The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2018 Fund Drive (
Ask Your Question

Modern Bibliography: 'ser' vs. 'estar' in Old Spanish

asked 2015-03-19 15:01:53 -0400

anonymous user



I'd like to know if you can recommend me some new books or articles about the origin of the difference in verbs ''ser'' and ''estar'' in Spanish. I know that the difference is present also in Portuguese (and ''gallego''), so I think that maybe the roots of this is in a big branch that includes the ''galaico-portugués'' and the ''leonés'' (which I've read is the basis of Spanish - ''castellano''-).

According to Ricardo Carballo Calero, Portuguese and Spanish were originated as dialects of ''gallego'' and ''leonés'' respectively, which, in time, were originated from a ''protorromance galaico''. If his hypothesis were true, does it mean that the beginning of our structure ser-estar started in this ''protorromance galaico''?

Thank you for your help and sorry for the Spanish words I haven't translated into English (I didn't know how to do it).

Roberto García


(Transferred from old LINGUIST List Ask-a-Linguist site)

edit retag flag offensive close merge delete

1 answer

Sort by » oldest newest most voted

answered 2015-03-19 15:03:19 -0400

anonymous gravatar image

I know only of two “old” references for Spanish that you may already have come across: José María Saussol’s Ser y estar: orígenes de sus funciones en el “Cantar del Mio Cid” (1977) and Rafael Lapesa’s _Historia de la lengua española, which was reprinted in the 1990s.

For Portuguese, Paul Teyssier published extensively on the history of the language, so his work may be worth having a look at. He writes in French and there are translations in Portuguese, in case you read these languages.

I hope this is of some use to you!

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

Hi, Roberto,

I know little about Portuguese (though I can read it). However, one would have to investigate (using big historical corpora) the Portuguese history of ser/estar. Any current differences between Spanish and Portuguese uses could well be due to changes since the separation of the predecessors of Spanish & Portuguese, in which case we would have to go back to what Carballo calls 'galaico' to trace the history of ser & estar. There almost certainly are such differences in some areas between Sp. & Port., but I just don't know if ser/estar is one of them. In the opposite case, where the two languages separated and only later developed their respective differences between ser & estar (which may not be the case), then we would need to trace the history further back, perhaps even taking into consideration the facts of French &/or Italian & possibly other Romance languages (especially Catalán, etc.). Other Panel members know more about Romance than I do, and may be able to answer your question better. Likewise, Wikipedia may have some useful information (although I didn't find much in the Spanish version). You might also try just Googling "ser y estar" or other variants.

Good luck.


James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO

edit flag offensive delete link more
Login/Signup to Answer

Question Tools

1 follower


Asked: 2015-03-19 15:01:53 -0400

Seen: 715 times

Last updated: Mar 19 '15