Sam A. Mchombo


Sam A. Mchombo

Associate Professor

P: 510-229-3686


Sam Mchombo received his Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1978 from the University of London (SOAS). He pioneered studies of Chichewa and Linguistics in the University of Malawi (Chancellor College) where he was the first Chair of the (current) Department of African Languages & Linguistics. In 1984 he held appointments as visiting Fulbright scholar in Linguistics at MIT (spring) and at Stanford University (summer). He was appointed post-doctoral fellow in Linguistics at MIT during the fall semester of 1984). From January 1985 he joined the faculty of the Linguistics Program at San José State University teaching courses in Linguistics, primarily, syntax, semantics, Introduction to Linguistics, as well as courses on Computers and Language. He joined the faculty of the Department of Linguistics at the University of California Berkeley in 1988, teaching courses in Linguistics and African languages, specifically Chichewa and Kiswahili. He has held appointments as Visiting Scholar, teaching courses in African Linguistics at the University of Limpopo in South Africa, University of London (SOAS) and at Universidad de Sonora, in Mexico. From 2002 through 2013 he held an appointment as Honorary Professor in the African Studies Program at the University of Hong Kong, teaching courses in African Linguistics, and Kiswahili. He has delivered (invited speaker) conference presentations in many countries including Austria, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, and he has published articles on sports and development in Malawi, the media in southern Africa, religion and politics in Malawi, democratic transition in Malawi, language and national identity, as well as many papers on African linguistic structure and linguistic theory. He is the author of The Syntax of Chichewa, Cambridge University Press (2004), editor of Theoretical Aspects of Bantu Grammar, CSLI, Stanford (1993), and was guest editor of the journal Linguistic Analysis for a special issue on African Linguistics (1999).

From January 2010 he has been on the faculty of the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Since then his research interests have extended to issues of rights and social justice in African education. He has focused on the promotion of the use of African languages as languages of instruction, and the inclusion of African knowledge systems in the curricula of African education, addressing the issue of politics of language choice in African schools. His work is intended to contribute to the resurgence of the African renaissance, to the decolonization of education, the restoration of rights and social justice in African education. His recent publications in this area include ‘Politics of Language Choice in African Education: The case of Kenya and Malawi’, International Relations and Diplomacy Volume 5 Number 4, 2017; ‘Linguistic Rights and Conceptual Incarceration in African Education’, Alternation, Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of the Arts and Humanities and 24.2 (2017); ‘Language Scientific Knowledge and the ‘Context of Learning’ in African Education’, in Human Rights in Language and STEM Education (ed. Zehlia Babaci-Wilhite, 2016); ‘Language, Learning, and Education for All in African Education’, in Giving Space to African Voices (ed. Zehlia Babaci-Wilhite, 20140; The Use of African Languages and the Context of Learning (with Zehlia Babaci-Wilhite), Current Studies in Comparative Education, Science and Technology, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2016; Language and the contextualization of Education in Africa, Russian-American Education Forum-An Online Journal, 2014; “African Renaissance”: Reconsidering the Values of Traditional Approaches to Education in Post-colonial Rwanda (with Pui Ki Patricia Kwok), presented at the British Association for International and Comparative Education conference, University of York, September 12-14, 2018 (to appear); Decolonizing African Linguistics: Revisiting the Paradigm from Bantu Perspective, Special presentation at Workshop on Mabia Languages at the University of Vienna, July 5, 2018 (to appear); Verbal Arts as Culturally Relevant Pedagogical Tools in Math/Science Education (in press).



2004: The syntax of Chichewa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
1993: Theoretical Aspects of Bantu Grammar. Stanford, CA: CSLI (ed.)

Edited Journal:

1999: Linguistic Analysis. Special Issue on African Linguistics. Vol. 29 No. 1-2, (ed.)

Journal Articles:

2007: Religion and Politics in Malawi. Issues in Political Discourse Analysis. Vol. 1, Issue 2. 2007 pp 107-125

2006: Linear Order Constraints on Split NPs in Chichewa. Zentrum fuer Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS) Papers in Linguistics 43. 2006: 143-160, Berlin, Germany.

2006. ‘Sports and Development in Malawi.’ Soccer and Society Vol. 7, Numbers 2-3, April-July 2006. 318-338.

2003. Choppin’ Up Chichewa: Theoretical Approaches to Parsing an Agglutinative Language. Malilime: Malawian Journal of Linguistics 3. 15-34.

2001. Verbal Organization and the Study of Cognition and Culture. Malilime. Malawian Journal of Linguistics. 2. 28-46

2000. ‘The Role of the Language Teacher in the Age of Evolving Digital Technologies.’ Journal of African Language Teachers Association.Vol. 1.2. 11-26

1999. Quantification and Verb Morphology: The case of reciprocals in African Languages. Linguistic Analysis. 29: 1-2, 1999. 182-213

1999. ‘Argument structure and verbal morphology in Chichewa.’ Malilime. Malawian Journal of Linguistics. 1.57-75

1999. Double Object Constructions in Chichewa and Gitonga: A Comparative Analysis. Linguistic Analysis 29. 1-2. 1999 (Co-author, Gregorio Firmino). 214-233.

1998. Reciprocal Expressions and the Concept of Reciprocity. Linguistics and Philosophy 21 (co-authors, Mary Dalrymple, Makoto Kanazawa, Yookyung Kim, and Stanley Peters). 159-210

1998. National Identity, Democracy and the Politics of Language in Malawi and Tanzania. Journal of African Policy Studies 4.1. 33-46

1997. The Role of the Media in Fostering Democracy in Southern Africa. Journal of African Policy Studies Vol. 3. Number 2 & 3. 1-22

1995. The Lexical Integrity Principle: Evidence from Bantu. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 13. (Co-author, Joan Bresnan) 181-254.

1994. The Syntax and Semantics of the Reciprocal Construction in Ciyao. Linguistic Analysis. 24 (Co-author, Armindo Ngunga). 3-31

1993. A Formal Analysis of the Stative Construction in Bantu. Journal of African Languages & Linguistics 14.1. 5-28.

1990. The Syntax of Applicatives in Chichewa: Problems for Theta-Theoretic Asymmetry. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 8. (Co-author Alex Alsina). 493-506.

1987. Topic, Pronoun, and Agreement in Chichewa. Language 63 (Co-author, Joan Bresnan). 741-782

1983. Noncyclic Grammar. Linguistic Analysis 11 (Co-author, Al D. Mtenje). 219-236.

Reciprocal Verbs in Chichewa: A Case for Lexical Derivation. Bulletin of the School of Oriental & African Studies 43 (Co-author, Rosemary Ngalande). 570-575.

20. 1980. Dative and Passive in Chichewa: An Argument for Surface Grammar. Linguistic Analysis 6. 97-113.

Book Chapters and Conference Proceedings:

2009. Life as a linguist and language teacher from the third world. Fernandez, Zarina Estrada, Albert Alvarez Gonzalez, & Maria Belen Carpio (eds.) Ser Linguistica. Un Oficio diverso y polifacetico. Diez anos de una maestria en linguistica. Hermosillo, Sonora, Editorial Unison, 2009. Pp. 115-132.

2009. Information Structuring inside Constituents. The Case of Chichewa Split NPs. (co-author, Yukiko Morimoto). In Shaer, Benjamin, Phillippa Cook, Werner Frey, and Claudia Maienborn (eds). Dislocated Elements in Discourse. Syntactic, Semantic, and Pragmatic Perspectives. NY: Routledge. 255-283.

2007. Dislocation and Split NPs in Chichewa. In Zaenen, Annie, Jane Simpson, Tracy Holloway King, Jane Grimshaw, Joan Maling, and Chris Manning (eds.) Architectures, Rules, and Preferences: Variations on Themes by Joan Bresnan. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. 369-384.

2005. Argument Binding and Morphology in Chichewa. Texas Linguistics Society 9.

2005. Nyanja. Encyclopedia of Languages and Linguistics. 2. Volume 8. Oxford, Elsevier. Brown, Keith (ed.) 744-754

2005. The Language Situation in Malawi. Encyclopedia of Languages and Linguistics. 2. Volume 7. Oxford: Elsevier. Brown, Keith (ed.) 447-450

2005: Partitioning Discourse Information: A Case of Chichewa Split Constituents Proceedings of the LFG 05 Conference. Butt, Miriam & Tracy Holloway King (eds.) 2005. CSLI Publications. (Co-authors: Yukiko Morimoto, and Caroline Fery).

2004. Head-marking, Agreement and Partial Configurationality in Chichewa. In Aguilar, Isabel Barreras & Mirna Castro Llamas (eds.) Septimo Encuentro International de Lingueistica en el Noroeste Volume 1. Universidad de Sonora, Hermosillo, Mexico 431-444.

2004. Configuring Topic in the Left Periphery: A Case of Chichewa Split NPs. ZAS Papers in Linguistics 35.2. Proceedings of the Dislocated Elements Workshop, Berlin, Germany, November 2003. In Shaer,Benjamin, Werner Frey, & Claudia Maienborn (eds.) (Co-author, Yukiko Morimoto). 347-374.

2003. On Discontinuous Constituents in Chichewa. In Sauzet, Patrick & Zribi-Hertz, Anne (eds.) ‘Typologie des langues d’Afrique et universaux de la grammaire’ Paris: L‚Harmattan. 141-167

2002. Affixes, clitics and Bantu morphosyntax. In Amberber, Mengistu & Peter Collins (eds.). Language Universals and Variation. Perspectives on Cognitive Science 3. Westport, CT: Praeger. 185-210

2002. Argument structure, functional structure and the split ˆmorphology hypothesis. In Fernandez, Zarina Estrada, y Rosa Maria Ortiz Ciscomani (eds.) 2002. VI Encuentro Intrenacional de Linguistica en el Noroeste, University of Sonora, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. 29-53.

2001. Effects of Head-marking on Constituent Order in Chichewa. In Butt, Miriam & Tracy Holloway King (eds.). Proceedings of the LFG 01 Conference. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. 221-237.

2001. Chichewa. In Garry, Jane & Carl Rubino (eds.) Facts About the World’s Major Languages: An Encyclopedia of the World‚s major Languages, Past and Present. NY: The H.W. Wilson Company. 131-133.

1998. Chichewa: A Morphological Sketch. In Spencer, Andrew & Arnold Zwicky (eds.) The Handbook of Morphology. Oxford, UK & Cambridge, MA: Blackwell pp. 500-520

1998. Democratization in Malawi: Its Roots and Prospects. In Gros, Jean-Germain (ed). Democratization in Late Twentieth Century Africa. Coping with Uncertainty. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. 21-40

1997. Contributions of African Languages to Generative Grammar. In Herbert, Robert K. ed. 1997. African Linguistics at the Crossroads. Papers from Kwaluseni. Koln: Rudiger Koppe Verlag. 179-206