Laura Downing

About Laura Downing

  • Function: Researcher, teacher


Laura J. Downing earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990, writing her dissertation under Charles W. Kisseberth on Problems in Jita Tonology.

From 1990-2001 she held visiting lecturer positions at the University of Michigan, UC-San Diego, UBC, the University of Illinois, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania.

From 2001-2012 she was a research fellow and project leader at the ZAS in Berlin, where her work concentrated on the focus-syntax-prosody interface in Bantu languages, especially Chewa, Tumbuka and Zulu.

Laura Downing has been awarded a Professor-II position at the Dept. of Language and Linguistics, University of the Arctic, UiTromsø, Norway, for 1 August 2015 through 31 December 2019.


Laura J. Downing's research interests center on the formal analysis of the prosody of African languages, including prosodic morphology, lexical tone systems and phrasal prosody.

Her work has been supported by grants from the NSF (UC-Berkeley), the NWO (Guest research fellowship, University of Leiden) and the DFG (BantuPsyn project).

These grants (and funding from the ZAS) have supported field work trips to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

From 2016-2019 she has led a research project on Somali and prosodic typology funded by the Swedish Vetenskapsrådet.

She was on the editorial boards of Phonology and of Africana Linguistica for many years, and on the scientific committee of the Manchester Phonology Meeting. She serves as President of the Association for Contemporary African Linguistics (ACAL) until May 2024, having previously served on the Steering Committee, the Executive Committee and as Vice President of ACAL.