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On word order in Spanish copular sentences

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Abstract

This paper deals with the interaction between the ser/estar distinction and wordorder. In Spanish the VSX order imposes a thetic, wide focus interpretation(Leonetti, 2014a). This word order pattern is compatible with estar predication.In contrast, ser predication is typically excluded with VSX in spoken Spanish,with the only exception of a small set of cases that share an exclamative/mirative/emphatic interpretation. The well-formedness of estar VSX sentencescan be explained assuming that thetic constructions always include a stagetopic: as estar requires the predication to be dependent on a topical situation(Maienborn, 2005), and such situation is identified as a possible stage topic, theconditions for a thetic interpretation are easily met. With ser, in contrast, thepredication is not connected to a topical situation, and thus cannot be linked toa stage topic. Exceptions are accounted for by invoking a strategy of mismatchresolution that leads the hearer to interpret the utterance as a manifestation ofan exclamative/mirative attitude.

References

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