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Team > Prof. Dr. Gabriele Sommer

Sommer_Gabriele Prof. Dr. Gabriele Sommer

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
African Linguistics I

Gabriele Sommer has been professor of African Linguistics since 2008. After a first degree in African Linguistics, English and Phonetics (Magister) in 1988, she worked on language endangerment in Africa. As a Junior Fellow at the Graduate School on Intercultural Relations in Africa (DFG), she received her PhD in 1993 with a sociolinguistic study on language shift in north-western Botswana.

She then joined a DFG project on Setswana Language Spread at the Goethe University Frankfurt, before working in an interdisciplinary research project on arid regions in Africa at the University of Cologne (SFB, DFG). While Assistant Professor at the University of Bayreuth, she also taught at universities in Russia and Sweden and completed her habilitation on Historical Language Contacts between Afroasiatic and Nilosaharan Languages in 2003. Her research foci are Sociolinguistics, Historical Linguistics and Language Contact with a regional focus in Southern Africa. Currently, she coordinates a DAAD exchange programme and an online language course project on Xhosa in collaboration with colleagues from South Africa (East London).

Academic Degrees

2003 Habilitation: Faculty of Languages & Literature, University of Bayreuth


Doctorate: Graduate School (DFG) 'Intercultural Relations in Africa', University of Bayreuth

1988 Magister degree in African Linguistics (Afrikanistik)/ English/ Phonetics, University of Cologne

Professional Background

Since 2008

Professor for African Linguistics I (Niger-Congo languages), University of Bayreuth


Visiting Scholar at Lomonossov Moscow State University

2000 Visiting Scholar, Institute of Oriental and African Languages, University of Göteborg

2000 – 2007

Research Fellow, African Linguistics II, University of Bayreuth

1996 – 1999

Research Associate (SFB 389) 'Cultural and Environmental Change in Arid Africa', University of Cologne

1994 – 1996 Research Associate, Institute of African Linguistics, Goethe University Frankfurt

1991 – 1993 Junior fellow, Graduate School 'Intercultural Relations in Africa', University of Bayreuth

1988 – 1990 Research Associate, Institute of African Linguistics (Afrikanistik), University of Cologne


  • Dean of Studies of the Faculty of Languages & Literature, University of Bayreuth 2015-2018
  • Since 2015 Project coordinator for a DAAD exchange programme with the University of Fort Hare, South Africa
  • 2012 – 2016 Chairwoman, Fachverband Afrikanistik
  • 2009 – 2011 Gender Representative, Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS)
  • Since 2009 Senior Fellow, Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS)
  • Research visits in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa)

Faculty of Languages & Literatures
African Linguistics I

Specialisation: Niger Congo; Bantu language family; contacts between Bantu and Khoesan languages. Descriptive and Comparative Aspects of Empirical Research on Speech Acts; on Address Forms; and Systems in African Languages.

Topics: Sociolinguistics; the relationship between speakers, their linguistic repertoires and multilingual societies and settings in Africa; language contact and endangerment; the reconstruction of cultural history; and language comparison from synchronic and diachronic perspectives.

Areal foci: southern Africa (Bantu languages), north-eastern Africa (Afroasiatic-Nilosaharan contacts).


Faculty of Languages & Literatures
African Linguistics I



Speech Acts and Speech Events in African Languages
publ: Sommer, Gabriele; Vierke, Clarissa
Köln : Köppe, 2011 . - (Topics in Interdisciplinary African Studies; 23)

Sommer, Gabriele
Sprachhistorische Rekonstruktionen zu den Ursprüngen von Getreidenutzung und Gartenbau in ...
Köln : Rüdiger Köppe, 2001 . - (Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika : Beihefte; 11)

Sommer, Gabriele
Das Innere eines Ortes sehen : Dokumentation einer Sprachforschung in Botswana
Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang, 1999 . - (Schriften zur Afrikanistik; 1)

Article in a journal (peer-reviewed)

Mapunda, Gastor; Sommer, Gabriele
When Shikamoo Mama/Baba replaces Tukuwoni Mawu/Dadi : an account of shifting access ritual ...
in Linguistik online vol. 84 (2017) issue 5
doi:10.13092/lo.84.3847 ...

Sommer, Gabriele; Vossen, Rainer
Schnalzwörter im Yei (R.41)
in Afrika und Übersee vol. 75 (1992) . - pp. 1-42

Sommer, Gabriele; Brenzinger, Matthias; Heine, Bernd
Language death in Africa
in Diogenes vol. 39 (1991) issue 153. - pp. 19-44
doi:10.1177/039219219103915303 ...

Article in a journal (not peer-reviewed)

Sommer, Gabriele
Towards the limits of archaeolinguistic reconstruction or how to solve a major multidiscip ...
in Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere vol. 65 (2001) . - pp. 169-200

Sommer, Gabriele
International symposium on language death in East Africa, Bad Homburg, January 8-12, 1990
in Swahili Language and Society : Notes and News vol. 7 (1990) . - pp. 38-39

Article in a book (peer-reviewed)

Sommer, Gabriele; Lupapula, Abel
Comparing Address Forms and Systems : some Examples from Bantu
In: Marlo, Michael R. ; Adams, Nikki B. ; Green, Christopher R. ; Morrison, Michelle ; Purvis, Tristan M. (ed.): Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics : African Languages in Context - Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 2012. - pp. 266-277

Sommer, Gabriele
The concept of style/register shifting in multilingual African contexts
In: Brenzinger, Matthias ; Fehn, Anne-Maria (ed.): Proceedings of the 6th World Congress of African Linguistics, Cologne, 17 - 21 August 2009 - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2012. - pp. 611-622

Fessler, Frank; Sommer, Gabriele
Zur Konzeptualisierung von Vergangenheit im Bantu : Areallinguistische Vergleiche im südli ...
In: Kramer, Raija ; Tröbs, Holger ; Kastenholz, Raimund (ed.): Afrikanische Sprachen im Fokus : Linguistische Beiträge zum 19. Afrikanistentag, Mainz, 8.-10. April 2010 - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2011. - pp. 75-92

Sommer, Gabriele
Feldbau im Schatten des „Fruchtbaren Halbmonds“ : ein Beitrag zur Kultur- und Wirtschaftsg ...
In: Egbert, Henrik ; Jöckel, Andrea ; Kühme, Walter ; Vierke, Ulf (ed.): Afrika im Wandel : Tagungsband des DFG Graduiertenkollegs "Interkulturelle Beziehungen in Afrika" - Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Forschung, 2001. - pp. 151-161

Sommer, Gabriele; Vossen, Rainer
Language gain and language loss : the spread of Setswana in Ngamiland
In: Batibo, Herman M. ; Smieja, Birgit (ed.): Botswana : the Future of the Minority Languages - Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2000. - pp. 129-151 . - (Duisburger Arbeiten zur Sprach- und Kulturwissenschaft; 40)

Sommer, Gabriele
Towards an ethnography of language shift : goals and methods
In: Pütz, Martin (ed.): Language Choices : Conditions, Constraints, and Consequences - Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1997. - pp. 55-76 . - (Impact; 1)

Sommer, Gabriele; Vossen, Rainer
Dialects, sociolects or simply lects? : the Maa language in time perspective
In: Spear, Thomas ; Waller, Richard (ed.): Being Maasai : Ethnicity and Identity in East Africa - London, Nairobi and Athens: James Currey, EAEP, Ohio University Press, 1993. - pp. 25-37

Brenzinger, Matthias; Heine, Bernd; Sommer, Gabriele
Language death in Africa
In: Robins, Robert H. ; Uhlenbeck, Eugenius M. (ed.): Endangered Languages - Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers, 1991. - pp. 19-44

Article in a book (not peer-reviewed)

Sommer, Gabriele
Variation in Shiyeyi (Botswana/Namibia)
In: Kramer, Raija ; Kießling, Roland (ed.): Mechthildian approaches to Afrikanistik : advances in language based research on Africa ; Festschrift für Mechthild Reh - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2017. - pp. 321-337

Sommer, Gabriele
Bantu-Khoesan Language Contacts in Northern Botswana
In: Vossen, Rainer (ed.): The Khoesan Languages - London and New York: Routledge, 2013. - pp. 444-446

Sommer, Gabriele; Widlok, Thomas
The sociolinguistic situation of Khoesan languages today
In: Vossen, Rainer (ed.): The Khoesan Languages - London and New York: Routledge, 2013. - pp. 479-480

Vierke, Clarissa; Sommer, Gabriele
Speech Acts and Speech Events in African Languages
In: Sommer, Gabriele ; Vierke, Clarissa (ed.): Speech Acts and Speech Events in African Languages - Cologne: Köppe, 2011. - pp. 11-40 . - (Topics in Interdisciplinary African Studies; 23)

Sommer, Gabriele
"Familiensache Höflichkeit" : Beobachtungen zum Ausdruck sozialer Distanz und Nähe in afri ...
In: Winkelmann, Kerstin ; Ibriszimow, Dymitr (ed.): Zwischen Bantu und Burkina : Festschrift für Gudrun Miehe zum 65. Geburtstag - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2006. - pp. 235-251

Sommer, Gabriele
Western Savanna (K, R)
In: Nurse, Derek ; Philippson, Gerard (ed.): The Bantu Languages - London: Routledge, 2003. - pp. 566-580 . - (Routledge language family series; 4)

Brunk, Karsten; Ibriszimow, Dymitr; Sommer, Gabriele
Towards a comparative Study of Language Contacts and their Stratification in the Sahel and ...
Nicolai, Robert ; Zima, Peter: Lexical and structural diffusion : interplay of internal and external factors of language developement in the West African Sahel - Nice: Univ. de Nice, Faculté des Lettres, 2002. - pp. 65-78 . - (Corpus; 1)

Sommer, Gabriele
Aspects of Yeyi (R 41) verbal morphology
In: Vossen, Rainer ; Mietzner, Angelika ; Meißner, Antje (ed.): "Mehr als nur Worte ..." : Afrikanistische Beiträge zum 65. Geburtstag von Franz Rottland - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2000. - pp. 622-638

Sommer, Gabriele
Reconstructing the past : historical linguistics, contact-induced change, language shift a ...
In: Brenzinger, Matthias (ed.): Endangered Languages in Africa - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 1998. - pp. 39-70

Sommer, Gabriele
Sprachgewinn und Sprachverlust : zur Ausbreitung des Tswana in Ngamiland (Botswana)
In: Seibert, Uwe (ed.): Afrikanische Sprachen zwischen Gestern und Morgen : Beiträge zur Dokumentation, Klassifikation und Rekonstruktion - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 1997. - pp. 105-132 . - (Frankfurter afrikanistische Blätter; 8)

Sommer, Gabriele; Vossen, Rainer
Linguistic Variation in Siyeyi
In: Traill, Anthony ; Vossen, Rainer ; Biesele, Megan (ed.): The Complete Linguist : Papers in memory of Patrick J. Dickens - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 1995. - pp. 407-479

Sommer, Gabriele
Sprachwechsel im südlichen Afrika : Fallbeispiele und Interpretationen
In: Fleisch, Axel ; Otten, Dirk (ed.): Sprachkulturelle und historische Forschungen in Afrika : Beiträge zum 11. Afrikanistentag, Köln, 19.-21. September 1994 - Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 1995. - pp. 305-326

Sommer, Gabriele
A survey on Language Death in Africa
In: Brenzinger, Matthias (ed.): Language Death : Factual and theoretical explorations with special reference to East Africa - Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992. - pp. 301-418 . - (Contributions to the Sociology of Language; 64)

Sommer, Gabriele
Gradueller Sprachwechsel in Ägypten und Botswana : zwei Fallbeispiele
In: Mendel, Daniela ; Claudi, Ulrike; Institut für Afrikanistik, Universität zu Köln (ed.): Ägypten im afro-orientalischen Kontext : Aufsätze zur Archäologie, Geschichte und Sprache eines unbegrenzten Raumes ; Gedenkschrift Peter Behrens - Köln, 1991. - pp. 351-368 . - (Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere; Sondernr. 1991)


Sommer, Gabriele
Rezensionsartikel: Marcello Lamberti. Die Nordsomali-Dialekte. Eine synchronische Beschrei ...
Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere
reviewed: Lamberti, Marcello: Die Nordsomali-Dialekte : eine synchronische Beschreibung. Heidelberg, 1988

Doctoral thesis

Sommer, Gabriele
Ethnographie des Sprachwechsels : Sozialer Wandel und Sprachverhalten bei den Yeyi (Botswa ...
Köln, Köppe, 1995(thesis, 1994, Universität Bayreuth, Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)


Faculty of Languages & Literatures
African Linguistics I

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Sommer
African Linguistics (Lehrstuhl Afrikanistik I)

University of Bayreuth
95440 Bayreuth 
Room: 1.07 (GW I)
Fax: +49 (0)921 / 55-3641

Phone: 0921 / 55-3557
E-mail: gabriele.sommer@uni-bayreuth.de

Webmaster: Olutosin Akinwumi

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