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School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, NE1 7RU

michelle.sheehan1@newcastle.ac.uk

About me (MiShee54)

Since September 2021, I have been Professor of Linguistics at Newcastle University. Before that, I was Senior Lecturer (2015-2017), Reader (2017-2019) and then Professor of Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), in Cambridge, UK. I am interested in the structure of language (syntactic theory, hence the trees), how languages vary and how we can model this variation (typology, comparative syntax), how structure and meaning interact (syntax/semantics interface) and how linguistics fits into the discipline of modern languages (pedagogical linguistics). I have a particular interest in languages descended from Latin (Romance languages), especially Spanish and Portuguese varieties but I am interested in language in general and have worked on many different languages, often in collaboration with other scholars.

Before joining ARU, I took a degree in Modern Languages (Spanish and French) at the University of Oxford, an MA in Linguistics at the University of York and a PhD at Newcastle University and then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Universities of Newcastle, Durham and Cambridge.   

I’m currently Honorary Secretary for the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) (2018-2021), Secretary for the University Council of General and Applied Linguistics (UCGAL) (2019-2022), Vice-chair for Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER) (2019-) and Principal Investigator on Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages project (funded by Language Acts, Philological Society, ESRC). I’m also on REF2021 sub panel UoA 26. I also co-organise the weekly Romance Linguistics Circle and the annual Cambridge Comparative Syntax conference (CamCoS).


Current projects

Causative and perception verbs

In a recent project, Sonia Cyrino and I looked at causative constructions (I made John cry) in Spanish and Portuguese varieties from a synchronic and diachronic perspective (funded by the British Academy). We have a paper about this here and another one under review. We are particularly interested in the passivisation restriction in causatives (*Sue was let/seen leave) in other languages and taught a minicourse about this at MIT in November 2017. Please contact me if you are interested in the handouts! In follow-on work, I am investigating further variation across Spanish varieties regarding passives of causatives.

With Anna Pineda (University of the Sorbonne), I’ve been investigating Catalan and Spanish causatives. The main things we have worked on are (i) how the presence of dative case in this context should be modelled theoretically and (ii) what regulates the choice between dative and accusative in Spanish and Catalan. We have a paper on (i) to appear in Syntax and a squib here but the work for (ii) is still in progress.

A paper on the development of so-called Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) causatives recently appeared in Probus. It focuses mainly on French but argues that many Romance languages go through a pronoun-only phase of ECM before full ECM develops, providing a phase-based model of this pattern. Get in touch if you would like a copy of the paper!

Control from a cross-linguistic perspective

I’m currently working on partial control in English, French and German with Jutta Hartmann (University of Bielefeld), building on work I did earlier with Marcel Pitteroff (University of Stuttgart). We are interested in contexts where partial control appears to be possible where we would expect it not to be and whether these are examples of covert comitatives. We are also interested in how to model non-finiteness cross-linguistically.

Variation in case and agreement

I have paper to appear with András Bárány considering challenges for dependent case. We presented this at GLOW in 2019.

In an exciting new project with John Williams (Cambridge) and Maia Duguine (CNRS), we are planning an artificial language experiment on Basque speakers funded by an ARU Research and Innovation Collaboration grant. This has been delayed due to Covid-19 but the data collection will start as soon as it can.

Pedagogical linguistics

Finally, with Alice Corr (Birmingham), Anna Havinga (Bristol) Jonathan Kasstan (Westminster), Norma Schifano (Birmingham) and Sascha Stollhans (Geothe Institute), I lead the Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) project, which aims to promote linguistics as a component of MFL in schools. We have received funding for this from the AHRC Open World Research Initiative initiative via Language Acts and World Making, PhilSoc and a Bristol University ESRC Impact Accelerator grant (to Anna Havinga).  A position piece about a place for linguistics in UK A-levels was published jointly in Languages, Society and Policy and Impact: Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching. You can find the paper summarising our first study in Modern Languages Open.

I’m also a named external collaborator on the ANR-DFG project ‘Uncovering verb-second effects. An interface-based typology’ (led by Maia Duguine, CNRS-IKER and Georg A. Kaiser, Konstanz), on the SSHRC project ‘The nature of parameters: representing language universals and language variation’ (led by Lisa Travis, McGill University with Co-Is Jessica Coon, McGill, Henry Davis, UBC) and on Agencia Estatal de Investigation (Spanish Research Council) project Information structure at its syntax-semantics interface: Germanic and Romance languages’ (led by Ángel Jiménez Fernández, Seville)

Other things I am interested in and always thinking about are: subjecthood in Romance languages, word order, extraction restrictions, case and agreement, restructuring and micro-variation across Romance languages.  

I’d be very happy to hear from you in you are interested in any of the above projects or if you are a student interested in studying something syntax-related at Newcastle University, UK, or a student/academic interested in visiting us. We have a beautiful campus in the centre of Newcastle, come and see!