I live in Boulder, CO with my husband, who flies a big airplane around the world, and my daughter Shira, who scampers around the playground (the photo at right was taken in 2011). I am a second-generation linguist: my mother, Ramona R. Michaelis (née Roller), received a BA in linguistics in 1949 from Queens College in Flushing, NY and an MA in linguistics from New York University. During her long career in lexicography she served as supervising editor of the Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary and provided pronunciations, definitions and etymologies for the first three editions of the American Heritage Dictionary.
I was raised in the small Bay Area hamlet of Piedmont, and after graduating from Piedmont High School, journeyed just a few miles north to attend the University of California, Berkeley. I received my BA, with highest honors, in Linguistics in 1986, along with the Departmental Citation for outstanding achievement in the major. Feeling encouraged, I decided to continue my linguistics studies at Berkeley, and received my PhD in Linguistics from the Berkeley department in 1993.
My doctoral dissertation, Toward a Grammar of Aspect: The Case of the English Perfect Construction, was written under the direction of Charles J. Fillmore. A revised version of this dissertation became my 1998 Routledge book, Aspectual Grammar and Past-Time Reference.
Since joining Colorado Linguistics faculty in the fall of 1993, I have continued to explore the tense-aspect interface in English and other languages, using a construction-based framework. In my recent work, I have argued that this interface has the properties it does because tense 'markers', like present-tense inflection, are constructions that select specific components of verbs' aspectual representations. I received tenure from CU Boulder in 2002, and am currently Professor of Linguistics and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute of Cognitive Science at CU Boulder.
Here I am shown in July of 2003 with two fellow alumni of the UC Berkeley Linguistics doctoral program (and fellow practitioners of Construction Grammar) in the town square of Logroño, the capital of the province of La Rioja, Spain, during the tenth annual conference of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association at the University of La Rioja. They are, respectively: Adele Goldberg (on the right) and the now happily retired Knud Lambrecht (at left).
In addition to my training in linguistics, I have limited training as a painter, which I continue to use (in limited ways) today, by painting abstract works in oil and mixed media.
Below I am shown posing in front of (or, rather, blocking) my largest oil painting, Caliban upon Setebos (2001). Another of my paintings appears on the cover of the Mismatch volume, shown on the home page of this site. The title of that painting, Rivulos Consectari, comes from a passage in Cicero's De Oratore that made me think of prevalent attitudes about the practice of syntax: tardi ingeni est rivulos consectari, fontis rerum non videre ('It is a symptom of a slow intellect to follow the rivulets and fail to see the sources of things').
For many years, syntacticians in pursuit of big linguistic generalizations have ignored grammatical facts that reveal just how narrow our grammatical generalizations really are. These are the facts that drive Construction Grammar. To practice Construction Grammar is to embrace the traditional goal of linguistic science—to create complete grammatical descriptions of languages. And so in my view following the rivulets is precisely what grammarians should do.