In my graduate education at the University of Vienna, I was trained in theoretical linguistics with an emphasis on syntactic theory as well as interface-issues (syntax-morphology, syntax-semantics, and syntax-pragmatics). At this time my primary language focus was on Germanic. After completing my graduate work I came to the University of British Columbia in 1996 as a postdoctoral researcher and later as a faculty member. Here I expanded my language specialization to include Upriver Halkomelem (Salish), Blackfoot (Algonquian) and Ktunaxa (aka Kutenai). I have published extensively on typological issues viewed from the angle of theoretical linguistics, which I more recently expanded to includd the language of interactional language. My relocation to ICREA and UPF coincides with the start of a new research agenda: the modelling of language variation in neuro-diverse populations.
My research explores the fundamental building blocks of human language, and how languages differ in their realization. I pursue this research focusing on three empirical domains: traditional grammatical categories, categories belonging to interactional language, and the linguistic profiles in neuro-diverse populations. I do this by using the framework I developed In my 2014 monograph: the Universal Spine Hypothesis according to which the grammar of all languages (including interactional language) are constrained by a set of hierarchically organized universal functions (the spine). The question raised by the language profile of neuro-diverse populations is that it involves a different type of language variation, one in which the spine itself may be affected. Thus, my research links to neighboring fields, including philosophy (referential semantics, pragmatics), sociology (conversation analysis), and psychology (theory of mind).