Photo of Mike Flynn

Mike Flynn

William H. Laird Professor of Linguistics and the Liberal Arts, Emeritus, Linguistics

Education & Professional History

University of Notre Dame, BA; University of Massachusetts, PhD

I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1952. In 1974, I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in English Literature. I earned my Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1981. My thesis, directed by Professor Barbara Hall Partee, was about a reformulation of the system called “categorial grammar” first invented by the great Polish logicians who were so productive between the two world wars, and utilized around 1970 with great insight by the UCLA logician Richard Montague. The thesis was published by Garland Press under the title Structure Building Operations and Word Order, and is now out of print.

Around the time I was finishing my degree, I began a series of teaching and research positions. In the fall of 1979, I was a visiting assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire. That spring, I taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. The following year I spent finishing my thesis and teaching at Hampshire College in Amherst. In the fall of 1981, I left the United States for a Fulbright Foundation fellowship to the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands. It was during this year that I met my wife, Angelique Dietz, who is a Dutch citizen. The following year I spent a few months at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and hanging out in Amsterdam with Angelique.

We were married in Amsterdam in the summer of 1983, and a week later left for a year’s stay at Nankai University in Tianjin, The People’s Republic of China, where I taught linguistics and logic. The PRC had only recently reopened to the West after the nightmare of the Cultural Revolution. It was a very exciting time to be there. In 1984, I returned to the States, to be a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The following year, I taught linguistics at the University of Arizona at Tucson. Finally, in the fall of 1986, I arrived at Carleton, where I have been on the faculty ever since.

Carleton offered me the chance of a lifetime, which was to build a linguistics program as I saw fit, in the context of a wonderful liberal arts college, students who are bright, energetic and kind-hearted, and a supportive administration. A mere quarter-century later in 2011, the Linguistics Program became the Linguistics Department with three full-time tenure track positions, and is today a thriving part of the Carleton curriculum, averaging about nine majors in each class.

I have two wonderful daughters, Marieke (b. 1988) and Nora (b.1992). Next to my family and the Linguistics Department, what I think about most is Japan. I have designed and led an off-campus seminar, hosted by Doshisha University in Kyoto, since 2012. The program will return to Kyoto in the spring term of 2021.

At Carleton since 1986.