My main research focus has always been Swahili and related Bantu languages mostly from a comparative and historical perspective. For most of my career I have been interested in questions concerning the classification of African languages and especially methodologies of classification; for example, I explored the value of lexicostatistics in Comparative Bantu studies.  Since retirement I have been working on a digital dictionary of classical Swahili poetry (Swahili Classical Poetry Dictionary: With colleagues from other institutions I have been documenting the heritage Swahili dialects, that is the traditional mother tongue dialects of largely coastal Swahili speakers, not the standard dialects spoken by non-native speakers (Endangered Heritage Swahili:


Select Recent and Upcoming Publications  (under revision April 2017)
  • “Rule inversion and restructuring in Kamba,” Studies in African Linguistics, Supplement 5, 149-67 (1974).
  • “A reconstructed chronology of loss: Swahili Class 9/10,” Proceedings of the Sixth Conference on African Linguistics, Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics 20:32-41 (1975).
  • “Swahili: genetic affiliations and evidence,” In L.M. Hyman, L. Jacobsen,and R.G. Schuh (eds.), Papers in African Linguistics, in Honor of W. E. Welmers, pp. 95-108. Studies in African Linguistics, Supplement 6, (1976).
  • With Sarah Mirza. Kiswahili: Msingi wa Kusema, Kusoma, na Kuandika (Swahili: a Foundation for Speaking, Reading, and Writing). Washington:University Press of America, pp. i-xxi, 272. (1979).
  • “Swahili,” In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Languages and Their Status, pp. 208-293. Cambridge, Mass.: Winthrop Publishers. (1979).
  • With Robert Kirsner, “On the inference of ‘Inalienable Possession’ in Swahili.” Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 2:1-16 (1980).
  • With Derek Nurse, and Martin Mould, Studies in the Classification of Eastern Bantu Languages (SUGIA, Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika – Beiheft 3). Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag, 261 pages (1981).
  • With Derek Nurse, “Spirantization in Chaga.” SUGIA 3:51-78 (1981).
  • “Bantu.” In J. Bendor-Samuel (ed). The Niger-Congo Languages, pp.450-473. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. (1989).
  • With Derek Nurse. Swahili and Sabaki: a Linguistic History. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 780 pages (1993).
  • Hinnebusch, Thomas J., “Contact and Lexicostatistics in Comparative Bantu Studies.” To be published in the proceedings of the 1st World Conference on African Linguistics. Witwatersrand Press, 28 pages (In Press).


My main teaching responsibility before retirement was 3 levels of Swahili: Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced Swahili. Elementary Swahili was usually taught by a T.A. who I supervised. I also offered instruction in the language beyond the advanced level. Every two years or so–when there was an interest–I offered a course on Comparative Bantu (African Languages 202); the focus and content of this course reflected the specific interests of the students.  At various times over the years I taught Linguistics 120a (Phonology), Field Methods, Linguistics 1 (An Introduction to Language), and other undergraduate linguistics courses.