This presentation builds on the event argument analysis of aspectual be in Green (2000, 2007) in an account of the variable occurrence and distribution of the auxiliary be in African American English (AAE). In the account of sentences such as (1), the claim is that a habitual operator (HAB), which is associated with aspectual be, binds an event argument:
1. This printer be/*Ø working.
‘This printer is generally working’
While aspectual be (1) must occur in its overt form, the auxiliary be (i.e. ’s/IS) generally occurs in its Ø form (2a) unless the overt form is required to host past tense (2b), carry an EMPH(atic) morpheme (i.e. a pitch accent) (2c), or occur in C in questions (2d).
2. a) This printer working.
b) This printer was working
c) This printer IS working.
d) Is this printer working?
In this talk, I explain that given the presence of the event argument, which is along the lines of the spatio-temporal argument in Kratzer (1995), the high occurrence of Ø auxiliary be in sentences such as (2a) (This printer working.) is expected. The event argument analysis has a number of advantages: It captures the distinction between aspectual be and auxiliary be (or progressive) sentences, provides an account of the variable occurrence of auxiliary be that has been reported in the sociolinguistics variation literature, and formalizes the observation in Labov (1972) that auxiliary be is not required to occur in its overt form because it is redundantly related to the –ing on the following verb. At the end of the presentation, I consider data from developing AAE-speaking children in raising questions about the implications that the event analysis has for claims about the acquisition of be in AAE.