In this talk, I present two empirical puzzles that involve intriguing interactions between aspect and agreement in Neo-Aramaic languages, and argue that the solutions to these puzzles inform basic clausal architecture. Specifically, I contribute to two big picture questions: (i) which functional heads can Agree/assign Case?; and (ii) what functional projections make up the clausal spine?
The first puzzle I address is the various aspect-based agreement splits seen across Northeastern Neo-Aramaic: the form and configuration of subject and object agreement reverses depending on the aspect of the verb base, with the subject agreement morpheme of one base looking like the object agreement morpheme of the other, and vice versa. I propose that we can make sense of these aspect splits if we allow the functional head Asp (in its imperfective instantiation) to license an argument, with agreement being the overt manifestation of this licensing. The second puzzle is a secondary perfective strategy employed in many of these languages, which makes use of the imperfective verb base with an added prefix (qam-, varying phonologically by language). This secondary perfective verb form takes subject and object agreement as though it were imperfective, rather than perfective. I argue that this data reveals that there are two aspectual projections in the syntax, with only the lower aspectual projection determining the form of the verb base.
Finally, I put the two proposals together: If Asp can license an argument, and there are in fact two aspectual projections in the syntax, then I predict that each aspectual projection should be able to license an argument separately. This is precisely what we find in progressives in the Neo-Aramaic language Senaya. Overall, then, my two proposals (Asp as an argument-licenser and the existence of two aspectual projections) are able to capture a range of empirical phenomena in Neo-Aramaic and add to our understanding of the syntactic options provided by Universal Grammar.