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This is the electronic edition of Lene Fogsgaard: "Essays in Semiolinguistics". Working Paper no. 60-98, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Aarhus, 1998.

The pagination of the printed edition is indicated by red numbers marking the beginning of the page.

ISBN: 87-7725-207-1

Published electronically: August 27, 1998

©1998 Lene Fogsgaard. All rights reserved. This text may be copied freely and distributed either electronically or in printed form under the following conditions. You may not copy or distribute it in any other fashion without express written permission from me. Otherwise I encourage you to share this work widely and to link freely to it. 


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Lene Fogsgaard

Essays in Semiolinguistics


The three papers of the present collection have taken their offspring in the frame of the semiolinguistic seminar at the Center for Semiotic Research.

In the papers I mainly direct my attention to the field of Hispanic linguistics, regarding the empirical material, due to my basic experiences in Romance philology. For several years, however, together with the leader of the Center, Per Aage Brandt, I have been in charge of a monthly seminar in Semiolinguistics. In the seminar a series of discussions on classical linguistic issues have taken place from a semiotic perspective. The research team of the Center has currently participated in those discussions, in the seminar as well as during the meetings of the Research Group. I would like to express my gratitude to all the members of the Research Group for their never failing active and generous participation, and to Per Aage Brandt and Svend østergaard in particular for having given me the privilege of their inspiring collaboration.

The present papers have been read at the sessions of the Center throughout the years of 1995-96 as an invitation to debate and readjust standard grammatical knowledge ('schoolgrammar') from a new theoretical standpoint and concern, a vision where European Semiotics and American Cognitive Linguistics meet and mingle. That's what we call semiolinguistics.

If you are curious or mystified by the term, you have a chance to look at some small practical illustrations within this research area and hopefully proceed to some semiolinguistic work of your own.

The grammatical issue that binds together the three papers is a kind of by-product of my doctoral dissertation on the Spanish copula verbs ser and estar. In the dissertation I argue that the existence of two ontic modes represented by the pair of copula verbs as respectively a 'categorizer' (ser) and a 'localizer' (estar), could be due in the first place to differences of a schematic type. These differences represent characteristic modal and aspectual patterns for the two verbs mentioned. In the second place to distinctions with regard to the semantic domain references they evoke. The pragmatic differences can be partially derived from the schemes and the semantic structure of the attributive relation.

When I translated the Danish version of my dissertation to Spanish I became aware of the importance of an all-embracing theoretical issue, that exceeds the limits of the use and distribution of ser and estar as an empirical field: the analysis of the process called grammaticalization. Not only because ser seems to be more grammaticalized than estar, but because the understanding and explanation of the very phenomenon of grammaticalization in itself is suitable for semantic exploration. Thus the theme of grammaticalization is intended to form a    


link between the three papers presented here and to prove its efficiency as a means to expose the implications of the restatements in linguistics to which the semiocognitive approach can give rise.

In any typological organization of the verbal lexeme class we will expect to find a group of auxiliary verbs as a specific set. Besides other possible 'morphosyntactic' ways of expressing grammatical information such as modal, temporal and aspectual meaning, this group includes grammatical lexemes as one of the components of periphrastic compounds. It also includes verbs with copulative functions and supporters of impersonal formulas: have, be, do, go, keep, etc.

As one of the main characteristics of a process of grammaticalization we find the use of closed-class verbs, frequently as a result of a diacronic semantic degradation of their primary meaning as genuine, semantically autonomous open-class verbs. The gradual evacuation of a solid figurative content, typically referring to the physical activities and states in space of an actant, and a loss in concreteness goes hand in hand with a formal transference of the 'solid meaing' part to a neighbouring lexeme. This second lexeme will from now on be in charge of the unfolding of a structure of argument as the linguistic, sentential, representation of a scenario. The auxiliary has been liberated, so to speak, from its primary referential anchorage to a specific domain and reduced to its dynamic-topological schema.

In the paper from the "Rolighedssymposium" we enter the realm of phantom subjects and impersonality, taking our first, timid and tentative step towards a semiolinguistic analysis. The typical domain of the so-called subjectless sentences refers to weather reports and the like. Here the overall important dynamic factor is time, and the actants are of a very peculiar type. The weather formulas invite us to discuss not only the status of subjecthood in grammar ( in syntax and in semantics), from a point of view where precisely the lack of a determinate/determinable subject actant makes itself felt, but also the type of predicates that appear in these impersonal constructions (and their semantic organisation).

In the Urbino paper on 'grammatical metaphor' our contribution discusses a rather neglected or less spectacular aspect of metaphorization than the rhetorical ones. I have chosen a specific example of grammaticalization from Spanish in order to discuss this type of supposed metaphor. I give an organized collection of examples of the Spanish motion verb andar (to walk) in order to sketch out the semantic profile of this verb. Andar is one of the verbs that can be used in a sort of auxiliary function as one of the components of a compound. The meaning of the compound can be resumed as a dynamic intensifying correspondant to a simple verb form with an intensifying effect. It constitutes a peculiar subgroup of metaphors (catachreses).

The third paper accounts for the schematism of one of the Spanish copula twins, estar. It gives an example of the kind of semantic analysis that can be made of a so-called semantically empty - delexicalized - auxiliary verb. My point of departure has been the very naïve question, - but also elementary in the positive sense of the word-, which pops up when you face the presence of the copula pair ser and estar against the more general ground of languages with only one special-    


ized term: be, sein, être, essere , voere, etc. Why should Spanish spread the copula field over two verbs if they are supposed to be semantically void forms supporting only grammatical information that stem from the temporal ending of the verbal conjugation? How can synonymy be avoided then? Is there a principled, describable semantic system of distribution and, if so, in which linguistic level(s) can such a structure be localized? I extract the results of my dissertation concerning estar in order to give an answer to the questions above.

No description of the formal properties, however thorough it becomes, and no contextualization, even if made by a very subtle and sophisticated pragmatic analysis, are per se able to give us much more than good ideas as to the underlying semantic and conceptual system of the copulas.

In order to really explain and understand the form of expression and its pragmatic impact semantics is a must. One can't refrain from assuming the cognitive grounding of semantics in phenomenological domains by means of schemas. We can ultimately establish that estar belongs to a spatial schema of perception, and the status of ser as a 'conceptual' verb if we accept these terms.


The Appearance of Ghosts and Shadows in Some Sentences*

For today's talk I have chosen a subject matter which we can suppose is fit to occupy a central position in matters of semiolinguistic concern. I have decided to bring into focus the problem of impersonal-or subjectless-constructions in order to approach the notion of subjecthood in linguistic theory-"from behind," as it were. My question is: who is the dummy? Who is the subject in the Danish: "Nu kniber det"? Who is raining and snowing and thus making the weather ugly or nasty? When it rains, the it seems a rather ethereal individual, if an individual at all.

The term and the notion of 'subject' covers manifold phenomena, even when it is limited to its use in linguistics. In Spanish, even it, the shadowy trace of a subject, is left out. The only minimal subject of the sentence is the inflectional mark in the verb of a neuter third person singular, bound up with a modal-temporal indication within the same inflectional form, i.e. a so-called unmarked form.

There are other rather phantomlike subject appearances too, such as the Romance se/si in: Se dice (They say), se habla español (Spanish spoken), se vive bien (this is a good life), etc. And the third person plural form: Tocan a la puerta (Someone is knocking on the door). In all these examples, the subject instance to which the verb refers as its source is not clearly identified. It is semantically unspecific or generic.

My main question today is: In what sense can linguistics then talk of 'subjectless' sentences in relation to grammar's 'impersonal' constructions?

There is a scale ranging from sentences without an autonomous subject of judgement, thus not realizing the structure of judgement, where the verb is avalent, to sentences with an indeterminate human instance as their first actant, where the verbal semantics imply the idea of a 'subject' and leave a spot free for eventual specification.

Items to be further discussed in this session

Among the many reasons I could give for choosing to address the problem of subject actancy, I find the most important one to be that the discussion of impersonality and subjecthood is in many ways able to bring us right to the centre of semiolinguistics. It allows us to follow various lines of reasoning and bring together several issues of semiolingustic interest. Reflections on the 'subject' - and above all on its apparent exception: subjectless sentences - hopefully make it possible to return to some of the major issues in recent linguistic theory.

(1) First of all we get an opportunity to return to the issue of referentiality and rethink it from a newly gained theoretical position.

(2) We also enter the realm where causality and intentionality and their relationship demand a further elaboration. We shall return to this item when we reach the problem of intentional expression in sentences on the weather. It seems to me that actantiality can be properly discussed within this frame as well. In fact, the fundamental project of a case grammar is involved when we ask the ques-    


tion: What is an 'agent' and in which structure does it participate? Is a 'subject' an 'agent', i.e. an active or intentional participant? The answer is no when given by a grammarian considering the morphosyntactic, grammatical subject. He will probably be thinking of a passive sentence with a patient (= a logical direct object of the verb) promoted by topicalization, as for instance: The house was sold yesterday. Or of an experiencer like I'm scared. To him, the 'subject' is defined as a sentential controller of agreement, as a syntactic case - a "nominative" - and perhaps due to its initial position on the left in a normal sentence. The instances are in fact grammatical subjects without playing the semantic agentive role. The question must then be posed to a case grammarian too: Is the 'subject' a case, now understood as a semantic role? Prototypically, the 'subject' is regarded by case grammar as a participant agent of a transitive verb in its unmarked use.

Each of the two positions outlined above are extreme in their generalization of the schematism of one single linguistic level:

'surface-grammar' gives the privilege to the visible manifest form of the linearized sentence. Case grammar versions give priority to the subjacent semantic functions. As one might expect, the reaction to those two extremes has been to emphasize yet another linguistic level, the propositional one, where 'subject' simply equals the 'theme/topic' disposed for the assertion or denial of the predicates; however, without reaching a genuine pragmatic elaboration.

(3) Further, we get the opportunity to discuss Tesnière's distinction between 'actant' and 'circumstant' in relation to the referential issue. Tesnière's theory indicates a significant rupture with the bipartition of the sentence structure into a subject and its predicate dominant elsewhere. He considers the verb phrase as the nucleus of a 'stemma' (sentence tree), and sees the subject as the representation of an actant that functions as a complement in a structure of dependency on the same level as other primary complements or actants, even though it is a privileged actant.

In my view an important theoretical step forward has been taken with Tesnière's shift in perspective. The verbal semantics and the stemmatic graphic of a sentence form is stressed by Tesnière as a necessary complement of the predicative structure of the sentence.

(4) The 'subject' discussion becomes a matter of specific linguistic concern when applied to phenomena related to grammatical voice, diathesis, as these are discussed in typologically orientated general linguistics. Here we find analysis and theories of passivization and reflexivization (in relation to the problem of impersonality), as well as considerations of ergative languages. (We will leave out this linguistic section today, in order to concentrate more on the problem of referentiality and actantiality).

(5) Resuming the items of the list, we assume that our subject offers us the occasion to discuss the relations and transitions between the different linguistic levels. Thus we can again take up the problem of the so-called linguistic components-Semantics, Syntax and Pragmatics-in accordance with Per Aage Brandt's proposal for an integral phrastic theory. The articulations of the levels are, indeed, an urgent task if we wish to produce an operational linguistic analysis.    


1.2. The 'subject' in philosophy and logic.

As we have seen, the concept of 'subject' is not simply a concept in grammar. The concept has a number of ramifications, and in it various concepts are entangled with each other despite their originally different discursive provenance. The term 'subject' is notoriously ambiguous in respect to whether it refers to the metaphysical entity called 'subject' in philosophy or simply designates the (subject) matter of discourse. The notion of subject has been a fundamental concept in philosophy and logic, as well as in the psychological sciences. In a derived sense, the philosophical subject has given rise to the logical concept of subject in traditional logic. If a 'subject' - to the philosopher - is a substantial and individual entity, which can be identified by its properties, then the so-called logical judgement can affirm or deny the attribution of those properties to the subject. Thus, we get the logical propositional structure of a 'subject' and its 'predicate.'

The philosophical subject will not be of direct concern in this presentation, nor will the logical or the psychological subject. We shall pass immediately to the semiolinguistic side of the question.

1.3. Impersonality: A crux for the logico-grammatical conception.

In classical linguistic theory (for instance, that of the grammar of Port Royal), which depends heavily on the philosophical notion of the subject, a correspondence is established between on one hand the grammatical subject, understood as the sentential constituent in nominative - normally imposing agreement in number and person on the main verb - and, on the other hand, the logical subject of a judgement. The bipartition of the sentence, i.e. the structural organization consisting of two interdependent primitives, 'subject' and 'predicate,' becomes the solid base of traditional grammar.

This theory states that all sentences are structured canonically as a 'subject' and its 'predicate.' The 'subject' is the site of its attributes.

Thus, no sentence is subjectless. Without a subject - be it "thin and meagre" - there is no sentence. The logico-grammatical theory answers the dilemma of the existence of apparently subjectless sentences, especially sentences with avalent verbs, according to this view: the lack of subject is, indeed, apparent!

Even if the subject is not explicit, as the grammatical subject, or, alternatively, even if the subject takes on the manifest form of a syntactic 'dummy,' or manifests itself as a redundant, so-called 'cognate' subject, it is possible to find a real subject according to this tradition in grammar. Consequently, this real subject is seen as being underneath, "hidden." A natural solution in grammar is to make a distinction between a surface structure, where a grammatical dummy operates as an apparent pleonastic subject, and a deep structure, where the real subject is to be found. So, the bipartite structure is restored in this theory. The dilemma is solved by turning to the epistemological thesis of a deep subject and to the restoration thesis of referentiality. A reference to an actant with the semantic features of a 'subject,' equalling the philosophical subject conceived as an individual, is postulated.

Now, it may not be impossible for a linguist to accept the idea of a dummy representing a hidden nominal syntagm and thus referring to a participant entity outside the sentence. But this idea probably gives rise to more problems than it solves. How do we conceive such an entity? One could for instance imagine an entity such as the Fillmorian specific case-investment of the semantic role, the    


agent, called force, doing the job. But, still, the subject-status of the hidden referent seems to remain rather enigmatic, and above all, rather heterogeneous in its status with regard to its anthropomorphism.

The traditional theory may somehow have saved its basic structural assumption of the bipartition as being fundamental in trying to maintain the link between linguistic expression, structured as grammatical relations, and logical judgement in the propositional form. This is done by privileging the propositional logical judgement.

1.4. The dummy

As a matter of fact, in many languages the existence of a neuter, rather abstract and general pronominal is frequently observed: Fr.: il/ça, Germ.: es, Eng.: it/there, Da.:der/det...... This dummy could be considered linguistically as a preposed morphematic manifestation (like for instance the definite article in many languages), whereas the languages without dummies limit themselves to a postposed morphematic inflection.

Thus, we accept the quasi-equivalence of morphematic pre- and postposition as covered by the notion of 'dummy.' We don't perceive any referential difference between the French: il pleut (it's raining), with its pronominal dummy, and the Spanish: llueve, without a dummy. The syntactical dummy, assuming the form of a neuter, morphemelike pronoun, doubles the third person inflectional mark of the verb. The dummy is void of specific lexical content, i.e. it is without figurativization. It is utterly reduced to its indexical function.

We might ask the bipartitionists where exactly they would locate this hidden, true, deep subject. How do we know which kind of nominal phrase supports the subject function? And when and how is it possible to state the degree to which the actant is present?

1.5. Types of 'impersonality'

At this point it seems appropriate to present very briefly the different types of impersonal sentences under consideration and to clarify a bit the linguistic use of the term 'impersonality' before entering into a more detailed discussion. Not every impersonal sentence shows the same degree and type of impersonality (between semantics and syntax). As a matter of fact, the shared feature of 'subjectlessness' does not entail the same lack or absence. The agentlessness of a sentence, or in other terms, the absence of a prime actant of the verb, does not always cover the same kind of impersonality.

We can move along the following scale:

(1) The zero valence of a semantically rather closed set of verbs, mostly of those concerning atmospheric conditions. These verbs manifest the semantic-syntactic impossibility of making a prime actant reasonably explicit in the form of a full nominal syntagm. The avalent meteorological verbs are the most impersonal of the impersonal utterances. There is no possible full nominal syntagm, no autonomous semantic content, and no specific reference to a participant. We only witness the existence of a minimal support for the meteorological predicate, a reference to Matter as such, viewed as a place or setting for displaying elementary forces, masses. Such sentences can be considered syntactically and semanti    


cally actantless. But does this equal a lack of referentiality? We shall return to this problem later on.

A different subject status can be observed in other impersonal sentences of the type below.

(2) In Spanish you can elude the mention of the agent by various discursive strategies, e.g the use of a passive voice, the use of an impersonal reflexive form or the use of a third person plural:

El coche ha sido vendido esta mañana. (Passive) =

The car was sold this morning

El coche se ha vendido esta mañana. (Reflexive) =

(literally) The car sold itself this morning

Vendieron el coche esta mañana. (Third personal plural) =

They sold the car this morning.

In these three cases of eluding the agent of vender (to sell), the instance is human and presupposed, not non-existent. The 'human' characteristic represents the highest level in the hierarchy of empathy, constituting the main difference between the avalent and passive constructions on one hand, and the pseudo-reflexive construction on the other. Actually, the pseudo-reflexive construction is a personal one. The Spanish construction equals the Danish indefinite pronoun 'man' and French 'on,' designating human beings.

The fact that a human being is presupposed is seen in examples like:

(1a) En esta oficina se ladra. (In this office they bark)

This sentence does not refer to the barking of a real dog but is used metaphorically, suggesting that certain people are expressing themselves like dogs. If we want to give the verb ladrar an actant other than the expected animal, and if we do not want to presuppose a human agent, we must express that non-human actant overtly:

(1b) Las máquinas ladraban. (The machines were barking)

In the impersonal sentences under consideration the agent is semantically presupposed and more or less syntactically possible in a more peripheral function of the stemma as a sort of 'circumstantial' agentive complement introduced by por/(de). In the case of the third person plural, syntactically not quite impersonal, the string of the prime actant is blocked, hereby indicating the agent's the lack of identification and pointing to a plurality from which to choose the actual subject, which does not need to be plural.

If we return for a moment to the difficulty traditional grammar has in accepting subjectless sentences, which are not structured like subject-predicate sentences, the theory meets an obvious difficulty in its core: how can we resolve the dilemma of the existence of bothersome sentences on the weather? The dilemma is that the form of those sentences manifests a syntactically redundant subject with no clear or concrete correspondent referent or, alternatively, an empty slot. In this case, i.e. sentences whose predicate has no entity/actant to which it can at-    


tribute properties or which can be placed as a specific participant in a process, there seems to be no argument for the predicate.

In the examples with the indeterminate agent, the agent is presupposed, and there is normally some grammatical mark of the elusion, such as the clitic se. But in the sentences concerning the atmosphere, as in the new phrase: vende coche (for se vende coche) (cars for sale), the reduction seems more radical.

Can the theory be maintained as such with its basic assumption untouched, in a slight revision, or does the objection coming from empirical examples such as those mentioned above break down the theory?

1.6. Recent theories on impersonality: avalence

Many syntacticians have come to accept the idea of avalence and non- referentiality. They conceive of it as being within the range of a subject's possibilities to be a pure syntactic function, a superficial entity without depth.

Recent linguistics may be divided into two characteristic main tendencies with regard to the issue we are discussing here:

(A) formalist positions, where syntax is predominant, and

(B) semanticist positions.

(A) The formalist position is represented by generativism and by Danish structuralism. I quote as an example, Aage Hansen : .... "DET føles som mer eller mindre indholdsløst, og dets funktion nærmer sig så til kun at være den at udfylde pladsen som første led i solidariteten: Hvordan går det?" (Hansen, p. 165).

Obviously there is little explicatory force in just stating the efficiency of a syntactical rule which claims that in a given natural language the grammatical function 'subject' must be syntactically, not only morphologically, manifested. The 'subject' is no real subject. It reduces itself to a dummy, a pleonastical mechanism or formal constraint.

More than a syntactic constraint seems to be at stake. (Incidentally, what is a syntactic constraint?) Are the impersonal morphemes just syntactic dummies or is the indexical function to be taken more seriously as the 'meaning' of the dummy?

Traditional theory has given no answer to the referential question. The grammar of Port Royal simply states the nominative case value and treats the underlying segment as a 'subject,' although hidden, specifiable nonetheless.

(B) The other linguistic trend, more inclined towards semantics, approaches the problem of referentiality on a scale going from the strongest animistic pretentions to weaker referential positions. The formal mark is supposed to represent a referent, something conceived of as a possible subject entity with a figurative profile. The subject is restorable and just implied.

This position has to solve the problem of the existence of sentences with no obvious, statable, figurativization of a prime actant with a blocked or lacking position in the syntax for an expressed prime actant in its full nominal syntagmatic form.

One of the important questions to put to this trend could be the following: What are the referential possibilities of the dummy? Does it necessarily designate    


an actant (a so-called 'subject') or can it also designate a circumstant, a 'container-place'?

Among the "referentialists" we find Dwight Bolinger. He proposes the attribution of a referential value to the pronoun otherwise considered pleonastic. Bolinger speaks of a reference to an all-encompassing state, to the context as such. (Langacker takes up this idea and elaborates it further). The vagueness of the dummy indicates the corresponding vagueness of reference to the setting, or circumstantial reference; and both mirror the structural vagueness of the scene itself.

From this standpoint we are able to claim that a semiolinguistic analysis has got to deal with the structural organization of the "things" themselves, of the experienced situation. In the rain scene that we are considering it is not easy, if at all possible, to distinguish between what is going on (i.e. the process, event or action identified as predicate) and a something/somebody to which this happens (identified as Subject). Cognitively, it is difficult to distinguish within the scene what corresponds to the subject and what corresponds to the predicate. Everything is flowing and floating. Philosophically speaking, the "substance" of the phenomenon, normally identified as a linguistic subject, is embodied in its "accidents," alias the predicate. Probably there is a cognitive reason for the agrammaticality of expressions like: Det soler, det måner, etc. (It is sunning, it is mooning, etc.) The lexemes moon and sun designate the actant as a real individual entity, as a perceptually discrete unity with a bounded profile. A prototypical clause, say a canonical transitive event clause, presents two differentiated participants (S - O) that exist (mentally) prior to the event and independently of its occurrence. When the two participants are not entirely independent of the designated process, they are termed cognate. The meteorological expressions are such non-conforming sentences.

Even if linguistic expressions show a certain measure of iconicity, i.e. a partial isomorphic organisation regarding the experienced segment of reality, as stated by Bolinger, there exists a conflict between global and complex experience, on one hand, and analytical linear language, on the other. The tension between symbolicity and iconicity in syntax is irreducible.

In this perspective we could speak of a linguistic dummy as a grammatical device for dealing with non-conforming sentences. Experienced reality appears as a setting filled up with dynamic processes and interactions between elements or masses. Linguistic form does not intersect and segment in correspondence with objective, physical reality. Different languages structure experience differently with their proper idioms. Language is bound to syntactic segmentation and linear form. This means that there exists such a fact as syntactic constraint and that the dummy may be a sort of 'apparent subject.' So, the formalist syntactic position is not entirely wrong in its assumptions. But it cannot stand alone, due to the fact that the lack of specific reference to a real individual as subject does not exclude referentiality as such. The notion of 'referent' just needs readjustment. The referentialists have detected this important point and turned it into the clue.

Apart from the central problem of referentiality, other relevant questions can be asked, such as: how is a definite reference, i.e. a concrete, specific, particular reference, avoided or suspended in the presence of an otherwise anaphorical personal pronoun/inflectional mark of person (or deictic adverb in the case of the Danish: der)? How can a 3rd-person inflection be put out of function as such    


and in a certain way be neutralized? My answer would be that the suspension depends on the intangibility of the element as distinct from a perceptually self-identical, unitary, discrete actant. Cognitively, the conceptualization of the dispersed phenomena "out there," coming from the unknown space, cannot establish an anaphorical link. They are bound to be deictic in their essence.

In sum, I suggest that what the void subject as an indexical mark (pronominal or inflectional) indicates is precisely the void place of the agent. 'Void' has to be understood as the indeterminacy and lack of an identified direct agent as a participant in the process. The vaguer the idea of a definite participant is, the stronger is the barrier to anaphoric function and the stronger is the deictic import of the utterance and its circumstantialization. The setting is decisive.

We could ask: Why not choose the infinitive construction with the impersonal form of the verb, the form closest to the verb stem itself, to represent impersonal expressions? We could reasonably suppose the avalence of the verbal semantics level to be sufficient.

Part of the answer to why the infinitive is not viable can be found when we consider the fact that in the Romance languages the inflectional ending combines in its form several pieces of grammatical information: mode, tense, aspect, person and number. If the only thing that mattered was the category of 'person,' the infinitive would be able to do the job and designate impersonality. But other linguistic operations at the phrastic level are needed, especially temporal and modal indications of the realization of the process and of its circumstances. The infinitive form cannot serve this purpose.

1.7. Deixis and referentiality

I will now approach more specifically the field of deixis and referentiality. As we have seen, historically there has been a gradual loosening of the links-or even the fusion-between the grammatical and the logical subject, with the predominance of one or the other in different theories. I think that the problem of the linguistic 'subject', which keeps us busy today, is suitable for making us recognize the different linguistic schematisms. The dummy is active but changes its status throughout the levels.

From a localization at the pragmatic level, where the 3rd person, represented in the utterance by a dummy, is an objective referent for the two deictic 1st and 2nd persons, it develops and becomes a topic or theme at the propositional level of the subject-predicate relation. In a third step the third person is circumstantialized in an actantial structure, one of the actants, the privileged one, being the agent. Ultimately we reach the level of verbal semantics and its internal structure. At this level we find a particularly tight link between the verb stem and the person. As a matter of fact, the person is embodied in a morphemelike form or takes on the form of a cognate - i.e. inherent - subject, a mere extension or tentacle of the verb at the level of the linearized sentence.

The grammatical subject of the sentence is not reducible to a case, as already anticipated above. It can have other actantial cases as its source.

1.7.1. Ronald Langacker's cognitivistic approach: the subject-setting analysis

What does the cognitivism of Ronald Langacker add to the subject problem of impersonal constructions? If for Langacker a subject is a figure, this status is valid for the prototypical grammatical subject. However, the impersonal sentences    


with a dummy, or "placeholder," as Langacker calls it, don't exactly aspire to the role of the prototype. Inspired by the previous referentialist analysis of Bolinger, Langacker reassumes the idea thatthe function of the dummy is to establish a reference to an abstract location (a mental space). The process covers the whole situation. According to Langacker, the dummy also possesses a presentational function, namely to cause an element to stand out. The effect of the dummy is to background the participant without foregrounding anything else of real substance. (Langacker, p. 354 II).

It appears to me that this could be a valid, though not sufficient part of the analysis of the avalent expressions concerning the atmosphere. Furthermore, this analysis is important in order to understand the relationship between a set of impersonal sentences supported by the same morphological paradigm: the pronominal weakened locatives, such as the Danish der, the English there and the French y.

From the strictly locative expression:

(3) Dér bor en bager. (A baker lives there)

by way of the existential, presentative expression with an indefinite nominal syntagm but keeping the explicit locative:

(4) Der bor en bager i huset ved siden af.

(There's a baker living in the house next door)

by way of the mere existential (presumably with a presupposed locative):

(5) Der var tydelig kamp om guldet.

(There was a clear competition for gold)

to the passive form:

(6) Der spilles bold. Der råbes og skriges.

(There's a ballgame being played. There's yelling and screaming)

In Langacker's view, cognitivist theory is not disturbed by the fact that a processive predication sometimes lacks a 'trajector' (an actant or figure). This does not deny the validity of the figure-ground distribution as being a normal, general distinction. The subject takes the role of a trajector in unmarked cases. When the participants are indistinct, as is the case for the non-scientific conception of meteorological events, no figure is singled out within the scene. Those expressions appear as being without a trajector. The only thing that is signalled is the scene of an ongoing process. When it rains there are changes through time: something happens - drops are falling - and the world is transformed.

1.7.2. The Danish det/der

The existence in Danish of impersonal expressions of two different forms of "formal pronouns" or dummies, det/det...., may help us to advance a little further in our analysis. Det is called a 'formal subject' and is supposed to be above    


all deictic, that is, det points out, singles out, a phenomenon (as a valid subject of a certain predicate). This brings forth its relationship to cleft sentences:

(7) Det var mig, der ikke gad. (It was me who didn't feel like it)

The "formal locative," der, is used to announce an indeterminate subject. The weakened locative pronoun, frequently made explicit as a full locative, at the same time contextualizes the indeterminate subject and makes us seek a localisation for the subject. The indeterminate subject deceives the expectations of the typical 'topic' because it does not designate something contextually given:

(4) Der bor en bager i huset. (There's a baker living in the house)

If we leave out the diachronic and dialectic distribution of the two forms in Danish, we are faced with two sets of data below. The starting point for a typical distribution is the following partition. The locative der is weakened and used in existential expressions:

(8) Der var en interessant premiere på det Kgl. Teater i aftes.

(There was an interesting opening night at the Royal Theatre

yesterday evening)

The deictic det points to the interest presented by the subject-topic:

(9) Det var en interessant premiere på det Kgl. teater i aftes.

(It was an interesting opening night at the Royal Theatre yesterday evening)

When there is no distinct phenomenon designated by the nominal syntagm (such as den interessante premiere), things work a little differently.

(10) Det gav et soet i ham. (He gave a start) (Der can't be used).

As PaulDiderichsen states of the avalent verbs, we encounter det when we don't conceive of any entity outside the verbal idea or when the experiencer is emotionally affected by an unknown force. We find det in the following cases.

1. In expressions concerning the atmosphere of the type:

(11) Nu sner det. (It's snowing now)

2. In the case of perceptual experiences whose source is unknown:

(12) Det løb ham koldt ned ad ryggen. (It chilled his spine)

3. When Destiny intervenes:

(13) Det går derud af som smurt. (It's going without a hitch)

The distribution is fixed in expressions such as:    


(14) Det var dér vi havde hjemme. (That was where we lived)

(Cleft sentence)

(15) Det øsregner, og det er koldt.

(It's pouring down rain and it's cold) (Weather reports)

(16) Der snakkes løs i kantinen, og der spises også.

(There's a lot of talking in the cafeteria, and eating.)

(Passive form)

This distribution may be explained. In the cleft sentences we have the deictic det, which draws the attention to the interest of the topic. In expressions concerning the weather, det represents an indistinct and uncontrollable source of the perceived process and a being pointing towards the infinite. In the case of the locative der with the passive form of a transitive verb without a complement of the direct object, or a passive intransitive form, there is no nominal to be promoted in order to function as a subject, and this excludes the pronominal deictic form, the det representing the subject. The locative der is not likely to be taken and mistaken for an instance of the subject and so it is available. Besides, the agent is only implied as unnamed, not totally indistinct, but earthly human, in the passive forms.

There is a quasi-synonymy in some expressions, such as:

(17) Det /(der) var sumpet og mudret inde ved flodbredden. (It was swampy and muddy on the river bank)

When there is a manifest locative circumstantial (helt inde ved flodbredden), the constructional scheme of meteorological expressions with det can be changed into der. Apparently we are free to choose two different referential conceptualizations: the weakened locative meaning (der) versus the undifferentiated actant of the attributes: sumpet og mudret. In the case of the Spanish example Vende coche, it is difficult to decide the referential status (person or place)-as is also true for institutions. The Danish example shows the same two conceptual possibilities.

1.7.3. Intentional marks in the meteorological utterance: a case of Force dynamics.

Typically the processes analyzed above are perceptually verifiable and at the same time outside the control of the speaker. This may contribute to the existence - contrary to expectation - of impersonal constructions provided with a modal mark of volition.

(18) It's trying to rain.

(19) Il a réussi a neiger. (It succeeded in raining)

(20) Il a essayé de faire froid. (It tried to freeze)

(21) On dirait qu'il veut pleuvoir. (It looks like it wants to rain)

(22) Se pone a llover. (It´s deciding to rain)

(23) Det kan ikke rigtigt bestemme sig til at klare op. (It can't really decide whether to clear up)    


Does this support the referentialist thesis and indicate a personalized agent and an intentional act? Does this affirm the claim that syntax is extremely anthropocentric? I don't think this is necessarily the case.

Precisely in situations involving meteorological phenomena where little human interference is possible, the modal mark of which the speaker is deprived, i.e. the intentional control, can function and be located in the utterance (where it is positive and emphatic). The lack of control, and, correspondingly, the intrusion of Fatality, is decisive in the constructions under consideration. The volitional form indicates a state of affectedness in the observer/speaker. It is an enunciative trace. A sort of transference takes place from the deictic 1st person to the sentential dummy. The explanation of this rather strange operation could be as follows.

The volitional examples cited above clearly belong to what Leonard Talmy calls the "force dynamic imaging system." Concretely, they are a sort of despite-expression within a causative frame. The condition for realizing the process designated by the verb is the exertion of pressure. A peasant's struggle for life against hostile forces in Nature either involves his overcoming/weakening an antagonist or the victory of the enemy. In such a scenario the meteorological phenomena are turned into an instrument allied to the peasant, or else they take on the role of a dangerous object or harmful gesture of the antagonist.

If this is true, we can observe that parallel to the absence of a prime actant and the lack of causative specifications of the process, we conceive a combat or struggle between forces, we perceive the existence of a factor of resistance to realization or the opposite perception, namely that of our own lack of resistance and possibilities for being in control. The subject feels itself abandoned to "higher powers," to Destiny. The stressing of antagonism, and the subsequent modal effect of succeeding or failing, leaves its marks on the sentence. The modalized verbal groups in question can be considered expressions of the possibility of an emphasis exactly in the case where there is no cognitive actant to personalize.

We can even formulate the hypothesis that an enunciative evaluation of the subjective kind is to be found as a superimposition on the intensifying force dynamic system. Causality overlaid with intentionality of the kind: "I want/don't want it to rain." In the context of the utterance, the intonation and other suprasegmental features of the speaker can accompany the information and thus communicate the "intention" of the speaker, i.e. his/her evaluation of the result of the antagonism. The evaluation may also be of the epistemic kind and express the speaker's view on the probability or certainty regarding the realization.

In my opinion, the impersonal morpheme does not convey any real agentivity or personal subjecthood to these sentences struck by force dynamics. They are not anthropocentric.

1.8. Summary

In which sense does the dummy seem to be efficient? I think we can attribute a fundamental referentiality to the dummy. At a fundamental level of designation, the presence of a dummy is the trace of a mediating function between the prediscursive, general, and therefore atemporal and apersonal proposition and stemma on one hand, and a realized, particular discursive utterance on the other. This operation is what Émile Benveniste calls "actualization." The actuali-    


zation manifests the most basic element of the category 'person': the third person as an expression of an elementary referential anchoring of the utterance in the thing of which it speaks. (Benveniste speaks of the "non personne"). By this operation and its trace, the dummy, (be this inflectional or pronominal) a distinction between Language and World and their relation through reference is established. So, in a certain measure, the dummy can be said to refer to an "anteriority." a prior emergence of distinctive forms and a pre-state of the ego, a sort of negatively marked pure presence: "the empty scene."

By a deictic gesture the grammatical dummy points in the same direction as the psychoanalytical, Freudian ES (ID) as a "subjectal dummy" designating the other side of Conscience, where no conscience is possible, the 'subject' as pulsional "other," scene of energetic forces. The Danish Det er mig ( It is me) could be a syntactical illustration of the split subject and subjectal alienation. We dispose of a linguistic segment, the dummy, without any necessary, precise or concrete correspondence to be pointed out in the world. The dummy is connected with the idea of energetic transformation, frequently viewed in a cognitive iconization as a flow of fluid matter, a streaming liquid. It may be regarded as a deictic element representing non-graspable matter itself, as a referential operator.

Nevertheless, the cognitive organization of the figure/ground and its tendency to be represented linguistically in the canonical form of a grammatical subject as a trajector is strong enough to impose the interpretation of the dummy as a regular and specific pronoun in what Tesnière understood as a secondary rationalization. A reference to a generic (totalized) instance is sought; a reference which is identified as the Universe or the World, or more narrowly equated to the horizon of the actual situation, the local setting bounded by the horizon of the deictic person. The space of the dialogue is closed and becomes a perceptually bounded space. Where the circumstant is predominant and imposes itself, the actant is more vague and indistinct.

A semantic domain like that of natural phenomena and the elements is an obvious candidate for dummy formulas. We find ourselves in a dimension where something is emerging from no-thing, as yet without sharp contours. A fusional state preceding the actantial distinction between objects and the installation of the asymmetry between 'subject' and 'object.' In relation to the dummy, this meaning thus seems to reduce itself to being a mere prefigurative indication of "something being or going on" in time and space, a pure being.

Just after finishing this paper and turning off my computer, Per Aage Brandt's latest poems dropped into my letter box. In but few lines and in an infinitely more beautiful and forceful way, the very last poem happens to express what I hope to have said here. I leave him the scene.

Hvorfor er der overhovedet noget her i stedet for ingenting?

I stedet for ingenting er der et ensomt sted, hvor ingenting var.

Også ingenting behøver, ligesom noget, et sted at stå eller være.

Det er det samme sted, forud for alt. Når der ingenting er, er der

Dette. Det blæser. Det lyser. Det strømmer. Det gentager og bryder.

Det har ingen konturer, er ikke noget. Vi kan fjerne alt hvad vi ser

Eller tænker, noegte det væk, og væk efterlader den tomme scene

Hvor det stadig blæser og lyser, et usikkert fluidum stribet af nega-

Tioner som linier, men endnu eksisterende. Og hvis vi selv var der

Ville vi kunne gå omkring eller elske. Kræfterne ville være på plads.    


Pourquoi y a-t-il quelque chose ici à la place de rien? Il y a un lieu

Solitaire à la place de rien, où rien n'était. Car rien a besoin, comme

Quelque chose, d'un lieu où se tenir ou être. C'est le même lieu, avant

Toute chose. Quand il n'y a rien, il y a cela. Il fait du vent. de la lumière.

Cela coule à flots. Répète et rompt. N'a pas de contours, n'est rien. Nous

pouvons éliminer tout ce que nous voyons ou pensons, le nier, et le nié

Laisse la scène vide où le vent et la lumière persistent, un fluide incertain,

Strié de négations qui forment comme des lignes, mais encore là. Et si nous

Y étions nous-mêmes, nous nous y promènerions ou nous ferions l'amour.

Les forces seraient en place.

(This Side up, pp. 48-49)  

1.9 Bibliography

Benveniste, Emile. Problèmes de linguistique générale I Paris: Gallimard, 1966.

Bolinger, Dwight. Meaning and Form. London: Longman, 1977.

Brandt, Per Aage. Pour une phrastique intégrale. In Semiotiques. Ed. J. Petitot. Paris, 1994

Diderichsen, Paul. Elementoer dansk grammatik. København: Gyldendal, 1962.

Hansen, Aage. Moderne dansk. København: Grafisk Forlag, 1967.

Langacker, Ronald. Foundations of cognitive grammar I-II. California: Stanford University Press, 1987/1991.

Tesnière, Lucien. Eléments de syntaxe structurale. Paris: Klincksieck, 1988.    


Noter:Paper presented at the Conference The Structure of Signs, Thing, and Language (org: The Center for Semiotic Research, Aarhus University), Skodsborg, January 26-28, 1995  

A brief note on the concept of 'grammatical metaphor' in the field of Spanish verbal compounds.*

In this paper I intend to present a characterization of a closed-class metaphor as a point of departure for discussing the distinction between the structural metaphor, or metaphor proper, and the diagrammatic metaphor. The diagrammatic metaphor stresses its underlying schematism in a peculiar way, which is an interesting issue to discuss in respect to the problems of transferring meaning and abstract thinking as such.

The scope of my contribution is to work out the integration of three schematic sources in Natural World semiotics: the causally determined world, the intersubjective intentional world, and the emotional imaginary world. This involves, in more traditional linguistic terms, integrating semantics and pragmatics. I shall concentrate on the diagrammatic metaphor pertaining to one semantic domain, the process scheme, and its shift in status to an aspectual operator in an aperiphrastic formation: the Spanish andar (to go)

Within the ongoing linguistic discussions concerning grammaticalization processes, it is rather usual to find a conception which tends to consider grammaticalization a passage from concrete to more abstract meaning-as an evident frame of understanding what is going on in the case of grammaticalization.

Grammaticalization equals 'metaphorization,' which equals abstraction. According to this point of view, the process underlying grammaticalization is metaphorically structured, leading from certain source structures to corresponding, isomorphic, grammatical structures. Say from concrete to abstract, in a process where words are seen as being gradually "worn out." The metaphorical process in the case of grammaticalization is a one-way process, whereas elsewhere the metaphor is neutral as to the passage between a 'concrete' and an 'abstract' domain.

This is the overall classical linguistic version of the issue of grammaticalization. The linguist focuses his attention on the diachronic evolution at the word level and the syntagmatic level. The word'meaning' changes its status. The analysis establishes the graduation from a status of "full" and "autonomous" figurative meaning to "empty" and "dependent" form as an erosive process in which a word realizes a passage from lexeme to morpheme, i.e. from an open- to a closed-class word. (A clear example of such a process could be the appearance of new prepositions and conjunctions). Grammaticalization is conceived as desemantization, thus implying "loss" in the quantum of meaning. It is conceived as a depletion of the semantic content and as a semantic degradation. Diachronically expressed, it is said that a lexeme evolves a morphematic status during the gradual "deterioration" of a word or an expression. This process makes linguistic units loose in semantic specificity, syntactic freedom and phonetic substance-and, according to certain linguists, also implies a loss of pragmatic significance.

The marks of periphrastic grammaticalization can be observed in a number of grammatical features indicating a particular syntactical organization. This organization exhibits the formal configuration of a compound expressing a unifying cognitive concept, a so-called resegmentation. This unitary conceptual    


scheme imposes selective restraints on the combinations of the periphrastic component.

Among the formal marks of a periphrastic grammaticalization (and the corresponding disintegration of the periphrastic unity) are the following.

1. The two verbal forms which configure the periphrasis refer to the same subject actant.

2. The intercalation of an adverbial phrase (locative) between the two verbal forms tends to break up the unity.

3. In Spanish, an oblique pronominal complement of the infinitive can be placed enclitically with the infinite form or can be transposed to a proclitic position before the finite auxiliary, hereby indicating its status as complement of the verbal compound as a whole.

4. Morphological restrictions, especially regarding the aspectual forms, may be put on the compound.

5. Peculiar prosodic patterns can show up.

Cognitively, grammaticalization can be considered the result of a strategy: a problem-solving operation whereby abstract concepts are substituted by concepts which are more immediately accessible to experience because they are termed in a more concrete manner. In a certain way, according to the cognitivist approach, we meet an operation proceeding from abstract to concrete.

The contradiction is only apparent in the two above-mentioned conceptions: from concrete to abstract and from abstract to concrete. There is a shift in point of view. Process of abstraction, in one view; process of concretion, in the other. The two positions can be reconciled by presupposing a scheme to support the process, even if the relation to a scheme and the proper concept of scheme may differ from theory to theory. The metaphorical extension is presumably based on a scheme as a presupposed common, shared structure between the primary meaning and its derivation: the grammatical metaphor.

When the linguist talks about a passage from 'concrete' to 'abstract' meaning, he refers to the same expression covering different cognitive domains (physical and mental space). The passage from one signified (=signifié) to another is often understood in terms of metaphorical extension. The change of semantic domain is viewed as a sort of migration of the word.

The current notion of metaphor in linguistics is often a rather informal and vague, term that fails to specify how the linguist actually conceives the process of a word 'gliding' from one domain to another. It also avoids the problem of the existence of different types of metaphor. The notion of metaphor seems rather rudimentary, insofar as it just borrows its support in a referential gesture which measures the correspondence between experiential reality and linguistic expression: termed literal versus figurative or transferred meaning. If there is no such correspondence, the meaning is not regarded as literal, but as metaphorical.

When the cognitivist speaks of 'concrete' concepts as substitutes for more 'abstract' concepts, he refers and explains the process as related to human experience, although he attacks the problem from a different side than a classical linguist, that is, from the inverted position. His grounding of the metaphor appears    


to be the body, as a primary reference point, and the perception of space. He refers to an abstract meaning, a conceptual field, to be covered by the linguistic expression, just as the linguist does. But, the cognitivist focuses instead on the different possible (synonymous) expressions capable of covering the very same abstract (mental) domain.

The central issue

In my opinion, it is among the tasks of cognitive linguistics to elaborate the following question:

What conditions are necessary for grammaticalization, regarded as a change from a 'concrete' to an 'abstract' domain, to take place?

It seems obvious that the precondition of the transfer is the existence of a conceptual scheme. The scheme as a form is what makes it possible to consider it as being independent of its instantiation when applied to given semantic domains. It is not tied to a definite domain, thus opening up the doors for the transfer. Not every motion verb is a good candidate for grammaticalization. The best ones seem to be the verbal lexemes with a minimum of semantic specification added to their pure directional content.

There is a general part of the grammaticalization problem relating to the discussion of the universals, and there is a particular dimension concerning each language separately. Actually, one of the main questions of linguistic concern is the characteristic redistribution in a given natural language between open- and closed-class elements. As it appears, not every lexical class is likely to become grammaticalized and by this means form closed classes.

What are the aspiring classes and why is there just those and not others? It is my claim that there are so to speak 'natural' sources for grammaticalization. Apart from the degradation of a rather few generic 'substantives' (e.g. res/rem, homo) to cover certain pronominal fields, grammaticalization is most frequent in the closed-class word forms of the relational kind, i.e. prepositions, conjunctions, and adverbs. And also within the verb class, where the verb can be considered a dynamic matrix relating figure and ground. There are some obvious verbal aspirants such as the schematic verbs : to be, to have, to go, to do, etc. A certain grammatical domain, say the copula verbs or the verbal aspectual, temporal and modal compounds termed 'periphrasis,' (such as the English progressive),can only dispose of a rather limited set of lexical fields. The sources are highly restricted and form a closed paradigm. Diagrams of an elementary localist type, i.e. variants of ser (to be) and ir (to go), and their transitive counterparts, haber (originally, to have) and hacer (to do), seem to be functioning as schematic prototypes for the greater part of the grammatical fields.

I assume that when a motion verb lends itself to abstract grammatical uses there are more and more complex cognitive operations involved, so that no simple and direct mapping can occur. An analysis in terms of a reference to a perceptual experience and the use of basic locative patterns related to the anatomic body as a sensorimotor machine wouldn't be satisfactory. Here I agree with Ray Jackendoff's way of conceiving this issue.

Generally speaking, schemes pertaining to the Natural World (the objective, material and causally organized world, in which gestaltic figures are placed and    


move in time and space) actually seem to be one of the privileged sources of schemes for the grammatical domains. Adopting the same line of reasoning on this issue as Jackendoff, Per Aage Brandt sketches out in a semiotic perspective various links between three equally basic subworlds as an epistemological alternative to pure theories of localism and embodiment. To aspire to the status of 'function word' means to drop specificity regarding the semantic domain.

Perhaps one of the most basic image schematic forms provided by the physical world can be symbolized as the element water. We could perhaps term it a protoform. Experientially, water as such has no inherent visible form. It is an unbounded substance, neuter as to the figure/ground division, to the opposition between static and dynamic, and an element without a fixed determinate space (just think of water as rain). It also seems indifferent regarding another fundamental distinction: the distinction between "sameness" and "otherness," if for example we think of Heraclites' river. In the core of the water image I think we find elaborations of the concept of continuity.

In a solid state, not only can water be represented as ice, but it can also be imaged as a stiffened, rigid and bounded continuous stream, termed a path. Evidently, path is a spatial term, (concrete in the most material sense of the word). It is viewed as a space or surface for moving figures. But, furthermore, a path is also conceived as a means of transportation leading to a proposed goal, and not only as a mere space in between. This means that a scheme belonging to the physical world of entities and causal relations is overlaid with another type of scheme stemming from the intentional and social domain. Water can also turn into a more immaterial factor, in its more ethereal and light version, and become a flow of time or thoughts, a 'stream of consciousness' and a 'floating attention' open to unconscious determinations of the Freudian sort.

The locative verbs expressing motion are a rich source for the highly developed verbal compound system in Spanish. The restrictions do not only regard the specific lexical field, but also the distinct items within the field. The static and dynamic schemes in this area select the most basic or neuter lexeme of the lexematic field to represent the whole paradigm. The more peripheral lexemes in relation to the central ones do not easily lend themselves to grammaticalization.

In other words, my aim is to analyze how the mapping between the grammatical and lexical domains is established. To contribute to the answering of this question I intend to analyze an example from Spanish: the verb andar, one of the ways to say "to go".

The use of the Spanish verb for 'to go': andar.

First, it should be noted that the verb is used as a simple motion verb designating the material, physical transfer of an entity through space and time and thus involving a dynamic change of situation. I suppose as my point of departure that the proto-verb of this scheme is the Spanish verb ir and as such the most grammaticalized motion verb. Next to ir comes andar. The rest of the Spanish verbs for 'to go': deambular, marchar, caminar, pisar, recorrer, etc. imply a higher degree of lexical specification as to the style of the motion and are therefore less inclined to grammaticalization.

The content of ir is schematic, as summarized above. The eventual modal specifications are supplied outside the verb and currently take on the form of an adverb of manner, often a gerund in Spanish.    


(1) Juan iba en caballo, mientras que Juana iba andando.

(Juan was riding a horse, while Juana was walking)

If we specify the two terminal points of the movement by locative complementation, supplying the sentence with a point of departure and/or a point of arrival, we have just made explicit the implicit points of reference for the verbs in question. Experientially, a movement takes its beginning somewhere and at a given time, just as it will come to an end some time. These locative verbs normally require some locative complementation as a ground for the moving figure: the path. The two terminal points or just one of them can also be made explicit:

(2) Juan iba por la calle Príncipe hacia la estación, cuando

le atropelló el coche. (Juan was walking down Príncipe street

towards the station when he was hit by the car)

In the case of ir preference is normally given to the expression of the point of arrival or goal, while the projective point is presupposed unless we add the reflexive pronoun. In grammatical terms we say that ir has no absolute use, but needs the explicitation of one or more of its complements. So we say:

(3) El nene no anda todavía. (*El nene no va todavía)

(The baby still does not walk)

As instances of a mechanical function, watches and other machines, such as the heart, do not combine with ir. There are no natural terminal points in the compactification of a line into a circle. No beginning and end point can be distinguished:

(4) * El coche no va. (El coche no anda). (The car does not run)

(5) * El reloj va, si le das cuerda.(El reloj anda,...)

(The watch works if you wind it)

In the dictionary, the primary definition of andar is as follows: an entity moves (changes place) by its own means (= recorre cierta distancia con los propios medios de locomoción:). Perhaps the most distinctive feature of andar is the modal and aspectual specification: a pasos (step by step), as a sort of indication of plexity, as Talmy uses the term. An internal discontinuity is insinuated.

(6) Cuando hace mucho calor, andamos despacio

(When it is hot we walk slowly).First we take one step; then

we rest and then we take another step, and so forth)

We here witness the use of the motion verb as a so-called fully autonomous semantic expression, a lexeme with a "juicy" meaning. There is clearly much force dynamics involved in andar. In this area we have the concrete, physico- material meaning of a motion verb. This physical use gives rise to various metaphorical    


extensions, especially to idioms where the space involved is not material and the expression of the ground entity has a figurative meaning:

(7) andarse por las ramas, andar en líos, andar sobre

ruedas. (To beat around the bush; to have trouble; to go like

oiled wheels)

Are the two verbs ir and andar true synonyms or can we differentiate them? If so, what are the semantic parameters allowing differentiation?

As a matter of fact, the two verbs may be used as quasi-synonyms. They can, however, use their inherent semantic potential and activate one or various of the different parameters in a principled distribution.

But, first of all, it should be mentioned that ir and andar are the only two verbs within their paradigm prone to grammaticalization. Ir can be considered the most grammaticalized of the two: with ir followed by an infinitive we express an immediate, imminent future. The two of them are open to a periphrastic formation with a participle and with a gerund, as well as to the use as semi-copula verbs with a predicative adjective complement:

(8) Voy a verle ahora mismo. (I'm going to see him right now)

(9) Iba muy arreglada. (She was quite dressed up)

(10) Andaba metido en líos. (He had problems)

(11) Iba escribiendo la carta. (He was writing the letter (little by


(12) Andaba escribiendo cartas de solicitud. (He wrote one

application letter after the other)

Similarities between ir and andar:

What the two verbs have in common is that they both express a dynamic meaning: motion along a path through space and time. Any entity which appears to be moving by its own force can be the subject actant of these verbs:

(13) El tren andaba paso a paso por la meseta castellana.

(The train passed slowly over the Castilian Meseta)

(14) El río va de la sierra a la costa.

(The river runs from the mountain to the coast)

(15) El reloj anda/va atrasado. (The clock is slow)

Even motionless, static mediums as the support of the moving actant, such as roads (la carretera), can combine directly with the two dynamic verbs:

(16) La carretera va a Sevilla. (The road leads to Sevilla)    


Underlying the two lexemes we can suppose two different schematic representations diagrammed as follows:


A conceived, imagined continuous straight line towards a foreseen goal to which space opens up and gives access in accordance with a program.


Some imagined resistance factor creates deviations, delays and a rather erratic motion scheme, when it is not the functional circularity we are handling. The actant seems to be knocking his head against the wall and to be caught like a prisoner in a labyrinth without exit. I call the typical andar scheme the 'doodle' scheme.

The two verbs also share the capacity of representing an objectively/experientially stationary situation, so as to constitute an equivalence to the ordinary copula verbs, especially estar as the typical copula verb of states. The actant does not really move. This is what Talmy (1995) terms as "fictive motion, where the motion does not have any physical occurrence." In the examples we are examining, fictive motion is combined with factive stationariness.

The instance of enunciation seems to project a dynamism into the scene, to point to the path which has lead to the depicted state:

(17) ¿Qué tal va el trabajo? - Pues chico, andamos parados

estos días. (How is work? - Well, we haven't got any work these

days. Literally: we are standing still)

(18) El cadáver iba muy pintado y emperifollado en su

ataúd de roble.(The corpse was lying there in its oak coffin with

its make-up and its fancy clothes)

(19) Este cuadro va pintado al óleo. (This is an oil painting)

Whether such constructions actually evoke the experience of motion in the Spanish hearer differs from one person to another. And, additionally, when an experience of motion is evoked, there can be differencesas to which element is conceptualized as the 'moving' one in this experience. However, that's not my main point here. What interests me most is the interference of the different schemes involved.

In (19) the image of force behind the expression may be that of the painter and his desire, which leaves energetic traces in the resultant aesthetic product: el cuadro, and/or may point to the strong impression made on the experiencer; something calls for his attention and he feels strongly attracted. In other words, the existence of an intentional superposition is noticed, turning the painting into a container of subjective communication as a projective space. Furthermore, by the intentional implantation, an emotional transference is realized as a sort of affective vibration, so that the onlooker seems literally touched or moved: he penetrates, as it were, into the space of the painting; he moves in.

If we compare the two possible and quasi-synonymous Spanish grammatical constructions with estar and ir and a predicative complement, we get the result that the estar construction merely has a descriptive content-el cuadro está pint-    


ado al óleo-and can be considered a genuine copula construction. What is stated is a state of affairs. There are different sorts of paintings and the painting under consideration belongs to the category of oil painting as distinct from a watercolour painting.

The more dynamic expression with ir is currently used when the predicative complement refers to a physical state, something visible and tangible, where traces of the causal processes and the intentions of the performer leading to the resultant state are projected into the utterance. Ir supplies the utterance, i.e. the presentation of the subject-predicate relation, with a hint of "on stage" effect, a sort of implicit invitation on the part of the agent to the perceiving part to evaluate and grasp the intention behind the result. The object has been put there in order to be perceived and in a certain way to be seen as something noteworthy.

The example (17) clearly indicates a state of disorientation, of not knowing whether or when the situation will return to its normal state: the ordinary working situation.

We can add some other andar examples of the "stationary" kind:

(20) Ese pueblo anda por el norte de España. (This village is located

somewhere in Northern Spain)

(21) ¿Dónde están mis gafas? - Por ahí andarán.

(Where are my glasses? - They must be around somewhere)

In (20) a supplementary qualification slips easily through and gives: anda perdido (lost)por.... The indefinite localization of the village (more or less related to the 'approximate' value) is inclined to give us the impression of indifference regarding the exact location or even to attract a genuinely negative evaluation to the interpretation of the utterance: the village is so unimportant that it is not worthwhile finding it.

In (21) a tone of reproach and criticism can be heard in the answer: you are so absent-minded that the glasses can be found anywhere, also in places where you would not expect to find such a thing, i.e. an unsuitable place for glasses. The difficulty in finding the object is stressed. It needs time and patience and requires imaginative effort.

Now, how is a scheme of the elementary spatial and temporal type, i.e. a fundamentally topological basic scheme of a dynamic change, supplied with a rather great number of modal meanings concerning the control by the actant, i.e. his intentions, the foreseeability and desirability of the action and its realization, and so on? Are we able to design the specific configuration - as a semantic structure - of the temporal, aspectual and modal features involved in the lexeme? And perhaps even to integrate some of the pragmatic impact? I think so, if we accept the idea of a single lexeme straddling the three semiotic subworlds. A force-dynamic scheme of intentionality is applied to the topological scheme. That is, a modal dynamic scheme is applied to an aspectually organized topological scheme. The question is whether the displacement, revealed by the lack of correspondence between the basic semantism of the dynamic expression and the referential scene as a stationary situation, allows us to jump directly from the semantic to the pragmatic level, or whether a semantically inherent dynamism is al-    


ways to be found. In my view, the lack of correspondence as such does not offer us a direct, continuous, passage from semantics to pragmatics. I prefer to look at it as a matter of difference in level between the two linguistic components, semantics and pragmatics. They partially share the same schematism, but each of them at its own specific level. It is my hypothesis that the shared complex schematism is doing the work. If I am right, I propose to see the dynamism of the above-cited examples as being of the aspectual kind and constituting an allusion to the process that has brought us to the expressed result, an allusion playing a causal role as an explanation of the intensification of the state. So, we add yet another scheme, a temporal one, to account for the implicit comparison between phases. Plus an evaluation of double intentionality. The manifold series of conceptual forms are made possible by the integration of the three schematic types.

The semantic parameters of andar that I have been able to locate until now constitute the following list:

1. discontinuous/continuous

2. circular*/linear

3. closed/open space (bounding)

4. non-directional**/directional (foreseen or realized goal)

5. neutral/dysphoric evaluation of the different components of the 'motion' situation.

6. unmarked/emphatic enunciation

*As an aspectual indication: 'circular' combined with 'discontinuous' can be turned into: 'frequentative','iterative'.

** The value of approximation can be derived from the lack of direction, I suppose. The entity does not reach its 'goal' or passes by.

(22) Anda ya por los cincuenta. (He is probably about fifty)

(23) Debemos de andar por los treinta grados.

(The temperature is probably about 30 degrees)

From the above-listed parameters the contours of the andar scheme are appearing. It occupies the first term (to the left) of the oppositions. Not all these terms need be activated in each use, but can be regarded as a semantic potential.

Andar as a type and a term within a semiology, or a content paradigm, indicates a (1) discontinuous movement. As already mentioned, in Talmy's terminology, andar would be an example of multiplexity of the plexity category. The plexity-category refers to a configurational structure. The multiplex feature suggests the state of a quantity's articulation into equivalent elements, its possible segmentation. For 'space' this gives the result called 'number': singular (uniplex) or plural (multiplex). For 'time' it gives the aspectual result: punctual (uniplex) versus iterative (multiplex).

1. Andar as a lexeme represents a multiplexing construct. A multiple motion in the sense of 'not continuous.' From the internal organization of the movement    


"a pasos," i.e. "step by step," we can pass to the temporal organization of the steps as the image of an interrupted and resumed process, i.e. temporally iterative and modally insistent, and further on to a spatial dispersion or an aimless circling. The suspension of the point of arrival goes hand in hand with the discontinuous quality:

(24) Andaba escribiendo novelas. (He was writing novels)

2. The use of andar, as distinct from ir, may produce the effect of a doodle movement, of a suspended goal that can never be reached or that does not exist, or is not worth attaining. The figure seems to have lost its orientation and move in a closed space, without any exit as if it were a labyrinth. The frequentative value gets its support from this part of the scheme combined with the discontinuous quality:

(25) Andaba por ahí sin saber lo que estaba buscando.

(He was running around without really knowing what he was

looking for)

(26) Andaba de Herodes a Pilatos. (He was driven from pillar to post)

When I refer to a closed space the image scheme behind this idea is the doodle scheme, seen as a variant of a container scheme. The container scheme in this case does not protect what is inside of it, but rather imprisons the figure inside and prevents its exit and access to a goal outside. The locomotion of the actant makes use of place and time in an unsuccessful effort to overcome a barrier between itself and a goal on the other side of the wall. The access to the goal is difficult or impossible.

The iterative aspect combined with the force-dynamics of difficult realization and unfulfilled expectations can be stressed by introducing the temporal adverb aún, which cannot figure with the corresponding ir periphrasis:

(27) Aún va buscando piso. (He is looking for an apartment)

(28) Aún anda buscando piso, pero sin resultado.

(He is still looking for an apartment, but without any result)

However, the circular figure can be the result of the curve a line closing, a compactification of the line, as Svend østergaard calls it, where the motion is a mechanical functioning at equal intervals, and no starting or terminal point is distinguished in the perpetual movement. østergaard proposes the denomination 'functional' for the circularity of the watch or the heart, and that of "erratic" for the aimless circularity inside the labyrinth.

3. As already noticed the enclosure does not need to be accompanied by the connotations of a chaotic labyrinth. It can be used as a sort of indeterminateexpression, thereby differentiating itself from the corresponding neuter existential sentence with haber.    


(29) El ruido andaba por el jardín. (The garden was filled with noise)

(30) Los peces andan por el mar. (The fish swim in the sea)

With haber the relation between a figure and its ground is simply stated as existent, while the more emphatic or dynamic andar (29) signals that the noise could be found/find you anywhere-and virtually was everywhere-in the garden. The garden was filled with noise. In (30) we do not simply assess that we can find fish in the sea: Hay peces en el mar. What we do state is that a fish is in its element in the sea, so that we are likely to meet a fish in any place within the space called 'sea.'

4. There seems to be a distribution of directionality between ir and andar (the etymology of which is a vulgar Latin frequentative, ambitare or ambulare)

Ir schematizes a clearly directional movement with a foreseen goal, scanned as a straight line. So it is suitable to express planning, programming, i.e. clearly intentional actions with a definite goal. That's why the point of arrival is often specified by ir, and it probably also explains the impression of a linear, continuous, scanning in the case of ir.

(31) Te prometo que voy a ocuparme del asunto.

(I promise you to take care of the matter)

(32) Iba aprendiendo de memoria la lección.

(He was learning his lesson by heart)

Andar, as opposed to ir, schematizes a non-directional movement with the already mentioned tendency to express a frequentative, iterative content. The goal seems somehow suspended, with certain subsequent suggestions of an 'impossible realization,' comparable to the act of knocking one's head against the wall. I think this is the reason why we don't meet andar in an infinitival compound, but only ir + a + infinitive. Andar tends to stress the lack of a fixed goal and intentional aims.

5. As a rather obvious discursive modalizing effect of the andar schematism, if we take into consideration current ideology in our cultural context, we can derive an expected evaluation tending towards dysphorization. A certain contemptuous tone often colours the utterance of andar suggesting images of "failures." The mere fact of assuming a program, of coming to and end and fully realizing a goal, receives a rather positive evaluation in our culture; whereas the reverse, leaving without accomplishing the goal, is normally dysphorized. But, as Svend østergaard claims, this dysphorization could be general, structurally inherent, and perhaps not submitted to cultural relativism. Every causal chain attracts a goal, which is its "meaning", or "intention" in the case of a human agent, according to østergaard. And whenever this can't happen, it gives rise to dysphorization. Thus, andar is situated at the negative pole of the evaluative scale in contrast to ir. It gives a touch of despicableness, of worthlessness, to the scene:    


(33) Anda (por ahí) pidiendo dinero a todo el mundo.

(He is going around begging everybody for money)

The list of occurrences of andar confirms this dysphoric evaluation:

'andar' descaminado, descarrillado, despistado, desatinado, distraído, enfadado, as asustado, enamorado, preocupado, malucho, and so on. Andar is frequently used when a subject actant is brought into some state of alienation, or is emotionally altered or disequilibrated. The alteration predominately goes towards a negative state. Every time someone has lost his presence of mind or his bearings, andar can be introduced. I think it is possible to link the quantitative approximation value as a revolution around a fixed reference point with this physical or psychic disequilibrium in relation to a normative state.

6. As a pragmatic effect of the expressive kind, where the talking body establishes an empathic relation with his perceptual object in an emphatic discursive mode, ir and andar may show up as emotive (pathemic) signs of the speaker's involvement, of his aesthetic position:

(34) La montaña andaba cubierta de nieve.

(The mountain was all covered with snow)

As a matter of fact, it would be feasible, I think, to account for the metaphorical extension through the general idea of a path. Indeed, a transfer of meaning has already taken place in the passage from a movable actant to a motionless entity (cf. ex.(18) and (19)). The status of the referential scene as a static one allows a displaced dynamism.

(35) Mi proyecto anda sobre ruedas.

(My plan was going on oiled wheels).

effectively evokes the idea of a rapid, well-oiled machine, functioning without impediments. (Da. Det ruller deruda'; det går som smurt). And so on.

Quite a lot of grammarians tend to consider many of the quoted examples as highly grammaticalized periphrastic formations (verbal compounds) supported by the criterion of the desemantized auxiliary with regard to the referential scene: there is no correspondence, and when this is the case we are right in talking about grammaticalization and periphrasis. The problem is that it is sometimes hard to trace the line and make a clear-cut separation between full meaning and desemantized form. A great number of the metaphorical extensions can be located in a transitional space between those two poles.


The main purpose of my paper has been to demonstrate through the investigation of an empirical linguistic material from one language, Spanish, the idea of a conceptual schematism as a common basis for metaphorical processes and grammaticalization. The existence of a layered formal schematism composed by material stemming from three differentiated ontological sources facilitates a possible structuring of the semantics and pragmatics within the same analytical framework. It is my claim that we could clear up things a bit if we conceived the    


phenomenon of grammaticalization and resegmentation as a particular schematic use, as a very specific type of metaphor. The grammatical metaphor is an automatized, disintentionalized idiomatic image.

Cognitively, the poetic 'living' metaphor produces the effect of an image in which the figurative dimension of a rhetorical expression is stressed. By means of resemantization, polysemy and a richness of connotations are activated. The 'grammatical metaphor' does the opposite: it does not function as a genuine discursive rhetorical expression. It certainly has a poorer figurative and image-creating power. What enunciation does is to mark a semantic tension between the beliefs about the real nature of things and the linguistic expression supplied with a pragmatic dynamism. This is realized in a weaker tone than in the case of the rhetorical metaphor.  


Per Aage Brandt: "The Grounds of Schematism." "Rolighed", January 1995 (forthcoming).

Ray Jackendoff: Languages of the Mind. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992

Leonard Talmy: "Path to Realization: a Typology of Event Conflation."Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistic Society, vol. 17, 1991

Leonard Talmy: "Lexicalization patterns: semantic structure in lexical form." Language Typology and Syntactic Description, vol III, 1985. Ed. T. Shopen, pp. 57-149.

Leonard Talmy: "Fictive Motion in Language and "Ception"," to appear in Language and Space, ed. P. Bloom, M. Peterson, L. Nadel, M. Garrett. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995.

Svend østergaard: "How to know how to begin." "Rolighed", January 1995.

Svend østergaard: "The emergence of verbal schemes." Urbino, July 1995    


Noter:Paper presented at the Conference On Metaphor (org.Centro Internazionale de Semiotica e Lingustica and The Center for Semiotic Research, Aarhus University), Urbino, Italy, July 10-12, 1995

The Schematism of Estar

I assume that it is a well-known fact that Spanish disposes of two basic copula verbs, ser and estar, referring to two modes of being, or 'ontic' modes in a sort of intrinsic/extrinsic-opposition. The two copulas are usually analyzed as members of a pair and contrasted as opposites. Ser is regarded as the genuine copula verb, the purest one when it comes to expressing an elementary act of attributive assertion; estar is considered a less thoroughly grammaticalized copula, in that it has kept a portion of the originally locative meaning of its lexeme. My intention in this paper is to isolate 'estar' and propose an outline of its schematism. In what follows the intention is to try grasping this specific schematism at its various linguistic levels.

A current issue of particular concern for my research is how to make the articulation and transition between the cognitive schemes and the discursive and pragmatic effects of meaning. To this end a stratified topology of different schematic levels might prove efficient. It does not seem to be satisfactory for semiolinguistics to rely on an indefinite continuum between semantics and pragmatics, as is the case in the main part of cognitive linguistics in its (justified) opposition to the traditional compartmentalization into two separate components. In relation to that debate it is our claim that the structure of enunciation in discourse may enable us to do the linking when properly modelled.

We can anticipate that estar is clearly related to the deictic steps in an enunciative levelling as a corollary to its primary locative meaning. This lends a perceptual character clearly based on experience to the attributive relation mediated by estar. Our schematization is based on a large number of linguistic occurrences of 'estar'. The empirical linguistic analysis has shown us that:

  • each attributive lexeme, or lexeme class, requires its own semantic analysis, globally and in relation to ser/estar.
  • each occurrence of an assertion relating a subject and an attribute should have its own analysis because the nature of the subject also influences the selection and puts some constraints on the choice of 'ontic' perspective.
  • Last, but not least, a discursive contextualization specifying that the meaning of the scenario in respect to the communicative intention is decisive.

First I shall give you some reference points as a set of clues to estar. From the original situational (locative) meaning some derived meanings, considered connotations, can appear.

I can propose to bifurcate estar into two closely interrelated semantic domains:    


1. 2.

referring to perception referring to performativity.

1. As verb of perception: The referential scene is given an objective status by discourse. The reference concerns the material phenoworld, reality as such, as a given, material and causally determined space. This space is filled with subjects and objects viewed as directly interacting physical entities, gestalts, submitted to exterior forces, limited in space and time. These gestalts and their dynamics are immediately accessible to the senses and experience. They, and the transformations they undergo, are suitable for direct empirical validation.

El agua está fría. (The water is/feels cold)

Este pan está muy sabroso. (The bread is very tasty)

Ahora estoy mejor. (I feel better now)

In the physical domain the dynamics is that of gradient and steady state (= gradients in equilibrium). The motion towards a certain point is the working of a gradient and a resultant state is the outcome of a gradient. It can be represented in the figure of an arrow. So it should not come as a surprise that we see estar monopolizing in the formation of the Spanish progressive compound form, where estar is an auxiliary combined with the gerund:

Estamos terminando el libro. (We are about to finish the book)

Estar combined with a past participle as an expression of a resultant state is an example of a gradient border scheme, i.e. the passage through a qualitative change with a transformed actant as its steady-state result. Estar indicates a situational anchorage of the sentence in a space shared by the object of perception, the perceiver and the speaker. We may call estar deictic and experiential in this respect.

The attribution realized with estar is currently conceived of as a circumstantial one, not only in the sense of being only local and referentially particular (vs. global and generic). Estar refrains from assuming a generic use; it limits the scope and refers to a phase or a possible state of the actant mentioned. But also in the sense that the attribution can be seen as directly conditioned, as submitting the actant to actual (occasional) circumstances.

En esta parte de la montaña está sucia la nieve

(On this part of the mountain the snow is dirty)

Estoy enojadísima contigo.

(I feel very angry with you)

Hoy Juana no está tan guapa. Estará cansada.

(Juana is not that pretty today. She must be tired)

When we say for instance:

Vd. ha estado muy amable al venir/viniendo a mi casa,

this normally means: You were very kind to me while we were on our way to my home.

The adverbial complement al venir/viniendo... will be read as a circumstantial adverbial, a 'ground' on which the action related to kindness is temporally lo-    


cated. The trajectory to the house is a situation during which the actants' intersubjective relation is unfolding, and one of the actants is seen acting in a certain style (saying and doing things and creating a kind atmosphere). It is significant that even if we wanted to emphasize or communicate the expressivity of the kind actant, we could not say:

*Vd. ha estado muy amable en venir/pues ha venido a mi casa.

Why is this the case, if precisely the expressivity and the existence of a causal relation is normally among the functions of estar? In this example we must use the verb ser (also a viable substitute for estar in the first combinations). The presence of ser turns the indication of 'cause' as a direct one that refers to the cause of the state attribute amable, the circumstances under which the kindness is able to appear, into a causal indication on another level, i.e. into a causal-explicative reason or motive for asserting the attribution. With ser we get a logical, conceptual operation of the inferential kind and a reference to a normative cultural scenario as its ground. This norm associates a 'home visit' with 'sympathy,' i.e. a physical act as a sign of intersubjective recognition in the dynamics of the social field : you have been very kind to come and visit me at home.

In respect to the opposition of ser and estar it is my view that ser puts the subject in the center as a sort of synthesizing container, a locus of properties, corresponding to the gathering or unifying movement assumed to be the basic scheme of the existential verb. The attribution closes on itself, turning inwards and reducing its profile to the semantic nucleus of the syntactic stemma: S -V cop - A (= monoactantial valency). The main thing about ser is categorization. The attributive relation with estar is somewhat twisted in the sense that the circumstance makes itself sensible in a spatio-temporal proximity and can be activated as cause of the state of the actant.

Referring to the lexematic level of a linguistic topology, I find the basic temporal, aspectual and modal schemes corresponding to the section of estar as indicative of perceptual experience. It will be possible to model geometrical diagrams of the actants relation to the time and space coordinates and its aspectual structure. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the crucial thing about estar + a is its reference to a stabilized state of affairs, where the term 'state' is really pertinent. The stabilization in question results from the interaction of intervening forces of destabilization from a previous state according to a gradient dynamic.

El vaso está limpio/sucio. (The glass is clean/dirty)

The state of the glass as possible positions on a scale of relevant attributes for glasses is not intrinsic. Intervening ambient forces make the glass become either dirty or clean. The same occurs with:

El vaso está intacto, roto. (The glass is unbroken/broken)

Between the two examples there is only a difference in the reversibility or irreversibility of the resultant state, as in the standard example of irreversibility :    


Está muerto. (He is dead)

No such actuating forces seem to be presupposed in the use of ser and its attribution of type:

Mi tío es muy inteligente y el tuyo es estúpido.

(My uncle is very intelligent and yours is stupid)

On the lexematic and stemmatic level we can install the notions of 'state' and 'phase' as adequate terms for the estar attribution. When the actant is exposed to a possible change of state, either physical or psychic mood, such as: estar perplejo (to be perplexed), estar desesperado (to be desperate), estar harto (to be fed up), etc., the profiled state is seen as the result of a gradient dynamic. This gradient dynamic often expresses a normative state or zero point of the attributive zone of meaning in question undergoing a process of "alienation" or deformation. The state/phase scheme of estar can be considered an extension of the original locative meaning of the verb on its way towards complete grammaticalization as a copula function. A great many of the state attributes are accessible to experience and direct perception. They are observed and conceived as a possible phase of the actant. This fact stresses the axis of manifestation in terms of a veridictory structure:

Su cráneo estaba pelado. (His head was completely bald)

Sus labios estaban azules. (Her lips were blue)

At a so-called surface level, i.e. with regard to what appears as manifest presence before one's eyes, some attribute of the actant is shown. This manifest attribute is submitted to an act of interpretation in order to state the immanence of the manifest feature, its 'real' being. We know for instance that the normal colour attribute of lips is not blue. The blueness needs to be provoked by some intervening factor, a cause such as temperature or illness, and it signals a destabilized norm. The appearance of the skin shows signs of alteration. Bald heads can be noted in this context, for example "skinheads," whether the lack is due to natural or other (voluntary) causes. An observer verifies the altered state and infers the process behind it. In doing so the observer is realizing an act of interpretation. He goes from the manifestation in search of the corresponding immanence, i.e. the other axis of the veridictional structure. The manifestation can be interpreted as an outer form or signifier leading to its (inner content)the signified.

Frequently there will be lack of correspondence - a tension - between the two axes of the veridiction. Thus estar can be read as a signal of deviation and a mark of deformation to a more or less intense degree in relation to the norm. This underlying basic dynamics can be seen as the source for many of the connotative values produced by estar when it outrivals ser. Estar can reach a point where it expresses a conflictive tension interpreted as an ostentatious manifestation, a kind of mask, without a corresponding immanence or denying the authenticity of the attribution. The signified being of the actant is supposed to be nonexistent, deceitful, hidden or secret, or ironic (not to be taken seriously).    


Estaría bueno que aprobaras.

(It would indeed be fine if you passed your exam)

Ultimamente estás muy comunista.

(Lately you have taken on the label 'communist')

Juanita está muy francesa

(Juanita is behaving and dressing as if she were French)

Estar is really an expressive copula. It involves the idea of an attributive relation being expressed, accompanied by a facial expression of mood, emphatic body language and intonation, saying and acting.

In its aspectual dynamics estar as a stative verb shows an affinity to perfective aspectuality due to the implication of a virtual jump from one alternative state to another and to its character of realized state. This is why the past participle verb form is apt to assume the adjectival value of an attributive complement as a genuine adjective with estar. The inherent perspective allows the profiling of an actual phase as a separate segment on the time line. This makes estar fit for the description of particular, unique occasions (and refractory to generic, habitual uses). So it is the aspectual scheme that is responsible for the frequent interpretation of the estar attribution as 'resultant' and the stressing of the temporal dimension made by the traditional studies. Estar installs a perspective from which the observer only embraces a local parcel of a process as a whole, often focusing on this part in a proximal close-up view as one of the empathic mechanisms we shall return to in discussing the other category of estar.

What, then, does the attribution involve when estar is used? Our claim is that it is primarily concerned with the style of the actant's being. This view implies the mode of expression, the actant's manners and behavior, the intensity of the expression, etc. Thus it draws the attention to the signifying dimension of the sign and confirms the earlier syntactic intuition of estar as having a special valency for an adverbial complement of the modal kind. The modal stylistic complement qualifying the being of the actant can be called an accompanying circumstance, a peculiar version of a comitative complement, constituting a sort of exterior dimension of the actant. At the sentential level of the utterance we treat estar as a modal marker in addition to its aspectual and temporal impact on the attribution. The modalization points to the expressive nature of the attributive relation, i.e. the attribute as something immediately and easily experienced by perception, often to a high degree (treated in the second section of the bifurcation).

The evaluation and interpretation that gives rise to the attribution can express - and estar can be seen as an alarm signal or indicator of this - that the attributed actant represents a more or less intense deviation, in quantity or quality, with respect to some norm or regularity. This means that estar figures as a mark of tension. When the degree of deviation from the supposed standard of an individual actant augments, estar shows up as the pertinent copula verb:

Están rojísimos tus ojos. (Your eyes are very red)    


A natural reaction would be to search for an answer to the question, Why is this; how did your eyes get that (unnatural) colour? A possible cause could be smoke, an allergy, sorrow, etc. This possibility can be explained as stemming from the cognitive saliency able to point the object in its singularity as something worthy of attention and exceptional. (We shall return to these modal effects when treating the other path of the bifurcation, the 'demonstrative' one).

On the level of the case structure it may be noticed that the syntactic subject of the sentence designates a case function as an affected actant (a sort of 'experiencer' in traditional case terms, i.e. a stative, patient function brought into the profiled situation by outer or inner forces). It is an actant as object of vision in a face-to-face posture interacting with the evaluating observer.

The enunciative-pragmatic level of our linguistic topology is crucial to the effects of meaning created by the presence of estar. The first thing to notice could be the empirical fact that estar has a privileged domain in dialogue, in direct, oral discourse. In this domain estar is actually penetrating in utterances heretofore reserved for ser. As a matter of fact, it would be quite reasonable to distribute the two copulas on either side of the enunciative distinction made by Émile Benveniste: "histoire/discours." Estar may be termed a discourse verb in that sense. Concerning its enunciation, it is eminently personal, not only in the sense that it is centred on the intersubjective communication between a 1st and a 2nd person (the deictic persons of the dialogue), but also as regards the preferential semantic status of the actant of the attribute: human/living being. Estar has a marked performative efficiency in that it orients the sentence towards the you of the dialogue (foreseen, imagined and/or real addressee), i.e. the receiver of the message and the addressee of the intention. It offers the attribution of the referential scene - the quid-matter - to the epistemic sanction of this 2nd person, inviting him to join in and verify for himself. Depending on the internal structure of the matter itself and on the nature (tone and ambience) of the dialogical axis, an intersubjective force dynamics (FD) can make itself felt. Estar can be used polemically, opposing an imaginary or manifest divergent assertion as its negation.

2. We shall now pass on to the other section of the bifurcation: the performative value, and here we are going to concentrate on the modal - expressive - effects of meaning yielded by the enunciative pattern of an estar attribution. The dominant neutral modality of the basic situational meaning of estar as a locative verb, described earlier in this paper, and the extension to a phase indicator, is alethic and regards the possibility of a certain position/state of the actant as different from another possible state. This modality combines with the epistemic modalization of the perceptual attribution in a characteristic modal scheme of the first section.

In this second, performative section, where pragmatic Force Dynamics is a stable ingredient, a situation of higher tension or emphasis, the basic modal scheme is somehow transformed and gives access to another alethic value, that of contingency. Attributes connoting surprise, unexpectedness, suddenness, chance, irregularity are frequently associated with the estar scenarios. We can state that the tension has increased and that the enunciation points to an affective reaction. For a transfer to take place and produce a shift from expressive actant (subject) of the sentence and the attributive complement to the actant (subject) of the enunciation and therefore the evaluative instance of the attribu-    


tion, we need to presuppose an anchoring of the utterance in a relation of empathy between those two 'subjects.' That is to say that the state of the affected actant affects the perceiver. (In the Benveniste registers this sign of personal interest in the utterance, the pragmatic commitment, is conceived as a typical feature of discourse). The cognitive saliency has increased and turned into really pregnant. The deviation and the destabilization of the object (its state) of the referential scene, noted as change, has already been mentioned as a feature of the elementary scheme. That's why not only physical states but also emotional states take estar.

In this second section of FD a special, intensified, tense dynamic is felt, and can be transferred emotionally to the intersubjective dialogical exchange. The FD can for instance be the expression of an internal tension in the object from the view point of the observer, of its resistance to categorization and typification. The strangeness that this resistance produces is inclined to provoke emotional alterations in the speaker. Thus, I consider the FD to able to trigger from the level of the referential utterance and its subject-matter (quid) to the subject of the enunciation (ego) and excite his 'Wissentrieb' apart from the already mentioned effects of empathy. Thanks to its basic schematicity estar possesses a special power. It is able to evoke a situation vividly, with emotional intensity, as if the affected actant (the state actant of the attribute) were fully or even excessively present and real. Some scholars choose to call this imagistic capacity of estar an "on stage" effect.

In sum, the first epistemic modalization of the experiential estar, where a perceptual subject of enunciation stands as the epistemic warrant of the validity of a manifest attribution and sanctions it by direct perception, can be emphasized as an auto-affirmation of the speaker's authority as a reliable 'self' and eventually confronted polemically with the discourse of the Other. Hereby tension rises. In this sense, estar could be termed a veridictory verb.

The perspective inherent in the estar attribution is one that treats the actant as an object of perception and description. Some minimal distance between perceiver and perceived, a proximity imposed by observation, is maintained and the position resembles a face-to-face posture. The empathic and emphatic superimposition, with its subjective and intersubjective incidence, allows for traffic between the two domains: the cognitive-referential one and the intersubjective pragmatic one, held together by enunciation (and ultimately grounded in the "semiotic body" of the person who does the talking - and its fundamental thymic evaluation of a sheer pulsional kind). So for me, the linking factor lies in the deixis of estar.

The intense - affectively invested - face-to-face dynamics unfolds its richness in the veridictory situations that have been enumerated. It can be euphoric and frankly empathic as a consequence of activating one side of the always ambivalent subjectal identification process, and in that case the proximal dimension between selves is stressed. Or it can be dysphoric and stress the distal dimension so that it assumes the character of repudiation and refusal. Some of the ironic rhetoric might be an illustration of the last point.

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