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

asked 2015-03-19 15:01:53 -0500

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)

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answered 2015-03-19 15:03:19 -0500

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

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Asked: 2015-03-19 15:01:53 -0500

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Last updated: Mar 19 '15