Re: Questions from Matthew's gospel and semitic languages

Lee R. Martin (
Thu, 10 Oct 1996 21:16:21 -0700

> My last question is does anyone know anything about whether or
> not a cognate accusative is a phenomenon borrowed from semitic
> languages? The verse in my mind is Matt. 2:10 ". . . exaphsan xaran.
> . . ." The cognate accusative was indeed part of my training in
> claasical Greek, but I have to admit it is a strange animal, and it
> makes me wonder is such 'strangeness' due to English as my first
> language or a semitism in Greek.

The cognate accusative is very common in Hebrew, because so much of the
vocabulary is developed from the verbal roots, e.g. "sacrifice a
"say a saying," "command a commandment," "pitch with pitch," "brick
(make brick) bricks," "white wash with whitewash," etc. The Greeks did
no borrow the concept, however, it is a linguistic phenomenon that
results from the evolution of
vocabulary in any language. The longer a language exists, and the more
words that are assimilated, the less you will see cognate accusatives.
We avoid
them in English because we deplore redundancy. The first three Hebrew
above could be used in English, as well as "build a building," "plant a
"straw straw," etc.