Acquisition of the Mandarin ba-construction by Cantonese learners

Yike Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Optionality, defined as the coexistence of two or more variants of a given construction, has been investigated in second language studies. Following the notion of optionality, this study defines the Mandarin ba-construction and its corresponding non-ba-forms as optional variants to examine Cantonese-speaking learners’ acquisition of Mandarin. We designed an elicited production task and an acceptability judgement task to test the disposal and locational displacement types of the ba-construction, and invited Cantonese learners and Mandarin native speakers to attend the experiments. The Cantonese learners, like learners with other language backgrounds, produced fewer ba-sentences compared with native speakers, but the Cantonese learners produced much more ba-sentences than learners with other language backgrounds and were aware of the constraints on the ba-construction, which is probably due to the existence of the similar zoeng-construction in Cantonese. Although at an advanced level, the performance of the Cantonese learners diverged from that of the native speakers in both the production and the judgement, which demonstrates the existence of optionality in the Cantonese learners’ interlanguage grammars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020


  • acquisition
  • second language
  • optionality
  • Mandarin
  • ba-construction


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