In the broader context of the Leipzig Loanword Typology Project, and under the supervision of Martin Haspelmath and Balthasar Bickel, I wrote a PhD dissertation on the typology of verbal borrowings which I defended magna cum laude iat the University of Leipzig in 2008. I still maintain a separate project page for this:

Loan verbs

Linguistic Typology

Graphematics / Orthography

Having studied under Clemens-Peter Herbermann and in the Münster/Bonn tradition of Jost Trier, Leo Weisgerber, and Helmut Gipper, semantics and the theory of nomination has always been a prominent field in my linguistic work. Hence, I am also interested in varieties of lexical field theories and other models of semantic structures in the lexicon. Furthermore, I occasionally dabble in (structuralist) semantic and semiotic models and theories. 

A particular pet topic of mine is synchronic etymology (in the Sasussurean sense) and the theory of nomination, (onomasiology and semasiology), investigating general naming principles (Benennungsprinzipien). For the past couple of years, I have been collecting data and preparing a summarizing book on this topic.

I did a lot of coursework in the history of German spelling. And from my attempts to learn various languages (like French, Russian, Hungarian, and modern Greek) as well as from learnig and teaching Bahasa Indonesia I know how difficult or easy it can be (made) to relate sounds to letters and vice versa. On a more abstract level, I want to investigate which criteria should be met to make a spelling easy to learn and use both for native speakers and learners of a foreign language. 

The Indonesian orthography is called "perfectioned spelling", but a closer look reveals that even this system bears some difficulties and inconsistencies.  Hence, I tried to figure out what - if anything - makes a "good" or even "perfect" orthography in general and for a given language like German or Indonesian. In addition to that I want to find out whether "perfection" could be achieved at all. 

In 2006, I also gave a lecture on orthography development at a regional DoBeS training workshop in Ubud (Bali, Indonesia) and in fall 2006, I held two lectures at Universitas Negeri Surabaya (Java, Indonesia) on comparative orthography

Together with Viola Voß, I taught a Spring School class on the typology of writing systems, which, together with the evolution of writing systems, also forms part of my interests in this field.

Research interests and past work


Inflectional morphology, especially verbal categories and marking of valency have always played an inmportant part in my work, as can be seen from my MA and PhD theses which both involved verbs or verbal categories

I also enjoy working in morphological typology and theory, as well as the terminology of morphology.

Another field of interest is word building (derivation and composition), especially in German and Indonesian, and the use of linking elements (Fugenelemente).

Semantics / Etymology

Over the last couple of years I did some work on language particulars (rarissima et rara) as opposed to language universals (universalia et frequentalia). Universals have been studied thoroughly for the last five decades, allowing fundamental insight on the principles and general properties of human languages. At the other end of the scale, features and properties found only in one or very few languages (call them rara or quirks, if you like) tell us almost as much about the capacities and limits of human language(s) and challenge our typological generalizations. In March 2006, I organized an international conference on this topic; the proceedings of that conference appeared in two volumes with Mouton de Gruyter in 2010.


I am also interested in (linguistic) politeness, speech styles, and avoidance systems, and issues of cultural contact and intercultural competence (with particular reference to "politeness" or "communicative adequacy").  Due to limited time, however, I am not engaging in any substantial research here any longer. Together with Corinna Handschuh I once wrote a brief paper demonstrating the application of optimality theory to decribe politeness strategies.


My M.A. thesis (2002) was about verbal diatheses and valency change  in Indonesian, and from time to time I will probably draw upon this background for the occasional paper or talk. Apart from that, I feel not too attracted by this field, especially not by its generativist follies.


Generally, I try to utilize the skills from my MA minor (geography) or the experience from working at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology together with psychologists, geneticists, primatologists and experts in other fields of, or related to, anthropology.


Language contact and related issues are definitely one of my favourite subjects in linguistics. In addition, my dissertation (2008) was about borrowing, so that I have done substantial work in this discipline. Maybe the one or the other written spin-off will still evolve from that work.
Although (or perhaps because) I have never been involved in language documentation and/or extensive fieldwork myself, I wish to promote the documentation of endangered languages and the urgency of linguistic fieldwork. 
The notion of endangered subsystems (writing system, numerals, naming patterns, speech registers) in otherwise oftentimes unendangered languages is fairly new in this field and warrants more effort, given time and resources. I presented a püster on this in Kōbe (Japan), 2006. Together with Tyko Dirksmeyer, I edited a collection of students' papers on language death. The book was published in late 2005 with Weissensee Verlag (Berlin).

German philology

Having been my minor or secondary major all through until my PhD viva voce, German philology has always been and keeps playing a substantial part in my work. Ever since I first heard about it in school, I have been particularly interested in the history of German and the Germanic languages, its medieval varieties and their evolution into the modern dialects and varieties of German and its relatives, especially Alemannic, Low German, and the only German-based creole: Unserdeutsch

Sociolinguistic variation, especially secret languages, jargons, and multiethnolects always fascinated me. So has the work on idioms, their history and parodies of idiomatic expressions as well as linguistic taboos and swearwords

In recent years, applied linguistics and teaching German to foreigners has been the most prominent part of my work.