Linguist at the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

E-mail: hedvig.public [snabel-a]

Twitter: @laserhedvig


  • postdoc at DLCE, MPI-EVA

    • Grambank coordinator

    • researcher

  • Podcast co-host: Because Language

I'm a linguist from Sweden (Uppsala-Stockholm), living in Leipzig. My background is as a typologist interested in complexity, contact, diversification and linguistic methodology. My recent interests are mainly focused on methodology of large scale comparative studies, driving forces in large scale language change and databases. Geographically I have mostly focussed on languages of the Pacific and West Africa.

I did my PhD at the Australian National University, finishing in 2020. I was a part of a larger research project investigating the question of what it is that drives linguistic diversity called the Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity. This project was lead by Prof. Nicholas Evans and funded by the Australian Research Council. For a longer description of our entire overarching research project, go here.

My PhD thesis has four key chapters all related to language diversification in Oceania:

  • Predicting number of languages per island in Remote Oceania using enviromental and social variables

  • Quantifiying the structural and lexical diversity of the region

  • Grammatical reconstruction of ancestral Oceanic languages

  • Variation in Sāmoan

My PhD thesis is available for free here.

I grew up in Uppsala and moved to Stockholm as a teenager. I did my BA and MA at Stockholm University (with exchange at University of Manitoba, Winnipeg). I've also worked in a research project in the Nijmegen for 1.5 years, at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. I lived in Canberra for five years during my PhD programme. I now live in Leipzig, Germany. It has been fun living in this places but also a struggle to leave them behind. I'm eternally grateful for the friends and family who have stuck with me.

Besides doing research I'm also involved in public outreach, mostly through the podcast Because Language which I co-host together with the brilliant Daniel Midgley and quick-witted Ben Ainslie. I also do lectures on linguistic typology and similar topics to high school students, write blog posts, talk on radio etc. I write on a blog called Humans Who Read Grammars. It has been on a pause during the PhD, but may pick up again soon.

Apart from linguistics I am interested in roller skating, comic books and, as of recently, reading trashy fantasy novels at hipster coffee shops.

Name pronunciation

Since this is a common question (because linguists) I will address the pronouciation of my name. The pronounciation is basically how you'd pronounce the following words in English: "head" + "wig" + "she" + "god". If you're keen to be a bit more authentic, try making a [v] instead of a [w]. For my continental germanic friends: the [g] is pronounced as in "dig", i.e. not unvoiced ([k]) or fricativised ("Bach").

Swedish is a semi-tonal language, and we've got an unsual fricative ([ɧ]) and retroflexes ([ɖ]). These are the main challenges of my last name. I'm okay if you get it wrong, don't worry. Try for "head" + "wig" + "she" + "god" and it'll be fine. (Yes, it's fine to drop the first "r" in "Skirgård", it's teeny-tiny anyway.)

Me on the left and my husband Stephen Mann on the right at our friends wedding on the Australian coast in May 2019.