In today’s blog post, we introduce another member of the FEL Executive Committee.
Since March 2019 I have lived in Belém, Brazil, where I work as an associated researcher at the Linguistics Division of the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, holding a senior post-doctoral research-grant from the Brazilian government. This is my second time here: I was previously a guest researcher with the Museu Goeldi from 1997 to 2011, when I studied and documented the Aweti language in Mato Grosso. The Aweti live in the Upper Xingu cultural area together with nine other ethnic groups speaking six languages of different families. Aweti is a Tupian language and had about 90 speakers when I initiated research in 1998; today they are more than 200. These worrying numbers alone were reason enough for me to get interested in language endangerment, and engaging in the new field of language documentation.
As a German documentary-anthropological linguist I am interested in linguistic diversity, and also in language technology. I obtained a Dr. Phil degree at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2002 while doing fieldwork and language documentation within the DOBES programme (2000–2006). From 2008 to 2011 I held a Dilthey-Fellowship developing a digital grammar of Aweti at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, where I continue to be affiliated as Privatdozent. From November 2011, I was Scientific Coordinator and Head of The Language Archive, Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics. Then, in 2015-2016, I was General Coordinator in the European Language research infrastructure CLARIN ERIC, followed by two years as Director of the Vigdís International Centre, University of Iceland.
I believe that FEL is an important institution with a huge potential to raise interest in endangered languages and support their study. It was a pleasure to me to host the 2018 FEL conference in Reykjavík, Iceland, and to take a role in FEL publications, co-editing the first digital proceedings volume, published by EL Publishing.