Contact Information
  • Librarian: Marion Frank-Wilson
  • Location: Herman B Wells Library E660
  • Phone: (812) 855-1481
Libraries & Subjects
last updated: 1/9/2013

Researching African Languages & Linguistics

Journals | Conference Proceedings | Theses & Dissertations | Monographs & Edited Volumes | Web Resources| Reference | Language Materials

Journal literature constitutes a key resource for African linguistics researchers. Below is a list of some of the critical journals in the field. Users can search for specific articles within journals by clicking on the links next to the journal. Many are in the Language, Linguistics, and Behavioral Abstracts (LLBA) database which indexes major linguistics journals. All journals can be found in the IUWorldcat catalog, with the print issues shelved at the call number given and the newest issues in the periodicals section of the Reference Room (first floor of the Wells Library's East Tower). To find journals not listed here, please see the Finding & Accessing African Studies Journals web page.

General Linguistics:
Anthropological Linguistics [Full-text available]
International Journal of the Sociology of Language

[Full-text available]

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America [Full-text available]
Journal of Phonetics [Full-text in ScienceDirect]
Journal of Linguistics [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available] 1997-present
[Full-text available] 1965-2007
Language [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text in JSTOR] 1925-2007
Lingua [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text in ScienceDirect] 1949-present
Linguistic Inquiry [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text in MIT] 1998-present
[Full-text in JSTOR] 1970-2003
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text in JSTOR] 1983-2005
[Full-text in Springer] 1997-present
Phonetica [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available] 1998-present
Phonology [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available] 1997-present
[Full-text in JSTOR] 1988-2007
For other linguistics journals: [Click here]
African Linguistics:
Africana Linguistica [abstracts in LLBA]
Afrika und √úbersee [abstracts in LLBA]

Click to see catalog record

(no full-text)

Annual Publication in African Linguistics

(formerly Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere)

[abstracts in LLBA]

Click to see catalog record

(no full-text)

Journal of African Languages and Linguistics [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available]
Journal of African Cultural Studies

[abstracts in LLBA]

[Full-text available]

Journal of West African Languages [abstracts in LLBA]

Click to see catalog record

Mandenkan [Full-text available]
Nordic Journal of African Studies [Full-text available]
South African Journal of African Languages [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available]
Southern African Linguistics and Applied Languages [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available]
Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika Click to see catalog record

(print only)

Studies in African Linguistics [abstracts in LLBA]
[Full-text available]


Conference proceedings provide an alternative venue to find research materials from books and journals. Finding them in IUWorldcat requires a keyword search using the conference name.

Africana Linguistics Conferences:

  • Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL) (full-text proceedings [2006-present]; search IUWorldcat by keyword to find others)
  • Linguistic Association of Nigeria (search IUWorldcat by keyword to find proceedings in print)
  • Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium (search IUWorldcat by keyword to find proceedings in print)
  • World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL) (search IUWorldcat by title to find others)

    Other Conferences:

  • Berkeley Linguistics Society (BLS) (click to see catalog record)
  • Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS) (click to see catalog record)
  • International Conference on Historical Linguistics (search IUWorldcat by keyword to find proceedings)
  • North East Linguistics Society (NELS) (search IUWorldcat by keyword to find proceedings in print)
  • West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) (full-text proceedings [2005-present]; click to see catalog record)


    Theses and dissertations are valuable scholarly works that provide extensive research-driven information on a particular topic. There are several ways to access theses and dissertations on African linguistics:

  • Proquest Theses & Dissertations A&I contains many full-text dissertations for numerous universities to IU users and provides abstracts for most colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • Africana Electronic Theses & Dissertations (ETDs) web page provides links to repositories of ETDs all over the world. It also provides links to major indexing/abstracting databases like Proquest, Digital Africana Theses and Dissertations (DATAD), and Index to Theses (UK).
  • IUWorldcat is the best resource for locating theses and dissertations in print and ordering them through Inter-Library Loan.

    Use IUWorldcat to identify useful titles. Books on African linguistics include several types:

    General Works (books which cover Africa or a region of the continent generally)
  • African languages: an introduction / edited by Bernd Heine and Derek Nurse. NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • African voices: an introduction to the languages and linguistics of Africa / edited by Vic Webb and Kembo-Sure. NY: Oxford University Press, c2000.

    Festschriften (essays in honor or memory of an important individual)
  • African linguistics: essays in memory of M.W.K. Semikenke / edited by Didier L. Goyvaerts. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 1985.
  • Living through languages: an African tribute to René Dirven / edited by Christa van der Walt. Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2006.

    Grammars & Language-Specific Books (books which focus specifically on a particular language or dialect)
  • Introduction to the morphology of Setswana / Caspar J.H. Krüger. Muenchen: LINCOM Europa, 2006.
  • Le dialecte peul du fouladou: (Casamance-Sénégal): étude phonétique et phonologique / Gloria Lex. Muenchen: LINCOM Europa, 2001.

    Book Series: (use the catalog's advanced search function and search "Title:")
  • Indiana University Working Papers in Linguistics (IU Linguistics Club)
  • LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics (LINCOM Europa)
  • Mande languages & Linguistics (Rüdiger Köppe Verlag)
  • Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington publications in linguistics (SIL/UT-Arlington)
  • Topics in Chadic Linguistics (Rüdiger Köppe Verlag)
  • Trends in African Linguistics (Africa World Press)
  • Trends in Linguistics (Mouton de Gruyter)


  • Ethnologue: Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) maintains this database of reference information on over 6900 languages. Contains extensive information about each language, number of speakers, alternative names, locations spoken, etc. Also has a bibliography of SIL publications on or in each language.
  • Linguist: The Linguist list is a community of linguists and linguistic researchers online which provides support for the linguistics profession. Contains information about conferences, publications, topics of debate and discussion, language technology, and more.
  • OAIster: This search engine provides access to millions of open access scholarly works online. Using it, one can find dissertations and theses, journal articles, datasets, and more.
  • SIL Electronic Survey Reports: Provides full-text access to surveys, word lists, and other reports on different areas of the world. There is substantial coverage of African countries and languages.
  • World Atlas of Language Structures: "WALS is a large database of structural (phonological, grammatical, lexical) properties of languages gathered from descriptive materials (such as reference grammars) by a team of more than 40 authors..." WALS website, 2009.
  • Web Portals - the following provide lists of links to various language and linguistic resources online:
    Electronic Bibliography for African Languages and Linguistics (EBALL) (Jouni Filip Maho)
    African Language Resources on the Internet (Yuusuf S. Caruso, Columbia University Libraries)
    African Languages / Linguistics (Karen Fung, Stanford University Libraries)

    Encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, and other reference works can provide introductory and basic information on a variety of topics, whether a language or a linguistic concept.

  • Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (click to see catalog record)
  • International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (available online; click to see catalog record)
  • Linguistic Atlases:
    - Atlas of the world's languages / Christopher Moseley and R.E. Asher. NY: Routledge, 2007. (click to see catalog record)
    - Linguistic atlas of South Africa: language in space and time / I.J. van der Merwe and J.H. van der Merwe. Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2006. (click to see catalog record)

    Dictionaries and grammars are purchased for as many African languages as possible. Vernacular texts and linguistic materials are collected selectively in other languages and in creoles. Linguistic materials and vernacular texts and literature are collected in depth for the following languages which are a national resource in the U.S., are national or widely used languages in Sub-Saharan Africa, and are used in research at Indiana University:
    Afrikaans Hausa Ndebele Shona Tswana Xhosa
    Bambara Igbo Rundi Somali Tumbuka Yoruba
    Chewa Kpelle Rwanda Sotho Twi (Akan) Zulu
    Fula Liingala Sango Swahili Wolof

    Materials in Amharic are not a focus since Michigan State University maintains a comprehensive collection.

    The Liberian Collections Project has brought together a strong collection of Liberian language materials. It is especially strong for Kpelle, Loma and Vai. Other Liberian languages, e.g. Bassa, Kissi, Kru, Grebo, et. al., are also represented in this collection.

    To find material, try searching in the catalog by the English name of the language without prefixes, such as Zulu (not isiZulu), Swahili (not Kiswahili), or Chewa (not Chichewa). It may also help to use the word "language", e.g. "Wolof language" or "Hausa language".

    last updated: 1/9/2013