I was Professor of Linguistics at the University of Manchester until my retirement in 2020. I have held visiting and honorary positions at the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics (Birmingham), University of Haifa, Humboldt University (Berlin), Sorbonne University (Paris), Cambridge University, La Trobe University (Melbourne), University of Konstanz, National Centre for Scientific Research (Paris), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig), the Central European University (Budapest), and Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). I was awarded a British Academy Wolfson Professorial Fellowship in 2017, and took on a fellowship at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Studies in 2022. During my academic career I supervised more than 25 PhD dissertations in the areas of contact linguistics and bilingualism, language documentation, Romani linguistics, Arabic dialectology, discourse pragmatics, language policy, urban multilingualism, and the linguistics of Kurdish, Hebrew, and Turkish. I was awarded research grants with a total value of over GBP 7mio as PI, from the British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, European Science Foundation, European Commission Seventh Framework Programme, Open Society Institute, and others, and have been involved as co-I in funded projects with a value of over GBP 12 mio. During my time at the University of Manchester I founded and led the Manchester Working Group on Language Contact, the Romani Project, and Multilingual Manchester. I set up digital resources for the dialectology of Romani, Kurdish, and Arabic, co-initiated the Romani Virtual Library and the Romani lexical database Romlex, and set up online resources for endangered languages and contact linguistics. I authored a total of five impact case studies for the UK’s Research Excellence Framework around public and policy engagement with Roma migrants at European, national and local levels, and supporting policy and practice on urban multilingualism.
I served as editor of the journal Romani Studies with Liverpool University Press from 1999-2017. I was co-editor of the book series Sondersprachenforschung and of the journal Mediterranean Language Review, both with Harrassowitz publishers, and co-editor of the series Empirical Approaches to Language Typology (EALT) with De Gruyter Mouton. I now edit the series Language Contact and Bilingualism (LCB) which was launched in 2010 with De Gruyter Mouton.
I trained in Linguistics and Arabic Language at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1982-1983), in Comparative and German Linguistics at the University of Tübingen (1983-1987) and in General Phonetics and Phonology and German Linguistics at the University of Hamburg (1987-1989). I completed my MA dissertation on Structural Variation and Standardisation in (Northern) Kurdish in (1989) and my Dr.Phil. dissertation on Grammar and Discourse in Kelderaš/Lovari Romani (1993), both at the University of Hamburg.
I am interested in and have contributed to a range of sub-fields in linguistics including contact linguistics, language typology, documentation of endangered languages, dialectology, discourse pragmatics, language policy and planning, urban multilingualism (particularly ethnography of language policy and linguistic landscapes) and forensic linguistics. My language interests and areas of language expertise include German dialects (southwest Germany and Low German) and Yiddish, Romani, and languages of the Near East (including Kurdish, Arabic, Hebrew, Domari, and Turkish) as well as contact languages and Sondesprachen (special vocabularies, sometimes called ‘jargons’ or ‘secret languages’). I have also contributed to research in the broader field of Romani studies in the areas of migration studies, cultural studies, and political participation.