Aspect and the categorization of states: the case of ser and estar in Spanish

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Roby, David Brian, 1972-

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In this work, the primary goal will be to construct the most descriptively and explanatorily adequate analysis possible to account for the complementary distribution of the Spanish copula verbs ser and estar. Over the past several decades, numerous theoretical accounts have been put forth in an attempt to accomplish this goal. Though such accounts accurately predict most types of stative sentences with the two copulas, they often fall short of predicting a significant number of them that are used in everyday speech. The first chapters of this dissertation will be devoted to reviewing a number of existing approaches that have been taken to account for the uses of ser and estar by testing their theoretical viability and descriptive adequacy. Among these are traditional conventions such as the inherent qualities vs. current condition distinction and the analysis of estar as an indicator of change. Those of a more recent theoretical framework, which will receive the most attention, include the application of Kratzer's (1995) individual-level vs. stage-level distinction to stative predicates and Maienborn's (2005) discourse-based interpretation of Spanish copulative predication. Schmitt's (2005) compositionally-based analysis of Portuguese ser and estar, which treats only estar as an aspectual copula, will be of special interest. After testing each of these analyses, it will be shown that the least costly and most accurate course to take for analyzing ser and estar is to treat both verbs as aspectual morphemes along the lines of Luján (1981). As aspectual copulas, ser and estar denote the aspectual distinction [±Perfective]. In my proposed analysis, I will argue that aspect applies to both events and states, but does so internally and externally respectively. By adapting Verkuyl's (2004) feature algebra to states, I will posit that aspect for stative predication is compositionally calculated, and the individual aspectual values for ser and estar remain constant in co-composition. In light of its descriptive adequacy for Spanish stative sentences and universality in natural language, it will also be shown that the [±Perfective] aspectual distinction is very strong in terms of explanatory adequacy as well.