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My first degree is in German Philology and Sociology (1978). I then went on to do research in first and second language acquisition, which lead to my PhD in 1981. Over the following years, my research focused on developmental language disorders, for which I achieved a postdoctoral degree (Habilitation) in Linguistics in 1987 at the University of Düsseldorf. Since then, I have been studying grammatical processing in native speakers and language learners using psycholinguistic experimentation. In addition to multilingualism, grammatical processing, and language disorders, my research interests include theories of morphology and syntax. Here is a short film about my work (in German).

Between 1993 and 2011, I worked in the Department of Language & Linguistics at the University of Essex. Before that I worked at several universities in Germany (Wuppertal, Hamburg, Düsseldorf). I returned to Germany in 2011, to set up the new Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism, together with Claudia Felser and a fabulous team of more than a dozen co-workers. In 2021, I was awarded a Senior Professorship (for Psycholinguistics and Multilingualism) by the University of Potsdam.

I published 9 books and more than 150 research articles. I received the Gerhard-Hess Award from the German Science Foundation for my work on language acquisition, an award from the University of Düsseldorf for my book on child language disorders, and in 2010, I won an Alexander-von-Humboldt-Professorship, the most valuable international research award Germany has to offer. In 2008, I became a Fellow of the British Academy and in 2012 a Member of the Academy of Europe. I have been the coordinator of several large research projects, and I supervised 34 research students to successful completion of their PhDs. I am the co-editor of the international journal 'Bilingualism: Language and Cognition'  published by Cambridge University Press.