Paul Newman (Nigeria) | Authority on the Hausa Language

Paul Newman (Nigeria 1961-63) is the world’s foremost authority on the Hausa language. He is also an attorney with special interest in the intersection of language and law. He was a member of the first Peace Corps group to go to Nigeria back in 1961. He has held academic positions at Yale, Bayero University Kano, University of Leiden, and Indiana University. He has published over 20 books and was the founding editor of the Journal of African Languages.

7-20-1961. Philadelphia. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Newman, of Philadelphia, who will be of three married couples due to report for training at Harvard University Monday for Peace Corps duty in Nigeria. Newman, native of Jacksonville, Florida, is 24 and a holder of a master’s degree in anthropology, said he and his wife volunteered because of the opportunity to serve their country. His wife, 23, is a major in English. They said they both probably would draw teaching assignments.



Photo of Paul Newman

Paul Newman

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Paul Newman received his B.A. (Philosophy) and M.A. (Anthropology) from the University of Pennsylvania, and his Ph.D. (Linguistics) from UCLA (1967). Newman also has a law degree (J.D., summa cum laude, 2003) from Indiana University. He is a member of the Indiana Bar.

He has held academic and administrative positions at Yale University, Abdullahi Bayero College (now Bayero University Kano), Nigeria; University of Leiden, The Netherlands, and the University of Michigan, where he was Senior Copyright Specialist for the library system. His major appointment was in the Department of Linguistics at Indiana University, where he worked from 1983 until his retirement in 2005, including six years as Chair of department. His areas of specialization in teaching and research include African languages (especially Hausa), historical linguistics, morphophonology, tone, field methods, lexicography, and language and law.

Newman was the founding editor of the Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, now approaching its 40th year, and a charter member of the advisory board of the online journal Language Documentation & Conservation. He has also served on the editorial boards of Language, Current Anthropology, Studies in African Linguistics, and Anthropological Linguistics.

Newman is regarded as the pre-eminent scholar on the Chadic family as a whole and on the Hausa language in particular. Throughout his career, he has been the recipient of numerous honors, notably being named Distinguished Professor at Indiana University in 2002. Other honors and invitations include Personal Chair in African Linguistics, University of Leiden; Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford; Research Fellow, Centre for Linguistic Typology, Australian National University; Visiting Professor, Indiana-Hamburg Exchange Program; Visiting Professor, University of Bayreuth; African Languages Consultant, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and Fulbright Specialist in Law, University of Haifa. He has been plenary speaker at a number of major conferences including ACAL-23 (Michigan State University), Second World Congress of African Linguistics (Leipzig), First International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation (Honolulu), and Workshop on Nominal and Verbal Plurality (Paris).

He has had two books published in his honor: Chadic and Hausa Linguistics: Selected Papers of Paul Newman, with Commentaries, ed. by Philip J. Jaggar and H. Ekkehard Wolff (2002) and Topics in Descriptive and African Linguistics: Essays in Honor of Distinguished Professor Paul Newman, ed. by Samuel Gyasi Obeng (2009). At the 48th Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL) held in Bloomington in 2017, Newman was presented with a Distinguished Research Scholar Award in recognition of his significant contribution to African and general linguistics.

He is a life member of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), for which he served on the Endangered Languages Committee and the Social and Political Issues Committee. He volunteered for a number of years as Special Counsel to the Society, dealing primarily with copyright and related legal and policy issues regarding online publication, in appreciation of which he was honored with the Linguistic Service Award (2012).

Newman is a prolific scholar who has published some twenty books and approximately 140 articles, book reviews, and sound recordings. The following is a selected list:

A large number of his articles and book reviews are available open access in IU’s digital repository, see

Outside the university context, Newman has long been active in the ACLU of Indiana, where he served for a number of years on the Board of Directors and as Vice-President for litigation. He is also a life member and ardent supporter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Newman is married to Dr. Roxana Newman, former Assistant Dean of International Programs and an accomplished Africanist linguist in her own right, and has one son, Michael Abraham Newman.

[August 2017]

Indiana University, USA

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