Morphosyntactic variation in East African Bantu languages: Descriptive and comparative approaches

Hannah Gibson   Rozenn Guérois   Gastor Mapunda   Lutz Marten  


The approximately 500 Bantu languages spoken across vast areas of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa are united by the presence of a number of broad typological similarities, including, for example, complex noun class system and agglutinative verbal morphology. However, the languages also exhibit a high degree of micro-variation. Recent work has demonstrated fine-grained morphosyntactic variation across many Bantu languages focusing on grammatical topics such as double object constructions, inversion constructions, or object marking, adopting formal, comparative and typological perspectives. 


Continuing in this vein, this volume builds on the momentum of the dynamic field of morphosyntactic variation in Bantu and contributes to the growing body of work which examines morphosyntactic variation, with a regional focus on the Bantu languages of East Africa. The East African region is characterized by high linguistic complexity in terms of the number of languages spoken, in terms of the four different linguistic phyla present, and in terms of the inherent sociolinguistic dynamics. 


The current volume explores this complexity further by bringing together studies which investigate features of morphosyntax of an individual language as well as those which develop an in-depth examination of a single morphosyntactic phenomena in a small sample of languages.


The book seeks also to add to the descriptive status of the languages under examination, as well as raising questions relating to language, language contact, language change, and micro-variation in related languages spoken in close geographic proximity. 


  • Introduction
    Lutz Marten, Hannah Gibson, Rozenn Guérois, Gastor Mapunda
  • Demonstratives in Chiyao
    An analysis of their form, distribution and functions
    Julius Taji
  • The structure, distribution and function of demonstratives in Runyankore-Rukiga
    Allen Asiimwe
  • Concord and agreement in Eastern Bantu
    The augment and noun classes in Nyakyusa
    Amani Lusekelo
  • The morphosyntax of locative expressions in Kiwoso
    Aurelia Mallya
  • A comparative study of the locative system in South-Tanzanian Bantu languages
    Gastor Mapunda, Fabiola Hassan
  • Multiple-object constructions in Ganda (JE15)
    Nobuko Yoneda, Judith Nakayiza
  • Object marking in four Mozambican Bantu Languages
    Armindo Ngunga, Crisófia Langa da Câmara
  • Verb extensions and morphosyntactic variation in Bantu
    The case of Sumbwa
    Kulikoyela Kahigi
  • Tense and aspect marking in Bantu languages of Morogoro region, Tanzania
    Malin Petzell, Peter Edelsten
  • A comparative sketch of TA markers in Kilimanjaro Bantu
    In search of the directionality of semantic shift and micro-parametric correlation
    Daisuke Shinagawa
  • The historical development of the reflexive-reciprocal polysemy in Hehe
    Lengson Ngwasi, Abel Mreta †
  • Morphosyntactic variation in Old Swahili
    Lutz Marten, Hannah Gibson, Rozenn Guérois, Kyle Jerro



Hannah Gibson

Hannah Gibson is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Essex. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from SOAS University of London. Before joining Essex, she was a Japan Society of the Promotion of Science postdoctoral researcher at Osaka University in Japan and a British Academy Postdoctoral research Fellow at SOAS University of London. Her research examines linguistic variation with a focus on the morphosyntax of Bantu languages of Eastern and Southern Africa. She also works on language contact, language change and multilingualism. Hannah is involved in a number of externally-funded research projects, including as Principal investigator on the project ‘Grammatical variation in Swahili: contact, change and identity’ (2021-2025) and ‘Microvariation in youth language practices in Africa’ (2021-2024). She has carried out research in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

Rozenn Guérois

Rozenn Guérois is a Researcher at the laboratory LLACAN (Langage, Langues et Cultures d’Afrique) of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and an affiliated researcher at the Department of Linguistics of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She received her PhD from the University of Lyon 2 in 2015. Before joining the CNRS in 2020, she was a postdoctoral researcher at SOAS University of London (2015-2018) and Ghent University (2018-2020). Her research interests include the description of Bantu languages spoken in Mozambique, morphosyntactic variation, typology, and comparative and historical linguistics. She has recently obtained an ANR Grant (French National Research Agency) for the OriKunda project (2023-2027). Since 2020, she has been a member of the committee of the journal Linguistique et Langues Africaines (LLA).

Gastor Mapunda

Gastor Mapunda is Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He has a Bachelor’s degree (1999) and Master’s degree (2003) from the University of Dar es Salaam. He then completed his doctoral studies at the Universities of Bristol and Dar es Salaam on a split-site arrangement, and graduated in 2010. In 2011 and again 2014/2015 Gastor was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bayreuth. He has researched widely in the areas of language contact, classroom interaction, and language in education policies, among others. He has also conducted extensive research on the language and culture of the Ngoni people of south western Tanzania. Gastor has published books, book chapters, and journal articles, among others.

Lutz Marten

Lutz Marten is Professor of General and African Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he currently serves as the Head of the SOAS Doctoral School. He is interested in linguistic theory, comparative and historical linguistics, and questions of language and identity. Most of his work focuses on African languages and he has conducted research in Eastern and Southern Africa. His publications include At the Syntax-Pragmatics Interface (OUP 2002), A Grammatical Sketch of Herero (with Wilhelm Möhlig and Jekura Kavari, Köppe 2002), The Dynamics of Language (with Ronnie Cann and Ruth Kempson, Elsevier 2005), and Colloquial Swahili (with Donovan McGrath, Routledge 2003/2012). He is the Founding Chair of the International Conference on Bantu Linguistics and he is the current editor of the Transactions of the Philological Society, the oldest scholarly journal devoted to the general study of language and languages that has an unbroken tradition.

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February 1, 2024
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Cite as
Gibson, Hannah, Guérois, Rozenn, Mapunda, Gastor & Marten, Lutz (eds.). 2024. Morphosyntactic variation in East African Bantu languages: Descriptive and comparative approaches. (Contemporary African Linguistics 8). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10453704


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Physical Dimensions

180mm x 245mm