SOAS University of London

SOAS researchers awarded Leverhulme Trust funding for project ‘Grammatical variation in Swahili: contact, change and identity’

15 October 2021

The Leverhulme Trust-funded project ‘Grammatical variation in Swahili: contact, change and  identity’ is a collaborative research project bringing together researchers based at the University of Essex (UK), SOAS University of London (UK), Kenyatta University (Kenya)  and the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). It is a 4-year project running from  September 2021 to August 2025. 

The project explores dialectal variation in the Bantu language Swahili. Swahili is spoken by  more than 100 million people across East Africa, where the language has long played an  important role as a regional lingua franca. In the present-day, Swahili is spoken in Tanzania,  Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, as well as parts of Zambia and northern  Mozambique. Despite its significant speaker numbers and regional importance, there has  been no in-depth examination of present-day variation in Swahili, nor of its role in the  linguistic, cultural and social identities of Swahili-speaking communities. This project seeks  to address this gap and 1) advance our understanding of structural variation found in Swahili  and 2) examine the effects of language function and speaker identity on this variation,  drawing on insights from this major African language. 

Lutz Marten, Professor of General and African Linguistics at SOAS and Co-Investigator on the project said: "Swahili is one the world’s biggest languages and widely spoken across the whole of East Africa. I am delighted to be part of this strong research team from the UK, Kenya and Tanzania which investigates variation of Swahili in today’s fast-changing environment. The project underlines how language is at the heart of culture, history and society and it provides a wonderful opportunity for Swahili scholars and our Swahili students here at SOAS."

For further information, contact:

Professor Lutz Marten -