My research is dedicated to one of the most fascinating mysteries of humankind: the origins and evolution of language. In my work, I try to piece together new information of this puzzle by combining techniques from computational linguistics and artificial intelligence that allow me to 'bring back alive' language systems that have disappeared or that have unrecognizably changed over time, and that allow me to investigate how a new language can develop from scratch. Within this broad research context, I spend my time on four concrete research topics:
The German case system is often considered to be a "historical accident" because it evolved from a transparent system of form-to-meaning mappings to a seemingly unsystematic and opaque paradigm. But there are many fundamental questions that remain unanswered in this hypothesis. My experiments on the evolution of German case try to shed a new light on this decades-long mystery in linguistics by 'bringing back from the dead' the Old High German case system in a computational model, and then test how that system performs for communication. The surprising answer is that the Modern High German system actually outperforms its predecessor in various linguistic criteria, such as processing and articulatory effort.