Conditions on verb agreement are often assumed to be definable in purely syntactic terms (Keenan 1976): in many languages, a verb agrees with its subject, and not with other arguments or adjuncts. Correlations between agreement and topicality are also commonly found (Givon 1976, Bresnan and Mchombo 1987, Toivonen 2002); a verb agrees with topical arguments, and not with nontopics. We explore the interaction of discourse roles and agreement with nonsubjects in several languages, including Maithili, Tabassaran, Ostyak, and Nenets.
As shown by Dalrymple and Nikolaeva (2005), though the verb agrees with the secondary topic in all of these languages, patterns of agreement are quite different. In Maithili and Tabassaran, secondary agreement is defined directly in terms of information structure: the verb agrees with the secondary topic, whatever its syntactic role. In Ostyak and Nenets, on the other hand, information structure roles are strongly correlated with particular grammatical functions: OBJ is topical, while OBJ_theta is nontopical/focused. Agreement is defined in terms of grammatical function, but correlates strongly (though indirectly) with information structure. Our analysis takes advantage of LFG's projection architecture to relate discourse roles to grammatical functions.