Adjusting epistemic gradients: The final particle ba in Mandarin Chinese conversation

Authors

  • Kobin H. Kendrick University of York

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/10.1558/eap.36120

Keywords:

conversation analysis, Mandarin Chinese, final particles, epistemic, the ba particle

Abstract

In Mandarin Chinese conversation, the final particle ba contributes to the formation of a variety of social actions. Using the methods of conversation analysis, this article examines the use of the ba particle in answers to questions, informings, and assessments. It is argued that the particle serves as a turn-constructional resource for the adjustment of the epistemic gradient invoked in the sequence, downgrading the speaker’s epistemic position. In assessment sequences, the epistemic adjustment made by the particle also serves to solicit a response from the recipient who invariably has knowledge of the matter in question. An analysis of the ba particle in terms of epistemic gradients and their adjustment unifies two accounts of the particle’s function put forward in the literature.

Author Biography

Kobin H. Kendrick, University of York

Kobin H. Kendrick is a Lecturer in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, UK. His research uses conversation analysis to investigate basic organizations of talk and other conduct in social interaction, such as turn-taking, action-sequencing, and repair. A recent line of research has examined the multimodal practices that participants in interaction use to recruit others to assist them with troubles that emerge in everyday activities. 

References

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

Cheung, H. S. (1994). A practical Chinese grammar. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Chu, C. C. (1998). A discourse grammar of Mandarin Chinese. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Chu, C. C. (2009). Relevance and the discourse functions of Mandarin utterance-final modality particles. Language and Linguistics Compass, 3(1), 282–299. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2008.00105.x

Fox, B., & Thompson, S. (2010). Responses to Wh-questions in English conversation. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 43(2), 133–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351811003751680

Goodwin, C., & Goodwin, M. H. (1987). Concurrent operations on talk: Notes on the interactive organization of assessments. IPrA Papers in Pragmatics, 1(1), 1–54. https://doi.org/10.1075/iprapip.1.1.01goo

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

Heritage, J. (1998). Oh-prefaced responses to inquiry. Language in Society, 27(3), 291–334.

Heritage, J. (2002). The limits of questioning: Negative interrogatives and hostile question content. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(10–11), 1427–1446. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00072-3

Heritage, J. (2008). Conversation Analysis as social theory. In B. S. Turner (Ed.), The new Blackwell companion to social theory (pp. 300–320). Oxford: Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444304992.ch15

Heritage, J. (2010). Questioning in medicine. In A. F. Freed & S. Ehrlich (Eds.), ‘Why do you ask?’: The function of questions in institutional discourse (pp. 42–68). New York: Oxford University Press.

Heritage, J. (2012a). Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646684

Heritage, J. (2012b). The epistemic engine: Sequence organization and territories of knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45(1), 30–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646685

Heritage, J. (2013). Epistemics in conversation. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of Conversation Analysis (pp. 370–394). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

Heritage, J., & Raymond, G. (2005). The terms of agreement: Indexing epistemic authority and subordination in talk-in-interaction. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 15–38.

Heritage, J., & Raymond, G. (2012). Navigating epistemic landscapes: Acquiescence, agency and resistance in ‘repetitive’ responses to polar questions. In J. P. de Ruiter (Ed.), Questions: Formal, functional and interactional perspectives (pp. 179–192). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139045414.013

Kendrick, K. H. (2010). Epistemics and action formation in Mandarin Chinese (PhD dissertation). University of California, Santa Barbara.

Levinson, S. C. (2013). Action formation and ascription. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (Eds.), The handbook of Conversation Analysis (pp. 101–130). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

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

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

Liu, M. (2010). Emergence of indefinite article: Discourse evidence for the grammaticalization of ‘yige’ in spoken Mandarin. In A. Van linden, J.-C. Verstraete, & K. Davidse (Eds.), Formal evidence in grammaticalization research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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

Qin, L. (2012). A conversational study of the particle ne in Mandarin Chinese (Master’s thesis). University of Alberta, Canada.

Raymond, G. (2003). Grammar and social organization: Yes/no interrogatives and the structure of responding. American Sociological Review, 68(6), 939–967. https://doi.org/10.2307/1519752

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50(4), 696–735. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.1974.0010

Schegloff, E. A. (2004). On dispensability. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 37(2), 95–149. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi3702_2

Stivers, T., & Rossano, F. (2010). Mobilizing response. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 43(1), 3–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810903471258

Tsai, I.-N. (2011). Grammar as situated practices: Conversational practices of two Mandarin yes/no question formats in talk-in-interaction (PhD dissertation). University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles.

Wu, R.-J. R. (2004). Stance in talk: A conversation analysis of Mandarin final particles. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.117

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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2004.12.006

Wu, R.-J. R. (2006). Initiating repair and beyond: The use of two repeat-formatted repair initiations in Mandarin conversation. Discourse Processes: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 41(1), 43. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326950dp4101_5

Wu, R.-J. R., & Heritage, J. (2017). Particles and epistemics: Convergences and divergences between English and Mandarin. In G. Raymond, G. H. Lerner, & J. Heritage (Eds.), Enabling human conduct: Studies of talk-in-interaction in honor of Emanuel A. Schegloff (pp. 273–298). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.273.14wu

Published

2018-04-17

How to Cite

Kendrick, K. H. (2018). Adjusting epistemic gradients: The final particle ba in Mandarin Chinese conversation. East Asian Pragmatics, 3(1), 5-26. https://doi.org/10.1558/10.1558/eap.36120