to the milk, so how can the milk be the topic? The second possibility ("man" is the subject for the verb "to drink") leads to a coherent sentence: "as for the milk that the man drinks, (it) is cold". This is coherent because the topic, the milk, is also naturally the thing which is cold. So the first option is rejected, not on grammatical grounds, but because of the semantic role the topic, identified by 은/는, must play in any sentence.
So the man is the subject of the verb 'to be cold' or the verb 'to drink'? Is there a rule that a noun tagged by 이/가 must be the subject of the first verb appearing after it in the sentence? Added 2019.02.04: As Ash-Fred says, 남자가 마시는 우유 is the topic of the sentence, where 남자가 마시는 is a subordinate clause that modifies 우유. The trick for English speakers is realizing that in Korean it is possible for a sentence to begin with a subordinate clause. In English the first thing we expect to see in a sentence is the subject, so when we see 남자가 we jump to the (wrong) conclusion that 남자 is the subject of the sentence. There seems to be a word-order rule in Korean that "words of a subordinate clause are contiguous". However the main sentence elements (topic, subject, object, indirect object, verb) are not necessarily contiguous (hence subordinate clauses can be inserted at various places). However this rule does not help us see where subordinate clauses begin. There is also the general rule that old information (e.g. topic) comes first in a sentence and newer information later, with the verb at the end. Also, sometimes the item marked with 는 can be both the topic and function as the subject, as in this sentence. Thus in this sentence, if 남자가 were the sentence subject, rather than part of a subordinate clause modifying the topic, this would be an odd order of things (subject before topic, and different from the topic). Thus it is more natural in view of these rules to think of 남자가 as part of a subordinate clause modifying the topic 우유.
- 남자가 ← 男字 (man) + 가 (subject marker)
- 마시는 ← 마시다 (to drink) + 는 (present attributive ending)
- 우유는 ← 牛乳 (milk) + 는 (topic marker)
- 차갑습니다 ← 차갑다 (to be cold) + 습니다 (formal ending)
- [(남자가 마시는) 우유는] 차갑습니다.
- [The milk (the man is drinking)] is cold.
A different sentence:
- [(우유를 마시는) 남자가] 차갑습니다.
- [The man (drinking milk)] is cold.
Yet another different sentence:
- [(우유를 마시는) 남자가] 춥습니다.
- [The man (drinking milk)] feels cold.
In Korean, the descriptive part and the described part are always in the same order: descriptor first followed by the described. In English, which has adjectives as a separate word class follows the same order if adjectives are used. But it uses the opposite order if relative clauses are used. For example, the following are equivalent in English using different word ordering:
- The pink milk is cold. ← concise and likely to be used
- The milk that is pink is cold. ← verbose and unlikely to be used
- The pink milk that is cold ← adjective and relative clause (as part of a complete sentence)
- The cold, pink milk ← adjectives only (as part of a complete sentence)
I'm not the biggest fan of this sentence being a part of the Modifier lesson since it jives better after learners have seen Korean gerund constructions.
남자가 마시는 is the modifier form of the sentence 남자가 마시다.
- 남자가 마시다. = The man drinks.
- 남자가 마시는 = that the man drinks
People who have seen the ~는 것 should draw heavily from that lesson.
Here's another way to look at this sentence though a construction series:
- 우유는 차갑습니다 = The milk is cold.
- 마시는 우유는 차갑습니다 = The milk that drinks is cold.
- 남자가 마시는 우유는 차갑습니다. = The milk that the man drinks is cold.
Yeah, it's an odd literal translation. It sounds like the milk is drinking the man...
I think it's because in English, the present participle construct can allow for object + pres. participle + subject, ie: 'car driving man' or 'time keeping person'
but never subject + pres. participle + object, ie: (by) man being drank? milk... ???
The adjective 차갑다 is describing the topic of the sentence 우유.