as of March 2005


Knut J. Olawsky



Personal information:




First names:

Knut Johannes

Date of birth:

05. May 1965





Work address:

Mirima Dawang-Woorlab-Gerring Language and Culture Centre

P.O. Box 48

Kununurra, WA 6743, Australia

E-Mail: kj.olawsky[@]





Previous education in detail:


01. October, 1986

Begin of university study at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität

(= HHU), Düsseldorf: M.A. course in:

1. General Linguistics (major subject)

2. Romance Linguistics (minor subject)

3. Japanology (minor subject)


Acquisition of the Certificate of Language Proficiency from the Japan Foundation (Level 4)

01. November, 1988

– 30. April, 1989

University study at the Universitá degli Studi di Napoli,


01. May, 1989

Continuation of the university study at the HHU, Düsseldorf (same course as stated above)


Acquisition of the Certificate of Language Proficiency from the Japan Foundation (Level 3)


Acquisition of the certificate Teaching German as a foreign language/Intercultural Communication, HHU Düsseldorf

21. October, 1993

Final examination: Magister Artium (M.A.): Psycholinguistic experiments on the formation of participles in German.

Qualification with highest degree

Since 1993

PhD scholar in General Linguistics at the HHU, Düsseldorf.

Additional diploma course in Educational Studies at the HHU, Düsseldorf

December 1998

PhD dissertation Aspects of Dagbani Grammar (with special emphasis on phonology and morphology) submitted to the HHU, Düsseldorf

31. March 1999

Awarded PhD. Thesis rated Magna cum laude; Oral exams rated Summa cum laude.

July 1999 – June 2000

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of California, Berkeley. Project: Tonal typology

July 2000 – June 2003

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology (RCLT), Melbourne.

Project: Urarina language and culture.

July 2003 – June 2005

Continuing the previous project, funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (SOAS, London)

Since July 2005

Senior Linguist/Coordinator at Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring, Language and Culture Centre, Kununurra (Western Australia)

Goal: Documentation, Maintenance and Preservation of the Miriwoong and Gajirrabeng languages

Teaching experience / particulars of employment:


02. April, 1991 –

30. September, 1993

Teaching assistant for General Linguistics at the HHU, Düsseldorf.

Courses assisted:

- Introduction to general linguistics

- Phonetics and phonology

- Lexicography

01. November, 1993 –

31. March, 1994

Research fellow for the Lexlern language acquisition project at the HHU, Düsseldorf, supervised by Prof. Harald Clahsen

01. April, 1994 –

31. March 1999

Research fellow for the Dept. of Linguistics, HHU, Düsseldorf.

Mission: Analysis of the Dagbani Grammar, with particular emphasis on phonology and morphology.

Teaching responsibilities as a lecturer

Summer semester 1996

Teaching an undergraduate course: Grammatical structure of Dagbani, part 1 (elementary course).

Winter semester 1996/1997

Teaching an undergraduate course: Grammatical structure of Dagbani, part 2 (advanced course).

Summer semester 1998

Teaching a graduate course: Linguistic fieldwork in theory and practice.

Winter semester 1998/1999

Teaching a graduate course on Suprasegmental Phonology.

All these years .. since 1999

- well this really neds an update!


June/July 2008

Instructor at InField (Institute on Field Linguistics and Language Documentation, UCSB – Santa Barbara), see:








Field trips to collect linguistic data:


03.07.1994 – 04.08.1994: Ghana

(Funded by SFB 282, Düsseldorf)

01.03.1995 – 28.06.1995: Ghana

(Scholarship by DAAD = German Academic Exchange Service, Bonn)

15.07.1996 – 18.10.1996: Ghana

(Scholarship by CDG = Carl-Duisberg-Gesellschaft, Berlin)

09.11.1997 – 10.12.1997: Ghana

(Funded by SFB 282, Düsseldorf)

01.07.2000 – 03.08.2000: Peru

(Funded by La Trobe University, Melbourne through the ARC – Australian Research Council)

15.01.2001 – 16.07.2001: Peru

(Funded by La Trobe University, Melbourne through the ARC)

20.08.2002 – 23.11.2002: Peru

(Funded by La Trobe University, Melbourne through the ARC)

26.10.2003 – 22.12.2003: Peru

(Funded by ELDP, London)

20.05.2004 – 08.09.2004: Peru

(Funded by ELDP, London)




Other activities:


30.08.1993 – 10.09.1993

Participation at the summer course “Language description and fieldwork” at the University of Cologne.

13.01.1997 – 17.01.1997

Winter school on Prosodic Structure, Nijmegen, Netherlands.




Awards won:


November 1988

Scholarship for study at Italian Universities Perugia, Naples

(Awarded by DAAD = German Academic Exchange Service, Bonn).

March 1995

Grant for fieldwork in Ghana

(Awarded by DAAD, Bonn).

July 1996

Grant for fieldwork in Ghana

(Awarded by CDG = Carl-Duisberg-Gesellschaft, Berlin).

April 1999

Fellowship for postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley

(Awarded by DAAD).

July 2003

Fellowship for postdoctoral research at the RCLT, Melbourne

(Awarded by ELDP = Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, London).



Publications and other outputs:





Olawsky, K.J.: Aspects of Dagbani grammar – with special emphasis on phonology and morphology. Studies in African Linguistics. Munich: LINCOM, 1999. 1-293.


Olawsky, K.J.: Urarina texts. Languages of the World/Text Collections. Munich: LINCOM, 2002. 1-238.


Olawsky, K.J.: A Grammar of Urarina. Mouton Grammar Library 37. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006. 1-943.





Book chapters


Olawsky, K.J.: What is a word in Dagbani? In: Word. A cross-linguistic typology, edited by R. M. W. Dixon and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 205-226.


Olawsky, K.J.: ObViouS OVS in Urarina syntax. In: Simpson, A. & P. Austin (eds.), Linguistische Berichte Special Volume on Endangered Languages. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag, 2007. 45-72.




Refereed conference papers and journal articles


Hyman, M.L. & Olawsky, K.J.: Dagbani verb tonology. In: Kinyira njira! - Step firmly on the pathway! Selected Papers from the 31st Annual Conference on African Linguistics, Boston University, March 2-5, 2000, edited by Chege Githiora, Heather Littlefield & Victor Manfredi. Trenton New Jersey & Asmara Eritrea: Africa World Press, 2003. 97-108.


Olawsky, K.J.: Tone Patterns and Morphology in Dagbani: The Prosodic Structure of Nouns. In: Proceedings of the 2nd World Congress of African Linguistics, Leipzig, 27th July – 3rd August 1997. Edited by Wolff, H. Ekkehard & Gensler, Orin D. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2000. 373-392.


Olawsky, K.J.: Urarina word classes. In: Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on American Indigenous Languages, University of California, Santa Barbara, April 26-28, 2002. Edited by J. Castillo. Santa Barbara, 2003: 105-121.


Olawsky, K.J.: What is a Noun? What is an Adjective? Problems of classification in Dagbani. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Vol. 25 (2), 2004.


Olawsky, K.J.: Urarina - Evidence for OVS constituent order. In: Boban Arsenijević, Noureddine Elouazizi, Frank Landsbergen & Martin Salzmann (eds.), Leiden Papers in Linguistics 2.2 (2005), 43-68. (ISSN 1574-4728).



Other publications


Olawsky, K.J.: An introduction to Dagbani phonology. Arbeiten des SFB 282, Nr. 76. Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf 1996: 1-39.


Olawsky, K.J.: Psycholinguistic experiments on Dagbani number classes. Arbeiten des SFB 282, Nr. 108. Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf 1998: 1-52.



Unpublished manuscripts:

- Psycholinguistic experiments on the formation of participles in German. M.A. thesis (in German), HHU Düsseldorf, October 1993. Cited in: G. Westermann (1995), Connectionist rules of language. Braunschweig and in: Clahsen, Harald (1996): The representation of participles in the German mental lexicon. Evidence for the dual-mechanism model. Yearbook of Morphology.

- Some aspects of Dagbani grammar: a summary. Paper delivered to the University of Ghana, Dept. of Linguistics, Legon-Accra, June 1995.

- Problems of Dagbani orthography. Proposals towards the standardization of Dagbani writing, made to the Dagbani Orthography Committee. Tamale, August    1996.

- Notizen zu Zahlwörtern im Dagbani. HHU Düsseldorf, 1995. Cited in: G. Miehe, Zur morphosyntaktischen Markierung der niederen Kardinalzahlen in den    Gursprachen. Afrika und Übersee, Band 80, 1997.

- Dagbani - English Dictionary. 3700 entries so far. A publication is planned in cooperation with the Dagbani Dictionary Committee, Tamale (Ghana).



Selected invited paper presentations:


January 1996: Dagbani as a tonal language. 8th Italian Meeting of Afroasiatic Linguistics. Naples, 25th –26th January 1996


February 1997: Interaction of tone and morphology in Dagbani. DGfS-Tagung 1997. Düsseldorf, 27th April 1997


April 1997: Stress and tone in Dagaare and Dagbani. Phonologiezirkel der HHU Düsseldorf. 24th April 1997.


July 1997: Tone patterns and morphology in Dagbani. 2nd World Congress of African Linguistics, Leipzig, 27th July – 3rd August 1997.


September 1997: The tonal structure of Dagbani nouns. 27th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics, Leiden, 27th– 39th August 1997.


March 1998: Domino-effect and contour formation in Dagbani. Council on African Studies. Yale University, 26th – 29th March 1998.


September 1998: Dagbani nominals in the mental lexicon. Poster presentation at the First International Conference on the Mental Lexicon, University of Alberta, Edmonton (Canada), 3rd – 5th September 1998.


November 1998: Dagbani class morphology in the mental lexicon. Linguistic colloquium of the Philipps-Universität Marburg, 27th November 1998.


October 1999: Psycholinguistic experiments on Dagbani nominals. CSUF Linguistics Colloquium, California State University, Fresno. 8th October 1999.


March 2000: Dagbani verb tonology. 31st Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL 2000) at Boston University. 2nd – 5th March 2000.


August 2000: What is a word in Dagbani? International workshop “The status of "word": its phonological, grammatical, cultural and cognitive basis”. La Trobe University, Melbourne. 7th–12th August 2000.


April 2002: Urarina word classes. Workshop on American Indigenous Languages. University of California, Santa Barbara, 26th – 28th April 2002.


August 2002: Aspects of Urarina Grammar. Leiden University, 23rd August 2002.


August 2002: On absent features in Urarina and how they are realised anyway. Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet, Düsseldorf, 26th August 2002.


November 2002: Verb Structure and Clause Linking in Urarina. Linguistics colloquium, University of California, Berkeley, 18th November 2002.


October 2003: Aspects of Urarina tone. CILLA 1, University of Texas, Austin, 25th October 2003.


December 2003: Typological peculiarities of Urarina. SOAS, London, 16th December 2003.


September 2004: Obvious OVS in Urarina syntax. Leiden University, 2nd September 2004.


September 2004: Basic and exceptional constituent order in Urarina. University of Amsterdam, 3rd September 2004.


June 2005: Es gibt sie doch: OVS-Wortstellung in Urarina. Heinrich-Heine-Universitaet Duesseldorf, 9th June 2005.