Research Article

Insubordinate Conditional Clauses Formed by Japanese Conjunction -ba


  • Zhonglin Sang PhD student, Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan


Insubordination describes the phenomenon that a subordinate clause is used independently as a main clause. Insubordinate clauses endorse discourse functions alone without connecting with any apodosis. Many researchers studied this phenomenon from a typology perspective, clarifying the discourse functions and forming mechanism. However, those studies pursuit the cross-language features too much, investigating large numbers of languages and source constructions. As a result, their conclusion may not fit a specific language or construction. This paper aims to verify and complement the classification of one of the typology studies: Evans (2007), based on the investigation of the insubordinate conditional clauses formed by Japanese conjunction -ba, through the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese (BCCWJ). The investigation result showed that Evans’ (2007) classification fit the insubordinate -ba-clauses to some extent with a slight adjustment. Specifically, the types of “indirection and interpersonal control” and “modal insubordination” were combined as Type A, which was named “modal insubordination”. Meanwhile, a new discourse function, “requirement of further information” was added to the other type, “signaling presupposed material” to compose Type B, which was named “signaling presupposed material”. In Type A, the insubordinate -ba-clauses function as two subtypes, which are “epistemic and evidential meanings” and “deontic meanings”. Those two subtypes relate to each other by expressing or requiring evaluation towards the conditional clauses. Meanwhile, Type B has two subtype functions as well, which are “disagreement with assertions by the previous speaker” and “requirement of further information”. Both subtypes are formed by the process of providing a contrastive condition and requesting a response. Two further related issues were also discussed. The insubordinate -ba-clauses endorsing Type B functions appear to have some similarities with another type of insubordinate clause that was pointed out by other typology studies. However, they indeed differ from each other in their discourse functions and forming mechanisms. Moreover, as to the -ba-clauses, the distinction between Type A and Type B was found to be more apparent when analyzed from a functional perspective rather than a structural perspective. Those arguments complement Evans’ (2007) classification. This study shows its significance in verifying Evans’(2007) viewpoint by the Japanese language as a unique Asian language. Such verification is necessary because Evans’ research was carried out mostly based on Indo‐European languages. It is also implicated that a theory of general linguistics can contribute to studying an individual language in observing it from an outside perspective.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

4 (2)





How to Cite

Sang, Z. (2021). Insubordinate Conditional Clauses Formed by Japanese Conjunction -ba. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 4(2), 35–49.



insubordination, conditional clauses, Japanese, -ba, discourse functions