‘Estar joven’ a los dos lados del atlántico
The distribution of the two copular verbs ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ in Spanish presents some intra-linguistic variation: in some American varieties, ‘estar’ can occurs when the norm expects ‘ser’ – a phenomenon that is particularly visible with predicates referred to stages in life: a Spaniard will say ‘Cuando yo era joven’, whilst a Mexican speaker can say ‘Cuando yo estaba joven’ (‘When I was young’). Some previous analysis have suggested a ‘bleaching’ of ‘estar’, leading to a blurring of the difference between the two copulas. When combined with an adjective of age, we argue, the use of ‘ser’ indicates that speakers conceive their assessment as an objective classificatory operation, whereas the use of ‘estar’ reveals a preference for a subjective perspective, making clear that the speaker is the direct source of the assessment (Escandell-Vidal en prensa): this is common to the varieties of both sides of the Atlantic. The differences arise only when the speaker is classifying an individual and, at the same time, is the direct source for this assessment: European speakers opt for the classificatory view (with ‘ser’), whereas some American speakers prioritise their being the direct source (with ‘estar’). This explains, among other things, why generic assertions (i.e., those not dependent on the speaker’s perception) cannot use ‘estar’ in any variety.