Michael R. Marlo

Associate Professor
Department of English
University of Missouri



I have broad interests in African linguistics and Bantu languages, and have carried out extensive research on varieties of the Luyia macrolanguage of western Kenya and eastern Uganda. My research often focuses on tone, and involves in-depth synchronic studies of individual languages as well as comparative/historical work across Bantu. I have also carried out a series of large-scale micro-typological studies of object marking in Bantu, and my current research emphasizes comprehensive language description and documentation. I am involved in a large-scale collaboration with a team of researchers in North America, Europe, and Africa to describe languages of the Luyia-Soga cluster in western Kenya and eastern Uganda. Along with co-PIs Vicki Carstens, Michael Diercks, Christopher Green, and David Odden, I was awarded an NSF grant in 2014 to develop grammatical descriptions, lexicons, and text collections for four Luyia languages: Bukusu, Logoori, Tiriki, and Wanga. From January through June 2016, I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. In May 2016, I organized a workshop on Tone in African Languages at KU. In summer 2017, I ran a 'grammar boot camp' on Luyia languages at the University of Missouri and took a group of undergraduate students to Kenya to continue our collaborative research on Luyia grammar.


At the University of Missouri, I regularly offer the courses Phonology, Syntax, Field Methods in Linguistics, and Structure of American English. I have also developed and offered the courses Languages of Africa (Fall 2013) and Endangered Languages (Fall 2017). 

In Field Methods, we regularly work with speakers of African languages.

    • 2012: Tiriki (Consultant: Billystrom Jivetti)
    • 2014: Igala (Consultant: Christopher Adejo)
    • 2015: Bukusu (Consultant: Maurice Sifuna)
    • 2017: Lingala (Consultant: Olimaka Kasongo)
At Kenyatta University in Spring 2016, I offered an MA-level field methods course on Wanga (Consultant: Alfred Anangwe), and an MA-level course in phonology.

Selected Publications

Odden, David & Michael R. Marlo. To appear. Tone. In Mark Van de Velde & Koen Bostoen (eds.), The Bantu Languages, 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

Marlo, Michael R., Minah Nabirye, Deo Kawalya & Gilles-Maurice de Schryver. To appear. A sketch of Lower Nyole verb toneAfricana Linguistica 23.

Marlo, Michael R. 2017. Contributions of micro-comparative research to language documentation: Two Bantu case studies. In Jason Kandybowicz & Harold Torrence (eds.), Africa’s Endangered Languages: Documentary and Theoretical Approaches, 321-342. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marlo, Michael R. 2015. Exceptional properties of the reflexive in Bantu languagesNordic Journal of African Studies 24. 1-22.

Ebarb, Kristopher J. & Michael R. Marlo. 2015. Vowel length (in)sensitivity in Luyia morphophonology. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33. 373-390.

Marlo, Michael R. 2015. On the number of object markers in Bantu languages. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 36. 1-65. 

Marlo, Michael R., Leonard Chacha Mwita & Mary Paster. 2015. Problems in Kuria H Tone Assignment. 2015. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 33. 251-265.

Marlo, Michael R. 2014. Exceptional patterns of object marking in Bantu. Studies in African Linguistics 43. 85-123.

Ebarb, Kristopher J., Christopher R. Green & Michael R. Marlo. 2014. Luyia tone melodies. Africana Linguistica 20. 121-143.

Marlo, Michael R., Leonard Chacha Mwita & Mary Paster. 2014. Kuria tone melodies. Africana Linguistica 20. 277-294.

Marlo, Michael R. & David Odden. 2014. Bakweri tone melodies. Africana Linguistica 20. 295-312.

Marlo, Michael R., 2013. Verb tone in Bantu languagesmicro-typological patterns and research methods. Africana Linguistica 19. 137-234.

Marlo, Michael R., Nikki Adams, Christopher R. Green, Michelle Morrison & Tristan Purvis (eds.). 2013. Selected Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference on African Linguistics. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Marlo, Michael R. 2013. Tonal melodies and Meeussen’s Rule in Khayo. In Karsten Legère (ed.), Studies in Bantu Linguistics and Languages: Papers in memory of Professor Rugatiri Mekacha, Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies.

Marlo, Michael R. 2012. Review of Van Otterloo (2011) The Kifuliiru Language, Vol. 1. Linguistlist.

Marlo, Michael R. 2009. Khayo verbal tonology. Africana Linguistica 15. 77-129. Appendix

Marlo, Michael R. 2008. Tura verbal tonology. Studies in African Linguistics 37.2. 153-243.


The current goal of our research on Luyia dictionaries is to develop talking dictionaries that include phonetic transcriptions that accurately mark tone and vowel length, and, for languages with more than 5 vowels like Logoori, vowel quality. We are currently working on Bukusu, Logoori, Tiriki, and Wanga. These materials supercede prior versions of the Bukusu, Tiriki, and Wanga lexicons.

Some prior research efforts to develop lexical materials for Luyia are described on the Luyia Dictionary Project site.

We have made scans available of some other Luyia lexical materials that are otherwise difficult to acquire.