Asia Pietraszko (Rochester)

Cyclic Selection and verbal periphrasis

Traditional approaches to verbal periphrasis (compound tenses) treat auxiliary verbs as lexical items that enter syntactic derivation like any other lexical item, i.e. via Selection/Merge. An alternative view that has received much attention in recent years is that auxiliary verbs are not base-generated but rather inserted in a previously built structure (i.a. Bach 1967; Embick 2000; Arregi 2000; Cowper 2010; Bjorkman 2011; Arregi and Klecha 2015). Arguments for the insertion approach to auxiliaries include their last-resort distribution and the fact that, in many languages, auxiliaries are not systematically associated with a given inflectional category (the "overflow" distribution discussed in Bjorkman 2011). In this talk, I will argue against the insertion approach. First, I will demonstrate that the overflow pattern and last-resort distribution follow from Cyclic Selection (Pietraszko 2017) – a Merge-counterpart of Cyclic Agree (Béjar and Rezac 2009). And second, I show that the insertion approach makes wrong predictions about compound tenses in Swahili, a language with overflow periphrasis. Under the approach advocated here, an auxiliary verb is a verbal head selected and externally merged as a specifier of a functional head, such as T. It then undergoes m-merger with that head, instantiating an external-merge version of Matushansky's (2006) conception of head movement.