Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

Dr Jakob Lesage

Career and scientific activities | Publications | Talks | Projects
Dr Jakob Lesage
Field assistant
jakob.lesage (at)

Humboldt-Universität → Präsidium → Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät → Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften → Afrikanische Sprachen
Visiting address
Invalidenstraße 118 , Room 411
Phone number
(030) 2093 66006
Consultation hours
by arrangement via email
Mailing address
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin


In the 2024 Summer Semester, I'm teaching two courses. Interested students can reach out to me with any questions:

  • Introduction to the languages of Africa
  • Language in Southern Africa


As a linguist with a focus on African languages, I specialize in language documentation, particularly in documenting endangered or understudied languages in Nigeria. My research and publications, including my PhD thesis, have contributed to the description and analysis of Kam, a Niger-Congo language spoken in Central-Eastern Nigeria. My recent work has emphasized natural interaction and community-driven ethnographic documentation, reflecting my commitment to collaborative and community-based approaches to language documentation.

My research on remote fieldwork methods for language documentation, including planning and conducting remote fieldwork, has resulted in courses and training for students preparing for fieldwork and for native speaker collaborators in Nigeria, particularly for speakers of Kam.

In addition to my expertise in African languages, I contribute to linguistic typology through my work on typological databases like Grambank. My publications have highlighted gaps in grammatical descriptions and the insights that can be gained from using typological databases for cross-linguistic comparison.

My current research also explores linguistic approaches to studying the history and dispersal of words and concepts in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the spread of words for 'iron'. I use this topic, among others, to explore the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary research that aims to understand the human past.