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Maarten Mous

Professor Emeritus African Linguistics

Prof.dr. M.P.G.M. Mous
+31 71 527 2727

Africa is a lively continent full of vibrant optimism; it is young and dynamic and at same time the place of origin of mankind. Language is the key to a deeper understanding of its people. What fascinates me in linguistic research is that the method of the search for system in language by necessity involves contact with people and a confrontation with different views and attitudes. Language description requires an understanding of the context within which it is spoken and the wider culture. A solid linguistic analysis may seem straightforward but constantly requires openness to the unexpected.

More information about Maarten Mous


My research is clustered around four themes: (1) Cushitic languages, (2) Language and Identity, (3) Diathesis and derivation, and (4) Bantu languages. My research on Cushitic languages consists of the description of (aspects of) grammar, lexicon and verbal arts of Iraqw ( Tanzania), Alagwa (Tanzania), Konso (Ethiopia) and Somali. I am working on the history of the South Cushitic languages and on a typological overview of Cushitic. My research on Language and Identity derives from my interest in Creole languages and started seriously with a study of the mixed language Ma’a/Mbugu and continued with a typological study of African urban youth languages. My interest in morphology is centred around the study of valency changing verbal derivations such as causatives, middles and passives in Iraqw, Konso, Tunen, and Seereer, and comparatively in Africa. The Bantu languages that I have published on are Tunen and Nyokon (Cameroon), Mbugu, Pare, and Mbugwe (all Tanzania). I have started to work on Seereer (Atlantic, Senegal) and I have done some work on Seme (Kru) and Toussian (Gur) in Burkina Faso.

Completed PhD supervision (the co-promotores mentioned are the main supervisors): Maud Devos A Grammar of Makwe (co-promotor); Graziano Savà A Grammar of Ts'amakko; Christian Rapold Towards a Grammar of Benchnon; František Kratochvíl A Grammar of Abui, a Papuan language of Alor Co-promotor Marian Klamer; Victoria Nyst A Descriptive Analysis of Adamarobe Sign Language (Ghana). (in Amsterdam, with Prof. dr. Anne Baker); Mulugeta Seyoum A Grammar of Dime Co-promotor Azeb Amha; Kofi Dorvlo A Grammar of Logba (Ikpana) Co-promotor Felix Ameka; Tolemariam Fufa A typology of verbal derivation in Ethiopian Afro-Asiatic Languages.; Regula Christianssen-Bolli A Grammar of Tadaksahak, a Northern Songhay Language of Mali.Co-promotor Maarten Kossmann; Anne-Christie Hellenthal A Grammar of Sheko. Co-promotor Azeb Amha; Michael Benjamin Leach Things Hold Together: foundations for a systemic treatment of verbal and nominal tone in Plateau Shimakonde Co-promotor Constance Kutsch Lojenga; Sandra Barasa Language, Mobile Phones and Internet: A Study of SMS Texting, Email, IM and SNS Chats in Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) in Kenya Medepromotor Marc van Oostendorp; Pierre Malgoubri Recherches dialectologiques et dialectométriques nuni (une langue gurunsi du Burkina Faso); Juliette Huber A grammar of Makalero, a Papuan language of East Timor. Co-promotor Aone van Engelenhoven; Sander Steeman A Grammar of Sandawe Co-promotor Maarten Kossmann; Timothy Stirtz A Grammar of Gaahmg, a Nilo-Saharan language from Sudan Co-promotor Maarten Kossmann; Matthias Urban Analyzability and Semantic Associations in Referring Expressions: A Study in Comparative Lexicology Medepromotor Bernard Comrie; Betty Litamahuputty: Ternate Malay Grammar and Texts; Ongaye Oda Orkaydo A Grammar of Konso; Eugenie Stapert Contact-induced change in Dolgan: An investigation into the role of linguistic data for the reconstruction of a people’s (pre)history. Medepromotor: Brigitte Pakendorf; Marjolijn Aalders Grool Verbal Art of the Fon (Benin). Co-promotor Felix Ameka; Angela Kluge A Grammar of Papuan Malay. Co-promotor Marian Klamer; Ibrahima Cissé Développement phonético-phonologique en fulfulde et bambara d’enfants monolingues et bilingues: étude du babillage et des premiers mots. Medepromotor Elisabetta Carpitelli en Co-promotor Nathalie Vallée (CNRS – Grenoble); Richard Gravina The Phonology of Proto-Central Chadic. Co-promotor Christian Rapold; Terrill Schrock A Grammar of Ik (Icé-tód). Northeast Uganda’s last thriving Kuliak language; Olivier Bondeelle Polysémie et structuration de lexique : le cas du wolof. Mede-promotor Sylvain Kahane, Co-promotor Felix Ameka; Andrey Nefedov Clause linkage in Ket. Mede-promotor Bernard Comrie; Oumou Koultoum Diaby Kassamba Analyse conceptuelle et traductibilité des termes de maladie dioula. Co-promotor Felix Ameka; Ginger Boyd The phonological systems of the Mbam languages of Cameroon with a focus on vowels and vowel harmony. Co-promotor Constance Kutsch Lojenga; Gert de Wit Liko Phonology and Grammar. Co-promotor Constance Kutsch Lojenga; Katalin Buzási The language situation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Historical roots, measurements, and development impact, At Universiteit Utrecht Mede-promotor Jan-Luiten van Zanden; Nadine Grimm, geb. Borchardt A Grammar of Gyeli. At Humboldt Universität Berlin Mede-promotor Tom Güldemann; Jean ChavulaVerbal derivation and valency in Citumbuka. Co-promotor Leonid Kulikov.

Selected Publications

  • Kießling, Roland & Maarten Mous 2004. Urban Youth Languages in Africa. Anthropological Linguistics 46(3): 303-341
  • Mous, Maarten 2003. The Making of a Mixed Language: The Case of Ma’a/Mbugu. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Mous, Maarten 2003. Nen. In The Bantu languages, edited by Derek Nurse and Gérard Philippson, pp. 283-306. London: Routledge.
  • Mous, Maarten, Martha Qorro & Roland Kießling 2002. An Iraqw - English Dictionary (Cushitic Language Studies,15) Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe.
  • Mous, Maarten 1993. A Grammar of Iraqw. (Cushitic Language Studies, 9) Hamburg: Helmut Buske.

Other publications can be found under 'Publications' (top page).

Teaching activities

I teach in the BA Afrikaanse Talen en Culturen van Afrika (i.a. Introduction Languages and Cultures of Africa), in the BA and MA Linguistics (Descriptive linguistics, Languages of Africa) and I co-organize the Research Master course Samples of linguistic structure. I also teach the BA kerncurriculum Taalwetenschap and regularly do guest lectures in the BA International Studies.

Curriculum Vitae

I received my Ph.D. 1 April 1992 with a thesis entitled “A Grammar of Iraqw” Leiden University; I obtained MA degrees in African Linguistics in 1985; and Mathematics 1983, both at Leiden University. I am Professor of African Linguistics, Leiden Univeristy. since 1 June 2004 and before that I was Unversitair docent Leiden University since 1993. Before that I worked at Bayreuth University and several I colleges (hogescholen). I was director of the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics from 2009 to 2011. I was guest researcher at NIAS, Wassenaar (2014), Research Centre for Linguistic Typology La Trobe, Melbourne (2006), MPI Leipzig (2001), Université Nice (2003, 2008). I am member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, the Netherlands, since september 2010.

Grants & awards

Selection of recent projects:
Leiden University grant for developing Small Private Online Course on language description
EuroBABEL (NWO) projects: The Kalahari Basin area: a ‘Sprachbund’ on the verge of extinction (Post-Doc Christian Rapold) and Endangered sign languages in village communities (village-sign. (Post-Doc Victoria Nyst)
DoBeS (Volkswagen Stiftung)project The language of the Bakola forest foragers of Cameroon. https://dobes.mpi.nl/projects/bakola/

Professor Emeritus African Linguistics

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL T&C van Afrika


  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL T&C van Afrika

Work address

Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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