Abstract: Dallin V Larsen

The pragmatic effects of the semantic and functional changes of ser and estar: A diachronic approach to the Spanish Discourse Marker bien
University of Georgia

The origins of the Spanish verbs ser “to be”, estar “to be”, and haber “to have” are the Latin verbs ESSE/SEDERE “to exist”, STARE “to stand”, and HABERE “to acquire”. In Latin, STARE and HABERE served specific lexical meanings while ESSE/SEDERE filled a variety of functions in existential, copulative, locative, progressive, and perfect passive constructions. These three verbs underwent a series of semantic and grammatical changes resulting in their modern uses and meanings in Spanish as chronicled by Díaz (2016). She observes that, as estar and haber underwent a gradual desemanticization or semantic bleaching, they began to encroach on ser’s functional territory. In other words, ser suffered a significant decrease in its functional load as estar and haber lost their original lexical meanings and began to serve more functions. For example, estar displaced ser in copulative (stage-level), resultative, locative, and progressive constructions while haber displaced ser in existential constructions and as an auxiliary verb in perfect tenses. Díaz (2016) concludes that most of the semantic weakening, grammaticalization, and functional encroachment of estar and haber occurred between the 14th and the 17th centuries. She also acknowledges that there were periods of layering in which the use of both ser and estar with adjectives/adverbs had similar meanings. Her observations are interesting when considering that Ocampo (2006) and Waltereit and Detges (2007) claim that the structures ser/estar + adjective and/or adverb played a significant role in the development of claro “clear” and bien “well” as DMs. This leads to the following questions: what role did estar’s desemanticization and eventual functional encroachment on ser play on the development of Spanish DMs derived from adjectives/adverbs? In other words, are there cases of grammaticalization of ser + adjective/adverb that were halted or drastically altered due to estar being introduced and displacing ser?

The present study responds to these questions by analyzing data extracted from the 1200-1600s from the Corpus del Español (Davies 2002-). The study uses two structures in its searches. The first is bien in isolation. Each token in isolation is categorized according to its discursive role: adverb or discourse marker (DM) according to its scope or operating domain. The second is ser/estar + bien with the adverb appearing in pre-verbal and post-verbal positions with each token being categorized according to its discursive role: non-DM or DM. A non-DM use is defined as a use in which the referent of the null subject of the verb es or está is an animate or inanimate object/noun that can be recovered from the previous utterance and/or dialogue. A DM use is defined as a use in which the referent of the null subject of the verb es or está consists of the propositional content of the previous utterance and/or dialogue. The data indicate that the functional shift from ser to estar affected the development of the DM bien. In the 1200-1300s the structure ser + bien in both the pre-verbal and post-verbal positions emerges exclusively. This structure mainly combines with the complementizer que and a subordinate clause, but some DM uses can be found with most of them having pre-verbal colocation of bien. By the 1400s, however, the structure estar + bien emerges and by the 1500-1600s replaces ser + bien as the main structure used as a DM (especially with pre-verbal colocation). Both structures appear with complementizers, but by the 1500-1600s ser + bien almost exclusively serves this role while estar + bien in pre-verbal position seems to operate almost exclusively as a DM. It is only by the 1500-1600s that the first DM uses of bien occur without the presence of either ser or estar. These findings suggest that adverbially/adjectivally derived DMs originate out of first combining with ser only to later be paired with estar before eventually appearing without a copular verb.