Once upon a time, in coastal SE China, a flea ran into a louse. Hello, said he, I see you lay eggs, you must be a female. I am looking for a mate, will you marry me? All right, said the louse. And since then, speakers of Guangzhou, Chaozhou, Jieyang (and other dialects, I am sure), have been calling fleas as 蝨 /sɐt 7/, /sak 7/, /sak 7/ (etymologically ‘louse’) respectively; and lice, /sɐt 7 na 3/, /sak 7 bo 3/, /sak 7 bo 3/; that is, etymologically ‘louse’+female suffix.
The southern Min (Mǐnnán) verb for ‘give’ and dative marker hɔ 6 is often regarded as being etymologically identical with yǔ 與, MC yoX: 與 has similar uses in late medieval Chinese, and its MC rhyme is consistent with Mǐnnán -ɔ 6. Baxter and Sagart (2014) accept this, projecting the Xiàmén form back to Proto-Mǐn *ɣo B, based on Norman’s rules of correspondence. They rely on their Proto-Mǐn reconstruction *ɣo B to further reconstruct OC *m-q(r)aʔ for yǔ 與.
However there are reasons to doubt both the etymology and the reconstructions, as South Coblin recently pointed out in an e-mail communication to me (Aug 12, 2017). He observed that Norman never reconstructed a Proto-Mǐn word for ‘to give’, having looked without success for cognates of hɔ 6 outside of Mǐnnán. Hilary Chappell confirmed this, directing me to her 2000 article. Table 1 on p. 270 shows that cognates of hɔ 6 in whatever function—dative, passive, causative marker—are limited to Mǐnnán dialects: Taiwanese, Xiàmén, Zhangzhou, Yongchun, Dongshan. Quanzhou, another Mǐnnán dialect, uses thɔ 6, probably corresponding to 度 or 渡, before an indirect object, and either thɔ 6 or hɔ 6 in passive constructions. She shows that the widespread Mǐn dative marker and word for ‘to give’ is 乞, Mǐnnán khit. It occurs at least in Fuzhou (northern coastal Mǐn) and in the Putian group and appears to be, at least, a coastal Mǐn, if not Proto-Mǐn, innovation. Although Suixi, Dongshan and Chaoyang are southern Mǐn dialects, they have cognates of 乞, not hɔ 6, as dative markers. In the same paper Chappell finds that 乞, written and kir or kît and 度, written as tôu, are used in romanized 17th century Mǐnnán texts. There is in these texts no trace of hɔ 6, but she later found an example of it written as hou and meaning ‘to give’ in the British Museum copy of the 16th century Bocabulario (email communication to me, Aug 2017).
Although hɔ 6 has more than 400 years of existence in Mǐnnán, its connection to yǔ 與 remains problematic on phonological grounds, as the correspondence of initials is unique: there are no other examples of a word having MC initial y- (喩四) opposite h- in Mǐnnán (雨 has h- in Mǐnnán but initial hj- 喩三 in MC).
A preferable scenario is envisioned in an unpublished paper by Lü Xiaoling 吕晓玲, communicated to me by Hilary Chappell, and in Lin Baoqing 林宝卿 (1998; not seen; as cited in 吕晓玲’s paper): hɔ 6 would be a reduced form of the dative marker 度 thɔ 6. Hilary Chappell reminded me that I once made the same suggestion to her, which I had forgotten about. The phonetic closeness between hɔ 6 and 度 thɔ 6 ; the elements of functional equivalence between them, described in Chappell’s paper, including their apparently free variation in Quanzhou, support this hypothesis. While th- does not regularly change to h- in Mǐnnán, this is not necessarily fatal to the argument, as grammaticalization processes not infrequently involve phonetic simplification through word-specific changes, going on a par with semantic bleaching. For instance, the Mandarin perfective marker [lə] originates in a verb 了 MC lewX ‘to finish’, while the change from MC -ewX to Mandarin [ə] is not regular. In the case of hɔ 6, change of th- to h- could have occurred in the context of the compound marker 乞度 khitthɔ 6 ‘give-to’, attested in Quanzhou (Chappell 2000:267), where it alternates with khithɔ 6; specifically, khitthɔ 6 would have degeminated to khithɔ 6; by analogy to khit, khithɔ 6 would have been reanalyzed into khit-hɔ 6, also attested in Xiàmén and in Taiwanese; finally khit-hɔ 6 would have simplified to hɔ 6, in order to provide a phonetically lighter grammatical marker. This hypothesis better accounts for the facts and should be preferred to the idea that hɔ 6 reflects yǔ 與.
Chappell, Hilary. 2000. Dialect grammar in two early Mǐn texts: a comparative study of dative kît 乞, comitative câng 共 and diminutive –guia 仔. JCL 28, 2:247-302.
Lin Baoqing 林宝卿 1998 《闽南方言若干本字考源》,《厦门大学学报》(哲社版)第 3 期。