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


  • Kobin H. Kendrick University of York



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


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. 


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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.