I’m a linguist based in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. My research focuses on human language, with a special focus 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 collaborations with anthropologists, psycholinguists, and cognitive scientists.

As a first generation PhD in my family I didn’t actually know what a doctorate was until my 3rd year at university. It’s helped me to think of it as a monastic experience rather than a degree. I greatly enjoy thinking, writing, finding out new things, and working with diverse people. A combination of talent, opportunity and privilege has so far allowed me to do this in academia. I do not take any of this for granted.

I started out in African languages and general linguistics at Leiden University and worked as a graphic designer and web developer on the side. After a rejected PhD application in Leiden my company became a full-time job, but I also sent out one last-ditch application. I was awarded a PhD fellowship to join the Language & Cognition department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. I still love to tinker with HTML and CSS, though nobody pays me for it anymore. You can read more about my background in this 2020 interview (in Dutch).

Some of my favourite books include:

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

Below are some recent photos that can be used for publicity purposes. The official-looking ones by Milette Raats were made on the occasion of the Heineken Young Scientists Award in 2020.