At være eller at være: Brugen af ser eller estar på spansk - verbalisering af afsenders viden og oplevelse

Regitze Marie Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis aims to give a satisfactory explanation for the use of the two Spanish equivalents of ‘to be’, ser and estar, by making a critical analysis of three existing theories on the field and presenting a new hypothesis. The thesis consists of two parts. In the first part I present three different theories on the use of the two verbs ser and estar that seek to explain the issue on the basis of different aspects. The first theory seeks to explain the difference in meaning of the two verbs as a difference between property/class and state. Secondly a theory which sees the difference as an aspectual distinction between imperfective and a perfective situations will be presented. The last theory I will present takes as point of departure the use of the verbs in sentences with adjectives as predicates. In these types of sentences the distinction is said to be a comparison of the subject with a general norm and an individual norm respectively. The three theories are evaluated on the basis of different criteria for the quality of a grammar theory. They are evaluated initially on their comprehensibility i.e. whether the theories are explicit, coherent and consistent. Next the applicability of the theories is evaluated on the basis of the interpretive power of the theories. In order to assess the interpretive power of the theories the following criteria are considered: a theory should be exhaustive, unequivocal and meaningful. The critical analysis gives different examples from the theories which show that none of the presented theories meets these criteria. It leads to the conclusion that it is hard for the reader of the theories to understand the presented terms, since they are not explicitly defined. The theories are not coherent, as they don’t explain which overall meaning and grammatical theory the different sentence structures can be connected to. In addition to this there are examples of inconsistencies in the presented theories. As the criteria for comprehensibility aren’t met, it is difficult to apply the theories on data. If the reader doesn’t understand the theories, he won’t be able to use them in practice either. The other part of the thesis seeks to show how we can give a more satisfactory explanation of the use of ser and estar. The hypothesis is that we need two different theories with basis in two different grammatical categories. In sentence structures, where the two verbs are combined with adverbs or predicates, the distinction has its basis in modality. This means that it is a distinction in mood, and what is important is the speaker’s perception of the situation. The hypothesis is that the speaker always has four different universes of verbalization when communicating. The speaker always chooses between the universes in accordance with the intention of the utterance. The four universes are his opinions, beliefs, knowledge and experiences. My analysis of the use of ser and estar will take its starting point in the hypothesis that all sentences with ser are indications of the speaker’s knowledge and all sentences with estar are indications of the speaker’s experiences. In passive sentence structures the foundation is an aspectual distinction describing either an imperfective action/process with ser, or a perfective static event with estar. In this part of the thesis I show that the examples presented in the existing theories can all very well be explained based on these two distinctions: a modal distinction between the knowledge and the experiences of the speaker and an aspectual distinction between imperfectivity and perfectivity.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages79