From 2018–2020, I was a full Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Vienna, where, since 2020, I have been an external professor. During 2020-2021, I was additionally a Visiting Professor in English Linguistics at the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt and at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz.
My current research projects include the creation of the international comparable corpus, a digitised lexical atlas of Scotland, a corpus of dramatic texts in Scots, and studies of pragmatic markers in Scottish and Irish English.
In 2015-2016 I was Senior Research Fellow in Anglistische Sprachwissenschaft and Gastprofessor at the Technische Universität Dresden. My first position was as a Lektor in the Englisches Seminar at the Rheinische Friedrich-Universität Bonn (1975–78), where I attended various Hauptseminare and Oberseminare and Graduate Kolloquien. From 1978–82, I was a Junior Research Fellow in English Language at the University of Sheffield, where I did my PhD. In 1983 I was appointed as a Lecturer in English at Queen's University Belfast, and in 2001 as Senior Lecturer in English and Scottish Language, a position I held until 2013. During my career at Queen's I held Visiting Professorships at the University of Georgia (1990), University of Michigan (1991), Freie Universität Berlin (2005), Technische Universität Dresden (2009, 2011 and 2014), and Technische Universität Chemnitz (2011).
I was born in Falkirk, Scotland, in 1952. I attended Wallacestone Primary School, Falkirk High School and, in 1970, the Helmholtz Gymnasium, Karlsruhe.
I graduated with an MA with 2.1 Honours in English Language and Literature with German from the University of Edinburgh in 1975, and with a PhD in English Language from the University of Sheffield in 1987. My thesis was entitled Aspects of the Grammar in a Corpus of Dramatic Texts in Scots, submitted in 1986. In 2000, I added a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (PGCertHET) from Queen's University Belfast.
In 2003, I was short-listed candidate for the UNESCO Linguapax Prize, awarded annually by the UNESCO Linguapax Institute in Barcelona.