PhD, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, 1996
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
My PhD dissertation "Self-organisation and language change" theorized under which conditions a change happens in a language and how it disseminates through the speech community. In my early years I published on different aspects of language change, its dynamics, progression, constraints and outcomes, mostly on the data from the Estonian language. This research has provided me with a strong base for theorizing about other changes in the social realm.

The last 20 years, my focus has been on language sustainability, i.e. why some languages are being used over generations while others are abandoned when their speakers shift to other languages.  It is a complex phenomenon that depends on human geographic, demographic, economic, political and cultural factors that form a complex environment for each language community. However, the process of language extinction as a social phenomenon is not very different from the process of language change.

While many factors that contribute to language extinction are beyond the control of the speakers of the language, or the language community as a group, there is one element that can be modified by the community to increase its own sustainability - it is their collective identity. For this reason, the last 12 years of my research has been focussed on elaborating a theory of collective identity that would explicate the mechanisms of group formation and sustainability, collective action, and the nature of intergroup relations.

For this task I needed to familiarize myself with identity research in a wide range of disciplines, such as social and political psychology, ethnography, sociology, semiotics, history and philosophy. I have found a large array of approaches and immense number of individual studies on different aspects of identity. Yet there is a scarcity of meta studies, and a total lack of interdisciplinary meta studies. Filling this gap is where my research activities are currently aimed at. "Signs of Identity" is just a first step in this direction.