A Corpus-Based Analysis of the Discourse Functions of Ser/Estar + Adjective in Three Levels of Spanish as FL Learners


  • We wish to thank Dr. Roy St. Laurent of the Northern Arizona University Statistical Consulting Lab for his valuable assistance in the design of the statistical analyses of this project. Any errors reside solely with us. Our thanks also go to Dr. Vincent and Dr. Ojeda for their financial support to transcribe the texts written by the learners.

concerning this article should be addressed to Joe Collentine, Northern Arizona University, Modern Languages, Box 6004, Flagstaff, AZ 86011. Internet: Joseph.Collentine@nau.edu


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.