The bǎ construction is a grammatical construction in the Chinese language. In a bǎ construction, the object of a verb is placed after the function word 把 bă, and the verb placed after the object, forming a subject–object–verb (SOV) sentence. Linguists commonly analyze bǎ as a light verb construction, or as a preposition.
Charles Li and Sandra Thompson (1981) offer the following examples of the bǎ construction:
|Transcription||nĭ||bă||tā-de yìsi||jiăng-chū-lái le|
|Gloss||you||BA||he-POSSESSIVE meaning||speak-out-come CRS|
|Translation||You have explained what he meant. (Literally: "You have spoken out his meaning.")|
|Transcription||wŏ||bă||zhè sān-bĕn shū||dōu mài-le|
|Gloss||I||BA||these three-CL book||all sell-PERFECTIVE|
|Translation||I sold all three books.|
The bǎ construction may only be used in certain contexts, generally those in which the verb expresses "disposal" of, or action upon, the object. According to Wang Li, "the disposal form states how a person is handled, manipulated, or dealt with; how something is disposed of; or how an affair is conducted," or, in other words, "what happens to" the object. Therefore, it is generally used with verbs that are high in transitivity, a property that describes the effect a verb has on its object; bǎ does not occur grammatically with verbs that express states or emotions, such as "love" and "miss," or with verbs that express activities that have no effect on the direct object, such as "sing" and "see."
The direct object of a bǎ construction must meet certain requirements as well. It is usually definite, meaning that it is specific and unique (as in phrases beginning with the equivalent of this, that, these, or those). It may sometimes also be generic, such as "salt" in the sentence "She sometimes eats salt thinking it's sugar." The object of a bǎ construction is nearly always something that both the speaker and hearer know about and are aware of.
Because of the numerous constraints on the kinds of words that may be used in bǎ construction, this construction has often been used in studies on language processing and on grammaticality judgments of native speakers. For example, sentences with bǎ construction that have syntactic violations (such as bǎ being followed by a verb rather than a noun) and semantic violations (such as bǎ being followed by a verb that doesn't express "disposal") have been used to study the interaction of syntactic and semantic processing in the brain using the neuroimaging technique of ERP, and to evaluate construction grammar's model of meaning-building.
- Zheng Ye, Weidong Zhan, Xiaolin Zhou (2007). "The semantic processing of syntactic structure in sentence comprehension: An ERP study." Brain Research 1142, pp. 135-145.
- Hornstein, Norbert, Jairo Nunes, and Kleanthes K. Grohmann (2005). Understanding Minimalism. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 99–100.
- Li & Thompson (1981), pp. 463–464. The glosses have been modified to be legible to non-specialists. "CRS" stands for Current Relevant State, a special discourse feature possibly marked by the sentence-final particle le in Chinese; "CL" stands for "Classifier," a kind of word used for counting in Chinese.
- Li & Thompson (1981), p. 468
- Zheng Ye, Yue-jia Luo, Angela D. Friederici, and Xiaolin Zhou (2006). "Semantic and syntactic processing in Chinese sentence comprehension: Evidence from event-related potentials." Brain Research 1071, pp. 186-196.
- Wang Li (1947). 中国现代语法 (Modern Chinese Grammar). Shanghai: Zhonghua Shuju. Translation by Charles Li (1974), "Historical Change of Word Order: A Case Study in Chinese and Its Implications." Quoted in Li & Thompson (1981).
- Hopper, Paul J.; Sandra A. Thompson (June 1980). "Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse". Language 56 (2): 251–299. doi:10.2307/413757. JSTOR 413757.
- Li & Thompson (1981), p. 467.
- Li & Thompson (1981). p. 465.
- Chao Yuen Ren (1968). A Grammar of Spoken Chinese. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Li, Charles, and Sandra A. Thompson (1981). "The bǎ construction," in Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 463–491. ISBN 978-0-520-06610-6.
- Sybesma, Rint (1992). Causatives and accomplishments. The case of Chinese ba. Doctoral dissertation, Leiden University.