Dr. Michael Ahland

Dr. Michael Ahland


Photograph Information
Michael Ahland

Title: Associate Professor & Undergraduate Advisor
Office Location: PSY 409

Office Hours (Fall 2023): Mondays 1:00-3:00pm and Tuesdays 2:00-4:00

Office Hours Zoom Room: https://csulb.zoom.us/j/87268172278

Phone Number: (562) 985-1146
E-mail Address: Michael.Ahland@csulb.edu

Related Websites:

Linguistics Undergraduate Advising

Research Projects: Pahka’anil Text Project Mawes Aas’e Documentation and Description Project

North American Computational Linguistics Open: NACLO@CSULB

Publications and Conference Papers: Academia.edu


BS in Education (English), University of Missouri-Columbia, 1992
MA in Linguistics, University of Texas-Arlington, 2004
PhD in Linguistics, University of Oregon, 2012

Teaching/Research Interests

My primary research interests include syntax (from historical, functional, and typological perspectives), African tonal systems, historical-comparative linguistics, the evolution of grammar, and the relationship between discourse and grammar. My research is generally carried out in the context of describing and documenting endangered languages with a particular focus on the Mao (Afroasiatic-Omotic) languages of Ethiopia and the Pahka’anil (Uto-Aztecan) language of California. I am also interested in fieldwork methodologies and in collaborative, community-based approaches to fieldwork. 

My fieldwork and research interests together inform my teaching. My classes include undergraduate typology and syntax courses, as well as graduate courses on natural language discourse, historical linguistics, linguistic field methods, and a seminar in syntactic theory. 

Courses Taught

LING 100: Nature of Language
LING 101: Introduction to the World’s Languages
LING 101 Honors: Introduction to the World’s Languages
LING 300: Professional Development for Linguists
LING 421: Syntax
LING 422/522: Discourse Analysis
LING 423/ENGL 423/523: Semantics
LING 426/ENGL 426/526: History of English
LING 580: Linguistic Field Methods
LING 610: Historical Linguistics
LING 620: Seminar in Syntactic Theory and Analysis
LING 633: Discourse and Grammar



2010. Language death in Mesmes: A sociolinguistic and historical comparative examination of a disappearing Ethiopian-Semitic language. Publications in Linguistics, 145. Dallas: SIL International and the University of Texas at Arlington. Table of Contents


forthcoming. Omotic features in the Mao group and internal coherence. In Oxford Guide to Afroasiatic Languages, Chris Reintges and Sabrina Bendjaballah (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pdf

2023. Northern Mao. In Oxford Handbook of Ethiopian Languages, Bedilu Wakjira, Ronny Meyer, and Zelealem Leyew (eds.), 1005-1029. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pdf

2021. [co-authored]. Pahka’anil (Tübatulabal): Two texts. In Texts in the Indigenous Languages of the Americas [supplement of the International Journal of American Linguistics] vol. 87: S1, Gabriela Garcia Salido and Tim Thornes (eds.), S51-S81. University of Chicago Press. [authors (in order): Lindsay Marean, Michael Ahland, Bethany Lycan, Sergio Sandoval Sanchez, and Nicholas Sinetos]. https://doi.org/10.1086/712462

2019. The development of subject case marking in Omotic-Mao. Studies in African Linguistics 48.2. pdf

2018. Review of A Grammar of Hamar: A South Omotic language of Ethiopia by Sara Petrollino. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 39(1):107-110. DOI:10.1515/jall-2018-0004pdf

2016. The development of finite verbs from nominalized structures in Northern Mao. In Doris L. Payne, Sara Pacchiarotti & Mokaya Bosire (eds.), Diversity in African languages, 467-492. Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI:10.17169/langsci.b121.495. pdf

2015. The Function of Non-Final Verbs and Their Aspectual Categories in Northern Mao. In Beyond Aspect: The Expression of Discourse Functions in African Languages [Typological Studies in Language 109], Doris Payne and Shahar Shirtz (eds.) 81-115. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pdf

2014. Subject marking interrupted: Perturbations from the development of Northern Mao’s future tense suffix. Studies in African Linguistics 43.2. pdf

2013. Degrammaticalization in Northern Mao’s pronominal innovations: from subject prefix to full pronoun. An extended abstract of a paper presented at the 2013 meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. pdf.

2012. Review of Degrammaticalization by Muriel Norde. Studies in Language 36.183-192. link

2009. Aspects of Northern Mao (Bambassi-Diddesa) phonology. Linguistic Discovery 7.1:1-38. pdf

2009. From topic to subject: Grammatical change in the Amharic possessive construction. Studies in Language 33.3:685-717. link

2006. Nasal spreading, rhinoglottophilia and the genesis of a non-etymological nasal consonant in Mesmes. Rebecca T. Cover and Yuni Kim (eds.), Proceedings of the 31st annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, 13-24. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society, Inc. pdf

2005. with Colleen Ahland. Intelligibility and historical sound-change: A study of the relationship between subgroups, the direction of change and inherent intelligibility in an Ethio-Semitic and a Nilo-Saharan cluster. Proceedings of the 5th International Language Assessment Conference, Chiang Mai, Thailand, September. Dallas: SIL International.

2004. Instructional modules for using recorded text testing for use in identifying centers of communication. Language Survey Internship Program. Dallas: SIL International.

2001. with Colleen Ahland. Using the comparative method in predicting interlectal intelligibility and determining testing centers. Proceedings of the 4th International Language Assessment Conference, Chiang Mai, Thailand, September. Dallas: SIL International.

Professional Activities, Awards, and Affiliations

Language Research Experience

  • Pahka’anil (Uto-Aztecan) 2017-Present
  • Ganza (Omotic) 2014
  • Mawes Aas’e (Omotic) 2007-Present
  • Mesmes (Ethiopian-Semitic) 2002-2005
  • Gurage (Ethiopian-Semitic) 2001-2004
  • Amharic (Ethiopian-Semitic) 1999

Research Projects

Since 2017, I have been working collaboratively with Pakanapul/Tübatulabal tribal leaders in Kern County, CA to support revitalization and reawakening efforts with respect to the Pahka’anil language. In short, the goal of the project is twofold: 1) to record, analyze and deliver time-aligned and fully annotated textual material via the internet for use in language learning classes and documentation and 2) to examine the discourse and grammatical features of the Pahka’anil language. This research project has involved multiple students over the years and has also included fieldtrips for language recordings and collaborations with community members. For more information, please see the website at the link above. 

  • The Omotic-Mao Comparative Project

I began working on Mawes Aas’e (one of the four Mao languages) in western Ethiopia in 2007. That work resulted in a reference grammar of the language (2012), a dictionary draft (2014), initial literacy materials (2014), and a variety of scholarly publications. In more recent years as more research on the other Mao languages became available, my work has expanded to consider the Mao branch of Omotic as a whole. I’m particularly interested in the evolution of morphosyntactic systems in the Mao languages (free and bound pronominal systems, case marking and alignment systems, verbal valence and tense/aspect systems). 


  • 2017-18. Began working with the Pakanapul/Tübatulabal community leaders (Robert Gomez, Tribal Chair, and Tina Guerrero, Vice-Chair) in Kern County, CA in support of their Pahka’anil language revitalization/reawakening efforts. I and a team of my graduate students (Sergio Sandoval, Nick Sinetos, Muhammad Damanhuri, and Bethany Lycan) recorded texts and began annotating these texts in ELAN, a linguistic archival tool. Cem Demir, a graduate assistant, designed an HTML-based delivery system for these ELAN texts which is now available on the web and has grown into a larger website. 
  • 2014. Began collaborative phonology and syntax research on Ganza (Omotic-Mao) in Ethiopia, working in conjunction with Melkamu Abate (a PhD Candidate in Linguistics from Addis Ababa University), Josh Smolders (a linguistic researcher from Canada), and Eliza Kelly (a former student, from Houghton College). During this field trip, I also facilitated a collaborative orthography and literacy development workshop where five leaders from the Northern Mao community produced the first-ever instructional literacy anthology (30pp) in Northern Mao (with Amharic and English). During this trip, the first full draft of a Northern Mao-Amharic-English tri-glot dictionary (300+pp) was distributed to the Northern Mao community in order to begin the process of revising. The dictionary draft is the culmination of years of work by Mr. Yasin Ibrahim and myself.
  • 2007-2009. Research in Ethiopia on the Northern Mao (Omotic-Mao) language under a National Science Foundation Documenting Endangered Languages Grant (#0746665). This project produced a reference grammar on the Northern Mao language as well as a corpus of annotated texts and a lexical database.
  • 1999-2002. Conducted linguistic research in Ethiopia, leading an international team of researchers in comparative surveys of Ethiopian-Semitic and Nilo-Saharan language clusters.