Since 2009, I have been a professor for Linguistics at the German Department of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. I studied German Linguistics and Literature and Philosophy at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main. After obtaining my MA in 1994, I started my PhD thesis "Middle Voice" at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Research Group "Strukturelle Grammatik" in Berlin, which I completed in February 1998. In 2009, I finished my habilitation on "Schnittstellen-Phänomene: Empirische Untersuchungen zum Deutschen und zur Deutschen Gebärdensprache" at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. Before I have been offered a tenure track position as academic lecturer (Akademischer Rat) in Linguistics at the German Department of the Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, I spent 10 months as a research assistant at the Sonderforschungsbereich 340 "Sprachtheoretische Grundlagen für die Computerlinguistik" at the University of Tübingen. In April 2003, my position at the Gutenberg-Universität Mainz was tenured. From 2007 to 2008, I replaced the chair for Linguistics and Didactics of German at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main. From 2004 to 2007, I was the vice president of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS). In 2017, I was a Distinguished Guest Scientists Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Science (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) in Budapest.
My research is concerned with the influence of language modality (spoken or sign languages) on language structure, development, and processing. The focus of my research is on the interaction of syntax, semantics and pragmatics, experimental linguistics and sign language linguistics. Furthermore, I am interested in the advancement of linguistic education at school and university. Since 2010 I have been a Principal Investigator at the Courant Research Center "The Multilayered Text Protocol: Micro and Macro Level Structures in Written Discourse". I was a member of the editorial board of the journal "Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft" and I am a member of the editorial boards of the journals "Sign Language & Linguistics" and "Pedagogical Linguistics". I am editing the introductory series "Kurze Einführungen in die Germanistische Linguistik (KEGLI)" (Winter Verlag, with Jörg Meibauer) and the sign language series "Sign Languages and Deaf Communities (SLDC)" (Mouton de Gruyter/Ishara Press, with Annika Herrmann and Ulrike Zeshan). Since 2014, I have been the responsible editor of the journal "Linguistische Berichte" (Buske Verlag). Between 2007 and 2009, I was a member of the Gutenberg-Forschungskolleg (Gutenberg Research College) at the Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. From 2013 to 2020, I was a member of the advisory board of the DGS corpus project of the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg (DGS-Korpus) and from 2015 to 2020 the chair of the advisory board.
In 2010, we established the experimental sign language linguistics research group at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Sign Lab Göttingen - SLG). We are running various (collaborative) projects on linguistic, cognitive, and cultural aspects of sign languages. In 2015, the DFG approved our application for the Research Training Group "Understanding Social Relationships". In cooperation with colleagues of the Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, we conduct neurolinguistic experiments on the processing of sign languages. The fact that signed and spoken languages use two different modalities which are linguistically much more similar than one might assume at first sight is one of the most fascinating aspects of modern linguistics.