Copulas in Spanish: Scalar structure and interpretive economy

  • Carmelo Bazaco Universidad Europea del Atlántico
Keywords: copulas, Spanish, adjectives, scales

Abstract

This article analyzes the distribution of the copulas ser and estar in Spanish, based on a scalar theoretical framework. The main proposal is that their distribution can be captured in terms of the scalar structure of the predicates involved and the presence of cognitive salient points on those scales. The proposed framework centers around ser predicates involving a single degree on the scale, while those with estar involve an interval, which additionally must involve an onset, or salient point.

 

This analysis has two advantages. First, it accounts for subjects and closed-scale adjective pairs not being able to alternate between ser or estar. The endpoints present on closed-scales act as strong salient points that, based on the Principle of Interpretive Economy, require that the copula estar is used if it can. Second, this analysis also accounts for the distribution of estar with open-scale predicates and explains why adjectives like famoso ‘famous’ or rico ‘rich’ are virtually absent from estar predications, despite having the appropriate temporal reading. Cognitive salient points are also responsible for generating the appropriate scalar interval required for estar predications, although their being weaker than endpoints on closed-scales does not require estar be the only copula available. The article also accounts for the nature of these onsets on open-scale adjectives and provides a diagnostic tool to determine which adjectives have them, and consequently can appear in estar predications.

References

Arche, M. J., Fábregas, A., & Marín, R. (2017). Towards a unified treatment of Spanish copulas.

Batllori, M. (2006). Sincronia i diacronia de ser i estar. Actes del 13è Col· loqui internacional de llengua i literatura catalanes, 2, 43-54.

Bierwisch, M. (1989). The semantics of gradation. Dimensional adjectives, 71(261), 35.

Bosque, I. (2014). On resultative past participles in Spanish. Catalan journal of linguistics, 13, 41-77.

Camacho, J. (2012). Ser and Estar: The Individual/Stage‐Level Distinction and Aspectual Predication. The handbook of Hispanic linguistics, 453-475.

Camacho, J. (2015). What do Spanish copulas have in common with Tibetan evidentials?. New perspectives on the study of Ser and Estar, 5, 173.

Cortés-Torres, M. (2004). ¿ Ser o estar? La variación lingüística y social de estar más adjetivo en el español de Cuernavaca, México. Hispania, 788-795.

Delbecque, N., & Van Gorp, L. (2012). Hacerse y volverse como nexos pseudo-copulativos. dos maneras de concebir el cambio en español. Bulletin hispanique. Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux, (114-1), 277-306.

Creswell, M. (1976) The semantics of degree. In Partee (ed.), Montague Grammar. New York: Academic Press.

Escandell-Vidal, V., Leonetti, M., 2002. Coercion and the stage/individual distinction, in: Gutierrez-Rexach, J. (Ed.), From Words to Discourse: Trends in Spanish Semantics and Pragmatics. Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 159–179. Database

Name: CSA Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts

Escandell-Vidal, V., & Leonetti, M. (2015). ‘Estar joven’a los dos lados del Atlántico. Geométrica explosión. Venice: Ca’Foscari, 65-78.

Escandell-Vidal, V. (2018a). Evidential commitment and feature mismatch in Spanish estar constructions. Journal of pragmatics, 128, 102-115.

Escandell-Vidal, M. V. (2018b). Ser y estar con adjetivos. Afinidad y desajustes de rasgos. Revista Española de Lingüística, 48, 57-114.

Española, R. A. (2009). Nueva gramática de la lengua española (Vol. 2). Espasa Libros.

Fábregas, A. (2012). A guide to IL and SL in Spanish: Properties, problems and proposals.

Fábregas, A., & Marín, R. (2015). Deriving individual-level and stage-level psych verbs in Spanish. The Linguistic Review, 32(2), 227-275.

Fernández Leborans, Ma. Jesús (1995): “Las construcciones con el verbo

‘estar’: aspecto sintácticos y semánticos”. In VERBA, Vol. 22: 253-284.

Gumiel-Molina, S., Moreno-Quibén, N., & Pérez-Jiménez, I. (2015). Comparison classes and the relative/absolute distinction: a degree-based compositional account of the ser/estar alternation in Spanish. Natural language & linguistic theory, 33(3), 955-1001.

Juárez-Cummings, E. (2014). Tendencias de uso de'Ser'y'Estar'en la Ciudad de México. IULC Working Papers, 14(2).

Kennedy, C., & McNally, L. (1999, November). From event structure to scale structure: Degree modification in deverbal adjectives. In Semantics and linguistic theory (Vol. 9, pp. 163-180).

Kennedy, C., & McNally, L. (2005). Scale structure, degree modification, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language, 345-381.

Kennedy, C. (2007). Vagueness and grammar: The semantics of relative and absolute gradable adjectives. Linguistics and philosophy, 30(1), 1-45.

Kratzer, A. (1995). Stage-level and individual-level predicates as inherent generics.

In G. N. Carlson and F. J. Pelletier (eds.): The Generic Book, 125-175. Chicago:

Chicago University Press.

Leonetti Jungl, M. (1994). Ser y estar: estado de la cuestión.

Leonetti, M., Pérez-Jiménez, I., & Gumiel-Molina, S. (2015). Ser and estar. New perspectives on the study of Ser and Estar, 5, 1.

Maienborn, C. (2005). A discourse-based account of Spanish ser/estar. Linguistics, 43(1), 155-180.

Malaver, I. (2009). Variación dialectal sociolingüística de" ser" y" estar" con adjetivos de edad.

Malaver, I. (2012). “Estamos muy grandes ya”. Adjetivos de edad con" ser" y" estar" en el español de México y Guatemala. Lexis, 36(2).

Marín Gálvez, R. (2000). El componente aspectual de la predicación. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,.

Marín, R. (2004). Entre ser y estar. Madrid: Arco libros.

Marín, R. (2009). Spanish individual-level and stage-level adjectives revisited. Unpublished manuscript, Université Lille.

Morimoto, Y., & Lucero, M. V. P. (2007). Los verbos pseudo-copulativos del español (Vol. 96). Arco Libros.

Potts, C. (2008). Interpretive economy, Schelling points, and evolutionary stability. Manuscript, UMass Amherst.

Romeu, J. (2015). Ser, estar and two different modifiers. New Perspectives on the Study of Ser and Estar, 5, 51.

Toledo, A., & Sassoon, G. W. (2011). Absolute vs. relative adjectives-variance within vs. between individuals. In Semantics and linguistic theory (Vol. 21, pp. 135-154).

Published
2020-11-12
How to Cite
Bazaco, C. (2020). Copulas in Spanish: Scalar structure and interpretive economy. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 9(2), 233-256. https://doi.org/10.7557/1.9.2.5432