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The question that has moved me for as long as I can think is this: How variable are human societies? To what extent is our collective behaviour determined by our genetic make-up, the natural conditions we find ourselves in, and historical chance? Determined to understand the range of variation between human populations, I taught myself Mandarin Chinese at the age of 12. I later studied sinology and spent a year in Beijing. I thought I had seen it all.

At the same time, as a student of linguistics, I was growing increasingly frustrated that we (still!!) have practically no primary data on the vast majority of the world’s ~7000 languages. And they’re disappearing, fast. So I ended up documenting two previously undescribed and endangered languages of Vanuatu for my PhD. Which was when I realised that, seen from the perspective of Vanuatu, China and Europe are practically indistinguishable. I still have the same questions. I’m still looking for answers, just much more frantically.

Academic positions

since 2016 Principal investigator, MelaTAMP project, funded by DFG (with Manfred Krifka)
2017-2018 Guest professor, SFB on Information Density and Linguistic Encoding, at Universität des Saarlandes
since 2014 Post-doctoral research fellow, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2013-2014 Post-doctoral research fellow, Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (Center for general linguistics), Berlin. PB3: Research on clause-embedding predicates in Bislama.
2009-2013 Research assistant in the DoBeS project documenting the languages of West Ambrym, Vanuatu: Documentation of Daakaka and Dalkalaen
2008-2009 Research assistant, Special Research Unit 632, Universität Potsdam:
Investigations into information structure in Mandarin Chinese

Non-academic positions


Language expert, Microsoft Research Center Beijing (research on Text-to- Speech technology, phonology workshops for developers)


2009-2012 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, General Linguistics, Ph.D. thesis: A Grammar of Daakaka
2003-2008 Technische Universität Berlin, General Linguistics, M.A.; Freie Universität Berlin, Sinology (minor) and Comparative Linguistics (minor), M.A.
2005-2006 Beijing Foreign Studies University (北京外国语大学)