An analysis of Mandarin Chinese final particle ba in dispreferred responses


  • Jun Xu Colorado State University



Chinese, sentence final particle, ba, dispreferred response


In Mandarin Chinese conversation, the final particle ba is considered to performvariousfunctions. Using conversation analysis, this article examines the use of thefinal particle ba in dispreferred responses. It is argued that the particle ba is usedto mitigate negative valence with delays, alternative choices, accounts, and pro-formaagreement as well as other linguistic features in disagreements and decliningsuggestions or invitations. Also, the results reveal a close relationship between theparticle ba functioning as a mitigator or displaying a speaker's uncertainty in socialactions as well as sequential positions.

Author Biography

Jun Xu, Colorado State University

Assistant Professor of Chinese & Japanese Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Colorado State University


Chao, Y. R. (1968). A grammar of spoken Chinese. Berkley: University of California Press.

Chor, W. (2018). Sentence final particles as epistemic modulators in Cantonese conversations: A discourse-pragmatic perspective. Journal of Pragmatics, 129, 34–47.

Chu, C. C. (2009). Relevance and the discourse functions of Mandarin utterance-final modality particles. Language and Linguistics Compass, 3(1), 282–299.

Chui, K. W., & Lai, H. L. (2008). The NCCU corpus of spoken Chinese: Mandarin, Hakka, and Southern Min. Taiwan Journal of Linguistics, 6(2), 119–144.

Clayman, S. E. (2002). Sequence and solidarity. In E. J. Lawler & S. R. Thye (Eds.), Advances in group processes: Group cohesion, trust and solidarity (pp. 229–253). Oxford: Elsevier Science.

Clift, R. (2016). Conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Drew, P. (2005). Conversation analysis. In K. L. Fitch & R. E. Sanders (Eds.), Handbook of language and social interaction (pp. 71–102). New York: Psychology Press.

Drew, P. (2012). Turn design. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp.131–149). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Drew, P. (2018). The interface between pragmatics and conversation analysis. Journal of Foreign Languages, 41(1), 2–22.

Gao, Z. X. (2000). Yuqici ‘ba’ de yiyi zaitan (Revisiting the modality word ba). Shangdong Shida Xuebao (Shehui kexue ban), 1, 93–96.

Han, Y. S. (1995). A pragmatics analysis of the BA particle in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 23(2), 99–127.

Hayano, K. (2017). When (not) to claim epistemic independence: The use of ne and yone in Japanese conversation. East Asian Pragmatics, 2(2), 163–193.

Kaiser, S., Ichikawa, Y., Kobayashi, N., & Yamamoto, H. (2013). Japanese: A comprehensive grammar. London: Routledge.

Kendrick, K. H. (2018). Adjusting epistemic gradients: The final particle ba in Mandarin Chinese conversation. East Asian Pragmatics, 3(1), 5–26.

Kim, Y. (2018). Repetition with slight variation primarily through final particles in Korean-English bilingual children’s interaction. East Asian Pragmatics, 3(1), 59–90.

Lee-Wong, S. M. (1998). Face-support – Chinese particles as mitigators: A study of ba, a/ya, and ne. Pragmatics, 8(3), 387–404.

Li, C. N., & Thompson, S. A. (1981). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Berkley: University of California Press.

Lin, H. T. (1981). Essential grammar for modern Chinese. Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company.

Lü, S. X. (1980). Xiandai hanyu babai ci (Modern Chinese eight hundred words). Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan.

Pak, M. D. (2008). Types of clauses and sentence end particles in Korean. Korean Linguistics, 14(1), 113–156.

Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. M. Atkinson and J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 57–101). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pomerantz, A., & Heritage, J. (2012). Preference. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 210–228). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Ran, Y. P. (2004). Yanyu jiaoji zhong ‘ba’ de yuyong hongneng jiqi yujing shunyingxing tezheng (Pragmatic functions of the Chinese discourse marker ba and its contextual adaptability). Xiandai Waiyu (Jikan), 27(4), 340–349.

Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shibatani, M. (1990). The languages of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sidnell, J. (2011). Conversation analysis: An introduction. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Sohn, H. M. (2001). The Korean language. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Strauss, S., & Xiang, X. (2009). Discourse particles: Where cognition and interaction intersect – The case of final particle ey in Shishan dialect (Hainan Island, P.R. China). Journal of Pragmatics, 41(7), 1287–1312.

Tanaka, H. (2008). Delaying dispreferred responses in English: From a Japanese perspective. Language in Society 37(4), 487–513.

Tantucci, V. (2017). An evolutionary approach to semasiological change: Overt influence attempts through the development of the Mandarin 吧-ba particle. Journal of Pragmatics, 120, 35–53.

Wu, R.-J. R. (2005). ‘There is more here than meets the eye!’: The use of final ou in two sequential positions in Mandarin Chinese conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 37(7), 967–995.

Xu, J. N. (2003). Yuqi zhuci ‘ba’ de qingtai jieshi (The modality meaning of modal particle ba). Beijing Daxue Xuebao (Zhexue shenghui kexue ban), 40(4), 143–148.



How to Cite

Xu, J. (2019). An analysis of Mandarin Chinese final particle ba in dispreferred responses. East Asian Pragmatics, 4(2), 239-261.