Natalia Levshina

I'm a language scientist working in the consortium Language in Interaction funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Before joining the MPI, I worked in the ERC-funded project Grammatical Universals, headed by Martin Haspelmath at Leipzig University. I obtained my PhD in Linguistics at the University of Leuven in 2011 and my habilitation (university-level teaching) qualification in General and English Linguistics in Leipzig in 2019.

My big theoretical interest is communicative efficiency and how it manifests itself in language structure and use. For an example of efficient language use, check my blog post on different shortenings of "coronavirus" in different languages of the world. Now at the MPI I'm working on experiments that involve artificial language learning and which help us to understand the universal cognitive and communicative biases of language users. I also enjoy using and teaching R, statistics and corpus methods, and writing popular blog posts about language (see MPI TalkLing and Het Talige Brein). 

Gender equality and equal opportunities are extremely important to me. Since 2021, I've been a Deputy Equality Officer at the MPI.  


Education and qualifications
  • 2019: Habilitation at the Philological Faculty of Leipzig  University, thesis Towards a Theory of Communicative Efficiency in Human Languages. Venia legendi: English and General Linguistics. Referees: Prof. Beata Hampe, Prof. Martin Haspelmath, Prof. Benedikt Szmrecsanyi
  • 2007-2011: PhD in Linguistics, University of Leuven, doctoral thesis Doe wat je niet laten kan [Do what you cannot let]: A usage-based study of Dutch causative constructions Supervisor: Prof. Dirk Geeraerts. Co-supervisor: Prof. Dirk Speelman
  • 2006: Candidate's degree, Saint Petersburg State University (Department of General, Social and Psycholinguistics). Thesis Indirect Speech Tactics in Pre-Election Discourse
  • 1995-2000: Pskov Pedagogical University, Russia. Teacher of English and German. Graduated with high distinction.
Work experience
  • 2020 – present: External lecturer at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
  • 2016 – 2019: Postdoctoral researcher in the ERC-funded project “Grammatical Universals”, headed by Martin Haspelmath. Leipzig University, Germany
  • 2017 – 2019: External lecturer at Friedrich-Schiller University Jena, Germany. Courses “Statistics for Linguistics” and “Introduction to Corpus Linguistics”
  • 2013 – 2015: Postdoctoral researcher at the F.R.S.-FNRS – Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium. Individual project Mapping the causative continuum: A multivariate typological investigation of causative constructions based on a multilingual parallel corpus
  • 2012 – 2013: Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Marburg, Germany. LOEWE project “Exploring the Building Blocks of Language” and DFG project “Parallel Corpora and Linguistic Typology”
  • 2012: Research fellow at the University of Jena, Germany
  • 2001 – 2007: Linguist and project manager at PROMT Ltd. (Development of Machine Translation systems)
Funding and awards
  • 2021 – present: Levelt Innovation Award from the MPI for Psycholinguistics. Project "From syntactic constituents to information chunks", together with Rowena Garcia and Yevheniy Skyra (Language Development Department)
  • Individual postdoctoral grant from the research foundation F.R.S.-FNRS (Belgium)
  • Third prize for the best paper presentation by postdoctoral researchers at the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE) conference
Editorial activities


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