[Lingtyp] Double-marked passive

LIU Danqing liudanq at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 22 06:38:05 UTC 2021

 Dear Colleagues:
  The function word bei4 is viewed as a particle (for the verb) in some cases and as a preposition in others in Chinese linguistics. It is a unique element even as a member of the preposition inventory. That is due to its unique grammaticalization pathway. Let me say a few words to explain it.
    As Chao Li says, bei4 originally was a verb denoting 'to suffer'. It can take either a noun (such as pain, insult) or a verb as its object, and the verbal object underwent no change in its verbal form. When bei4 takes a verbal argument in Classic Chinese, the argument can be optionally  modified by an agent noun, thus, we have two forms of such 'suffering construction':
  (1)  Jiang4  bei4   sha1.       general suffer kill  'The general suffered killing = The general was killed'
  (2) Jiang4  bei4   wang2 sha1.      general suffer king  kill  'The general suffered the King's killing = The general was killed by the King'
Later, according to some criteria, the above constructions underwent grammaticalization. 'Bei4' in (1) was reanalyzed as a passive particle (marker) on the verb, while 'bei4' in (2) was reanalyzed as a preposition, with the possessive agent noun reanalyzed as an oblique agent. This is a unique pathway among Chinese prepositions because most prepositions in Chinese came from verbs occurring in serial verb constructions. 
  (1) is the source of the so-called short passive sentence in Mandarin while  (2) is the source of the so-called long passive sentence.          For the details regarding the grammaticalization of bei4, see Zhang, Hongming  1994, The grammaticalization of bei in Chinese,  in Chinese Languages and Linguistics 2, ed. by Jen-Kuei Li, Academia Sinica, Taipei.

    On Monday, March 22, 2021, 1:32:25 AM GMT+8, Chao Li <chao.li at aya.yale.edu> wrote:  
Dear Martin,


It perhaps dependson what you mean by “verb-coded”. For example, in what sense is the Englishpassive construction verb-coded? In a Mandarin sentence like (1), the meaningis passive and crucially it is coded with the passive morpheme bèi,which historically could be used as a verb that means “to suffer”. The singleargument in (1) can also correspond to the Patient argument of an activesentence like (2) or (3). Moreover, it can be said that the Agent argument gets suppressed in (1). Therefore,it appears reasonable to analyze (1) as a passive construction both Chinese-internallyand crosslinguistically. As for whether a bèi-construction like (4) canbe analyzed as a passive construction that fits the definition, such an analysisis possible if one accepts the (controversial and debatable) assumption that bèiin (4) assumes not only its primary role of being a passive marker but also anadditional role of being a preposition. 



Best regards,


On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 10:07 AM Martin Haspelmath <martin_haspelmath at eva.mpg.de> wrote:

  According to my favourite definition of "passive construction", these Mandarin examples are (apparently) not passive constructions:
 "A passive voice construction is a verb-coded valency construction (i) whose sister valency construction is transitive and not verb-coded, and (ii) which has an S-argument corresponding to the transitive P, and (iii) which has a suppressed or oblique-flagged argument corresponding to the transitive A".
 According to this definition, a passive construction "marks both the agent and the verb" (unless the agent is suppressed or otherwise absent). But Ian Joo's question was probably about languages where the SAME marker can occur on the verb and on the oblique agent. This would be very unusual, because passive voice markers are not expected to be similar to an oblique agent flag.
 Now my question is: Are these Mandarin (and Shanghainese) BEI/GEI-constructions passives? They have traditionally been called passives, but since the BEI element is obligatory, while the agent can be omitted (Zhangsan bei (Lisi) da le 'Zhangsan was hit (by Lisi)'), it cannot be a preposition or case prefix. At least that would seem to follow from the definition of "affix/adposition". So I think this construction doesn't fall under a rigorous definition of "passive construction". (Rather, it is a sui generis construction.)
 Some authors might say that it is a "noncanonical passive" (cf. Legate, Julie Anne. 2021. Noncanonical passives: A typology of voices in an impoverished Universal Grammar. Annual Review of Linguistics 7(1). doi:10.1146/annurev-linguistics-031920-114459), but there does not seem to be a clear limit to this vague notion (is every topicalization construction a noncanonical passive?). I do not know of a fully explicit definition of "passive construction" that clearly includes the Mandarin BEI constructions.
 Best wishes,
 Am 28.02.21 um 19:46 schrieb bingfu Lu:
  A better example in Mandarin may be:  Zhangsan bei-Lisi      gei-da-le.
 Zhangsan PASS-Lisi  PASS-hit-PRF
 `Zhangsan was hit by Lisi.' 
  'bei' is etymologically related to 'suffer' while‘给’ to 'give'. 
  In fact,  Zhangsan bei-(Lisi)      da-le.
  can also change to Zhangsan gei-(Lisi)      da-le.
  Furthermore, in Shanghainese, the PASS is a morpheme homophonic to the morpheme for 'give'. 
  Bingfu Lu Beijing Language University 
      On Sunday, February 28, 2021, 10:26:36 PM GMT+8, JOO, Ian [Student] <ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk> wrote:  
      Dear typologists,
 I wonder if you are aware of any language whose passive construction marks both the agent and the verb.
 For example, in Mandarin, the agent receives the passive marker bei.
 (1) Zhangsan bei-Lisi da-le.
 Zhangsan PASS-Lisi hit-PRF
 `Zhangsan was hit by Lisi.'
 When the agent is omitted, the verb receives bei.
 (2) Zhangsan bei-da-le.
 Zhangsan PASS-hit-PRF
 `Zhangsan was hit.'
 But, in some occasions, both the agent and the verb receive bei:
 (3) Zhangsan bei-Lisi bei-da-le.
 Zhangsan PASS-Lisi PASS-hit-PRF
 `Zhangsan was hit by Lisi.'
 Are you aware of any other language where a construction like (3) is possible?
 The only one I am aware of at the moment is Vietnamese.
 I would greatly appreciate any help.  
 Regards, Ian   

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