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The inference of temporal persistence and the individual/stage level distinction: the case of ser vs. estar in Spanish

The inference of temporal persistence and the individual/stage level distinction: the case of ser vs. estar in Spanish

Keywords: ser, estar, adjective, gradability, individual-level, stage-level, predication, Spanish

In this paper we propose that the differences between ser ‘beSER’ and estar ‘beESTAR’ predications traditionally associated with the individual-level/stagelevel (IL/SL) distinction (having to do with their differing combinations with adverbs quantifying over situations, locative and temporal modifiers, etc.) can be explained without arguing that ser ‘beSER’ and estar ‘beESTAR’ sentences have different event/aspect/Aktionsart-related properties. Specifically, we claim that in copular sentences with adjectival complements, the different kinds of elements that build up the comparison class needed to evaluate adjectival properties can account for the IL/SL character of the predication and that, specifically, the IL/SL distinction is linked to the relative/absolute distinction. This proposal,together with the hypothesis that relative adjectives trigger by default an inference of temporal persistence, can account for all the aforementioned differences between ser ‘beSER’ and estar ‘beESTAR’ sentences. We thus argue for an extension of the explanatory value of the individual/stage-level distinction to the domain of gradability.

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