I grew up in a town called Dolgellau. Most non-Welsh people who've heard of it know it either for being under Cader Idris or on the way to Barmouth. It's also the location of the original Bryn Mawr estate, whose owner Rowland Ellis migrated, along with a number of other Welsh quakers, to the Philadelphia area in 1686. (They left some traces.) Most people from that part of Wales speak Welsh, and I'm one of them. Two languages were never enough, however. When I was 18 I left to study German and Russian at the University of Nottingham, where it soon became clear that – enjoyable and useful though it is to learn languages – what I really wanted to do was study how language works.

Before taking the obvious next step and going to grad school, however, I decided to spend some extra time in Russia, and got a job teaching English in Moscow. This was a lot of fun, but after two years of that, I decided to move to Edinburgh to study the evolution of language and cognition. This led to a PhD, supervised by April McMahon and Andrew Smith You can read my thesis here. It presents an experimental approach to answering the question of why languages diverge into dialects. People tell me it's quite readable.

After finishing my PhD I worked on a project with Christine Caldwell and Cristina Matthews at the University of Stirling. It involved having participants build towers out of spaghetti and modelling clay as a means of investigating processes of cultural evolution. Then I moved to New York to join the Experimental Semiotics Lab at Yeshiva University, where I spent three years conducting experiments on language and communication with Bruno Galantucci. In 2014 I accepted a position as Assistant Professor in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2022 they said I could stay.

I'm married to an ex-philosopher and, in my spare time, I still like learning languages. Our first son Iori was born in September 2011, our daughter Eirwen in February 2014, and our second son Osian in March 2017. (Mouseover for pronunciation guides.) We're raising them bilingually.