My main scientific goal is to understand how and to what extent languages are shaped by collective human behaviour, from the beginning of the Holocene to today. Through empirical means I attempt to differentiate, in the structure of languages, the effect of contingent historical processes from consistent human biases towards or against learning, using or transmitting specific linguistic behaviours.
In my work I combine data science with linguistic typology, evolutionary anthropology, ethnography and the cognitive sciences. Across these domains I collaborate with specialists, often in multidisciplinary teams. In order to maximize the ecological validity of my investigations I draw mainly on observational data from as many languages as possible. As a drawback, and reflecting the convoluted processes that gave rise to the documented linguistic diversity, I regularly wrangle with small, sparse, noisy and non-independent data (or s2n2 for short), which has become a signature of my work.
My most recent research ranges from the emergence of creole languages, the nature word order patterns, pervasive sound-meaning associations, the adaptability of speech sound systems and the prehistory of worldwide linguistic diversity.
I am the 2019-2020 Maury Green Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. In addition, I am a research affiliate of the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena (Germany), where I am also an external faculty to the IMPRS Ph.D. program. I also hold two external positions: research associate to the Human Relations Area Files at Yale University (USA) and senior researcher at the Quantitative Linguistics Laboratory in Kazan Federal University (Russia).
Previously I was a postdoctoral researcher at the Comparative Linguistics Department at the University of Zürich (Switzerland). I received a Ph.D. in Computer Sciences from the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences while simultaneously I held an affiliation to the Department of Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, both institutes from Leipzig (Germany). I obtained my B.Sc. in Physics and M.Sc. in Interdisciplinary and Statistical Physics from the Balseiro Institute in Bariloche (Argentina).