LINGUIST List 9.1757

Thu Dec 10 1998

Sum: Cognate Objects

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <>


  • Piroska Csuri, Re: Cognate Object summary

    Message 1: Re: Cognate Object summary

    Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 11:46:40 -0500 (EST)
    From: Piroska Csuri <>
    Subject: Re: Cognate Object summary

    The original query from LINGUIST 9.1611: Sat Nov 14 1998.

    I am posting this query on behalf of Christiane Fellbaum, Dave Lebeaux, and myself.

    Dear Everyone,

    We would like to find out what work has been done on the so-called cognate object construction, such as:

    She slept a restful sleep. He laughed a hysterical laugh. They danced a slow, romantic dance. Our understanding is that this construction is widespread among langauges, as they have been observed in Chichewa, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English, Icelandic, German, etc, with somewhat different morphological/grammatical properties and varying productivity.

    We are wondering what papers and/or unpublished manuscripts are available on this topic regarding

    -straight description; -morphological, syntactic and semantic properties of the construction; or -the relation of the cognate object construction to the availability/analysis of other constructions/morphological phenomena.

    We would like to cast this net wide, so we would be interested in information about any language, and any relevant information.

    Please respond to Piroska Csuri at:

    If there is interest, I will post a summary with the information received.

    Thanks for any help,

    Piroska Csuri 4 Independence Way NEC Research Institute Princeton, NJ 08540 Fax: (609)951-2482 ***************************************************************************** Thanks to the following people for responding to the query with relevant information:

    Denis Akhapkine Elena Bashir Deborah Milam Berkley <> Edit Doron Tom Ernst Fritz Heberlein Mike Jones <> Meri E Larjavaara Peter Lasersohn Talke Macfarland Jouni Maho Sam Martin Anita Mittwoch David Nash Mari Broman Olsen <> Asya Pereltsvaig <> Ana Teresa Perez-Leroux Hoa Pham Marc Picard Jo Tyler Ton van der Wouden <>

    ***************************************************************************** References provided:

    Alsina, A., J. Bresnan & P. Sells (1997), eds. COMPLEX PREDICATES, Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. Several articles, among others Hale & Keyser, Kiparsky, and Williams.

    Austin, Peter. 1982. Transitivity and Cognate Objects in Australian languages, pp.37-47 in _Studies in Transitivity_, ed. by Paul J. Hopper and Sandra A. Thompson. (Syntax and Semantics. Volume 15). New York: Academic Press.

    Evgen'jeva A.P. Ocherki po yaziky russkoj ustnoj poezii v zapis'akh XVII-XX veka. - Moscow; Leningrad, 1963. (see p.101-247) /Russian folk and poetry/

    Farghal,-Mohammed (1993) The Translation of Arabic Cognate Accusatives into English by MA Student Translators Interface:-Journal-of-Applied-Linguistics-Tijdschrift-voor-Toegepaste-Linguistiek, Brussels, Belgium (Interface). 1993, 8:1, 25-41 DE: Arabic-language-Modern; translation-; cognate-object-construction; in English-language-translation

    Fassi Fehri, Abdelkader (19??) Cognate Objects as Arguments. ms? Institut d'Etudes et de Recherche pour l'Arabisation (see Mike Jones's message).

    Grimshaw, Jane (1990) Argument Structure, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

    Hale, Kenneth & Samuel Jay Keyser: 1993, On Argument Structure and the Lexical Expression of Syntactic Relations, in Hale, Kenneth & Samuel Jay Keyser (eds.) The View from Building 20, pp. 53-109.

    Hansson,-Inga-Lill (1996) Object-Verb in Akha: The ABB Structure Linguistics-of-the-Tibeto-Burman-Area, Berkeley, CA (LTBA). 1996, 19:1, 77-95 DE: Akha-language; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction; relationship to semantics-

    Horita,-Yuko (1996) English Cognate Object Constructions and Their Transitivity English-Linguistics:-Journal-of-the-English-Linguistic-Society-of-Japan, Tokyo, Japan (EngLing). 1996 Nov, 13, 221-47 DE: English-language-Modern; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction; relationship to transitivity-; application of cognitive-grammar

    Jones, Micheal A. (1988) Cognate objects and the case filter. Journal of Linguistics 24, 89-110.

    Khalaily, Samir (1997) "One syntax for all categories: Merging nominal atoms in multiple adjunction structures". Doctoral thesis, Leiden University. (avaliable from Holland Academic Graphics [])

    Landgraf, G. (1878) De figura etymologica, Acta seminarii Erlangensis I / II, 1878

    Larjavaara, Meri: " quoi sert l'objet interne?", _Travaux_de_linguistique_ 35, 1997. Pp. 79-88.

    Lefebvre, Claire (1994) On Spelling Out E, Travaux de recherche sur le crole hatien, Dpartement de Linguisitique, Universit du Qubec Montral.

    Levin, Beth (1993) English Verb Classes and Alternations, U of Chicago Press, p. 96.

    Macfarland,-Talke (1995) Cognate Objects and the Argument/Adjunct Distinction in English Dissertation-Abstracts-International, Ann Arbor, MI (DAI). 1996 July, 57:1, 194A DAI No.: DA9614788. Degree granting institution: Northwestern U, 1995 DE: English-language-Modern; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction; relationship to argument-structure; dissertation-abstract

    Manfredi (1989) Igboid. IN _The Niger-Congo languages_, ed. by John Bendor-Samuel, UP of America.

    Martin, Samuel E. (1992) A reference grammar of Korean, Charles E. Tuttle Co.

    Massam,-Diane (1990) Cognate Objects as Thematic Objects. Canadian-Journal-of-Linguistics-Revue-Canadienne-de-Linguistique, Downsview, ON, Canada (CJL). 1990 June, 35:2, 161-190 DE: English-language-Modern; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction; relationship to patient-case

    Matisoff,-James-A. (1996) The Cognate Noun/Verb Construction in Lahu Linguistics-of-the-Tibeto-Burman-Area, Berkeley, CA (LTBA). 1996 Spring, 19:1, 97-101 DE: Lahu-language; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction

    Matsumoto,-Masumi (1996) The Syntax and Semantics of the Cognate Object Construction English-Linguistics:-Journal-of-the-English-Linguistic-Society-of-Japan, Tokyo, Japan (EngLing). 1996 Nov, 13, 199-220 DE: English-language-Modern; syntax-; object-; cognate-object-construction; relationship to unergative-verb; semantics-

    Mechkova-Atanasova,-Zdravka (1995) Akkusativ des Inhalts, Stabreim i prividno skhodnata bulgarska korennoslovna iteratsiia Sapostavitelno-Ezikoznanie-Sopostavitel'noe-Jazykoznanie-Contrastive-Linguistics, Sofia, Bulgaria (SEzik). 1995, 20:1, 14-18 LA: Bulgarian NT: Eng. & Rus. sums. DE: Bulgarian-language; syntax-; phrase-; cognate-object-construction; compared to German-language

    Mittwoch, Anita (1998) Cognate Objects as Reflections of Davidsonian Arguments. IN Events and Grammar, Susan Rothstein, ed., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 309-332..

    Moltmann, Fredericke (1989) Nominal and clausal event predicates, Papers from the 25th Annual Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, pp. 300-314.

    Nwachukwu, P.A. (1985) Inherent complement verbs in Igbo. Journal of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria, 3, pp 61-73.

    Nwachukwu, P.A. (1987) The argument structure of Igbo verbs. Lexicon project working paper, no 18. MIT Center for Cognitive Science.

    Olsen, Mari B. and Talke Macfarland (1996) Where is transitivity? Paper presented at the Seventh Annual Formal Linguistics Society of Mid-America conference, May 17-19, 1996, The Ohio State University. Paper dowloadable from Mari B. Olsen's webpage [].

    Pereltsvaig, Asya (1998) A Cross-Linguistic Study of Cognate Objects and Predication of Events, ms.

    Pereltsvaig, Asya (1998) Two Classes of Cognate Objects, The Proceedings of the WCCFL XVII, Vancouver, BC.

    Pham, Hoa (to appear) Indirect cognate objects: Vietnamese case. To appear in Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics, next issue.

    Ros'en, H. (1997) Figura etymologica. A.M. Bolkestein - R. Risselada e.a. (eds.): Festschrift for Harm Pinkster. Amsterdam.

    Sanchez, Francesco de las Brozas, aka Sanctius aka El Brocense (1562) Minerva, seu, De causis linguae latinae commentarius. In Spanish: Minerva o la propriedad de la lengua latina. (PC: I hope this is the work mentioned by Ana Teresa Perez-Leroux)

    Stewart,-Devin-J. (1996) Root-Echo Responses in Egyptian Arabic Politeness Formulae IN Elgibali-Alaa (ed.). Understanding Arabic: Essays in Contemporary Arabic Linguistics in Honor of El-Said Badawi. Cairo : American U in Cairo P, 1996. vi, 274 pp. DE: Arabic-language-Modern; Egyptian-Arabic-dialect; lexicology-; phraseology-; cognate-object-construction; in blessing-; relationship to politeness-; treatment in Ferguson,-Charles-Albert; folk-literature; folk-speech-play; Egypt-; in control-

    Stewart, O. T.: 1998, The Serial Verb Construction Parameter, Ph.D. dissertation, McGill University.

    Tolstoy, N.I. Iz poetiki russkih i serbohorvatskih narodnykh pesen: (Priglagol'nyj tvoritel'nyj tavtologicheskij) // Poetika i stilistika russkoi literatury / Ed. M.P.Alekseev. - Leningrad, 1971. /Russian folk and poetry/

    Wierzbicka, Anna (1982) Why Can You have a drink When You Cant have an eat?, Language, 58, 753-799.

    Zubizarreta, Maria-Louisa: 1987, Levels of Representation in the Lexicon and the Syntax, Dordrecht, Forris.

    Zubova, L.V. Poezija Mariny Cvetajevoj: Lingvisticheskij aspekt. - Leningrad, 1989 (see p.13-30) /Russian folk and poetry/

    **************************************************************************** ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

    > From Elena Bashir

    The cognate object construction exists importantly in Urdu and Hindi. I don't know of any work specifically on it in these languages, but some typical examples are:

    mai~ khaanaa khaauu~gaa `I will eat (dinner/food)'. The verb khaanaa `to eat' needs an object. You can't say, as you can in English "I am eating.' meaning `I am eating (a meal).' The most common object encountered is *khaanaa* `food, meal'

    us-ne gaanaa gaaya `S/he sang a song.' gaanaa, verb `to sing' and gaanaa, noun `song'

    mai~ ek baat bataauu~ `Shall I tell you something?' baat, noun `speech, word' and bataanaa, verb `to tell'

    I'm sure you can find discussion of this in standard grammars of Hindi or Urdu.

    ************************************************************** > From Sam Martin

    Korean has a structure V-um (ul) V, in which -um nominalizes a verb stem and ul is the accusative marker, so the meaning is something like "do the doing". A common example is chwu-m ul chwu- "dance a dance = dance". In earlier Korean the structure was quite widespread, as a stylistic or emphatic alternate to the simple verb. In modern Korean a different nominalizer is used for that purpose: V-ki lul V, in which lul is an allomorph of the accusative marker called for by the preceding vowel. The vowel in the ending -um is inserted after a consonant; the basic form is just -m, as in chwu-m. The second V in both types can be (and often is) replaced by the pro-verb ha- "do".

    If you want to know more about Korean you might take a look at my 1992 reference grammar (Samuel E. Martin, A reference grammar of Korean, Charles E. Tuttle Co.)

    Although Japanese has odor-i _o odor- "dance a dance" with a lexical nominalization and the accusative case marker, the structure has never been particularly productive. There is a productive structure V-i _o si- "does V", with the infinitive from which the lexical nominalization is derived (by dropping the locus of accent) and the pro-verb si- "does". That structure is quite common when focus or delimitation is applied directly to the predicate nucleus. The focal particle (typically wa or mo) usually suppresses the accusative marker, which lurks covertly just below the surface.

    **************************************************************** > From Asya Pereltsvaig <>

    I've been working on cognate object constructions for more than a year now. There is of course a lot of literature on this subject, most of them referred to in my paper. ... this paper is still not published (the last version of it, that is; some preliminary version is published in the last WCCFL proceedings, but I don't know how easy it is to get it)... Most of what I have to say about cognate objects is in the paper so I will not elaborate here. (see references section for titles of her papers)

    **************************************************************************** > From Fritz Heberlein

    In Latin this is called the "figura etymologica" construction. The term, however, is of 19th century origin (G. Landgraf, de figura etymologica, Acta seminarii Erlangensis I / II, 1878).

    A recent study on syntax and semantics of f.e. in Latin is H. Ros'en, Figura etymologica. A.M. Bolkestein - R. Risselada e.a. (eds.): Festschrift for Harm Pinkster. Amsterdam 1997 (cited out of memory, no details at hand - sorry).

    *************************************************************************** > From Ana Teresa Perez-Leroux

    The only description I have read of this in regards to Romance comes from the Rennaissance grammairian Sanctius (aka `El Brocense'), who believed that optional intransitives had implicit direct objects, and used the cognate object examples to make his point. I have read him in Spanish but I believed the original examples were Latin.

    (PC: the reference I dug up for El Brocense is included in the references section above - I hope this is the relevant work. El Brocense aka Francesco Sanchez de las Brozas)

    *************************************************************************** > From Meri E Larjavaara

    I have been myself interested in cognate objects in Modern French and have written an article on the category. I copy here its summary.

    Meri Larjavaara: " quoi sert l'objet interne?", _Travaux_de_linguistique_ 35, 1997. Pp. 79-88.



    Two different types of criteria determine a cognate object in modern French (cf. Gougenheim, 1964). According to the semantic criteria, the referent of a cognate object is internal to the action - that is, the object refers to the action itself ("vivre une vie heureuse" `to live a happy life') or to the result of the action ("pleurer des larmes de joie" `to cry tears of joy'); according to the syntactic criterion, the verb in question is "normally" intransitive. Most often the syntactic criterion seems to be the conclusive one, because the semantic criteria do not allow to distinguish between the so-called cognate objects and many other cases. However, that leads to reasoning in a circle: "normally intransitive" verbs are precisely those that do not have objects, and if they have one (be it a cognate object), they cannot be considered intransitive. In modern French the notion of cognate object seems to have no other use than to justify the presence of an object with some verbs which most often do not have one.

    ***************************************************************** > From Mari Broman Olsen <>

    In re: your LINGUIST query, Talke Macfarland, a student of Beth Levin's, wrote her dissertationon the COC, especially considering its argument status and aspectual effect. A brief sketch of her some of her conclusions is embedded in a paper we wrote together (on my website: - PC: see references above-)... She deals from a large corpus of examples (2000+) on English, as well as considering other languages.

    ***************************************************************** > From Jo Tyler, 1 of 2

    Regarding your query on the Linguist List Vol. 9-1611 about cognate objects, you are probably already familiar with articles by Hale & Keyser, Kiparsky, and Williams (among others) in COMPLEX PREDICATES, ed. by A. Alsina, J. Bresnan & P. Sells, 1997, Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. These articles address some of the issues you raised in your query. In addition to cognate objects occurring with unergatives as mentioned in your query, they also occur with denominal transitive verbs in English such as "shelve the books on the top shelf/ on the desk" (see Kiparsky, cited above). One of the features of these cognate object constructions that I have noticed in English is that the objects are not bare NPs, but have a strong tendency to occur with some kind of complement or modifier. I am curious about why this occurs: --Is there some kind of grammatical constraint? (comparable to adverbs occurring with middle constructions) --Is this due to encyclopedic/extralinguistic factors? __Or, is it (merely) a stylistic restriction?

    ************************************************************************** > From Jo Tyler, 2 of 2

    Since your original query, I have come across some other references, which address (if only indirectly) your question about shelf/shelve type cognates. Beth Levin (English Verb Classes and Alternations, 1993, U of Chicago Press, p. 96) refers to these as "cognate prespositional phrase constructions" and there are some additonal references cited there. An article by Diane Massam (1990, Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 35(2), pp. 161-190) disucsses cognate objects (of the smile and die/death type) as "thematic objects." Taking a similar approach to the shelf type (i.e. a thematic role approach), I think one ought to include them as a type of cognate object. I will be happy to discuss this topic with you further as it is central to a research project I am currently engaged in.

    ***************************************************************************** > From Jouni Maho

    There are similar constructions in the Nigerian Igboid languages (Niger-Congo), called Bound Verb Complement (BVC). Says Manfredi (in the article "Igboid" in _The Niger-Congo languages_, ed by John Bendor-Samuel, UP of America, 1989):

    "When there is no lexical object, the BVC is obligatory. When both occur the predicate is emphatic" (p352)

    EXAMPLES (diacritics omitted): with lexical object: Ada ri-ri ji "Ada ate yam" without lexical object: Ada ri-ri eri "Ada ate (something)" lexical object plus BVC: Ada ri-ri ji eri "Ada really ate yam"

    There seems to be some kind of constraints on how to use BVC in certain tenses/aspects, that is, it is only obligatory together with the aspectual suffix -rV, which Manfredi does not gloss nor explain. It seems to indicate `perfect' though.

    The following references are given in Manfredi's article where this particular phenomena is treated (besides references to conference talks):

    P A Nwachukwu. 1985. Inherent complement verbs in Igbo. Journal of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria, 3, pp 61-73.

    P A Nwachukwu. 1987. The argument structure of Igbo verbs. Lexicon project working paper, no 18. MIT Center for Cognitive Science.

    **************************************************************** > From Mike Jones <>

    I published a paper on this topic:

    M. A. Jones, (1988) 'Cognate Objects and the Case Filter', Journal of Linguistics 24, 89-110.

    It deals mainly with English, but there is some discussion of German, Latin and Arabic (By the way, if you consult it the Arabic example on p102 is wrongly transcribed -- I misread the informant's handwriting. I don't have the correct version to hand, but I can get it if you need it).

    Abdelkader Fassi Fehri wrote a paper entitled 'Cognate Objects as Arguments' which is partially a critical reply to my paper, though it deals mainly with Arabic. The version I have is a typescript and I don't know whether it was ever published. For more info (and perhaps a copy) you could write to the author...

    *************************************************************** > From Ton van der Wouden <>

    You may want to take a look at Samir Khalaily's 1997 Leiden Thesis, entitled "One syntax for all categories : merging nominal atoms in multiple adjunction structures", and avaliable via Holland Academic Graphics (, in which whole new ideas about sentence structure are built up, taking cognate object constructures as one of the building blocks.