Estar = Ser + P - Filcat*uab.

“Grammaticalization of Ser and Estar in Romance,” talk given at 8th Diachronic Generative Syntax Conference (DIGS VIII). Yale. University, June 24-27 2004.
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XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

Estar = Ser + P Ángel J. GALLEGO


CLT – Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

University of Maryland

GOALS: (i) defend the hypothesis that estar = ser + (a terminal-coincidence) P (ii) argue that estar-licensing predicates are more complex than ser-licensing ones

1. Background (1)

A customary assumption about predicates is that they come in stage level (SL) and individual level (IL) guises (see Carlson 1977 and Kratzer 1995).

a. Obama {es/*está} americano. Obama be- IL/ SL-3.SG American ‘Obama is American’ b. Obama {*es/está} preocupado. Obama be-IL/SL.3.SG worried ‘Obama is worried’ (2)

(Spanish) (Spanish)

Notice, though, that when the relevant morphology is absent, adjectives can select both ser and estar, a picture that changes if present (e.g. –nte) or past participial morphemes (–do; including the suppletive forms in (d)) show up:

a. {Es/Está} alto, gordo, moreno, rojo, suave, bonito, estúpido, alegre, manso ... (Spanish) be-IL/SL.3.SG tall fat dark red soft pretty stupid happy tame ‘(S)he/It is tall, fat, dark, red, soft, pretty, stupid, happy, tame’ b. {Es/*Está} amenazante, ilusionante, alucinante, valiente, durmiente … be-IL/ SL.3.SG threatening encouraging amazing valiant asleep ‘(S)he/It is threatening, encouraging, amazing, valiant, asleep,…’


c. {*Es/Está} amenazado, ilusionado, alucinado, molido, cansado, renacido … (Spanish) be-IL/SL.3.SG threatened encouraged amazed ground, tired reborn ‘(S)he/It is threatened, encouraged, amazed, ground, reborn,…’ d. {*Es/Está} hecho (#hacido), puesto (#ponido), cubierto (#cubrido) ... be-IL/SL.3.SG done put covered ‘He/It is done, put, covered, described . . . . . . descrito (#describido), roto (#rompido), dicho (#decido) … described broken said . . . described, broken, said’



XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

Lexicalization of morphemes: e. Es {algo /alguien} aburrido, leído, cansado, complicado, ... be-IL-3.SG something/someone bored read tired complicated ‘It/(S)he is {something/someone} boring, read, exhausting, difficult’ (3)


The contrasts in (2) were already observed by Hanssen (1913), who capitalized on it to argue for the Aspect Generalization below (see Bosque 1990, Leonetti 1994, and Marín 2004 for additional discussion):

Aspect Generalization (first version) a. Imperfective (=IL) predicates select ser b. Perfective (=SL) predicates select estar (4)

Together with the participial facts just discussed and their suppletive forms, as Luján (1980) observed, we find typical ser selection with adjectives ending in – oso, –és, –az, –al, –to, –ario, and –ble:

a. {Es/*está} ruidoso, cortés, capaz, cabal, discreto, temerario, imposible ... (Spanish) be-IL/ SL-3.SG noisy corteous capable trustworthy discrete daring impossible ‘This/(S)he is noisy, corteous, capable, trustworthy, discrete, daring, impossible’ (5)

Interestingly, whereas predicates that usually select ser can be used with estar (if the appropriate context is provided), predicates that select estar cannot be forced into the ser-mode, regardless of the context (unless a different, passive, reading is at stake).

a. Ronaldinho es genial, pero el año pasado no estuvo genial. (Spanish) Ronaldinho be-IL.3.SG brilliant but the year passed not be-SL.PST.3.SG brilliant ‘Ronaldinho is brilliant, but he was not brilliant last year’ b. *Ronaldinho está agotado, pero normalmente no lo es. (Spanish) Ronaldinho be-SL-3.SG exhausted but normally not CL-it be-IL-3.SG c. Ronaldinho (siempre) es *emocionado, *ilusionado, (*)contratado … (Spanish) Ronaldinho always be-IL.3.SG thrilled excited hired ‘Ronaldinho is (always) thrilled, excited, hired,…’  This is unexpected if the ser/estar trigger (perfectivity, boundedness, or whatever relevant property) is ‘lexical’ (= inherent; as per Kratzer 1995).

2. Estar = Ser + P (6)

The data seen so far lead to the conclusion that ser selection is more basic than estar selecttion, a fact we take in order to argue, in the spirit of Benveniste’s (1960) analysis of have (see Freeze 1992 and Kayne 1993), that estar is more complex than ser. More precisely, we would like to follow Uriagereka (2001) and argue that, just like have is be plus a preposition, estar is ser plus a preposition, an element that will provide the relevant context for estar-selection to be licensed.


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

a. [serP ser [SC DP AP ]] b. [estarP P+ser [SC DP tP ]]

[from Uriagereka 2001]

spelled-out as estar (7)

A similar proposal has been recently put forward by Karen Zagona (see Zagona 2009), who takes ser and estar to be “a byproduct of a difference in their formal features. Briefly stated, I argue that estar has an uninterpretable prepositional feature […] checked by a preposition in the complement of estar.”

a. estar: [ v [uP] . . . ] [from Zagona 2009: 3] (8)

Uriagereka’s (2001) analysis can readily explain the data discussed so far, once we assume that the P that incorporates into ser is present in Spanish past participles (including suppletive forms; see examples (a) and (b)), and DPs with a full-fledged P providing aspectual properties (see (c)). (Spanish)

a. Estoy avergonzado. be-SL.1.SG ashamed ‘I am ashamed’ b. Está suelto (#soltado). be-SL.3.SG loose released ‘I am loose’ c. Estoy *(de) profesor. be-SL.3.SG of teacher ‘I work as a teacher’ (9)


Furthermore, (6) can also be taken as the key to account for the fact that estar is higher than ser in the hierarchy of auxiliaries –just like haber (Eng. have) is higher than ser (Eng. be):

a. Obama ha sido elegido. Obama have-3.SG being-IL elected ‘Obama has been elected’ b. *Obama es habido elegido. Obama having ‘Obama is having elected’ c. Obama está siendo ovacionado. Obama be-SL.3.SG being-IL ovationed ‘Obama is being given an ovation’ d. *Obama es estando ovacionado. Obama be-IL.3.SG being-SL ovationed ‘Obama is being given an ovation’ (10)










The general idea is consistent with a simple fact about languages that present the ser/estar distinction, vis-à-vis those which do not. Consider the question-answer pairs in (a) and (b):


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

a. A: Is John *(there)? B: No, he’s not *(there). b. A: Está Juan (ahí)? be-SL.3.SG Juan there ‘Is Juan there?’ B: No, (él) no está (aquí). no he not be-SL-3.SG here ‘No, he is not here) (11)

Languages like Catalan are relevant in this respect, since it must overtly express the locative clitic Spanish optionally spells-out: hi.

A: Que *(hi) és, en Joan? Q CL.there be-IL.3.SG the Joan ‘Is Joan there?’ B: Sí, (sí que) *(hi) és. yes yes that CL.there be-IL.3.SG ‘Yes, he is here’ (12)


Catalan data are a bit more complicated, though, since both estar and ser can appear in locative sentences. Typically, the contrast below is phrased in terms of ‘length:’ (12a) is used as if the sentence contained a null indexical with the rough meaning of ‘now;’ on the other hand, (12b) is used to indicate that Joan is home, but has stayed there for some time (see Ramos 2002, Rigau 1997, and references therein for discussion).

a. En Joan és a casa. the Joan be-IL-3.SG at home ‘Joan is at home (now)’ b. En Joan està a casa. the Joan be-SL-3.SG at home ‘Joan is at home’ (13)


(Catalan) (Catalan)

Interestingly, estar and the locative clitic hi cannot coappear –unless the pronominal variant, estar-se (Eng. be-SE), with the meaning of ‘remain,’ is used.

a. En Joan hi és. the Joan CL.there be-IL-3.SG ‘Joan is there (=at home)’ b. *En Joan hi està. the Joan CL.there be-SL-3.SG ‘Joan is there (=at home)’ c. En Joan s’hi està. the Joan SE-CL-there be-SL-3.SG ‘Joan remains there’

(Catalan) (Catalan) (Catalan)


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)


Catalan manifests the same basic ser/estar asymmetries (as the data below indicate). However, the facts involving the clitic hi raise the following question: what is the distinction between estar and ser-hi? Why do they both exist, if the former is (allegedly) the incorporated version of the latter?

a. {És/*Està} agradable, intel·ligent, al·lucinant … be-IL/SL-3.SG nice intelligent amazing ‘(S)he is nice, intelligent, amazing’ b. {*És/Està} cansat, fet, arreglat, ofès, modificat … be-IL/SL-3.SG tired done fixed ofended modified ‘(S)he is tired, done, fixed, ofended, modified’

(Catalan) (Catalan)

The form with the clitic has a transparent semantics (= be there), but the SL version appears to involve a meaning related to Latin STARE, which means ‘stand (still)’ or ‘remain.’ If this is correct, then estar and ser-hi do not actually compete, even though the former covertly involves the syntax of the latter (i.e. be + P). See Batllori (1992) and Batllori & Roca (2004) for discussion. (15)

Therefore, we need to qualify the analysis above in order to capture the fact that estar only appears with adjectives that involve the relevant (aspectual) morphology. We do that assuming that all adjectives can actually be decomposed as an adposition plus an incorporated noun (see Amritavalli & Jayaseelan 2003 and Mateu 2002).

a. [serP ser [SC DP [P+N] ]] b. [estarP PT+ser [SC DP [tP [P+N]] ]] In a nutshell, we take it that the P that incorporates into ser is of the ‘terminalcoincidence’ sort (using Hale & Keyser’s 2002 terminology), which we signal by means of the subscript ‘T.’ For us, then, all adjectives involve a P, but estar-licensing ones must crucially involve an extra aspectual layer, indicating telicity, perfectivity, or the relevant analogous notion. If correct, what incorporates into ser is not any kind of contextual (=aspectual) element, but one deplyoing SL-like properties. This may require further qualification of the data in (10)-(11) in that estar involved a contextual element with the semantics of NOW or HERE (see Kayne 2005), analogous to “context variables,” whose range is left to the speaker to confine, as in Higginbotham (1988) and Raposo & Uriagereka (1995). (16)

Stativity (IL) = central-coincidence Perfectivity (SL) = terminal-coincidence The opposition that emerges […] appears to be rather pervasive in the lexical and functional systems of the grammars of natural languages. It is probably to be identified with the wellknown telicity opposition, and with the central and terminal coincidence opposition to which we have referred on occasion […] Central coincidence consistently corresponds to stativity. Terminal coincidence, on the other hand, corresponds to change and therefore to the various active, dynamic, and otherwise nonstative event types […] If stativity is identified with central coincidence, then it is probable that this identification is the only way in which stativity is attributable to a head, as opposed to a construction […] [from Hale & Keyser 2002: 218-221]


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)


The syntax of adjectives must therefore be as follows:

a. Morphologically simple AA PP / P

\ √R

(e.g. alto, gordo, moreno, rojo, suave, bonito, estúpido, alegre, manso)

- P is of the central-coincidence sort (spelled-out as ∅, or –nte, –ble, –ario, –al, etc.) - license ser selection (and estar, by adding a second p in the relevant context) b. Morphologically complex AA pP / p

\ PP / P

\ √R

(e.g. amenazado, ilusionado, alucinado, molido, cansado, renacido)

- P is of the central-coincidence sort (spelled-out as ∅) - p is of the terminal-coincidence sort (spelled-out as –do, and suppletive forms) - license estar selection (18)

However, if p is spelled-out (say, as –do), what is incorporating into ser? Technically, there are two options: either p incorporates into ser, but the downstairs copy is also pronounced, as part of the adjective’s morphology (option (a)), or else a double does (option (b)). Another option, which we dismiss here, is that the process involves not incorporation, but Chomsky’s Agree.


serP / ser

spelled-out as estar

\ pP / p –do


\ PP / \ P √ILUSIÓN IN spelled-out as estar

serP / ser

\ pP

/ \ NOW/HERE p’ / \ p PP –do / \ P √ILUSIÓN IN


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)


The fact that perfective adjectives (and thus estar) involve more structure may provide an answer to the contrast below. As this pair shows, only estar allows postverbal subjects, a fact we relate to the availability of an extra landing site (a focus reading for (b) must be ignored):

a. Estará el hombre tonto. be-SL.FUT.3.SG the man silly ‘The man must be feeling silly’ b. *?Será el hombre tonto. be-IL.FUT.3.SG the man silly ‘The man must be silly’

(Spanish) (Spanish)

3. Some problematic cases (20)

The analysis just sketched must face some complicated scenarios:

a. ser/estar as auxiliaries b. locative sentences c. non-copulative uses of ser d. linguistic variation (Catalan-Spanish) e. some PPs asymmetries (21)

Consider the auxiliary uses of ser and estar:

a. Es {*conquistar/*conquistando/conquistado} be-IL-3.SG conquer-INF/GER/P.PART ‘He is conquer/conquering/conquered’


b. Está {*conquistar/conquistando/conquistado} be-SL-3.SG conquer-INF/GER/P.PART ‘He is conquer/conquering/conquered’



One other problematic datum is (a) below, which shows that locative PPs that licenses estar, even though they appear to signal essential (IL-like) qualities.

a. Vitoria {está/*es} en el País Vasco. Vitoria be-SL/IL-3.SG in the Country Basque ‘Vitoria is in the Basque Country’


In order to square this data we propose that locative properties (holding for cities or people) are in general transitory, despite our world (=encyclopedic) knowledge, and therefore select estar. (23)

There are also some cases where ser is used, but the meaning seems to be similar to “happen,” “take place,” and others:

a. El partido es a las cinco. the game be-IL-3.SG to the five ‘The game is at five’ (The game starts at five)



XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

b. Eso ya fue. that already be-IL-3.SG ‘That already happened’ c. Quién es (ahora)? who be-IL-3.SG now ‘Who is next?’ b. Cuánto es (esto)? how-much be-IL-3.SG this ‘How much (expensive) is this?’ (24)

(Spanish) (Spanish)

Also, we want to note that the different behaviour shown by Catalan and Spanish (see Brucart 2005 for discussion of the basic facts, and a proposal).

a. {És/*Està} mort. be-{IL/SL}-3.SG dead ‘(S)he is dead’ b. {*Es/Está} muerto. be-{IL/SL}-3.SG dead ‘(S)he is dead’ (25)


(Catalan) (Spanish)

Finally, notice that although some PPs trigger estar selection, others do ser selection.

a. María {*es/está} de profesora. María be-{IL/SL}-3.SG of teacher ‘María is here as a teacher’ b. María {es/*está} de Zamora. María be-{IL/SL}-3SG of Zamora

(Spanish) (Spanish)

4. Conclusions 4.1. In the spirit of Benveniste’s analysis of have (= be+P) we have defended Uriagereka’s (2001) analysis of estar, according to which this copula is a more complex version of ser: ser + P. 4.2. The p element that is incorporated into ser to yield estar has a terminal-coincidence flavor (in Hale & Keyser’s 1998; 2002 sense). 4.3. The analysis has consequences for the analysis of adjectives (and, in general, of predicates): (i) adjectives can be decomposed as an adposition and a noun (see Amritavalli & Jayaseelan 2003, and Mateu 2002), and (ii) Kratzer’s (2995) SL - IL cut cannot be a lexical (=inherent/oblivious) property, but in fact a semantic consequence of a specific syntax, in line with so-called exoskeletal (neo-decompositional) approaches to lexical items (see Borer 2005, Hale & Keyser 1998; 2002, Ramchand 2008).


XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

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XIX Colloquium on Generative Grammar April 1-3 2009, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Basque Country)

Mateu, J. 2002. Argument Structure: Relational construal at the syntax-semantics interface, PhD Dissertation, UAB. Mateu, J. and L. Amadas. 1999. “Extended Argument Structure: Progressive as Unaccusative,” CatJL 7: 159-174. Ramchand, G. 2008. Verb Meaning and the Lexicon: A First-Phase Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Ramos, R. 2002. “El SV, II: La predicació no verbal obligatoria,” in J. Solà et al. (eds.), Gramàtica del Català Contemporani, Barcelona: Empúries, 1953-2040. Uriagereka, J., and E. Raposo. 1995. “Two Types of Small Clauses (Toward a Syntax of Theme/Rheme Relations)”, in A. Cardinaletti and M.T. Guasti (eds.), Small Clauses (Syntax and Semantics 28). New York: Academic Press, 179-206. Rigau, G. 1997. “Locative Sentences and Related Constructions in Catalan: ésser / haverAlternation,” in M. Uribe-Etxebarria & A. Mendikoetxea (eds.), Theoretical Issues at the Morphology-Syntax Interface, Bilbao / Donostia: Universidad del País Vasco, 395-421. Uriagereka, J. 2001. “Adjectival Clues,” keynote speech at Acquisition of Spanish & Portugues/Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign (USA), October 11-14. Zagona, K. 2009. “Ser and Estar: Phrase structure and aspect,” in Cahiers Chronos.