The basic hypothesis for my dissertation is that Makhuwa is a discourse-configurational language, meaning that the word order and grammatical structures are determined by the discourse and its information structure. É Kiss (1995) defines a discourse-configurational language as a language which has a particular structural position to express the notion(s) of topic and/or focus. These positions are determined relative to the verb: preverbal and (immediately) postverbal.
As a sub-hypothesis I suggest that the preverbal position is reserved for topic expressions. In order to confirm or disprove this hypothesis I searched the literature for properties ascribed to topics and topic expressions, such as the activation status of the referents (old/new) or the preference to be definite. In this talk I want to discuss some of these properties for the elements found in preverbal position in Makhuwa sentences and get your feedback for this work-in-progress.