Despite extensive research on ba sentences in Chinese, the issue of when ba sentences are used in discourse has received little attention. This study examines the word order variation involving ba sentences by comparing three word orders: the canonical postverbal form, the ba form, and the topicalized preposed form. I show that the choice of the ba form depends on multiple factors, including information status, weight and topicality. The ba form is more likely to be used under two conditions: (a) when the ba NP carries old information but is not highly topical, (b) when the ba NP carries new information and is heavy. Further, my findings raise doubts on the ba NP’s role as a topic in discourse.
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