Descriptive and theoretical approaches to African linguistics: Selected papers from the 49th Annual Conference on African Linguistics

Galen Sibanda   Deo Ngonyani   Jonathan Choti   Ann Biersteker  


Descriptive and Theoretical Approaches to African Linguistics contains a selection of revised and peer-reviewed papers from the 49th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, held at Michigan State University in 2018. The contributions from both students and more senior scholars, based in North America, Africa and other parts of the world, provide a glimpse of the breadth and quality of current research in African linguistics from both descriptive and theoretical perspectives. Fields of interest range from phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics to sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, discourse analysis, language documentation, computational linguistics and beyond. The articles reflect both the typological and genetic diversity of languages in Africa and the wide range of research areas covered by presenters at ACAL conferences.


  • Velar Tap in Dàgáárè
    Samuel Akinbo, Alexander Angsongna, Avery Ozburn, Murray Schellenberg, Douglas Pulleyblank
  • On the Ngbugu vowel system
    Kenneth S. Olson
  • Phonological adaptation of the Belgian French vowels in Kinshasa Lingala
    Philothé Mwamba Kabasele
  • The augment in Ekegusii and Haya
    Jonathan Choti
  • Learning Swahili morphology
    John Goldsmith, Fidèle Mpiranya
  • Focus marking strategies in Igbo
    Mary Amaechi, Doreen Georgi
  • Focus marking and dialect divergence in Līkpākpáln (Konkomba)
    Abraham Kwesi Bisilki
  • Edges and extraction: Evidence from Chichewa
    Kenyon Branan, Colin Davis
  • A syntactic analysis of the cooccurrence of stative and passive in Kiswahili
    Yan Cong, Deo Ngonyani
  • Propositional attitude verbs and complementizers in Medumba
    Terrance Gatchalian, Rachel Lee, Carolin Tyrchan
  • Overt subjects and agreement in Zulu infinitives
    Claire Halpert
  • Obligatory controlled subjects in Bùlì
    Abdul-Razak Sulemana
  • The pragmatics of Swahili relative clauses
    Mohamed Mwamzandi
  • Unifying prolepsis and cross-clausal cliticization in Lubukusu
    Lydia Newkirk
  • Tense and aspect in Akan serial verb constructions
    Augustina Owusu
  • Counting mass nouns in Guébie
    Hannah Sande, Virginia Dawson
  • The future of the indigenous languages of Kenya and Tanzania
    Angelina Nduku Kioko, Josephat Rugemalira
  • Discursive strategies for managing bad news: Exemplification from Akan (Ghana)
    Samuel Gyasi Obeng
  • Lessons from the field: An insight into the documentation of Gurenɛ oral genres
    Samuel Awinkene Atintono
  • Dialogue with ancestors? Documentation data from Akie in Tanzania
    Karsten Legère, Bernd Heine, Christa König
  • A phylogenetic classification of Luyia language varieties
    Michael R. Marlo, Rebecca Grollemund, Thanh Nguyen, Erik Platner, Sarah Pribe, Alexa Thein
  • Proto-Bantu reflexes in Dhaisu
    Deo Ngonyani, Ann Biersteker, Angelina Nduku Kioko, Josephat Rugemalira



Galen Sibanda

Galen Sibanda is an Assistant Professor of African Languages and Coordinator of the African Languages Program in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the phonology, morphology and semantics of African languages. Much of his work draws on data from Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa, particularly the Nguni sub-group (isiNdebele, isiZulu, isiXhosa & siSwati). His current research is on the semantics of reciprocals, mainly investigating the nature and linguistic implications of reciprocity between various types of reciprocal sets.

Deo Ngonyani

Deo Ngonyani is Associate Professor of Linguistics and African Languages at Michigan State University. His research is language description and documentation of East African languages, the morphosyntax of Bantu languages, and Swahili studies. His focus in theoretical studies is on the role of syntactic principles and process in word building processes. He has investigated Bantu verb derivations, such as, applicative, causative, statives, and reversive. Currently, he is studying metaphors in riddles and proverbs.

Jonathan Choti

Jonathan Choti is Assistant Professor of African languages and cultures in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the phonology, morphology, and morphophonology of Bantu languages, in particular phonological alternations triggered by affixation and other processes of word-formation. He is interested in theoretical and typological issues related to nasalization, place and laryngeal contrasts of segments and alternations, allomorphy, and affix ordering. His current and future research projects focus on fieldwork, data collection, and documentation of the Kiribe dialect of the Mijikenda group of the Bantu languages of coastal Kenya.

Ann Biersteker

Ann Biersteker retired as Associate Director of the Michigan State University African Studies Center in 2018. She previously taught African languages, literature, and linguistics at three other universities. She is the author of two books on Swahili poetry and an intermediate level Swahili textbook. She translated Gakaara wa Wanjau's Gikuyu novel Hingo ya Paawa/The Time of Power and most recently she worked on studies of the endangered language Daiso.

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September 27, 2022
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Sibanda, Galen, Ngonyani, Deo, Choti, Jonathan & Biersteker, Ann (eds.). 2022. Descriptive and theoretical approaches to African linguistics: Selected papers from the 49th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. (Contemporary African Linguistics 6). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6358613


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