Personal profile


since April 2007:  Professor of Linguistics, Department of Linguistics and English Language, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester

2004–2007: Professor of Linguistics at the University of Graz, Austria

2003–2004: Lecturer in Language Documentation and Description; Linguistics; School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK

2002–2003: Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

1999–2001: Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics at the University of Bochum, Germany

2000: PhD in Linguistics, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands (Distinction)

1999: Grantee of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies (AIATSIS), 3 months

1995–1998: PhD Fellowship with the Language and Cognition group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

1992–1994: Research Associate, University of Bielefeld, Germany

1992: MA in Linguistics, Phonetics and Musicology, University of Cologne, Germany (Distinction) 

Between 1993 and present, I have spent approximately 40 months doing fieldwork on Jaminjung, Ngaliwurru, Ngarinyman and Kriol in Northern Australia.

I am a member of the editorial boards of the journals Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung (STUF) and of the book series "Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory" (Oxford University Press).

Research interests

General research interests:

– Linguistic typology, particularly in the areas of complex predication, overt classification of verbs/events, secondary predication, spatial language, parts of speech, modality, differential argument marking, and information structure

– Construction-based approaches to grammatical analysis

– Syntax of spoken language

– Lexical semantics, in particular the interface between morphosyntax, argument structure and lexical semantics of verbs

– Language contact phenomena, including lexical and grammatical borrowing and creole languages

– Issues in documentary and descriptive linguistics

Areal specialisation (own fieldwork):

Australian languages, in particular Western Mirndi (Jaminjung, Ngaliwurru and Nungali), Ngumpin (Ngarinyman), and Northern Australian (“Roper River”) Kriol.

Other research

Externally funded Projects:

Discourse and prosody across language family boundaries: two corpus-based case studies on contact-induced syntactic and prosodic convergence in the encoding of information structure” (2011-2014). Documentation of Endangered Languages Programme (DoBeS), Volkswagen Foundation ( Cooperation partner of Dr Claudia Wegener, PI (U Bielefeld), Dr Candide Simard (SOAS) and Dr. Felicity Meakins (U Queensland).

The interrelation of Tense, Aspect and Modality with Evidentiality in Australian Aboriginal languages” (TAMEAL) (2009-2012). Funded by a EU mobility programme (7th Framework, Marie Curie Actions). Cooperation with Dr Patrick Caudal (PI), Dr Martina Faller (UoM) and other colleagues in Leuven (B), Paris (F), Perth (AUS) and Melbourne (AUS).

"Jaminjungan and Eastern Ngumpin: A documentation of the linguistic and cultural knowledge of speakers in a multilingual setting in the Victoria River District, N. Australia." (2005–2008; ext to 2011). Documentation of Endangered Languages Programme (DoBeS), Volkswagen Foundation ( PI; Team members include Dr Patrick McConvell (ANU), Candide Simard, Felicity Meakins, Erika Charola, Dorothea Hoffmann (all UoM during project period), Kristina Henschke (U Graz).

The painter's eye, the painter's voice: Language, art and landscape in the Gija world.” (2009–2012). Funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP). PI; main investigator: Frances Kofod.


Information for prospective postgraduate students

I welcome applications for projects investigating an aspect of grammar from a functional-typological perspective, in particular in lesser studied languages and varieties. I am particularly interested in the grammar and semantics of spatial expressions, parts of speech systems, information structure, modality (particularly apprehensional modals used in warnings and risk expressions), complex predication and secondary predication.


Previous and current PhD projects supervised by me include:

Apprehensional modality in Mandarin Chinese (Vanessa Fung)

Relative and cleft constructions in Kréol Rényoné [Reunion Island Creole] (Alina McLellan)

Control and complementation in parallel constraint-based architecture: An empirically oriented investigation of Mandarin Chinese (Chit-Fung Lawrence Lam)

Serial Verb Constructions in Mandarin Chinese and Jinjiang Southern Min (Ying Fan)

Prosodic Contours of Jaminjung, a Language of Northern Australia (Candide Simard)

Descriptions of Motion and Travel in Jaminjung and Kriol (Dorothea Hoffmann)

Study of space in Caac, a Kanak language spoken in the north of New Caledonia (Aurélie Cauchard)

Tense, Aspect and Modality in Bastimentos Creole (Heidi Reid)

An investigation of the spatial semantics of Chiapas Zoque, a Mixe-Zoquean language of southern Mexico (Luke McDermott) 

Aspects of Lete (Larteh) Grammar (Mercy Akrofi Ansah)

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Simple and Complex Verbs in Jaminjung. A study of event categorisation in an Australian language, Radboud University Nijmegen

Award Date: 30 May 2000

Areas of expertise

  • PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
  • Australian languages
  • P Philology. Linguistics
  • Typology
  • Semantics
  • Language Contact
  • Information Structure

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures


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