Maithili has a complex agreement system in which subjects, objects, obliques, extra-clausal ‘deictic referents’, and, crucially, possessors within any of these can potentially control agreement in person, gender and respect, also known as honorforicity. Single non-nominative agreement is possible with the possessor internal to the subject of an intransitive verb (typically in the absence of another potential non-subject controller). The same pattern extends to NPs embedded within non-subject phrases in clauses with non-nominative subjects, including the possessor of an adjunct, and the object of a postposition. Agreement with a possessor is also observed through ‘double agreement’ where the primary controller is a nominative subject, and the secondary controller is any non-subject clause-level nominal or, crucially, a possessor of that nominal. Double agreement and agreement with possessors more generally are used when the non-subject controller has sufficient functional prominence. In the case of possessors, this is observed when the possessor is the locus of contrastive focus.

See also Bajjika, Darai, Rajbanshi.


ISO 639-3:
Bihari State, India; Nepal
26°N, 86°E
Indo-European, Indo-Aryan, Indic


  • The genitive possessor cannot occupy any position other than immediately before the possessed noun.
  • The possessor-possessed combination behaves as constituent with respect to reordering operations triggered by discourse related factors, such as fronting under contrasting focus, while fronting of the possessor alone appears to be ungrammatical.
  • Possessors never behave like arguments of the purposes of transitivization, causativization or passivization.
  • A different external possessor construction appears to exist in which possessors can be promoted to an argument role, but this appears to be limited to body part expressions.


Bickel, Balthasar, Walter Bisang, and Yogendra P. Yadava. 1999. Face vs. empathy; The social foundation of Maithili verb agreement. Linguistics 37(3): 481-518.

Stump, Gregory T. and Ramawatar Yadav. 1988. Maithili verb agreement  and the Control Agreement Principle. Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistics Society 24(2); 304-21.

Yadav, Ramawatar. 1996. A reference grammar of Maithili. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Yadava, Yogendra P., Oliver Bond, Irina Nikolaeva and Sandy Ritchie. 2019. The syntax of possessor prominence in Maithili, in András Bárány, Oliver Bond and Irina Nikolaeva (eds), Prominent internal possessors, 39-79. Oxford: Oxford University Press.