6

畀 and 被's modern pronunciations are quite similar.

Although 畀 can mean “give” like the Mandarin 给 it also can work like 被:

佢畀人睇見

他被人家看見

Do Cantonese 畀 and Mandarin 被 have any historical connection?

  • 他給人家看見 is perfectly valid, too. – Stan Oct 7 '15 at 4:15
  • I think you're referring to 俾, not 畀. One of the meaning of 俾 is identical to 被, as suggested by your example. But there are no historical connection between these two. – Alex Oct 7 '15 at 15:06
  • @Alex While I've seen the prescription that bei2 should be written 俾 when used as a passive marker and 畀 when used to mean 'to give', it's not clear that they are actually distinct words, because there is a continuum of meaning between the two. Take the following examples: 我畀啲嘢你做 "I give you things to do" > 我搵啲嘢畀你做 "I find things for you (i.e., to give to you) to do" > 啲嘢畀你做 "Things are given to you to do" or "Things are to be done by you" > 啲嘢畀你做咗 "Things were done by you" – Claw Oct 7 '15 at 18:18
  • @Claw 畀 means "giving" as you mentioned in your example which is commonly used in Guangzhou, which it does not fit into the OP's example. Here's a reference: hkcanton.mysinablog.com/…. 俾 and 畀's usage are often mixed in Hong Kong's media. – Alex Oct 7 '15 at 19:17
  • @Alex My examples showed how the meaning of "to give" very fluidly morphs into the passive construction by the last two examples, which parallel the structure of the sentence given by the OP. This is why I raised the question of whether 俾 and 畀 are really distinct words in the first place. – Claw Oct 7 '15 at 19:49
4

畀 and 被 are not related. In Old Chinese (F. K. Li's system) 畀 was pjidh, and 被 was bjiarx/h, phonetically quite different.

被 (the qusheng reading) was, and still is, a coverlet, etymologically related to the verb 'to cover' (the shangsheng reading). How 'cover' became a marker of passivity in a sentence is a long story; when something is laid on you, it's never you that does the laying, and the fact that it's an action external to you gives it a very passive feeling.

畀 originally meant 'give' in the sense of to 'bestow'; it came to be a passive marker is a very different fashion from 被; in fact, in most southern dialects, passive is marked by co-verb like structures with the meaning of 'give'; this is a regional feature, though the actual word differs from dialect to dialect; in the Minnan dialect, for example, it is 'ho', and its usage is very similar to 畀 in Yue dialects.

  • Do you have any sources? I was always under the impression that the use of 被 as a passive marker in modern Chinese was a simply a phonetic loan (假借字) and not actually related to its original meaning of 'to cover'. – Claw Oct 7 '15 at 17:16
  • 2
    Peyraube, Alain. “History of the Passive Constructions in Chinese Until the 10th Century.” Journal of Chinese Linguistics 17.2 (1988): 335–372. – wpt Oct 8 '15 at 0:29

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