African Linguistics

Description and comparison of African languages

***While the museum building is closed for
renovation, scientific research will continue at Tervuren.***

Our team focuses on the descriptive and comparative study of African languages in general and of the Bantu languages in particular.

linguistResearch activities:

  • the documentation and preservation of the often endangered intangible heritage of languages and oral literatures
  • the promotion of African languages
  • the contribution of African languages to theoretical discussions of the scientific community.

Our comparative work attempts to contribute to:

  • the reconstruction of the early history of African language groups
  • the input of linguistics in interdisciplinary debates on important issues of African history
  • the integration of universals and particularities of the African languages into present-day typological research.

In order to collect first-hand data we perform field work.

Our documentation centre is without any doubt one of the most important in the world as regards the Bantu languages of Central Africa. Through our collaboration with several scientific institutions in Central Africa we supervise African PhD students too.

The linguistic section was set up in 1950 by A.E. Meeussen, an eminent researcher in comparative Bantu linguistics.

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