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Keywords:

  • second language acquisition;
  • Spanish interlanguage;
  • learner corpus;
  • corpus linguistics;
  • grammatical development;
  • ser and estar;
  • copula choice

Research on the acquisition of Spanish's two copulas, ser and estar, provides an understanding of the interaction among syntax, semantics, pragmatics, morphology, and vocabulary during development (e.g., Geeslin, 2003a, 2003b; Gunterman, 1992; Ryan & Lafford, 1992). Recent research suggests that linguistic features in the surrounding discourse influence learners’ copula choice. We present a corpus-based analysis of the lexico-grammatical features co-occurring with copula + adjective usage among foreign-language learners of Spanish at three levels of instruction. Findings revealed the following: (a) both ser + adjective and estar + adjective occur at all levels where little linguistic complexity typically occurs; (b) ser + adjective appears in descriptive and evaluative discourse; and (c) estar + adjective is present in narrations, descriptions, and hypothetical discourse.