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Malin Petzell


Malin Petzell
Researcher , Deputy Head
African Languages
+46 31 786 1947

Room number: C549
Postal Address: Box 200, 40530 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Renströmsgatan 6 , 41255 Göteborg

Department of Languages & Literatures (More Information)
Box 200
405 30 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Renströmsgatan 6 , 412 55 Göteborg

About Malin Petzell

Researcher in African Languages and Associate Head of Department for Doctoral Studies



I am a researcher in African linguistics at the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, where I am also Associate Head of Department for Doctoral Studies.

Before returning to Sweden in July 2010, I was a post-doctoral researcher in in the Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. My research interests include Bantu languages, language description (documentation and analysis), nominal and verbal morphosyntax, aspectual classification of verbs, language endangerment, and field methods.


Research project

Current project

The semantics of verbal morphology in central Tanzanian Bantu languages: a comparative study

In most Bantu languages, tense, aspect and mood [TAM] systems are typically very complex, covering numerous morphosyntactic categories. The lexical semantics of these TAM systems, especially in combination with verb properties, is an understudied area. The individual studies that do exist do not easily allow for cross-linguistic comparison even within the Bantu family.

I will conduct a thorough analysis of the semantic construal of TAM notions and their grammatical encoding on the verb in the East Ruvu Bantu languages (Kagulu, Kami, Kwere, Kutu, Luguru and Zalamo). The project will examine the TAM systems of the sample languages by studying the forms, their basic meanings, extended functions and distribution. The language data and analyses will enhance our understanding of Bantu languages and constitute a valuable cross-linguistic documentation of this particular area of grammar; they will also feed into the ongoing debates in theoretical linguistics on TAM, and the lexicon/grammar interface both within and beyond Bantu studies.

Moreover, the analytical tools that I will develop for the relevant types of language data (e.g. semantic verb property lists and their interaction with TAM markers) could serve as standard instruments to be integrated into future work on other languages, fostering Bantu comparative work at a larger scale. Finally, we do not know what lesser-studied languages can tell us about TAM in general and what implications there may be for linguistics more broadly.

Completed project

An analysis of an endangered language - the Kami in Tanzania

This project involves the documentation and analysis of a language in danger of disappearing referred to as Kami, spoken in the Morogoro region in Tanzania, approximately 150 km from Dar es Salaam. The purpose of the project is to (1) document this endangered variety for both linguistic and speaker communities and, (2) analyse the structure of the language and relate the new findings to that which linguists currently assume to be true, especially related to comparative Bantu. As such, the project has both documentary and theoretical aims.

The study consists of a grammar of Kami, that is the phonology (the sound system), morphology (for instance inflection such as tense) and syntax (word order), and build on, as well as develop, linguistic criteria for comparing neighbouring Bantu languages. The main method is elicitation (that is to obtain data from a person), to which is added interviews and recordings of speech.

It is very important to describe undescribed languages before the process of decline has gone too far; not just for the obvious benefit of the present speakers, but also to contribute to linguistics as a science. Every described language provides us with a wider knowledge of what grammatical constructions are possible in a language, and how the human linguistic ability functions.

Latest publications

Kami G36
Malin Petzell, Lotta Aunio
The Bantu Languages. Mark Van de Velde, Koen Bostoen, Derek Nurse, Gérard Philippson (red.), London , Routledge , Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

"Att förstå tankemönster bakom kasusfunktionen" Forskar- och doktorandperspektiv på bildning
Malin Petzell
Språk för bildning / Magnus P. Ängsal (red.), Göteborg, Grundtviginstitutet vid Göteborgs universitet, Chapter in book 2015
Chapter in book

Språklig stigmatisering i Tanzanias skolor
Malin Petzell
ASLA:s skriftserie, Journal article 2013
Journal article

The under-described languages of Morogoro: A sociolinguistic survey
Malin Petzell
South African Journal of African Languages, Journal article 2012
Journal article

Showing 11 - 20 of 21


Så fångas ett flyende språk
Malin Petzell
Språktidningen, Magazine article 2011
Magazine article


Further analysis of negation in Kagulu
Malin Petzell
Bantu Languages: Analyses, Description and Theory, Conference paper 2010
Conference paper


Bootstrapping Language Description: The case of Mpiemo (Bantu A, Central African Republic)
Harald Hammarström, Christina Thornell, Malin Petzell, Torbjörn Westerlund
Proceedings of the 6th edition of the Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC 2008), 28-30 may 2008, Marrakech, Morocco,, Conference paper 2008
Conference paper


A linguistic description of Kagulu
Malin Petzell
Göteborg, Department of Oriental and African languages, Doctoral thesis 2007
Doctoral thesis


Expanding the Swahili vocabulary
Malin Petzell
Africa and Asia: Göteborg working papers on Asian and African languages and literatures, Department of Oriental and African languages, Göteborg University , Magazine article 2005
Magazine article


Unempowered but powerful – the Kagulu language of Tanzania
Malin Petzell
Habari: information om Tanzania, Magazine article 2004
Magazine article

LFG vs transformational theories: a comparison of certain phenomena in Bantu languages
Malin Petzell
Africa and Asia: Göteborg working papers on Asian and African languages and literatures, Department of Oriental and African languages, Göteborg University, Magazine article 2004
Magazine article


Swedish contributions to African linguistics: a focus on Bantu languages.
Malin Petzell
Africa & Asia: Göteborg working papers on Asian and African languages and literatures, Conference paper 2003
Conference paper

What is the function of the pre-prefix in Kagulu?
Malin Petzell
Electronic proceedings of the langue.doc conference held at Göteborg University 2003, Conference paper 2003
Conference paper

Showing 11 - 20 of 21

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