I am sure you have all come across constructions such as these:

She slept a long sleep

He lived a productive life.

These verbs are traditionally intransitive verbs, and yet here are transitive. However, the semantic role of their objects (I take it that their objects are of the same semantic role) is completely different from the semantic role of most objects (e.g. "ball" in "He kicked a ball"). What is the semantic role of the objects here? And how come these verbs - which are virtually always intransitive, to the extent that I am not willing to consider them ambitransitive (seeing as such verbs tend to have both several transitive and intransitive uses) - take an object here? Is there a name for these constructions?

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    I don't know what these are called in traditional English grammars. In classical Greek and Latin, they are often called cognate accusatives or internal objects; however, this phenomenon exists in many languages, even those unrelated to English, Greek, or Latin. Mar 21, 2022 at 17:59
  • In my experience they are called 'extent NPs'. Their syntactic status is somewhat problematic since they generally differ quite sharply from objects. One solution is to admit them as objects only where they can be made subject of a passive, as in We will have to walk the last few miles ~ The last few miles will have to be walked. In your examples, it all depends on whether we can say ?A long sleep was slept / ?A productive life was lived.
    – BillJ
    Mar 21, 2022 at 18:10
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    "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, / Find me a find, catch me a catch." Walk the walk, talk the talk... Maybe the issue here is less about the fact that "sleep" and "life" are rarely transitive ("find," "catch," "walk," and "talk" are more often), and more about a structure in which a verb and noun of the same word are paired.
    – Andy Bonner
    Mar 21, 2022 at 22:15
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    I was taught in grammar school that that construction was called a Cognate Object. It reminds me of the small verb plus object constructions, like give a push, take a piss, have fun, where the object is effectively the predicate. Small verbs like take, go, get, have, give, etc are either auxiliaries taking on new constructions or verbs caught in the act of becoming auxiliaries.
    – jlawler
    Mar 22, 2022 at 18:58


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