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LIKE - Linguistics in Kenya Experience

Sunday 5 January 2020 - Saturday 25 January 2020
Tharaka University College (Chuka University), Tharaka Nithi, Kenya

Are you a Linguistics Master, ResMA, or advanced BA student at Leiden University who would like to get experience conducting linguistic fieldwork research abroad, possibly for your BA or MA thesis?

A 3-week programme is running in January 2020 for students from Leiden to work with students from Tharaka University College (TUC)/Chuka University, Kenya as part of a collaboration through the BaSIS (Bantu Syntax and Information Structure) project. Up to 16 students will receive training from Leiden/TUC instructors in linguistic fieldwork methodology (including recording techniques and computational 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 are free to conduct their own linguistics research projects on a topic of their choice, with guidance from the instructors.

Programme (provisional)

Week 1

Mornings: structure of a language (TUC teachers).

Afternoons: methodology class (LU teachers) + prepare for own research.

Weekend excursion to Meru

Week 2

Data elicitation sessions with native speaker consultants.

Initial analysis and guidance from lecturers.

Week 3

Final data elicitation to check analysis.

Presentation of data and analysis.


  • 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. 

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.


Interested? For more information, see the BaSIS website or contact the Leiden-based organisers: Dr Jenneke van der Wal or Elisabeth Kerr.

NB: There is an MA course in Information Structure running in blok 1 of semester 1 of 2019/20, co-taught by Dr Jenneke van der Wal and Elisabeth Kerr. This is non-compulsory, but will provide useful preparation.


BaSIS website (Linguistics in Kenya Experience)

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