Philip Jaggar’s current research interests cover several different areas of descriptive-analytical linguistics. These studies present new discoveries and/or analyses for Hausa (mainly) and Kanuri (see publications page for relevant articles), and they include: 

  1. A unified account of special focus marking in historical narrative and wh-/focus expressions.
  2. The syntax and semantics of focus and interrogative constructions in Hausa and related Chadic languages, within a contemporary theoretical framework.
  3. Adverbial quantification and negative-polarity elements. 
  4. Performative constructions.
  5. Metaphorical extensions of the verbs ‘eat’ and ‘drink’.
  6. Direct/morphological and indirect/periphrastic causatives in Hausa.
  7. Reclassifying Hausa subordinating conjunctions (e.g., ‘after you return…’) and adverbs (e.g., ‘he’s behind’) as prepositions.
  8. Case-marking in Kanuri.
  9. The linguistic expression of causation in Hausa (lexical, morphological and periphrastic).

Jointly-funded DFG/AHRC project: “A study of Old Kanembu in Early West African Qur’anic Manuscripts and Islamic Recitations”


Philip Jaggar was principal applicant and researcher on the original related project funded by the (AHRC) Arts and Humanities Research Council (£287,000, 2005-08). Other members of the research team were Dr Dmitry Bondarev (researcher), and three research assistants—Dr Abba Isa Tijani, Dr Daniel Vazquez-Paluch, and Ahmad Achtar. The database for the initial project consisted of some manuscripts discovered by Professor A. D. H. Bivar in northern Nigeria in the late 1950’s—manuscript copies of fragments of the Qur’an with glosses in Kanuri in Arabic script, a major Nilo-Saharan language spoken around Lake Chad in West Africa. In January 2009, SOAS was awarded £381,730 for the above follow-up project as part of a joint framework of agreement between the (German) Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the AHRC to fund collaboration between German- and UK-based humanities researchers. The German element involves Professor Roland Kiessling (main applicant), Professor Michael Friedrich, and Dr Doris Löhr (all based at the Asien-Afrika Institüt, Hamburg University).



A number of major languages of sub-Saharan Africa have a long and rich history of writing in Arabic script (Ajami). Possibly the oldest known Ajami manuscripts date back more than 300 years and are found in commentaries on the Qur'an, written in a pre-modern variety of Kanuri known as "Old Kanembu". In 2005, during the course of a field trip to the Kanuri-speaking area of northeastern Nigeria, Dmitry Bondarev and Abba Tijani came upon a largely undocumented sacred language—Tarjumo (< Arabic tarjama 'translate, interpret')—used by Borno Muslim scholars to deliver religious recitations and commentaries mainly on religious texts in Arabic, especially the Qur'an. Tarjumo, together with the manuscripts, represents "Old Kanembu", and the fact that it is unintelligible to speakers of modern Kanuri attests to its antiquity—it is at least 600 years old on linguistic and historical evidence. With the significant discovery of this quasi-diglossic Tarjumo corpus, scholars are now in the position to extract and understand much more of the linguistic evolution of Kanuri.