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Serge Sagna
Postdoctoral Research Fellow



My research is concerned primarily with nominal classification systems with focus on morphosyntax and semantics of noun class systems of the Niger‑Congo type. I am a Research Fellow in language acquisition and morphology.



  • University of York
    April 2017-Present
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Child language acquisition
  • University of Surrey
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Future Research Leaders Scheme
    Verb classification
  • University of Manchester
    Postdoctoral Research Assistance
    Language Documentation
  • SOAS (University of London)
    PhD in Linguistics
    Morphosyntax and semantic categorisation of the Eegimaa noun class system.



My current research investigates children’s acquisition of morphology and noun phrase agreement in Eegimaa, a Jóola language of the Atlantic (Niger‑Congo) family spoken in Southern Senegal. This research is part of an ESRC/AHRC funded project with Dunstan Brown and Marilyn Vihman. Prior to this, I researched the parallels between the nominal and verbal classification systems in Eegimaa as part of a grant funded by the ESRC Future Research Leaders and held at the Surrey Morphology Group. This was preceded by a research project in language documentation for which I documented some of the most Endangered linguistic and cultural material of Eegimaa. For my PhD research undertaken at SOAS, University of London, I research the morphosyntactic and semantic categories  of the Eegimaa noun class system.


  • 2017(Apr)-Present
    ESRC Research Grant - funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
    Project:  Matches and mismatches in nominal morphology and agreement: Learning from the acquisition of Eegimaa
  • 2017 Feb & March
    Newton Fund, University of York, UK
    Project: Preserving local culture and enabling wider communication: the case of Eegimaa
  • 2012-2015    
    Future Research Leaders Postdoctoral Fellowship - funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK.
    Project: Verb classification in Gújjolaay Eegimaa
  • 2008-2011    
    Individual Postdoctoral Research Fellowship - funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), UK.
    Project: The Documentation of Gújjolaay Eegimaa
  • 2005-2006                                               
    Fieldwork Travel Grant - funded by ELDP, UK.
    Project: PhD research and documentation of Gújjolaay Eegimaa.
  • 2004
    University of London Central Research Fund. University of London, UK.
    Project: data collection for PhD research
  • 2003-2007
    Bursary for a PhD in Linguistics as part of Endangered Languages Academic Programme – SOAS, University of London, UK

External activities

Invited talks and conferences


  • 8th World Congress of African Linguistics. “Nominal and verbal number in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal (Atlantic, Niger‑Congo)”. Kyoto University, Japan, 24 August.
  • 11th Meeting of the Association for Linguistic Typology. “Overt verb classification in an African noun class system”. University of New Mexico, USA, 3 August.


  • Gender and classifiers: cross linguistic perspectives. “This is where you put it: shape in the categorisation of body parts in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class/gender system”. University of Surrey, UK, 17 January.
  • Syntax of the World's Languages 6. “Valency, transitivity, and voice in Jóola Banjal (a.k.a Gújjolaay Eegimaa” (with Alain Christian Bassène, Denis Creissels and Serge Sagna). University of Pavia, Italy, 8-10 September.
  • 5th UK cognitive Linguistics Conference. “Related categorisations of entities and events in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class system”. Lancaster University, UK, 29 July.
  • 45th Annual Conference on African Linguistics. “Transitivity hierarchy distinctions in non-finite verbs of classes e- and ja- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. University of Kansas,USA, 19 April.


  • Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory 4. “Taxonomic hierarchies in Gújjolaay Eegimaa: how helpful are Berlin’s universal criteria”? SOAS (University of London), UK, 7 December.
  • Plants, animal and words: a multidisciplinary workshop. “Exploring linguistic and taxonomic classification of plants in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. SOAS (University of London), UK, 2 September (Invited - Keynote speaker).
  • 54th Linguistic Association of Great Britain. “Aspects of the categorization of non-finite verbs in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. SOAS (University of London), UK, 30 August.
  • 10th Meeting of the Association for Linguistic Typology. “Syntactic and semantic agreement in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa noun class system”. Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig), Germany, 15 August.
  • 43rd Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics. “Variations in transitivity hierarchy between non‑finite verbs in classes e- and ba- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa/Banjal”.  Leiden University, The Netherlands, 26 August.
  • Endangered Languages Week – Africa Day. “Why are they named after death? Proper names in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. SOAS (University of London), UK, 20 May.
  • 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation. “Documenting Ethnobotanical knowledge among Gújjolaay Eegimaa speakers”. University of Hawai’i at Manoa, USA, 1 March.
  • South East Morphology Meeting. “The morphophonology of noun class markers in Gújjolaay Eegimaa and other Jóola languages”. University of Surrey, UK, 25 January.


  • 3rd Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory. “Semantic categorisations in the Gújjolaay Eegimaa collectives and distributives”.  SOAS (University of London), 20 November.


  • Departmental seminar series (Linguistic Colloquium). “Overt verb classification in Gújjolaay Eegimaa (Banjal)”. Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, 7 December (Invited).
  • 40th Colloquium on African languages and linguistics. “Number and noun class in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. University of Leiden, The Netherlands, 24 August.
  • Categorizing Human Experience: Classification in Languages and Knowledge Systems - COST Action 31 (Stability and Adaptation of Classification Systems in a Cross-Cultural Perspective ‑ Final Conference). “Towards a Typology of Overt Verb Classification” (with Eva Schultze-Berndt). Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales - Paris, France, 15‑16 May.
  • People classifying people - COST Action 31 (Stability and Adaptation of Classification Systems in a Cross-Cultural Perspective). “The classification of humans in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, 6-7 March.
  • The uses of systems of grammatical classification - COST Action 31 (Stability and Adaptation of Classification Systems in a Cross-Cultural Perspective). “The semantic bases of noun class 9 ga- in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. Åarhus University, Denmark, 5-7 February.


  • 50th Linguistic Association of Great Britain (LAGB) - “Noun class semantics in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”.  The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, 6-8 September.


  • 10th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference. “Do Noun class markers classify verbs in Gújjolaay Eegimaa?”. Krakow University, Poland, 15-20 July.
  • Atlantic languages, typological or genetic unit? “Noun class semantics in Gújjolaay Eegimaa: body parts semantics”. University of Hamburg, Germany, 17‑18 February.


  • The Representation of Actions, States and Events in Classification Systems, Universals and Typological Diversity.  “The semantics of the use of noun class markers with verb stems in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”. Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 8-10 December.
  • 36th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics. “The semantics of classes 5 bu-/bi- & ba- ; 7 fu-/fi- & fa- and 9 ga-.”  Leiden University, The Netherlands, 28-30 August.


  • 35th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics. “The ‘postpréfixe’ and noun class assignment in Gújjolaay Eegimaa”.  Leiden University, The Netherlands, 29-31 August.

Contact details

Serge Sagna
Research Fellow
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
Vanbrugh College C Block
Room V/C/107

Tel: (0)1904 322475