(21/03/23) Verum talk at LISTEN Leuven

Here are the slides and here is the appendix.

(10/03/23) Programme and registration open for conference

Anyone interested in attending the BaSIS conference on 8-9 June 2023 can now see the programme here and register via this form.

(22/02/23) Publication Amani & Jenneke

The paper about the V-augment and the CV exhaustive marker we mentioned earlier has now been published in Studies in African Linguistics! It is openly accessible here:

(19/12/22) BaSIS is 5 years!

Today marks 5 years since the beginning of the project, which was celebrated in Leiden and Potsdam (where Lis is) with special cake. As the project was granted a 7-month extension, we will continue until the 18th of July 2023.

(18/11/22) Student assistants BaSIS project

We are looking for two student assistants at Leiden University for next year!

Assistant 1 (April-June 2023, 0.2fte) will help in editing our book on the expression of information structure in various Bantu languages. This involves checking references, typos, etc., but primarily also transferring Word documents into LateX and formatting them.

What we are looking for:
– You are a LateX wizard
– You can work independently
– You are organised and pro-active in tackling things ahead of deadlines

Assistant 2 (from mid January until end June 2023, 0.2fte) will take on two primary tasks and possibly help out in what else comes along in the project. The two main tasks are:

  1. Organising our final project conference. On the 8th and 9th of June we will hold an international and hybrid conference. Activities in the organisation (together with the team) will involve making a plan for the online component, organising helpers, answering questions about visas, ordering refreshments and lunch, etc.
  2. Finding out the best way to archive the data gathered during the project and prepare the data for archiving.

What we are looking for:
– You can work independently but also together in the BaSIS team
– You are organised and pro-active in tackling things ahead of deadlines
– You are creative in finding solutions
– Experience with databases is an advantage

For more information and to express your interest, please contact Jenneke van der Wal at

(30/10/22) Simon starts PhD at Gothenburg

After being a Research Assistant on the BaSIS project, helping with data gathering and analysis for Kinyakyusa in 2020, Simon Msovela was enthusiastic to continue working on information structure in other languages, specifically his own Kihehe. Now he has been selected as one of two PhD students at Gothenburg University. He let us know that he has just arrived in Sweden safe and sound, and is getting used to the winter weather. Congratulations, and good luck with the cold and the start of the PhD!

(20/09/22) Lis in Potsdam

Lis is currently at Potsdam University for a 3-month visiting PhD fellowship in the SFB project “Limits of variability in language”, where she is working on the research project “Consequences of Head-Argument Order in Syntax”, which looks at what syntactic properties are predictable based on a language having OV vs VO word order. Lis is contributing data on Tunen as an example of an OV language within a VO family. While in Germany, she is also presenting her research at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin African linguistics colloquium and the Potsdam University Syntax-Semantics colloquium.

(15/09/22) Poster ‘Contrastive topic and predicate doubling in Bantu’ at SuB

Kyle Jerro and Jenneke van der Wal presented a poster at Sinn und Bedeutung 27 in Prague, about the semantics of the various interpretations of topic doubling in six Bantu languages. Here are the poster and the data appendix.

(01/09/22) Paper Amani & Jenneke accepted for publication

Kinyakyusa nouns can have a V- or a CV- prefix, and both have been referred to as the augment. However, checking the precise information-structural (and other) properties of the nouns with the CV-prefix, we concluded that 1) it is not an augment, and 2) it expresses exhaustivity. After presenting this at various conferences, this analysis has now been accepted for publication in the open access journal Studies in African Linguistics. Here is the pre-publication version.

(29/08/22) Talks at CALL 52

BaSIS members gave the following talks at the 52nd Colloquium of African Languages and Linguistics:

Kerr, Elisabeth, and Jenneke van der Wal: Indirect truth marking in 10 Bantu languages – slides and appendix

Kerr, Elisabeth: Tracking referents in Tunen texts

Li, Zhen: Agreement asymmetries of preverbal and postverbal subjects in Teke – slides

(24/08/22) Talk ‘Indirect truth marking in 10 Bantu languages’ at SLE55

Elisabeth Kerr and Jenneke van der Wal gave a talk on verum/truth focus at the workshop ‘How to mark the truth‘ at the 55th meeting of the SLE in Bucharest. Here is the appendix with the full data overview for the talk, and here are the slides.

In short, the data from 10 Bantu languages show that there is no 1-to-1 mapping between truth and a given grammatical marking. Instead, the strategies used in verum contexts all function to de-mark/background any possible term focus, thereby leaving an underspecified predicate-centred focus. This underspecified structure is interpreted as truth focus in a verum context, meaning that truth is only indirectly marked. Lis and Jenneke argue that there is a level at which the truth is in focus, which is distinct from the more emphatic notion of verum proposed by Gutzmann & Castroviejo-Miró (2011) and Gutzmann et al. (2020), and more in line with the account of truth focus proposed in e.g. Goodhue (2022).

(13/06/22) Linguistics In Malawi Experience starts!

In Zomba (Malawi), we have started the LIME! In this sequel to the LIKE, eight students from the University of Malawi and four students from Leiden University will immerse themselves in the linguistic structure of six languages spoken in Malawi (Elomwe, Chichewa, Chitumbuka, Ciyao, Citonga, and Chilambya). This first week they are learning about these languages, as well as how to do recordings, how to use a database, etc. to be ready for their own projects in weeks 2 and 3. Organisers are Atikonda Mtenje-Mkochi, Jean Chavula, Winfred Mkochi, Jenneke van der Wal and Maarten Mous, and we are lucky to have guest lectures by Al Mtenje and Patric Kishindo.

(07/06/22) BaSIS at Bantu9

Many of our team presented at the Bantu9 conference in Blantyre (Malawi):

  • Asiimwe, ‘The expression of miratives in Rukiga’
  • Kanampiu, Martin & Culberston, ‘Determinants of noun classification in Kîîtharaka: A synchronic aproach’
  • Kerr, ‘Tracking referents in Tunen texts’
  • Kerr & Van der Wal, ‘Indirect verum marking in 10 Bantu languages’ (slides and the appendix)
  • Kruijsdijk, Van der Vlugt & Van der Wal, ‘The insubordinated infinitive in Makhuwa-Enahara (P31) and the expression of feelings’ (handout)
  • Li, ‘On the origin of IBV focus in West-Coastal Bantu’ (slides)
  • Lusekelo, ‘Naming of plants in Nyamwezi and Sukuma society of Tanzania’
  • Van der Wal & Jerro, ‘Contrastive topic and predicate doubling in Bantu’ (slides)

(06/06/22) BaSIS camp in Malawi

All BaSIS team members got together in Thyolo (Malawi) to compare our findings, write our chapters for the BaSIS book ‘The expression of information structure in Bantu’, discuss the best analysis of pseudoclefts and particles, and have fun cooking a ‘dinner around the world’. After years of skyping, it is so good to see each other in real life!

(07/04/22) BaSIS at ACAL53

BaSIS members will present work at ACAL53 this week at the University of California San Diego (online).

  • Iris Kruisdijk, Nina van der Vlugt, Jenneke van der Wal: Impersonal feelings in Makhuwa
    In this talk, an overview is presented of the semantic and syntactic variation in the expression of bodily feelings and emotions, zooming in on the impersonal construction, which the authors argue should be analysed as an insubordinated infinitive.
  • Zhen Li: Word order, subject marking and information structure in Kukuya (Bantu B77a)
    Zhen’s talk will introduce the syntactic and interpretaional properties of the IBV focus position in Teke-Kukuya, and make a hypothesis that the IBV focus strategy may have its origin in a cleft sentence, based on evidence from subject marking alternation and tone pattern.
  • Elisabeth Kerr: On OV and VO at the Bantu/Bantoid borderlands
    Lis’ talk is on the order of the verb phrase in Tunen and Nyokon, two Bantu languages spoken in Cameroon where zone A Bantu borders non-Bantu Bantoid languages. She investigates the synchronic conditions on OV vs VO word order and how such word order patterns may have derived historically. (Talk also given in March at the Banto1d conference, University of Hamburg)

(31/03/22) ‘A featural typology of Bantu agreement’ published

Oxford University Press have published Jenneke’s book about Bantu subject and object marking; the result of research in the ERC ReCoS project (Cambridge) and the BaSIS project (Leiden). It is published open access, so available for everyone!

“This book explores variation in Bantu subject and object marking on the basis of data from 75 Bantu languages. It specifically addresses the question of which features are involved in agreement and nominal licensing, and examines how parametric variation in those features accounts for the settings and patterns that are attested crosslinguistically. Jenneke van der Wal proposes a novel syntactic analysis that takes into account not only phi agreement, but also nominal licensing and information structure. A Person feature, associated with animacy, definiteness, or givenness, is shown to be responsible for differential object agreement, while at the same time accounting for doubling vs. non-doubling object marking – a hybrid solution to a long-standing debate. In addition, low functional heads are assumed to be able to Case-license flexibly downwards or upwards, depending on the relative topicality of the two arguments involved. This accounts for the properties of symmetric object marking in ditransitives and for subject inversion constructions. The correlations between the proposed featural parameters reveal new striking patterns that provide evidence in favour of an emergentist view of features and parameters and against both Strong Uniformity and Strong Modularity.”

(14/01/22) A day in the life of a field linguist

We get a nice glimpse of Lis’ fieldwork, as she wrote about her fieldwork day in Ndikiniméki for the Leiden Language Blog:

(02/11/21) Lis on fieldwork in Cameroon

Finally, after a long debate with Leiden University’s security, Lis was allowed to fly to Cameroon and return to the Tunen-speaking community in Ndikinimeki, where she was received with open arms!

(19/10/21) New publication ‘On the use of idioms for testing focus’

In the BaSIS methodology, we use idioms to test whether a suspected focus strategy indeed encodes focus. When it does, the idiomatic reading disappears: ‘John beat around the bush’ means ‘John avoided talking about something unpleasant’, but ‘It was the bush that John beat around’ only has the literal meaning. How this works, and why idioms referring to useless tasks (for example, ‘to write on water’ or ‘to sieve melons’) do not work, is explained in a newly published article:

Van der Wal, Jenneke. 2021. On the use of idioms for testing focusSemantic Fieldwork Methods 3(2).

(14/09/21) Reading group ‘New developments in (Bantu) syntax

This autumn we read the latest publications by Wiltschko, Pietraszko, Van de Velde, Fominyam & Georgi, Fuchs & Van der Wal, and Schneider-Zioga & Irimia. The reading group will be held online – see the overview and login here.

(03/09/2021) Zhen back to Leiden from fieldwork in Congo

Zhen has conducted his second fieldwork on the Teke-Kukuya language from May to August in Congo-Brazzaville. He spent one month and a half in Lékana and two months in Brazzaville, working intensively with five native Kukuya speakers. With the consultant teachers they have investigated many intriguing phenomena in this language, such as the IBV position as an identificational focus site, interesting tone pattern variation with regard to different word order, and unusual agreement morphology in relative constructions. He has also collected several funny stories told in Kukuya.

(25/08/21) Jekura Kavari (Otjiherero) leaves project

After postponing the planned collaborative fieldwork on Otjiherero twice because of Covid-19, and taking into account his many obligations at the department, Jekura felt that unfortunately he cannot promise the time and commitment necessary to be involved in the BaSIS project. We thank him for his involvement in BaSIS and hope for another chance to collaborate!

(07/06/21) BaSIS at WOCAL10

BaSIS was also well represented at the 10th World Congress of African Linguistics! We even organised a workshop ‘Bantu Universals and Variation’, where many participants shared new insights on the typological patterns in Bantu languages, including on the distribution of different types of existential constructions (Devos & Bernander), Bantu argument structure as an active voice system (Madrid), variation in reflexives and reciprocals (Sikuku), and our wonderful invited speaker duo, Daisuke Shinagawa and Lutz Marten, reported on the correlations between focus marking and negation based on the database of the project Bantu Morphosyntactic Variation at SOAS. Particularly fruitful for the question which approach to take for Bantu typology was the discussion instigated by Mark Van de Velde, questioning the use of parameters.

Members of the BaSIS team contributed the following papers:
– Zhen Li: The Information Structure of Preverbal Domain in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77)
– Allen Asiimwe, Patrick Kanampiu, Elisabeth Kerr, Zhen Li, Amani Lusekelo, and Jenneke van der Wal: Bantu word order between discourse and syntactic relations
– Amani Lusekelo and Jenneke van der Wal: The augment and exhaustivity in Kinyakyusa (video)
– Patrick Kanampiu: Which factors determine object expression in Kîîtharaka?
– Elisabeth Kerr: Discontinuous DPs in Tunen (video)
– Allen Asiimwe, Melle Groen, Patrick Kanampiu, Nina van der Vlugt, en Jenneke van der Wal: How to focus topical referents (video)

(03/06/21) BaSIS at Bantu 8

The 8th Bantu conference, organised by the University of Essex, was held fully online, and members of the BaSIS team gave the following presentations:
– Allen Asiimwe, Maria Kouneli, Jenneke van der Wal: Determiner spreading in Rukiga (video)
– Elizabeth Kerr: Bare nouns and specificity disambiguation in Tunen
– Jenneke van der Wal: If Bantu bare nouns are ambiguous, what determines their interpretation? (video)

(15/04/21) Ernest in Leiden

With special permission from the Dutch government, Ernest was allowed to come to the Netherlands for a research stay at Leiden University! Following all the COVID-19 protocols, we will now start our collaborative work on Kirundi information structure, already discovering that the same -o that is used as a contrastive topic marker in Rukiga seems to have the same function in Kirundi. Welcome to Leiden, Ernest!

BaSIS tea with Zhen (on screen), Ernest, and Jenneke

(08/04/21) ACAL talk on word order

At ACAL51-52, we gave a joint presentation on word order in 8 BaSIS languages, presenting our findings on the discourse-configurationality of each of the languages. The video of the talk can be found here: (it may be necessary to download the video in order to see it). And here are the handout and the appendix.

(02/04/21) Publication paper Allen and Jenneke

The findings of joint research on the Rukiga particle -o have now been published in the Nordic Journal of African Studies. Here is the abstract:

This paper discusses the particle –o in Rukiga (Bantu JE14, Uganda), aiming to establish its origin and function. At first sight, the particle appears to be an independent pronoun agreeing in noun class, reported in previous studies as an emphatic pronoun. Based on an extensive analysis of the particle, we argue that, through grammaticalisation, it has developed from a medial demonstrative via the independent pronoun to become a contrastive topic marker. This analysis is supported by various topic and focus tests carried out, which indicate that it combines with topics and is incompatible with focalised referents. We discovered that the particle is also used in exclamative/mirative contexts, expressing (a degree of) unexpectedness and surprise. Our findings indicate that independent morphological topic markers are present in East African languages just as they are in the more analytical West-African languages, and that exclamatives and miratives, which are extremely understudied in Bantu languages, may be associated with the morphological particle –o.

(31/11/20) Publication papers Lis and Zhen

Lis and Zhen have each contributed a chapter to the book that was presented to prof. Maarten Mous (co-supervisor of both) in honour of his 65th birthday. The book is freely accessible online via this link.

Zhen’s paper is ‘A note on the functional passives in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77, Congo)’, and Lis’ paper is entitled ‘The grammaticalisation of a specific indefinite determiner: Prenominal -mɔ̀tɛ́ in Tunen.’ Full details on the Publications page as well.

(25/11/20) Data collection Kinyakyusa

Amani, Simon, and Jenneke have learned a lot about Kinyakyusa information structure this November! In a little over two weeks in Kiwira, Tanzania, Peter Mwaipyana, Bahati Mwakasege, and Yona Mwaipaja have helped us to understand the exhaustive nature of the ‘CV augment’ (as in the example below) and the restrictions on inversion constructions, among other things. We gathered some 1400 forms in the database, which will help greatly in future analyses of the language.

‘(the) bananas’

‘only bananas’

(03/11/20) Simon Msovela joins as research assistant

As a lecturer at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education, Simon Msovela was found willing to assist Amani and Jenneke in the fieldwork on Kinyakyusa. He will come along to Kiwira for data collection, and has already started to learn all about Dative and information structure. Simon sees it also as an investment in his future as an academic, as he is planning to apply for the UDSM PhD programme coming year, on his first language Kihehe. Welcome, Simon!


(30/10/20) talks at Beijing conference

On 31 October there will be an online conference on African Language and Culture Studies which is held by Beijing Foreign Studies University. BaSIS’ Allen Asiimwe and Zhen Li will present their research on ‘Naming and gendered ideologies’ and ‘Topic and focus in Teke-Kukuya (Bantu B77)’, and the programme can be found here. Note that the conference uses the Voov meeting platform – please contact Zhen Li ( for further information on how to join!

(15/09/20) BantUniVar

The BaSIS team at Leiden is organising a workshop within the tenth World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL 10), held in Leiden, 8-11 June 2021. The title is ‘Bantu Universals and Variation’:

[W]ork on African languages has reached the critical mass necessary to make insightful comparative work between African languages possible. I think this is especially true of the Bantu languages, for perhaps no other language family possesses so many distinct languages that have so much in common syntactically.” (Henderson 2011:23)

As the field of Bantu typology is gaining momentum, we are organising a workshop with the aim to obtain a picture of the synchronic variation within the Bantu language family. We aim to go beyond lexical data to consider morphosyntax, phonology, and semantics, and welcome presentations from any framework.

Please check the call for papers and submit your abstract through EasyChair, indicating BANT in the ‘Keywords’ field to indicate that the abstract is intended for this workshop.

(31/05/20) First BaSIS publication

Studies in African Linguistics has published Allen and Jenneke’s paper on the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Rukiga. It is available (open access) here. The first of many BaSIS publications to come, we hope!

Abstract: The Bantu language Rukiga (JE14, Uganda) shows tonal reduction on the verb in a subset of tenses, similar to the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Haya. Whereas in other languages the conjoint/disjoint alternation is usually marked by segmental morphology in at least one tense, Rukiga is unique in showing only tonal reduction. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that tonal reduction in Rukiga is not merely a phonological rule, but it encodes the conjoint/disjoint alternation. Furthermore, we show that tonal reduction in Rukiga is determined by constituent-finality, and there is no direct relation to focus.

(26/05/20) talk at Syntax Lab Cambridge

Jenneke presented joint work with Patrick on Kîîtharaka pseudoclefts at the virtual Syntax Lab of the University of Cambridge. Here are the ppt slides and the handout of the talk – comments are welcome!

(02/03/20) Research assistant Jane Gacheri Njagi

The project has a new Research Assistant, in Marimanti, Kenya: Jane Gacheri Njagi. Jane’s task is to enter the recorded and transcribed Kîîtharaka stories into the database Dative, and to gloss them, so that those working on the language can also have easy access to longer stretches of tekst. Welcome, Jane!

(13/02/20) Reading group ‘Syntactic features of information structure and case’

The BaSIS team at Leiden are organising a reading group around the question ‘Which features (of IS and Case) are in the syntax, and what arguments have been used to decide whether they are?’. We get together on Wednesdays at 15:30 at Van Wijkplaats 4, 003A.

  1. 19 February: Strong Uniformity Thesis
    Miyagawa 2010, 2017 – chapter 1 from both
    further reading: Boeckx 2011
  2. 11 March: Strong Modularity Thesis
    Fanselow 2006
    further reading: Horvath 2010
  3. 25 March: The Syntax-Pragmatics interface
    Trotzke 2015 ch4
    further reading: Trotzke 2015, ch.3, Trotzke 2017
  4. 1 April: IS features and inclusivity
    each reads one: Snyder 2000, Kratzer & Selkirk 2018, Aboh 2010 (plus, if we have enough people, part of Slioussar 2007)
  5. 15 April: Case
    Diercks 2012, Baker 2018
  6. 29 April: IS features in neuro/psycholinguistics
    (date and reading tbd)

(30/01/20) “Field school in Kenya gives students experience of collaborative linguistic fieldwork”

The LIKE has finished and was very successful! Read the Leiden University report here.

(06/01/20) Start LIKE

At Tharaka University College we just started the Linguistics in Kenya Experience, a three-week field school, funded by the Africa Studies Association in Leiden. Lecturers and students from TUC, Chuka University and Leiden University collaborate here, and learn together about primary data collection and linguistic features of Kenyan languages. See the LIKE tab for more information!


(21/12/19) Data collection Kîîtharaka

Peter got on board another collaborator on the project: Patrick Kanampiu (welcome!). Together with Jenneke and the fantastic Onesmus Muambi Kamwara, Philip Murithi Nyamu and Dennis Muriuki Katheru, we discovered no less than three predicate doubling constructions (with the same interpretations as we also found for Rukiga, Makhuwa, and Copi), some funny idioms, and thanks to Onesmus’ stories we now know why the cock crows.

i kû-rííngá tû́-rííng-iré ng'-óombé - tû-tí-ra-cí-thaik-a
foc 15-hit 10-cows
'We HIT the cows, we didn't tie them.'
kû-ííná n'  á-íín-iré    bai!
15-sing foc 1sm-sing-pfv friend
i. 'Boy did she sing!'
ii. 'Well she sang at least...'
iii. 'She did sing (even if you think she didn't)'
w-aá-bútî-îre       kû-bútî́ra 15-swim
'You really swam!'

“Long ago, the guinea fowl and the chicken lived together. At some point, they thought it would be good to have fire, so they could roast their maize, like the humans. They sent out the cockerel. He came to the humans, who were grinding maize, and was happily eating some of the kernels that fell down. Then they were harvesting grain, and again the cockerel was eating and feeling happy. Suddenly he remembered what he was sent to do, and he shouted to the guinea fowls ‘There is no fiiiiire! There is not fiiiiire!’. And then when back to eating, remembering every once in a while to call that he still hadn’t found the fire. And that is why the cock crows!”



(9/11/19) BaSIS Brainstorm Workshop

The BaSIS project organised an informal brainstorm workshop on 8th-9th November with talks by BaSIS team members and invited advisors. First results were presented and many aspects of information structure, agreement, Case, and Bantu languages were discussed in a fruitful way. Many thanks to András Bárány, Lutz Marten, Stavros Skopeteas, Patricia Schneider-Zioga, and others who visited the workshop for sharing their insights with the team!

(25/10/19) Rukiga talk on marker -o at TTFA Leiden

Allen presents her work on the particle -o in Rukiga at a meeting of This Time For Africa. Here are the details:

TOPIC:          The pronoun -o as a contrastive topic marker in Rukiga?
DATE:           Friday, 25 October 2019
VENUE:        LIPSIUS 235
TIME:            15:30-16:30



(24/10/19) Rukiga augment talk at ComSyn Leiden

Allen and Jenneke present their work on the Rukiga augment at the Com(parative) Syn(tax) group; see for more information.
The slides can be found here: ComSyn augment Rukiga 2019 handout.

Title: Rukiga augments are like Greek
Date: Thursday 24 October
Venue: Lipsius 2.28
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs (drinks afterwards at Café de Keyser)

(06/10/19) Escape from Linguistics

Many enthusiastic visitors of the Nacht van Ontdekkingen (Night of discoveries) have helped our imaginary professor A. Kirfa solve African language puzzles, while learning about tones in Kukuya, the number system of Yoruba, and word order in Kinyarwanda. Together with the Taalmuseum (Language museum), Laura, Lis, and Jenneke organised a real escape room experience in Leiden. We were very pleased with how many people showed their interest in African languages and learned about them in a playful way!
Afterwards, we were invited to also participate at the start of the ‘Weekend van de Wetenschap’ (Science weekend), where children between 5-12 years old did their best to find the answer to prof. Kirfa’s riddle ‘What falls without making a sound?’.

(13/09/2019) Leiden team together

Zhen, Lis, and Jenneke are all back in Leiden from their respective fieldwork sites, and Allen has just started her two-month visit to Leiden University. The team is looking forward to a good semester of collaboration!



(06/09/2019) Escape from Linguistics

At the ‘Nacht van Ontdekkingen’ (Night of Discoveries) in Leiden you are challenged to solve African language puzzles in our ‘escape room’. Laura, Lis, and Jenneke are looking forward to seeing many non-linguists and showing them the wonders of African languages! The activity will be in Dutch; see for more information the Escape from Linguistics site.

(15/08/2019) Data collection Copi

Nelsa and Jenneke ventured out to Chidenguele (Gaza province, Mozambique) to collect data on Copi (S61). With the help of Gomes, Constância, and Arlindo we discovered that Copi allows multiple wh questions, which is unexpected for a Bantu language:

Vhalério  á-xávh-eté       cá:ní mâ:ni?
1.Valerio 1sm-buy-appl-pfv what  who
‘Valerio bought who what?’

Another interesting and so far confusing feature is the interaction between the present conjoint form, the original disjoint (but now also habitual) form, and the present progressive. Where other languages have just the opposition between conjoint and disjoint, it seems that the progressive is entering into the mix here.

ni-bhik-a      *(mpunga)              conjoint 3.rice
‘I cook/am cooking rice.’

n-a-bhik-a        (mpunga)            disjoint 3.rice
'I cook (rice).'

n-o-bhik-a          (mpunga)          progressive 3.rice
'I am cooking (rice).'


(08/08/2019) Data collection Changana

Aurélio and Jenneke spent two weeks in the small town of Magude (Mozambique), asking José, Mateus, and Jovito all about their language Changana (S53). José shared some great stories about the lessons he learnt when he was young. We also found a particularly interesting construction with the auxiliary -za, which indicates that the action is the least expected:

ni-z-é            ní:-ja        ni  kaláw!á:tla and 5.melon
‘I ended up eating even melon.’
(photo: Mateus explaining when to use the -ze construction)


(19/06/2019) Start collaboration UEM Maputo

In the week of preparation for fieldwork on Changana and Copi fieldwork, Jenneke gave a talk on information structure in Bantu languages for the linguists and students and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo.


(14/05/2019) Elisabeth and Zhen on fieldwork

Since 10 March, Lis has been in Cameroon to discover information structure in Tunen, and since 10 May, Zhen is in Congo Brazzaville to study Teke (Kukuya). Both languages show interesting information structural mechanisms, for example the particle á in Tunen, which Lis is testing for properties of exhaustivity using the BaSIS methodology.PHOTO-2019-05-17-10-46-35

(photo: Elisabeth and one of the Tunen language consultants)

(Spring 2019) BaSIS reading group on information structure in Bantu languages

For anyone who is interested, the BaSIS project organises a fortnightly reading group on information structure in Bantu languages, at the LUCL. See here for the schedule and further information.

(01/02/2019) An intense month of Rukiga information structure

In Kabale, Allen and Jenneke were fortunate to find the wonderful Ronald, Joel, and Pamellah, native speakers of Rukiga, to discover how information structure is expressed in their language. In a bit more than 2 weeks time the team worked their way through a list of diagnostics, recorded stories about wise owls and recipes for traditional porridge, and already entered more than 1,000 sentences in the Dative database.

Linguistic highlights were the discovery of an agreeing contrastive topic particle (as in 1), the residue of a conjoint/disjoint alternation, and the augment on adjectives and other modifiers triggering exclusive focus on the modifier (as in 2). Analyses for these phenomena are currently being written up!

(1)  e-nté             z-ó,     a-ryá-zi-rí-is-a
     aug-10.cows 10-ct 1sm-fut-10om-eat-caus-fv
     ‘As for cows, he will graze them.’ 
     - implying that other animals or other jobs he won't do.
(2)  páápa  (#o-)mu-kúru  y-aa-h'                 ó-ru-bázo
     1.pope (aug-)1-old       1sm-n.pst-give  aug-11-speech
     ‘The old Pope gave a speech.’
     - if the augment o- were present, it means that there are young Popes as well
(with thanks to Wilbert van Vliet for the photos)

(09/01/2019) Allen and Jenneke start their work

This January Allen and Jenneke will investigate information structure in Rukiga! The first week Allen learned a lot about information structure, and Jenneke learned about Rukiga and gave a talk for the department at Makerere University, Kampala (see picture). The next three weeks will be spent in Kabale to gather data from other native speakers of the language.


(12/11/18) Leonie Barabas-Weil starts internship

As part of her MA in Linguistics at Utrecht University, Leonie will spend 3 months at the BaSIS project, investigating inversion constructions and agreement in Lubukusu (JE31c, Kenya). Welcome, Leonie!

(15/10/18) Zhen Li starts as PhD candidate

We welcome Zhen Li as a new team member to the project! Zhen will focus on information structure in the Teke languages (B70, Congo, Gabon). Zhen completed his BA studies at Peking University and his MA thesis in African linguistics at SOAS (London), studying comparative verb morphology in Bantu languages of Cameroon and Gabon. Zhen’s experience and wide linguistic knowledge will no doubt help the project, and we are happy to have him at Leiden University!

(3/9/18) Elisabeth Kerr starts as PhD candidate

The project has a new member with Elisabeth Kerr starting her PhD research! Lis will focus on information structure in Tunen (A44, Cameroon), a language that is particularly interesting because of its unusual basic word order (SOV). Lis has completed her BA at the University of Cambridge and her MA at SOAS (London), with theses on information structure in Ekegusii (JE42, Kenya) and the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Zulu (South Africa). We are very happy to welcome her at Leiden University!

(9/7/18) Sintu 7 workshop on information structure

Allen and Jenneke organised a workshop on information structure within the Sintu 7 conference, held in Cape Town. The presentations were livestreamed and can still be accessed on the ALASA/Sintu7 facebook event page.

Using tekst constituent charts to investigate information structure in Bantu languagesSteve Nicolle
Focus and theticity across BantuYukiko Morimoto
Topic-based flexible nominal licensing in BantuJenneke van der Wal
The augment as an exclusive focus marker in Runyankore-RukigaAllen Asiimwe
Activation states and word order in relation to definitenessEva-Marie Bloom-Ström
Adverbial clauses and word order in Mozambican NgoniHeidrun Kröger


(18/4/2018) Amani at Dar es Salaam research week

Amani Lusekelo presented the BaSIS project in the research week at the University of Dar es Salaam, 18-20 April 2018. Many linguists and non-linguists showed interest in the poster showing the main points of the project.


PhD position open

We’re happy to announce that the BaSIS project has a 4-year fully funded position for a PhD student, starting on 1 September 2018. This PhD subproject is intended to describe and analyse the morphosyntax of information structure in Tunen, spoken in Cameroon. For full details on the position and how to apply, see the advertisement by Leiden University; for more information on the content of the project, see the project description; and for other questions please contact Jenneke van der Wal.

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