Why are languages the way they are? What makes complex communication possible? My research formulates new answers to these questions by studying how language is shaped by and for social interaction.

I am Associate Professor in Language and Communication at Radboud University Nijmegen. I’m also PI of Elementary Particles of Conversation, a collaborative and transdisciplinary research programme on the small words that streamline everyday language use. The research in my group is funded by a Vidi talent grant from the Dutch Research Council NWO (2018-2023) and by collaborations with the Language in Interaction consortium. Find out more about my research and publications, or see my CV.

In 2020, I was incredibly honoured to receive the Heineken Young Scientist Award in Humanities by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences; to be selected as an inaugural member of the Radboud Young Academy; and to get a Radboud Science Award with Tessa van Leeuwen for our work on synaesthesia.

Three key papers

Three niche papers

See also the full publication list and open science resources.

About me

I am a linguist based in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. My research focuses on how language is shaped by and for social interaction. My views on language are informed by long-term fieldwork in eastern Ghana, comparative research on a diverse range of languages, and a strong interdisciplinary orientation that includes anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science.

I greatly enjoy thinking, writing, finding out new things, and working with diverse people. A combination of privilege, opportunity, and talent has so far allowed me to do this in academia. As a first generation PhD in my family, I do not take any of this for granted.

Here are three books that are important to me, in the order in which I discovered them:

  • Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, for providing a taste of cognitive science at its best: playful, curious, and without limits in terms of topic or method.
  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, for capturing the complexities and ambiguities that are part of the story of humans through place and time.
  • Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle, for combining a deep anthropological sensititivity with an awe-inspiring cosmic perspective on human diversity.