The project forms a collaborative team of the following people:


Jenneke van der Wal (project leader) is a Senior Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. After obtaining her PhD degree at the same institute in 2009, she worked on grammaticalisation at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium), was part of the ERC project ‘Rethinking Comparative Syntax‘ at the University of Cambridge, and taught at Harvard University. Her research combines finding new data from Bantu languages with developing theories on the interface between syntax and information structure.

Allen Asiimwe (collaborator) holds a PhD in African Languages from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Her dissertation focussed on Definiteness and Specificity marking in Runyankore-Rukiga (Bantu- Uganda, JE 13/14). She is a Lecturer in the Department of African Languages at Makerere University, Kampala (Uganda). Allen is a reader in morphology and syntax of Bantu languages, with special focus on the Runyankore-Rukiga language cluster. She has a passion for language description and documentation of lesser-studied Bantu Languages of Uganda. She is one of the contributors of data on Runyankore-Rukiga to an online database (Typecraft).


Amani Lusekelo (collaborator) holds a Ph.D. (African Languages and Literature) from the University of Botswana where he wrote a thesis on object marking and verbal extensions in Nyakyusa. Currently, he is a professor at the Department of Languages and Literature at Dar es Salaam University College of Education (University of Dar es Salaam) in Tanzania. Bantu syntax is one of his research interests, particularly on the syntax of object marking and the structure of the noun phrase, with publications such as “The structure of the Nyakyusa noun phrase”, “DP-internal and V-external agreement patterns in Eastern Bantu: Re-statement of the facts in Eastern Bantu” (Journal of Linguistics and Language in Education 2013), and “Distribution of ɸ-features in Bantu DPs and vPs: The Case of Concord and Agree in Kiswahili and Kinyakyusa” (Journal of Linguistics and Language in Education 2015). He also conducts research on contact linguistics in Tanzania, publishing on lexicon, sociolinguistic aspects, and education.

Peter Muriungi picture

Peter Kinyua Muriungi (collaborator) holds a PhD from University of Tromsø, Norway, his dissertation being on Phrasal Movement Inside Bantu Verbs, Deriving Affix Scope and Order in Kiitharaka. He is currently the Principal of Tharaka University College, a newly established public university college in Kenya. His research interests lie within syntactic theory and comparative syntax; notably the syntax of questions, focus, and verbal, affix and modifier order, particularly in Bantu languages.

Patrick Kanampiu (collaborator) is a linguist at Tharaka University College and a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. He wrote his MA thesis at Chuka University, Kenya, on the syntax of the DP in Kîîtharaka and is currently involved in a project testing Greenberg’s Universal 20 onder the order of modifiers in the DP. The information structure of pseudoclefts in Kîîtharaka is another of his interests.

Ernest Picture

Ernest Nshemezimana (collaborator) is senior lecturer at the University of Burundi located in Bujumbura, capital city of Burundi. He obtained his master’s degree in linguistics from the Catholic University of Louvain in 2010, and was granted a scholarship to pursue his PhD studies at the University of Ghent, where he obtained his PhD in African Languages and Cultures in 2016. He has worked as a teaching assistant in the Kirundi-Kiswahili department at the University of Burundi since 2007 and returned after his PhD as a Lecturer teaching linguistics courses applied to Kirundi and Kiswahili. His research interests lie in the description and analysis of Bantu languages, with a focus on Kirundi.

Simango picture

Aurélio Simango (collaborator) was a researcher and lecturer in Portuguese, Changana (S53, South Africa/Mozambique) and African linguistics and sociolinguistics, associated with the Section of Bantu Languages of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Eduardo Mondlane University. Sadly, he passed away at the start of 2022, and we will remember his enthusiasm for Changana, language variation and contact, as well as languages and education (planning, politics and practices), bilingual education and Bantu descriptive linguistics.


Nelsa Nhantumbo (collaborator) is Assistant and Researcher at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique, where she teaches on linguistics and Bantu languages. She defended her PhD thesis at the same university in 2019 on the phonology and morphology of the verb in Copi. Her research activities involve language description, translation and documentation, focusing on Copi (S61) morphology and phonology.

Elisabeth Kerr (Tunen subproject) is a PhD candidate based at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. She completed a BA in Linguistics at King’s College, University of Cambridge, conducting fieldwork and writing a dissertation on focus marking in Ékegusií (JE42, Kenya). After a summer position as a computational linguist for Africa’s Voices, she completed an MA in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where she studied field methods, Swahili and Zulu language, and theoretical linguistics, and wrote a dissertation on the conjoint/disjoint alternation in Zulu (S42, South Africa). Her main research interests are syntax, information structure, and field methods.

Zhen Li.jpeg

Zhen Li (Teke subproject) is a PhD candidate at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. He completed his BA in Foreign Language and History at Peking University in China, where he started to learn French and Swahili, and studied History of Africa. He completed an MA in African Studies majoring in African linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he studied Swahili and Yoruba as well as the structure of Bantu languages. He wrote a dissertation on the comparative verb morphology within the Bantu languages spoken in Cameroon and Gabon for his MA. His research interests focus mainly on morphology and theoretical syntax. He is studying the information structure of Teke languages (B70, Congo, Gabon) during his PhD.

Irina Morozova is a student assistant on the project, helping to organise the BaSIS conference 2023, and making sure the databases are properly archived. Irina is a Research Master student at Leiden University, interested in syntax.

Simon Msovela was a research assistant on the Kinyakyusa subproject, assisting in data collection in Kiwira. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Gothenburg, studying information structure in his language Kihehe.

Laura Minderaa

Laura Minderaa was a student assistant on the project 2019-2021, focusing on outreach. She created a contribution to the Nacht van Ontdekkingen (Night of Discoveries) and the Taalmuseum in the form of an escape room with African language puzzles, which later became an online escape game. Laura is passionate about science communication: the more people hear about (African) linguistics the better!

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