Making discourse-dependent decisions: The case of the copulas ser and estar in Spanish

Cristina Schmitt, Karen Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (SciVal)


We present the results of two experiments (an Elicitation Task and a Picture Matching Task) that test 4-5 year-old children's ability to distinguish between the Spanish copulas ser and estar, when copula choice depended on the properties of the context. Departing from an analysis that relies on two different types of stative predicates (stativity associated with lack of aspectual information and stativity associated with the subevent property state), we tested (i) children's ability to calculate the permanent/temporary implicatures commonly associated with ser and estar and (ii) their ability to restrict the temporal domain of evaluation. We argue that our results are compatible with the idea that children do distinguish between the two copulas in an almost adult-like manner, but have problems when required to restrict the domain of evaluation of each copula, providing further support for the hypothesis that children have difficulties with domain restrictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1907-1929
Number of pages23
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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