Professor Mick Perkins


Human Communication Sciences, School of Allied Health Professions, Nursing and Midwifery

Emeritus Professor

Full contact details

Professor Mick Perkins
Human Communication Sciences, School of Allied Health Professions, Nursing and Midwifery
362 Mushroom Lane
S10 2TS

After earlier careers in English language teaching in North Africa and construction work in the USA, I moved into academic linguistics via a PhD on the semantics of modality followed by 10 years as a lecturer and senior lecturer in linguistics at Leeds Polytechnic. I joined the department at Sheffield in 1990 and was awarded a personal chair in clinical linguistics in 2003. I’ve held the title of emeritus professor since 2009 which allows me to devote more time to research and indulge my interest in less mainstream approaches to linguistics and language breakdown.

I have published numerous articles in areas such as clinical linguistics, pragmatics, semantics and language development, and several books including: Modal Expressions in English (1983, Ablex/Pinter), Case Studies in Clinical Linguistics (1995 Whurr/ Wiley), New Directions in Language Development and Disorders (2000, Kluwer), Pragmatic Impairment (2007, Cambridge) and The Handbook of Clinical Linguistics (2008 Wiley/Blackwell).

Research interests

The main focus of my research throughout my academic career has been the relationship between semantics, pragmatics and cognition in human communication. An earlier interest in the semantics and pragmatics of modality has been followed more recently by work on:

  • development of an emergentist theory of pragmatic ability and disability
  • pragmatic disability in children and adults
  • compensatory adaptation in impaired communication

In my clinical linguistic research I’ve focused in particular on the communication of individuals with autism, developmental language disorders, traumatic brain injury, Williams syndrome and aphasia.

Current projects

  • Alternatives to cognitivism: emergentist and dialogical explanations of communication breakdown
  • Linguistic ‘recycling’ in typical and atypical communication


  • Previous and current PhD students include: Richard Body, Chloë Bate, Sarah Bryan, Abebayehu Mekonnen, Dariel Merrills, Tom Muskett, Habibeh Samadi, Hannah Sowden, Vesna Stojanovik
Professional activities and memberships

I’ve had a wide range of professional roles during my career, some recent and current ones being:

  • Vice President of the International Clinical Phonetics and Linguistics Association (ICPLA) 2000-2006

  • Member/Deputy Chair of the UK RAE panel for Linguistics in 2001/2008

  • Editorial board of Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics and Journal of Interactional Research in Communication Disorders
Selected publications
  • Perkins, M. R. (2014) Linguistic recycling in typical and atypical interaction. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 28(7–8): 590–601
  • Perkins, M. R. (2014). Pragmatics as interaction. In Ball, M., Müller, N. & Nelson, R. (Eds.) The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Communication Disorders. Psychology Press. 131-147
  • Perkins, M. R. (2013) When language goes wrong: what clinical linguistics can do for us. Babel 1(2): 29-34
  • Howard, S., Perkins, M. R. & Sowden, H. (2012) Idiosyncratic gesture use in atypical language development, and its interaction with speech rhythm, word juncture, syntax, pragmatics and discourse: a case study. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 26 (10): 882-907
  • Perkins, M. R. (2011) Clinical pragmatics. In Östman, J-O and Verschueren, J. (Eds.) Pragmatics in Practice. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 66-92
  • Perkins, M. R. (2011) Clinical linguistics: its past, present and future. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 25: 992-997
  • Muskett, T., Perkins, M. R., Clegg, J. and Body, R. (2010) Inflexibility as an interactional phenomenon: using conversation analysis to re-examine a symptom of autism. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics. 24: 1-16
  • Ball, M., Perkins, M. R., Müller, N. and Howard, S. (Eds.) (2008) The Handbook of Clinical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Perkins, M. R. (2007) Pragmatic Impairment . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press