The aspectual structure of the adjective Spanish ser and estar

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Pardo, Alfredo Garcia
Menon, Mythili

Pardo, Alfredo Garcia; Menon, Mythili. 2020. The aspectual structure of the adjective Spanish ser and estar. In: Hispanic Linguistics: Current issues and new directions Edited by Alfonso Morales-Front, Michael J. Ferreira, Ronald P. Leow and Cristina Sanz [Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, vol. 26] 2020:pp. 138–159


This paper argues that the stage-level and individual-level distinctions for adjectival predicates, diagnosed in Spanish by the copulas ser and estar, can be derived by positing a sortal distinction in the temporal arguments in the syntax: The temporal argument of individual-level adjectives denotes time intervals, whereas the time argument of stage-level adjectives denotes time instants. We provide evidence from the (un-)acceptability of certain temporal modifiers, the progressive, and lifetime effects. We furthermore show how our account can also explain other instances of the ser and estar distribution beyond adjectives, such as verbal and adjectival passives and locative constructions with and without eventive subjects.

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