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Laura Downing


Laura Downing
African languages and linguistics
+46 31 786 5263

Room number: D428B
Postal Address: Box 200, 40530 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Renströmsgatan 6 , 41256 Göteborg

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

About Laura Downing

  • Function: Researcher, teacher
  • ORCID-ID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5609-4892


Laura J. Downing earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990, writing her dissertation under Charles W. Kisseberth on Problems in Jita Tonology.

From 1990-2001 she held visiting lecturer positions at the University of Michigan, UC-San Diego, UBC, the University of Illinois, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania.

From 2001-2012 she was a research fellow and project leader at the ZAS in Berlin, where her work concentrated on the focus-syntax-prosody interface in Bantu languages, especially Chewa, Tumbuka and Zulu.

Laura Downing has been awarded a Professor-II position at the Dept. of Language and Linguistics, University of the Arctic, UiTromsø, Norway, for 1 August 2015 through 31 December 2019.


Laura J. Downing's research interests center on the formal analysis of the prosody of African languages, including prosodic morphology, lexical tone systems and phrasal prosody.

Her work has been supported by grants from the NSF (UC-Berkeley), the NWO (Guest research fellowship, University of Leiden) and the DFG (BantuPsyn project).

These grants (and funding from the ZAS) have supported field work trips to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

From 2016-2019 she has led a research project on Somali and prosodic typology funded by the Swedish Vetenskapsrådet. https://sprak.gu.se/english/research/research-projects/externally-funded/somali-and-prosodic-typology+

She is on the editorial boards of Phonology and of Africana Linguistica, and on the Steering Committees of the Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL) and of the Manchester Phonology Meeting.

Latest publications

Tumbuka prosody : Between tone and stress
Laura J. Downing
Theory and description in African Linguistics: Selected papers from the 47th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. March 23-March 26, 2016, Berkeley, Calif. / edited by Emily Clem, Peter Jenks, Hannah Sande, Berlin, Language Science Press, Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

Prosodic restructuring in Somali nominals constructions
Laura J. Downing, Morgan Nilsson
African linguistics across the disciplines: Selected papers from the 48th Annual Conference on African Linguistics / edited by Samson Lotven, Silvina Bongiovanni, Phillip Weirich, Robert Botne, Samuel Gyasi Obeng, Berlin, Language Science Press, Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

Disentangling tone, intonation and register in selected Bantu tone languages
Laura J. Downing
Kawauso: Simmanden in Språkströmmen. Festskrift till professor Yasuko Nagano-Madsen / Misuzu Shimotori och Fusae Ivarsson (red.), Göteborg, Göteborgs universitet, Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

Clausal morphosyntax and information structure
Laura J. Downing, Lutz Marten
The Bantu Languages / edited by Mark Van de Velde, Koen Bostoen, Derek Nurse, and Gérard Philippson, New York, Routledge, Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

Optimality Theory and Prosodic Morphology
Laura J. Downing
The Oxford Handbook on Morphological Theory / edited by Jenny Audring and Francesca Masini , New York, Oxford University Press, Chapter in book 2019
Chapter in book

The phonetics of NCh in Tumbuka and its implications for diachronic change.
Laura J. Downing, Silke Hamann
Papers in Historical Phonology, Magazine article 2018
Magazine article

Differential object marking in Chichewa
Laura J. Downing
The Diachronic Typology of Differential Argument Marking / Ilja A. Seržant & Alena Witzlack-Makarevich (eds.), Berlin, Language Science Press, Chapter in book 2018
Chapter in book

The Phonology of Chichewa
Laura J. Downing, Al Mtenje
Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press, Book 2017

Convergence of prosody under contact: two African case studies
Laura J. Downing
Språkens magi: Festskrift for Ingmar Söhrman / edited by Andrea Castro & Anton Granvik, Ester Fernández Incógnito, Sara LIndblad, Andreas Romeborn & Katharina Vajta, Göteborg, Göteborgs universitet, Institutionen för språk och litterarturer, Chapter in book 2017
Chapter in book

Showing 21 - 30 of 53


Information Structure in Bantu Languages
Laura J. Downing, Larry M. Hyman
Oxford Handbook of Information Structure, Oxford, Oxford University Press, Chapter in book 2015
Chapter in book


The problems of adverbs in Zulu
Lisa L-S Cheng, Laura J. Downing
Above and Beyond the Segments. Experimental linguistics and phonetics. Caspers, Johanneke, Yiya Chen, Willemijn Heeren, Jos Pacilly, Niels O. Schiller and Ellen van Zanten (eds.), Amsterdam, John Benjamins, Chapter in book 2014
Chapter in book

Indefinite subjects in Durban Zulu
Laura J. Downing, Lisa L.-S. Cheng
ZAS Papers in Linguistics, Conference paper 2014
Conference paper

Melodic verb tone patterns in Jita
Laura J. Downing
Africana Linguistica, Journal article 2014
Journal article


Rethinking the Universality of the Stress-Focus Correlation.
Laura J. Downing
Bantu Languages and Linguistics. Papers in Memory of Dr. Rugatiri D. K. Mekacha / Karsten Legère (ed.), Eckersdorf, Breitinger, Chapter in book 2013
Chapter in book

Issues in the phonology-syntax interface in African languages
Laura J. Downing
Selected Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: Linguistic Interfaces in African Languages edited by Ọlanikẹ Ọla Orie and Karen W. Sanders. Conference dates: March 15-17, 2012, New Orleans, Conference paper 2013
Conference paper

Clefts in Durban Zulu
Laura J. Downing, Lisa S. Cheng
Cleft Structures / edited by Katharina Hartmann, Tonjes Veenstra, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, Chapter in book 2013
Chapter in book

The focus prosody of Chichewa and the Stress-Focus constraint: a response to Samek-Lodovici (2005)
Laura J. Downing, Bernd Pompino-Marschall
Natural language and linguistic theory, Journal article 2013
Journal article


On the (non-)congruence of focus and prominence in Tumbuka
Laura J. Downing
Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: African Languages in Context edited by Michael R. Marlo, Nikki B. Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison, and Tristan M. Purvis, Conference paper 2012
Conference paper

Prosodic domains do not match spell-out domains
Laura J. Downing, Lisa L.-S. Cheng
McGill Working Papers in Linguistics. Proceedings from Phonology in the 21st Century: In Honour of Glyne Piggott J. Loughran and A. McKillen (eds.), Conference contribution 2012
Conference contribution

Showing 21 - 30 of 53

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