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

Issue: Vol 3 No. 1 (2018) Special Issue: Conversation analytic studies of language use in interaction (2)

Journal: East Asian Pragmatics

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/eap.36120


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: Kobin H. Kendrick

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