In January 2020, BaSIS organised a 3-week programme for students from Leiden University and Tharaka University College (TUC)/Chuka University, Kenya, to gain on-the-ground experience in conducting linguistic fieldwork. Six students from Leiden and seven from Chuka and TUC received training from Leiden/TUC instructors in linguistic fieldwork methodology (including recording techniques and database tools) as well as classes on information structure and the local linguistic environment of Kenya, a country where around 40 indigenous languages are spoken. Then, in the second and third weeks of the programme, students conducted their own linguistics research projects on a topic of their choice, with guidance from the instructors.


Programme (provisional)

Week 1 See extended schedule below.

Weekend excursion to Meru

Week 2 Data elicitation sessions with native speaker consultants.

Data entry into the database.

Initial analysis and guidance from lecturers.

Week 3 Final data elicitation to check analysis.

Presentation of data and analysis.

Week 1 (This can still change)

Day Time Activity Instructor(s)
Monday 08:30-9:00 Welcome All
9:00-10:00 Icebreakers and introductions All
10:00-10:20 Formulating LIKE learning goals Jenneke
10:20-10:40 Official launch officials TUC
10:40-11:00 Chai
11:00-13:00 Structure of a language: Kikuyu Mary
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Setting up a linguistic fieldwork project Jenneke + Lis
15:30-16:00 Afternoon break
16:00-17:00 Intro information structure Jenneke + Lis
17:00 – Drinks
Tuesday 08:30-10:30 Phonology of Bantu languages


10:30-11:00 Chai
11:00-13:00 Overviews of the LIKE consultant languages that the students will work with All (Leiden + TUC/Chuka)
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Tone transcription Nancy + Jenneke
15:30-16:00 Afternoon break
16:00-17:00 Independent study (Students work in groups on topic of choice, e.g. researching a language) All (mentor students)
Wednesday 08:30-10:30 Structure of a language: Morphosyntax of Kiitharaka Peter
10:30-11:00 Chai
11:00-13:00 Information structure and Bantu grammar Jenneke
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 How to use tech (recorder etc.), filenaming, and storing data Lis
15:30-16:00 Afternoon break
16:00-17:00 Students formulate research questions and submit their project/partner preferences All (mentor students)
Thursday 08:30-10:30 Discourse analysis: Using texts Mary
10:30-11:00 Chai
11:00-13:00 Announce project/partner pairings, brainstorm in teams All (mentor students)
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Dative Lis
15:30-16:00 Afternoon break
16:00-17:00 Glossing Jenneke
Friday 08:30-10:30 Independent study (students prepare research questions and presentations) All (mentor students)
10:30-11:00 Chai
11:00-13:00 Student project presentations (part 1) All
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Field methods: how to work with a consultant Lis + Patrick
15:30-16:00 Afternoon break
16:00-17:00 Student project presentations (cont.) All



  • Dr Mary Karuri (TUC; discourse analysis)
  • Prof Peter Muriungi (TUC; morphosyntax of Bantu languages)
  • Dr Nancy Mbaka (TUC; phonology)
  • Dr Jenneke van der Wal (LUCL; comparative morphosyntax, information structure)
  • Elisabeth Kerr (LUCL; syntax, information structure)


Thanks to funding from the Leiden African Studies Assembly (LeidenASA), there is no tuition fee for participants from Leiden or TUC; recording equipment will be provided, the consultants’ payment is covered, as well as lunch on all weekdays. Students coming from Leiden will therefore need to cover only their travel, any required vaccinations and malaria profylaxis, and basic living costs (see below for accommodation/meals cost).

Students at Leiden University can apply for a travel grant at the Leids UniversiteitsFonds (information in Dutch and English). Your application should reach the committee before the deadline, and if it is considered good enough, you will be invited for an interview. The deadlines for application are 30 September (interview on 29 October) or 18 November (interview 16 December). Applicants are informed of the outcome the day after the meeting.


It will be possible to travel as a group from Schiphol to Tharaka via Nairobi airport; please contact Elisabeth Kerr for more information. We would suggest a budget of €500-700 for flights.

Most nationalities will need a visa for Kenya. You can find further information and apply online at The cost is $51 USD for a single-entry visa. Alternatively, it is easy to arrange a visa upon arrival: pay £30/€40/$50 for a single-entry visa.

Here is some information on the climate and weather.

The short rains end in December, which means that by January, there will be many mosquitoes and malaria – insect repellent, long sleeves, anti-itch cream, and malaria profylaxis are recommended.


Leiden and Chuka participants will be staying at Baobab Lodge in Marimanti, with transport to the campus being provided every day.

Rooms at Baobab are 2750Ksh/€25 per night, or 3750Ksh/€34 when shared with two, including breakfast. For other meals, dinner can be bought in the Baobab restaurant for 200-800Ksh/€2-7 (depending on type of food), and lunch will be provided (paid by the field school) on campus.

Baobab Lodge has a swimming pool (bring your swimsuit!), and some quiet places to sit outside. It is also the home of many birds, butterflies, and velvet monkeys.

Other practicalities

You can check which vaccinations and medication you need with the LUMC travel tool (only in Dutch). It’s advisable to do this 2-3 months in advance, in case you need multiple vaccinations.

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