Step 1 – Searching for Cognate Accusatives

Our first step will be to learn a bit about the cognate accusative construction. Rather than start with the grammars, let’s try this inductively by creating an Accordance search. Begin by opening the HMT-W4 text (not BHS-W4) and link a Hebrew Construct. So, where is the tag for cognate accusative?

When the Syntax project was introduced, one of the loudest complaints was the omission of traditional grammatical labels such as subject, direct object, indirect object, and adverb. Long story short, these labels may be convenient, but they are pre-theoretical and not well-defined for a rigorous syntax. The goal of the syntax DB, therefore, was to be as theory neutral as possible with as few labels as possible.

There are two major distinctions:

At the clause level the subject is distinguished from the predicate:

‏אַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב
[S You ] [P will bruise him (on the) heel ]

At the phrase level complements are distinguished from adjuncts:

תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב
[P will bruise [C him ] [A heel]]

In theory, this allows you to define your own grammatical relations by combining the syntax data with the morphological database. The complement of an active verb is roughly equivalent to the traditional object, the adjunct of a verb is adverbial, the adjunct of a noun is adjectival, etc.

So, our first search will look for all complements of a verb in which both verb and complement share the same root.

Screen shot 2013-06-28 at 3.32.47 PM

Remember that the Syntax DB is hierarchical in nature; therefore, it is a good practice to always build your searches top-down: clause > phrase > etc. You will also want to check “search both directions” for this example.

I have combined the syntax and morphology tags in order to specify that the head of the predicate phrase is a verb. I am not sure if this is the best practice, but the search did not work as expected otherwise.

I have specified that I only want the first—highest level—complement. This is also due to the hierarchical nature of the DB. I am only interested in the complement of the verb, but other elements (like prepositions) take complements which would produce hits if this box was left unchecked.

This search produces 390 hits. Here is a screenshot from the first page:

Screen shot 2013-06-28 at 3.33.29 PM

A quick browse suggests that everything is in order, but we will have to look at the data more closely later. In the next post we will expand our search to consider the cases in which an adjunct shares the same root with the verb. Should these also be grouped with our cognate accusatives? Should we distinguish a subset of cognate objects?

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2 Comments on “Step 1 – Searching for Cognate Accusatives”


  1. Very nice search, Pete. Interesting — I’ve never thought about a cognate nominative.

  2. John Cook Says:

    Very interesting search! You piqued my interest with the possibility of cognate nominative: perhaps the identification of these might help sort out the agentive QOTEL nouns from the Qal participle. I immediately thought of the familiar example from Ruth 1:1 ויהי במי שפט השפטים. I wonder how many non-QOTEL nouns actually occur as cognate nominatives? I can’t think of any off the top of my head.


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