Professor Michelle Sheehan

Professor of Linguistics

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School:Humanities and Social Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Language and linguistics

Research Supervision:Yes

Courses taught: English Language and Linguistics, TESOL

Michelle teaches and researches in the area of linguistics, with a particular focus on the structure of language (syntax).

Visit Michelle's website and follow Michelle on Twitter.

Email: michelle.sheehan@aru.ac.uk


Background

Michelle has been at ARU since August 2015, being promoted to Professor in 2020. Before that, she worked as a researcher at the Universities of Newcastle, Durham and Cambridge. She is interested in the structure of language (syntax), how languages vary/change and how we can model this variation (typology, comparative syntax), with a particular interest in languages descended from Latin (Romance languages).

Michelle also leads the project Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages (run with colleagues at Birmingham, Bristol, Lancaster and Westminster). This project aims to introduce secondary language students to linguistics. So far, the project has run for students of German, French and Spanish A-level, as well as heritage speakers of Portuguese and French. For a concise overview of the project’s philosophy, visit the TES website. To keep updated, follow us on Twitter.

Spoken Languages

  • English
  • Portuguese
  • French
  • Spanish

Research interests

  • comparative syntax
  • typology
  • language variation and change
  • Romance linguistics
  • English linguistics
  • heritage languages
  • Philosophy of language
  • Syntax/semantic interface

Michelle is currently collaborating with academics in the UK, Germany, Spain, and Brazil on issues related to argument structure (causative constructions), heritage languages, case and agreement (experimental and theoretical perspectives) and unexpressed arguments (Control).

Areas of research supervision

  • Maksi Kozinska Heritage Polish in the UK (first supervisor, in progress – funded by a VC’s studentship)
  • Kate Lightfoot The morphosyntax of UK heritage French (first supervisor, in progress – funded by a VC’s studentship)
  • Houriah Aldosari Verb-noun collocations in Saudi L2 English and semantic transparency (second supervisor, in progress - Saudi government scholarship)
  • Marzouq Alsulayyi Intercultural competence in Saudi L2 English apologies (second supervisor, 2020, Saudi government scholarship)
  • Mihaela Nolimal The phonology of L2 Lithuanian English (second supervisor, 2020)
  • Loraine Thomas Vincentian literature in the era of independence 1940-1979 (third supervisor, in prog – faculty fees bursary)
  • Alejo Alcaraz Configurations of A-movement (temporary supervisor of visiting PhD student from University of the Basque Country, Jan-June 2016)

Teaching

  • Revealing English Structure
  • Languages in Contrast
  • History of the English Language
  • Second Language Acquisition

Qualifications

  • PGCE, Roehampton University
  • PhD Linguistics, Newcastle University
  • MA Linguistics (distinction), University of York
  • BA (Hons) Modern Languages, University of Oxford

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Elected Faculty representative for Anglia Ruskin University Senate (2019-2022)
  • Editorial board for Glossa: a Journal of General Linguistics (2019-)
  • Editorial board member for Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, Cambridge University Press (2019-)
  • Editorial board member for Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics, Cambridge University Press (2019-)
  • Vice-chair of Linguistic Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER) (2019-)
  • External panel member for revalidation of BSc English Language and Linguistics, University of Ulster (2019)
  • External examiner for BA English Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield (2018-)
  • Honorary secretary, Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) (2018-)
  • Lead on Linguistics in Modern Foreign Languages project (2017-)
  • Member of review board for Snippets (2017-)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2016-)
  • Co-founder and co-convener of weekly Anglia Ruskin-Cambridge University Romance Linguistics Seminar (2015-)
  • Member of Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW), LAGB, Philological Society

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

2019. PI for ARU Research and Innovation Collaboration Fund grant for a Basque artificial language learning experiment (Co-Is Maia Duguine, CNRS & John Williams, University of Cambridge) (£2864).

2019. PI for Language Acts and World Making OWRI grant for Linguistics in MFL project (Co-Is Alice Corr, Birmingham, Anna Havinga, Bristol, Jonathan Kasstan, Westminster, Norma Schifano, Birmingham) (£8062).

2019-22. Named collaborator on Agencia Estatal de Investigación (Spanish Research Council) project ‘Information structure at its syntax-semantics interface: Germanic and Romance languages’ (PI: Ángel Jiménez Fernández, Seville).

2019. PI for Language Acts and World Making grant for ‘Portuguese Linguistics Taster’ (£1005.50).

2018-21. Named collaborator on ANR-DFG project 'Uncovering verb-second effects. An interface-based typology' (PIs: Maia Duguine, CNRS-IKER & Georg A. Kaiser, Konstanz).

2018. PI for Philological Society Public Outreach grant for Linguistics in MFL A-level (£1000).

2017. PI for Arts Council Museums and Universities Initiative (MUPI) grant (Co-Is at University of East Anglia, Peterborough Museum /Flag Fen Archaeology Park - Vivacity Heritage, Culture Coventry Trust, de Havilland Aircraft Museum, National Horseracing Museum and Museum of Power) (£1000).

2016-21. Named collaborator on Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada insight grant ‘The nature of parameters: representing language universals and language variation’ (PI: Prof Lisa Travis, McGill University, Canada, Co-Is Jessica Coon, McGill, Henry Davis, UBC).

2016-17. PI for British Academy International Partnership and Mobility Scheme grant 'Variation in Romance causatives: a synchronic and diachronic study' (Co-I Sonia Cyrino, £10,000).

Selected recent publications

Sheehan, M., 2020a. The development of Exceptional Case Marking in Romance with a particular focus on French. Probus.

Sheehan, M., 2020b. The Romance Person Case Constraint is not about clitic clusters. In A. Pineda & J. Mateu (eds.). Dative structures in Romance and beyond (Open Generative Syntax). Berlin: Language Science Press, 143-171.

Sheehan, M, Parafita Couto, M. & Blokzijl, J., 2020. Inflected infinitives in Galician. In I. Vogel, T. Miller & K. Kostyzsyn (eds.), 260-273. Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory: selected papers from LSRL 47. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Corr, A., Kasstan, J. and Sheehan, M., 2019. A place for linguistics in Key Stage 5 Modern Languages. Published jointly in both Impact: Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching and Language, Society and Policy (Dialogues).

Holmberg, A., Sheehan, M. & van der Wal, J., 2019. Movement from the double object construction is not fully symmetrical. Linguistic Inquiry.

Pineda, A. and Sheehan, M., 2019. Non-nominal arguments and transitivity in Romance and Scandinavian. In K. Ramsh∅j Christensen, H. J∅rgensen, and J. Woods (eds.), The Sign of the V: Papers in Honour of Sten Vikner.

Sheehan, M, Parafita Couto, M. & Schäfer, M., 2019. Crowdsourcing and minority languages: the case of Galician inflected infinitives. Frontiers in Psych. - Language Sciences.

Pitteroff, M. & Sheehan, M., 2018. The case for fake partial control in French and German. In S. Hucklebridge & M. Nelson (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 48 (vol 2), 245-258.

Schifano, N. & Sheehan, M., 2018. Italian faire-infinitives: the special case of volere. In Mirko Grimaldi, Rosangela Lai, Ludovico Franco and Benedetta Baldi (eds), Structuring variation in Romance Linguistics and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 161-175.

Sheehan, M., 2018a. Basic word order in Brazilian Portuguese: a hybrid EPP. Estudos linguísticos e literários 58: 103-128.

Sheehan, M. 2018b. Control of inflected infinitives in European Portuguese. In A. Gonçalves & A.-L. Santos (eds.), 29-58. Complement clauses in Portuguese: syntax and acquisition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sheehan, M., 2018c. On the difference between exhaustive and non-exhaustive control. In J. Casalicchio, & F. Cognola (ed.), Null subjects in Generative Grammar, 141-170. OUP.

Sheehan, M., Paciorek, A. & Williams, J., 2018. Case/agreement matching: evidence for a cognitive bias. Glossa 3(1): 92.1-23.

Sheehan, M. & van der Wal, J., 2018. Evidence for nominal licensing in caseless languages. Journal of Linguistics 54(3): 527-589.

Sheehan, M. & Cyrino, S., 2018. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation: a phase-based explanation. In S. Hucklebridge & M. Nelson (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 48 (vol 3), 81-90.

Bailey, L. & Sheehan, M. (eds.), 2017. Order and Structure in Syntax (volume I). Language Sciences Press.

Douglas, J., Ranero, R. & Sheehan, M., 2017. Two kinds of syntactic ergativity in Mayan. In Proceedings of GLOW in Asia XI, MIT working papers in linguistics. Cambridge, MA.

Sheehan, M., 2017a. Labelling and the Head-Final Filter. In L. Bauke & A. Blümel (eds.), Labels and Roots, 161-202. Mouton de Gruyter.

Sheehan, M., 2017b. Parameterising ergativity: an inherent case approach. In J. Coon, D. Massam, and L. Travis (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Ergativity, OUP, 59-85.

Sheehan, M., Biberauer, T., Roberts, I. & Holmberg, A., 2017. The Final-over-Final Condition. MIT Press.

Sheehan, M. & Bailey, L. (eds.), 2017 Order and Structure in Syntax (volume II). Language Sciences Press.

Recent presentations and conferences

Invited talks

2021. TBC. Invited colloquium talk at University of California at Santa Cruz, April.

2020. TBC. Invited talk at Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Microvariation (TEAM), University of Padua, Italy, November.

2020. TBC. Invited colloquium talk at Centre de Lingüística Teòrica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, November.

2020. TBC. Invited talk at Residual Verb Second in Romance, University of Oslo, Norway, June. [postponed due to Covid-19].

2020. TBC. Keynote lecture at Subjects in Romance, University of Stockholm, Sweden, May. [postponed due to Covid-19].

2020. Passives of Romance causatives and phase theory. Invited colloquium talk at University of Venice, March [postponed due to Covid-19].

2020. Deriving an asymmetrical syntax from symmetrical merge. Invited talk at (A)symmetries in spoken and sign languages workshop. University of Göttingen, February.

2020. A Multiple Agree account of the Romance faire-infinitif. Invited talk at Conversazione Linguistiche, University of Trento, January (with A. Pineda).

2019. Fake partial control: a new analysis. SyntaxLab talk, University of Cambridge, February (with M. Pitteroff).

2019. Where passivisation fails: phase-based restrictions on A-movement. Invited colloquium talk at UCL, February.

2019. Linguistics: bridging the content/skills divide in Modern Foreign Languages. Invited talk at Language Analysis in Schools: Education and Research (LASER) launch event, British Academy, London, March.

2019. Minimalist approaches to extraction restrictions. Invited colloquium talk at University of Tübingen, April.

2019. When can you passivise causatives? A phase-based account. Invited plenary at Parameters Workshop in honour of Lisa Travis, McGill University, May.

2019. Successive cyclic movement is feature driven. Invited talk at Thirty million theories of features. Tromsø University: The Arctic University of Norway, May.

2019. When can you passivise causatives? A phase-based account. Invited colloquium talk at University of York, June.

2019. Restrictions on A-movement in English and Spanish and what they tell us about phase theory. Invited plenary at 16th Workshop in syntax, semantics and phonology (wossp19), June.

2019. A place for linguistics in language teaching? Invited plenary at Workshop on pedagogical linguistics. University of Leeds, July.

2018. How A-movement can lead to extraction restrictions. Asymmetries 2018. Plenary speaker at DGfS workshop, Stuttgart University, March (with Jamie Douglas and Rodrigo Ranero).

2018. No escape-hatch for A-movement: evidence from causative/perception verbs. Invited talk at University of Göttingen, April.

2018. *They were seen/let leave: where passivisation fails and why. Invited colloquium talk at Newcastle University, October.

2018. Passives and causatives in Romance: puzzles and explanations. Invited plenary at Romanian and the Romance languages: the 18th international conference of the Department of Linguistics, University of Bucharest, November.

Talks selected by peer review

2020. The grammaticalisation of ECM causatives in Romance with a particular focus on French. 50th Romance Linguistics Seminar, Trinity Hall College, University of Cambridge.

2019. When dependent case is not enough. Main colloquium, GLOW, Oslo, May (with A. Bárány).

2018. On why verbs of perception/causation sometimes don’t passivise. Olinco, June.

2018. Transitivity in Catalan and Italian: evidence from causatives. Olinco, June (with A. Pineda & N. Schifano).

2018. A-movement cannot use escape hatches: evidence from causatives. Poster presented at North East Linguistic Society 49 (NELS), Cornell University, October.

2018. Challenges for dependent case. Paper presented at The place of case in grammar, Crete, October (with A. Bárány).

2017. Dative extension in causatives: faire-infinitif in Latin American Spanish. Paper presented at Dative structures and beyond, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, January 2017.

2017. Movement from the double object construction is not fully symmetrical. Paper presented at Dative structures and beyond, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, January (with A. Holmberg & J. van der Wal).

2017. Two kinds of syntactic ergativity in Mayan. Poster presented at GLOW in Asia, National University of Singapore, February (with J. Douglas & R. Ranero).

2017. Inflected infinitives in Galician. Paper presented at Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), Delaware, April (with M. C. Parafita Couto and J. Blokzijl).

2017. On ECM, causation, perception and passivisation. Paper presented at CamVoice, University of Cambridge, May (with Sonia Cyrino).

2017. More on inflected infinitives in Brazilian Portuguese. Associação de Brasilianistas na Europa. Leiden, May (with M. C. Parafita Couto and J. Blokzijl).

2017. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation? A phase-based explanation. Paper presented at VI Congress Internacional de Estudos Linguísticos (CIEL), Universidade de Brasília, August (with Sonia Cyrino).

2017. The case for partial control in French and German. Paper presented at Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop (CGSW), Trondheim, September (with M. Pitteroff).

2017. The case for partial control in French and German. Paper presented at North East Linguistic Society 48 (NELS). University of Iceland, October (with M. Pitteroff).

2017. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation? A phase-based explanation. Poster presented at North East Linguistic Society 48 (NELS), University of Iceland, October (with S. Cyrino).

2017. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation? A phase-based explanation. Paper presented at Going Romance, Bucharest, November (with Sonia Cyrino).

2017. Person Case Constraint effects in causatives and ditransitive and the locative/dative distinction. Paper presented at Going Romance, Bucharest, November.

Media experience

Interview on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the linguistics of politeness (17 July 2019).

Interview of BBC Radio Essex on written vs. spoken language (1 July 2019).

Three interviews on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the 'The linguistics of Jokes' (6 October, 26 October, 21 December 2018).

ITV Anglia News TV interview on language and technology (24 November 2017).

Rising Stars public engagement training course (2012-13, University of Cambridge).