The copulas ser and estar present an interesting challenge to the learner because, like many determiners, mastering the properties of these highly frequent elements involves a lot more than learning co-occurrence restrictions. This paper presents results from three studies on the acquisition of the copulas ser and estar controlled for adjective type (scalar vs. nonscalar adjectives) and for animacy of the subject. The questions are: (i) since the copulas influence how the standard of comparisons are determined, do children have more problems with estar and gradable adjectives since they force temporal comparisons? (ii) since natural kinds (animates) and artifacts (inanimates) trigger different expectations towards what counts as typical or atypical properties (Gelman and Tardiff 1998), does animacy play a role in the interpretation of ser and estar predications? Results show that children are considering both adjective types and animacy of the subject when interpreting sentences with ser and estar. Implications for the semantics of individual and stage level predications are discussed.
Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America (GALANA 2010)
edited by Mihaela Pirvulescu, María Cristina Cuervo, Ana T. Pérez-Leroux, Jeffrey Steele, and Nelleke Strik Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-447-8 library binding
vi + 285 pages
publication date: 2011
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA