School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Professor Lutz Marten

Key information

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Professor of General and African Linguistics Doctoral School Head of Department, Doctoral School Centre of African Studies Management Committee Member
MA, PhD (London); PGCLTHE (Open)
Russell Square, College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4653
Support hours
Tuesday 12 noon-1:00pm and Thursday 2:00pm-3:00pm


I joined SOAS in 1993 as a student in the MA in Linguistics programme, having studied English language and literature, philosophy and African studies at the University of Hamburg before that. After a short spell at Zanzibar’s Taasisi ya Kiswahili na Lugha za Kigeni (Institute for Swahili and Foreign Languages, now part of the State University of Zanzibar), I returned to SOAS in 1995 for my PhD and I have been here ever since.

I served as Head of the Department of Linguistics, Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Cultures and as UK-Director of our London Confucius Institute, and I am currently the Head of the SOAS Doctoral School. I was involved in developing SOAS’s Language Strategy and in setting up our Language for Lockdown series. Outside of SOAS I am a member of the REF2021 sub-panel for Area Studies, and I am the editor of the Transactions of the Philological Society.

I have spent time as visiting researcher or guest lecturer at a number of universities in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, including at the Languages of Tanzania Project (LOT) of the University Dar es Salaam, as A W Mellon Visiting Fellow of the Centre for African Language Diversity at University of Cape Town, and as Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Africa and Asia (ILCAA), Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

My research interests are in formal linguistic and linguistic theory (syntax, semantics, pragmatics, formal models of interpretation – in particular Dynamic Syntax), comparative and historical linguistics, language variation and change, and questions of language, society and identity.

Most of my work focuses on African languages of Eastern and Southern Africa, in particular Bantu languages such as Swahili, Bemba, or Herero and I have recently completed a 3-year Leverhulme-funded major research project on ‘Morphosyntactic Variation in Bantu: Typology, contact and change’.

I am currently working with Clara Momanyi and Jimmy Kithara on a British Academy-funded project on the description of Kenyan Bantu language Kitaveta, and I am involved in a British Academy Writing Workshop on Eroding Dichotomies: Description, Analysis and Publishing in African Linguistics.

Inaugural Lecture

Professor Lutz Marten's Inaugural Lecture: Linguistic Variation, Language Contact and the New Comparative Bantu

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Jon Archer Information Structure in Muwé-ke, Nepal

Iskandar Ding Syntax of the Yaghnobi Verb: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives
Ebany Dohle Náhuat-Pipil: The Encoding of Ecological Knowledge in Semantic and Lexical Categorisation Systems
Francisca Everduim Morphosyntactic Variation in Bantu
Robert Laub A Comparison of the Portuguese Creoles of Malacca and Macau
Yussuf Shoka Hamad Linguistic Variation in Kipemba
Heather Ayn Todd Ethnobiological inventories of a multilingual community in Cameroon
Lu Xue Negation, Prediction and Thought-ascription — A Study of Quasi-logical Terms in Mandarin Chinese


Contact Lutz