Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2023 Sijia (Ella) Wei. All rights reserved. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Jonathan North Washington

Abstract

The ba construction in Mandarin is a widely studied topic. It is generally established that ba constructions can only be used with definite or bare ba NPs. This thesis, however, provides the first systematic exploration of the varying behaviors of ba construction with indefinite NPs. It explores ba construction’s preferences further from the angle of presuppositionality of indefinite ba NPs in the context of creative-type and destructive-type verbs, attempting to generalize the exceptions to ba construction’s rejection of indefinite NPs. Specifically, I propose that while ba sentences with creative-type verbs reject indefinite ba NPs, such sentences are acceptable with destructive-type verbs. My hypothesis further predicts that the pattern only holds in the perfective aspect but not other aspects such as experiential, durative, and habitual aspects. Those predictions are made based on the common belief that the ba construction prefers specific and identifiable ba NPs, which also leads to the final prediction that destructive-type verbs intrinsically impose existential presuppositions on the indefinite ba NPs, thus making the NPs easier to imagine for the hearer of the sentences, i.e. making it more identifiable. I conducted an experiment to confirm the predictions by distributing acceptability-judgment surveys to native Mandarin speakers. The survey elicits participants’ judgments on various ba and non-ba sentences in different aspects with both creative-type and destructive-type verbs. The results from the experiment offer some confirmation on the grammatical aspects that the pattern can be observed in, the general acceptability of ba sentences with indefinite ba NPs with destructive-type verbs in the perfective aspect, as well as the intrinsic existential presupposition the destructive-type verbs bring to the indefinite ba NPs. However, it is inconclusive as to the unacceptability of such ba sentences with creative-type verbs and to the effect of having explicit presupposition on the acceptability of such ba sentences with destructive-type verbs. It is the first time that experimental data are used to examine ba construction, which adds in the perspective and insight of everyday language use.

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