I began studying linguistics at the University of Edinburgh in 1985, and graduated with an MA in Linguistics with Artificial Intelligence in 1989. I stayed at Edinburgh to do an MSc in Cognitive Science and Natural Language Processing at Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Science, where I also did my PhD, under the supervision of Elisabet Engdahl, graduating in 1994. I moved to the University of York as a lecturer in Linguistics in 1993, before moving to Queen Mary University of London in 2002 as Reader in Linguistics. I became Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary in 2006. I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2020.
I have twice been Head of School of the School of Languages Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary. I was co-editor in chief of the Journal Syntax from 2007 to 2013. In 2002 I founded, and am still series co-editor of, Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics with Hagit Borer. I gave the Baggett Lectures at the University of Maryland in 2016, and was also ZAS Fellow at the ZAS Leibniz Institute in Berlin that year. I have been a Director of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College in Skye, and was Board Member of the Centre for Excellence in Theoretical Linguistics at the University of Tromso. I was a Leverhulme Major Research Fellow from 2006-2009, and begin a second Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2020. I was 17th President of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain from 2015-2020. I’m also one of Queen Mary’s LGBT role models.
The Linguist List has a short Life in Linguistics piece, where I try to explain how I ended up becoming a syntactician.