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22. Ser and Estar: The Individual/Stage-level Distinction and Aspectual Predication


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics generative grammar, grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00024.x


The distribution of copular verbs in Spanish is a widely researched topic in Spanish linguistics: from traditional grammarians to contemporary linguists, many have attempted to capture a very complex and challenging pattern. Spanish's two main copular verbs, ser and estar , overlap in many contexts. As a first approximation ser combines with predicates that denote a permanent characterization of the subject, whereas estar + predicate denotes non-permanent traits, as seen in (1). In the first example, being pleasant is perceived as a character trait of Alejandro's, whereas in the second one, it is seen as a temporary situation that happens to be currently true. (1) a. Alejandro es agradable. ‘Alejandro is. il pleasant.’ b. Alejandro está agradable. Alejandro is. sl pleasant ‘Alejandro is being pleasant (today).’ One influential line of thought on the difference between ser and estar assumes that this contrast embodies the distinction between stage-level (SL) and individual-level (IL) predicates (cf. Carlson 1977 ; Kratzer 1995 ; Diesing 1988, 1992 ; Escandell and Leonetti 2002 ; Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española 2009 , henceforth AALE). Stage-level properties hold for specific stages or situations in which the subject is involved, whereas individual-level predicates denote properties that hold for the subject absolutely. According to this dichotomy, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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