The Mara Project (Tanzania)

Linguistic Variation as an Indicator of Historical Relations and Language Contact:
A comparative grammar of four Mara Bantu languages (Tanzania)

Funded by Kone Foundation. Start April 2016, envisaged funding period four years.

Researchers: Lotta Aunio (University of Helsinki), Rasmus Bernander (University of Helsinki), Timothy Roth (University of Helsinki), Antti Laine (University of Helsinki). Associated: Hannah Gibson (SOAS, Univ. of London)


The Mara Project currently underway at the Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, carries out research into four South Mara (Bantu) languages, Ikoma, Nata, Isenye and Ngoreme, spoken in the Mara region in northern Tanzania. The central goal of the project is the documentation of these endangered languages.

The project is funded by Koneen Säätiö and is carried out in collaboration with the Department of World Cultures at the University of Helsinki and University of London (SOAS). During the four year project (2016-2019), field work will be conducted in Tanzania and the data will be used to compile comparative grammatical description of the languages. Research methodology in language contact will also be developed. In addition, two comparative PhD dissertations will be composed as part of the project – one on the TAM (tense-aspect-mood) systems and the other on morphosyntax.

The project will additionally contribute to the local development of these languages, providing valuable data for use in the creation of writing systems and in literacy campaigns.