I studied linguistics, English, social sciences, philosophy and education at the University of Bielefeld. After completing my first two years (basic studies), I went to London (GB) for one year as a foreign language assistant, simultaneously studying English phonetics-phonology and intonation in guest student courses at University College London. Afterwards, I spent another year at the University of York in Northern England, studying predominantly general linguistics and sociolinguistics. Back in Germany, I graduated in the subjects philosophy, education, linguistics and English at the University of Bielefeld.
After the completion of my undergraduate studies, I was employed as a research assistant in the Department of Linguistics at Bielefeld University, working on my doctoral dissertation. In my dissertation, I investigated the handling of communication problems, problems of understanding and cooperation, on the basis of an empirical corpus of natural conversations between clients and clerks/officials in a large citizen-administrative bureau in a medium-sized German city. I received my doctoral degree at the University of Bielefeld in 1985.
Shortly before completing my doctorate , I transfered to the University of Oldenburg, where I initially worked in the field of German as a foreign language. After a few years I became a lecturer for German linguistics there and worked intensively on my habilitation project, an empirical study of the role of prosody, especially intonation, in the organization of everyday conversations. After my habilitation, I was appointed senior lecturer for German linguistics at the University of Oldenburg. Almost at the same time, I also received a Heisenberg scholarship from the German Research Foundation. As, however, I was simultaneously appointed Professor for German Linguistics and Communication Studies at the University of Potsdam, I refrained from accepting the scholarship.
Since 1994, I have been working as a professor of German Studies at the University of Potsdam, specializing in 'Communication Theory and Linguistics', with only minor absences for research semesters, a research year financed by the VW-Stiftung, or my time as a visiting professor at UCLA in the spring term of 2009.