Prof. Dr. Nico Nassenstein

Professor of African Languages and Linguistics
Vice Dean, Faculty 07
Research interests
Sociolinguistics, Linguistic Anthropology/Anthropological Linguistics and Pragmatics:
(1) language variation and language contact phenomena in Bantu languages from East and Central Africa
(2) cross-register variation in Africa (also including linguistic creativity, urban language, youth language practices)
(3) language and conflict, verbal transgression and taboo (with a linguistic anthropological and postcolonial focus, also with regard to politeness strategies, avoidance strategies, sex, swearing and cursing)
(4) the study of language in touristic contextsLinguistic focus
Lingala & Bangala, Kikongo-Kituba, Cilubà, Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda-Kirundi, Mijikenda (and other Bantu languages from East and Central Africa), Acholi
New guest-edited special issue: Naming and Labelling

Journal: International Journal of Language and Culture 10:2
Guest-edited by: Nico Nassenstein, Sambulo Ndlovu & Svenja Völkel
John Benjamins | 2023

Names are a fundamental linguistic and semiotic phenomenon, which is deeply embedded in particular sociocultural contexts. The practice of name giving, as well as the meaning of names, strongly depends on specific environments and contexts, and is part of the most complex fields in human society and cultural practice. This special issue focuses on naming and labelling entities of cultural importance in various African settings.

Anthropological Linguistics: Perspectives from Africa
Series: Culture and Language Use
Co-edited by: Andrea Hollington, Alice Mitchell & Nico Nassenstein
John Benjamins | 2024
This collection presents new research on key topics in anthropological linguistics, with
a focus on African languages. While Africanist linguists have long been concerned with
sociocultural aspects of language structure and use, no comprehensive volume dedicated
to the anthropological linguistics of Africa has yet been published. This volume seeks to
fill this gap. The chapters address a broad range of topics in anthropological linguistics,
including classic themes such as spatial reference, color, kin terms, and emotion, as well
as emerging interests in the linguistic expression of personhood, sociality, and language
ideology. All contributions are based on original empirical research and present insights
into African language practices from a sociocultural perspective.
@Humandifferenzierung YouTube Chanel
Portrait of Nico Nassenstein and his research activities within the CRC1482 "Human Categorization”
(Authors: Finn Gessert, Marie Gruber, Journalistisches Seminar, JGU Mainz)
Nachtlinguistik. Sprachwissenschaftliche Streifzüge

Nachtlinguistik. Sprachwissenschaftliche Streifzüge
Series: Lettre
Co-authored by: Nico Nassenstein & Anne Storch
transcript | 2022

In der Nacht manifestiert sich die Macht des Abseitigen, zugleich aber ist sie ein Zeitraum, dem Momente des Schönen innewohnen. Nico Nassenstein und Anne Storch nehmen die Nacht aus verschiedenen Blickwinkeln unter die Lupe und verknüpfen historische Perspektiven mit Untersuchungen zur Sprache und unterschiedlichen Formen der Wissensproduktion. In Kapiteln unterschiedlichen Genres zeichnen sie so ein Bild der Nacht als andere Möglichkeitswelt, in der alternative und dekoloniale Wissensformen ihren Platz finden und Souveränität und Kreativität immer wieder neu erlangt werden können.

Research fellow at USP, Brazil

In October 2022, Nico Nassenstein spent several weeks as a research fellow at the Universidade de São Paulo (Departamento de Linguística) upon invitation by Prof. Alexander Cobbinah. During this time, apart from several lectures and BA/MA classes on “Contact languages and language contact in the Bantu area: Case studies of LWC (languages of wider communication) from Central Africa”, the visit was intended to bring together scholars working on Bantu languages from Congo-Angola and to develop collaborative future research ideas (for a project that intends to focus on Angolan Bantu languages).

International workshop “What is innovation?”, JGU Mainz, 30 September–1 October 2022

In late September and early October, the DFG-funded international workshop “What is innovation?” took place at JGU Mainz. Colleagues from Nairobi, Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Cape Town and Mainz came together for two days to share insights into innovative processes in African youth language practices with a focus on morphosyntactic microvariation. Several publication projects are currently in preparation. For more information, please visit:

Approaches to Language and Culture

Approaches to Language and Culture

Series: Anthropological Linguistics [AL], 1

Edited by: Svenja Völkel & Nico Nassenstein

De Gruyter Mouton | 2022

Recipient of the Sibylle Kalkhof-Rose Award 2022
Nico Nassenstein receives the Sibylle Kalkhof-Rose university award for outstanding personal and scientific achievements. This new prize, endowed with 20,000 euros, has been awarded for the first time in 2022 to a scientist in the humanities, social sciences and cultural studies selected by a jury, as well as to a natural scientist. On the Dies Academicus (29 June 2022), the prize was handed to Nico Nassenstein as a humanities scholar and to JProf. Angela Wittmann as a natural scientist in the presence of the founder, Ms. Kalkhof-Rose, and university president Prof. Dr. Krausch
Swahili Proverbs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Swahili Proverbs from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Series: Verbal Art and Documentary Literature in African Languages 44

Compiled/authored by: Nico Nassenstein

Rüdiger Köppe | 2022



Global Perspectives on Youth Language Practices

Global Perspectives on Youth Language Practices

Series: Contributions to the Sociology of Language [CSL], 119

Edited by: Cynthia Groff, Andrea Hollington, Ellen Hurst-Harosh, Jacomine Nortier, Helma Pasch, Nico Nassenstein, Helma Pasch

De Gruyter Mouton | 2022

Cooperation visit at Great Zimbabwe University [Masvingo/Zimbabwe]

In late November 2021, Nico Nassenstein and Humboldt fellow Prof. Sambulo Ndlovu organized a visit to GZU Masvingo in Zimbabwe in order to prepare the ground for a memorandum of understanding between JGU Mainz and the Zimbabwean university, and potentially also with participation of Goethe University Frankfurt. The delegation was received by the Vice-Chancellor of the university and a symposium was organized in honor of this first official visit. Together with the DAAD representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Wolfram Full, Ndlovu and Nassenstein followed an invitation to diffuse the ideas around future cooperations across different media, such as the campus radio Masvingo. The fact-finding mission was generously funded with support by the ZIS (Zentrum für Interkulturelle Studien).

10th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL10) [Leiden, NL/digital]

Panel: "Metaphor in Youth Language"

Panel organizers: Thabo Ditsele, Andrea Hollington, Ellen Hurst-Harosh, Fridah Kanana Erastus, Chimwemwe Kamanga, Roland Kouassi, Nico Nassenstein, Sambulo Ndlovu

7–12 June 2021

24. Afrikanist*innentag [Frankfurt a.M./digital]

Panel: “Linguistic Biographies”

Panel organizers: Andrea Hollington & Nico Nassenstein

1–3 July 2021

ZIAF-Jahresbericht 2020
Afrikaner*innen im Rhein-Main-Gebiet. Ein afrikalinguistisches Forschungsprojekt zu sprachlicher Integration
Abralin ao vivo: Linguists online

“Studying language at the beach: Perspectives on contact and change in the context of tourism”

1 May 2021 — the full talk can be found on YouTube:

The Other’s Other

The Other’s Other

Journal: Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics 4 (2021)

Edited by: Andrea Hollington, Angelika Mietzner, Nico Nassenstein, Anne Storch & Sara Zavaree

Workshop announcement 

Advances in the study of Kinyarwanda and Kirundi: Research questions, methods and directions

On 27 February 2021, an international workshop will be organized at JGU Mainz (to be held virtually) with a focus on current research topics in the study of the two Bantu languages Kinyarwanda and Kirundi (spoken in Rwanda, Burundi and adjacent areas). The workshop addresses colleagues working in all fields of linguistics (e.g. phonology, morphosyntax, sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics etc.) and aims at bringing together scholars who share ideas and discuss recent topics that deal with the two languages Kinyarwanda and Kirundi and closely-related varieties. All interested scholars are invited to send a tentative title of their talk (either intended as 20 min talk plus 10 min discussion, or 30 min talk plus 15 min discussion) to by 31 January 2020. The event is open to colleagues from other disciplines and to students.

Venue: Online workshop
Date and time: Saturday, 27 February 2021 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The program will be announced in early February, the link for participation will be shared a few days before the event. Murakoze cyane!


The Discourse of Intimacy and Transgression

Series: Culture and Language Use [CLU], 22
Co-authored by: Anne Storch und Nico Nassenstein
John Benjamins  | 2020

Variation in Swahili

Variation in Swahili

Zeitschrift: Swahili Forum 26 (2019)
Herausgegeben von: Daisuke Shinagawa & Nico Nassenstein | 2020

Worte, Stimmungen, Räume: Eine Einladung

Worte, Stimmungen, Räume: Eine Einladung

Zeitschrift: The Mouth Special Issue 4, 2020
Verfasst von: Axel Fleisch, Angelika Mietzner, Nico Nassenstein & Anne Storch

Swearing and Cursing

Swearing and Cursing
Contexts and Practices in a Critical Linguistic Perspective
Reihe: Language and Social Life [LSL], 22
Herausgegeben von: Nico Nassenstein und Anne Storch

32nd Swahili Colloquium, Universität Bayreuth

Panel: Sociolinguistic Variation and Change in Kiswahili
Creative practices, playful language, translocal communication
31 May – 2 June 2019, 32nd Swahili Colloquium, Universität Bayreuth
Organizers: Andrea Hollington (University of Cologne) & Nico Nassenstein  ...

International Workshop: Current Debates and Topics in the Study of Lingala

Varieties and variation, language contact and sociolinguistic change
11 May 2019, 9:00-18:00, JGU Mainz
Organizer: Nico Nassenstein

New research on African languages and migration in the Rhine-Main region

The African Studies Rhine-Main initiative of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz JGU and Goethe University Frankfurt launches its first joint research project on "Africans in the Rhine-Main region: an African linguistic research project on linguistic integration." The project is funded by resources from the RMU Initiative Funding for Research.  ...

Third Workshop on Language Tourism

Language and Intimacy. Discourses and Narratives
Third Workshop on Language & Tourism
El Arenal, 13-14 October 2018

9th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL9)

The Sociolinguistics of Globalization in Africa. Fluidity, Mobility, Agency
Panel organizers: Angelika Mietzner (Uni Köln) & Nico Nassenstein
The 9th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL9), 25-28 August 2018, Rabat, Morocco  ...

7th International Conference on Bantu Languages (SINTU 7)

Variation in Swahili. Micro-typology, sociolinguistic diversification and language contact
Panel organizers: Nico Nassenstein & Daisuke Shinagawa (ILCAA, TUFS)
9–11 July 2018, SINTU 7, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa  ...

International Congress of Linguists (ICL 20)

Hostility in Language. Other Perspectives on Multilingualism
Panel organizers: Anne Storch (Uni Köln) & Nico Nassenstein
International Congrass of Linguists (ICL 20), 2–6 July 2018, Cape Town (UCT)  ...