Papers of Frederick William Parsons

Scope and Content

The collection comprises research/teaching materials created by F.W. Parsons, relating to his work on the Hausa language. They reflect his knowledge of Hausa grammar and include writings on a variety of topics including syntax, semantics, morphology and phonology.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederick William Parsons was born on February 9 1908. After studying Classics at Marlborough College, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained a first class honours degree in Classical Moderations. He entered the Colonial Administrative Service in the early 1930's and spent 13 years in the northern provinces of Nigeria. In 1946, Parsons was appointed as Lecturer in Hausa at the School of Oriental and African Studies, assisting the Reverend George Percival Bargery in the provision of language training for colonial officials. He was appointed Reader in Hausa in 1965, a position he held until he retired in 1975. He is universally recognised as the pivotal figure in Hausa linguistic studies during the post-Second World War period. He died in 1993.

Parsons is probably best known for his influential publications on the Hausa verbal system: Afrika und Ubersee 44(1): 1-36, 1960; Afrika und Ubersee 55(1/2): 44-96; Afrika und Ubersee 55(3): 188-208, 1971/2; Journal of African Language , 1(2): 253-72, 1962, and also on the operation of grammatical gender: African Languages Studies , 1960/61/63, 1: 117-36, 2: 100- 24, 4: 166-207. His earlier (1959) translation into Hausa of the Northern Nigerian Penal Code is also widely recognised as an outstanding piece of scholarship.

Publications on Parsons' work include Writings on Hausa Grammar: the Collected Papers of F.W. Parsons, (Graham Furniss & Ann Arbor, ed., University Microfilms, 1981), and Studies in Hausa Language and Linguistics, (Graham Furniss & Philip J. Jaggar ed., Kegan Paul International, London, 1988).


The papers have been arranged in the following categories: nouns; verbs; modal particles; adverbs and function words; word categories; phonology; morphology; syntax; classification of Hausa; schemes for planned books on Hausa; reviews, reports; vocabularies, exercises, translations, record transcripts; miscellaneous.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated in 1993.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Related Material

SOAS also holds papers on the Hausa langauge by George P. Bargery (MS 380516).