Dr Hannah Gibson

Department of Language and Linguistics
Dr Hannah Gibson



I am a Lecturer in Linguistics. Prior to joining Essex, I was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science postdoctoral researcher at Osaka University and a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SOAS University of London. My research is concerned with linguistic variation, particularly why and how languages change. Much of my work explores the syntax and semantics of the Bantu languages, with a focus on languages spoken in Eastern Africa. I am also interested in language and identity, and language use in urban contexts. My theoretical work is articulated from the perspective of the Dynamic Syntax framework – a parsing/production-oriented approach to natural language processing which aims to capture the way in which meaning is established in real time. I have previously worked as a Policy Researcher at the Westminster-based think tank Africa Research Institute, and have taught Swahili at SOAS and University College London, as well as the adult education college CityLit. I was an affiliated researcher on the Leverhulme-funded research project ‘Morphosyntactic variation in Bantu: typology, contact and change’ at SOAS, University of London (2014-18). I am currently a project member on ‘Linguistic Variation as an Indicator of Historical Relations and Language Contact: A comparative grammar of four Mara Bantu languages (Tanzania)’ which is funded by the Kone Foundation and based at the University of Helsinki under the direction of Dr Lotta Aunio (2016-19). I am also a named researcher on the project ‘Typological study of micro-variation in Bantu (Phase 2)’ (2019-2022) run by Dr Daisuke Shinagawa at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan.


  • Phd in Linguistics SOAS, University of London,

  • MA in Linguistics SOAS, University of London,

  • BA Swahili and Law SOAS, University of London,


Other academic

  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University (1/10/2017 - 1/1/2018)

  • British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Linguistics, SOAS University of London (1/10/2014 - 1/9/2017)

  • Visting Professor, Ghent University (1/2/2018 - 30/9/2018)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Syntax-semantics interface

Open to supervise

Bantu languages

Open to supervise

African languages

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Language contact

Open to supervise

Language change

Open to supervise

Language description

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Words and Sentences (LG111)

  • Understanding Data in Linguistics (LG113)

  • Semantics and Pragmatics (LG211)

  • World Language Structures (LG359)

  • Syntactic Theory II (LG614)


Journal articles (13)

Roth, T. and Gibson, H., Differential diagnoses of language change in Ngoreme, a Bantu language of Tanzania. Africana Linguistica (2019)

Gibson, H., The grammaticalisation of verb-auxiliary order in East African Bantu: from information structure to tense-aspect. Studies in Language

Gibson, H., Mapunda, G., Marten, L., Shah, S. and Taji, J., Variation in double object marking in Swahili. Swahili-Forum

Gibson, H. and Marten, L., (2019). Probing the interaction of language contact and internal innovation: four case studies of morphosyntactic change in Rangi. Studies In African Linguistics. 48 (2019), 63-92

Gibson, H. and Yoneda, N., (2018). Functions of verb reduplication and verb doubling in Swahili. Journal of Asian and African Studies. 96, 5-28

Chatzikyriakidis, S. and Gibson, H., (2017). The Bantu-Romance-Greek connection revisited: Processing constraints in auxiliary and clitic placement from a cross-linguistic perspective. Glossa. 2 (1), 1-39

Gibson, H., Guérois, R. and Marten, L., (2017). Patterns and developments in the marking of diminutives in Bantu. Nordic Journal of African Studies. 26 (4), 344-383

Seraku, T. and Gibson, H., (2016). A Dynamic Syntax modelling of Japanese and Rangi clefts: parsing incrementality and the growth of interpretation. Language Sciences. 56, 45-67

Gibson, H., (2016). A unified dynamic account of auxiliary placement in Rangi. Lingua. 184, 79-103

Marten, L. and Gibson, H., (2016). Structure building and thematic constraints in Bantu inversion constructions. Journal of Linguistics. 52 (03), 565-607

Gibson, H. and Wilhelmsen, V., (2015). Cycles of negation in Rangi and Mbugwe. Africana Linguistica. 21, 233-257

Gibson, H., (2015). The Dynamics of Structure building in Rangi: At the syntax-semantics interface. Cambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics. 8, 41-55

Gibson, H., (2013). Auxiliary placement in Rangi: A case of contact-induced change?. SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics. 16, 153-166

Books (1)

Gibson, H., (2018). Building meaning in context: A dynamic approach to Bantu clause structure. Wiley Blackwell. 9781119532255

Book chapters (5)

Bernander, R., Devos, M. and Gibson, H., The negative existential cycle in Bantu. In: The Negative Existential Cycle from a historical-comparative perspective. Editors: Hamari, A. and Veselinova, L., . Language Science Press. 1- 52

Gibson, H., Guérois, R. and Marten, L., (2019). Variation in Bantu copula constructions. In: The Grammar of Copulas Across Languages. Editors: Arché, M., Fábregas, A. and Marin, R., . Oxford University Press. 213- 242

Wald, B. and Gibson, H., (2018). Swahili and the Bantu languages. In: The World's Major Languages. Editors: Comrie, B., . Routledge. 903- 924. 9781138184824

Gibson, H., Koumbarou, A., Marten, L. and van der Wal, J., (2016). Locating the Bantu conjoint/disjoint alternation in a typology of focus marking. In: The Conjoint/Disjoint Alternation in Bantu. Editors: van der Wal, J. and Hyman, L., . Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. 61- 99. 3110490838. 9783110490831

Gibson, H. and Marten, L., (2015). Variation and grammaticalisation in Bantu complex verbal constructions: The dynamics of information growth in Swahili, Rangi and siSwati. In: Approaches to Complex Predicates. Editors: Nash, L. and Samvelian, P., . Brill. 70- 109. 9004307095. 9789004307094

Other (1)

Gibson, H., (2016).Review of: Colonialism and missionary linguistics. Journal of Linguistics. 52(1),Cambridge University Press (CUP)

Grants and funding


Bringing the outside in: Merging local language and literacy practices to enhance classroom learning and achievement

British Academy


Variation in Sesotho and Setswana as spoken in the Free State

British Academy

+44 (0) 1206 872204


4.317, Colchester Campus

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