Prof Amy Sheldon PhD

Dr. Sheldon received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Texas-Austin. She studies how we use language as an embodied, multimodal system, in which gesture and imagistic representations are synchronized with speech to co-express meaning. Her publications on gender and language have shown how American English-speaking preschoolers' conversations already reflect their gender enculturation. She has found gender and language differences in preschoolers' pretend play narratives, conflict talk, self-assertion in social play, food talk and discursive styles of social engagement. Her recent work on language and gender studies the face-to-face political discourse of powerful women leaders like Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as how the language of advertisements constructs gender. She has also published in the areas of child and adult first and second language acquisition.

She has consulted with the BBC for their series "Child of our Time"; this is described in the June 19, 2006 entry on the University's public engagement blog.

Educational Background & Specialties


  • conversational interaction
  • conversational storytelling
  • language and the body; multimodal communication
  • language and gender
  • child and adult language acquisition and use
Courses Taught
  • Ling 1701 - Language and Society
  • Comm 1902 - Language and Identity
  • Comm 3404 & 4404- Language Borderlands
  • Comm 5404 - Language, Culture and Identity
  • Comm 5406/GWSS 5300/Ling 5900 - Language and Gender
  • Comm 5461/Ling 5461 - Conversation Analysis
  • Comm 5462/Ling 5462 - Field Research in Spoken Language
  • Ling 5505 - Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
  • Ling 5701 - Contrastive Linguistics
  • Ling 5805 - Psycholinguistics
  • Ling 8531 - Research Methods in Language Acquisition
  • Honors Seminars - Language, Identity & Globalization
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Journal article reviewer: Anthropological Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Child Development, Communication Education, Communication Monographs, Discourse Processes, First Language, Food and Foodways: Exploration in the History and Culture of Human Nourishment, Journal of Pragmatics, Language Learning, Language and Speech, Language in Society, Psychological Science, Reading Research Quarterly, Research on Language and Social Interaction, Signs, Sociology of Education.
  • Symposia and Conference Colloquia organizer: e.g., Center for Cognitive Sciences, U of M; Georgetown University Linguistic Society Conference; American Association for Applied Linguistics, Soc. f , 1985 - 2001
  • Textbook proposal reviewer: Blackwell, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Oxford University Press, Routledge, State University of New York Press.
  • Editorial Board positions (completed): Communication Education, Research on Language and Social Interaction. Currently: Women and Language.
  • Grant proposal reviewer: National Endowment for the Humanities, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • Professional association memberships: Linguistic Society of America, National Communication Association, American Association for Applied Linguistics, Society for Research in Child Development, Society for Text and Discourse, International Pragmatics Association.


  • Speech-synchronized gestures in preschoolers' conversations: case studies of the synchronization between speech and gesture in preschoolers' spontaneous talk.
  • Gender differences in preschoolers' conversations: Conflict talk and negotiation, storytelling, patterns of mutual engagement and coherence.


  • Consultant, BBC television series, Child of our Time: 2006.
  • Consultant: S. C. Johnson Co., Minneapolis, 2004
  • Plenary Speaker: Eye to the Future, NASA-sponsored Career Conference for Young Women in Math and Science, May 2002
  • Panelist: "Visions for the Arts in the Greater Metropolitan Jewish Community: The Arts and the Jewish Community", Minneapolis Institute of Arts, September, 1997
  • Panelist: "Jewish Women Writers: A Roundtable Discussion," hosted by Beth Friend, St. Paul Jewish Community Center, Jewish Book Month, November, 1996
  • Presenter: "Is the Book of Ruth About Women?" Beth Jacob Synagogue, Mendota Heights, MN, June, 1995
  • Presenter, "Influences that Limit or Deny Female Students' Equal Access to Education": Independent School District 279, Osseo, MN, February, 1992
  • Radio, television and print interviews: 1986 - 2013
  • Presenter, "Gender Inequity and Your Daughter's Education" workshop: Fourth Annual Conference on Influencing Our Children's Future, Brooklyn Park, MN, March, 1992
  • Film Screening Committee: Susan Himmelman Shapiro Twin Cities Festival of Jewish Film, 2001-2002, 2008-2010


  • M. Reddy, M. Roth, and A. Sheldon, (contributing eds.). (1994). Mother Journeys: Feminists Write About Mothering. Spinsters Ink.: 1995 Minnesota Book Award (nonfiction), and 1995 Susan B. Koppelman Award from the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association.,
  • Winner. First Trilingual Poetry Contest, St. Paul, MN Jewish Community Center: 2006.
  • Sheldon​, Amy​ . 2015. "Thank you for heckling me", Hillary Rodham Clinton's discursive management of her public persona, her political message and the "Iron my shirt!" hecklers in the 2008 presidential election campaign. In John Wilson & Diana Boxer (eds.) Discourse, Politics and Women as Global Leaders, 195-216. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.​ ​ Email to request a copy.
  • Sheldon, Amy (2014). 'I needa cut up my soup': Food talk, pretend play, and gender in an American preschool. In Polly E. Szatrowski (ed.) Language and Food. Verbal and Nonverbal Experiences, 257-277, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Email to request a copy.
    American English-speaking preschoolers reinscribe implicit understandings of gender prescriptions in their food-related talk and pretend play. Girls discussed and coordinated complex, sequenced meal preparation, sometimes explicitly as mother or child. Boys’ food-as-comestible play was shorter and less developed. They imaginatively transported themselves outside of the home setting (to a swamp, a spaceship), planning and enacting scripts of gender normative adventure and danger, in which food was symbolically transformed for use in nondomestic, noncomestible activities. e.g., a piece of bread becomes a camera. Boys linguistically style-shifted also, but usually in non-family roles. This study contributes to research on preschooler’s gendered social language and spontaneous symbolic play, and to research concerned with the meanings children ascribe to food and eating.
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (2009). Assimilating radical new knowledge without a safety net: Epistemological issues in teaching about language and gender. In J. Holmes and M. Marra (Eds.). Proceedings of the Fifth International Gender and Language Association (IGALA5) Conference.,
  • with C. Berryman-Fink, J. Bing, D. Cameron, and A. Taylor (Fall 2008). Blogging about feminist interdisciplinarity in the study of communication, language and gender. Women and Language, Vol. XXXI, No. 2, 26-35. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (2008). "Dis is Schubert, tough guy". Linguistic construction of masculinities in a Microsoft ad. In J. Siegel, et al. (Eds.). Gender in Language: Classic Questions New Contexts, IUWPL, 7, 151-160. Download
  • with Mark Wicklund (2008). "Biological sex and gender could be different": A role for narrative in the production of social and linguistic differentiation. In J. Siegel, et al. (Eds.). Gender in Language: Classic Questions New Contexts, IUWPL, 7, 135-148. Download
  • with J. Stevens (2007). Gender-normative activity and discourse coherence in a community of American English-speaking preschoolers. In José Santaemilia, et al. (eds.), International Perspectives on Gender and Language. , 589-607.
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (2007). Talk as Text. Rosalind Horowitz (ed.). Talking Texts: Knowing the World Through Instructional Discourse, 93-112.
  • with Heidi Engstrom (2004). Two Systems of Mutual Engagement: The Co-construction of Gendered Narrative Styles by American Preschoolers. In JJoanna Thornborrow & Jennifer Coates (eds.), The Sociolinguistics of Narrative, 171-192. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Download
  • with Brad Belbas (2003). Speech-synchronized gesture in a preschooler's spontaneous conversation: A case study. First Congress of the International Society for Gesture Studies: Gesture - The Living Medium. June 5-8, 2002, session 2.1.4., Link
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1999). Approaching the future. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 32(1&2), 155-162. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1997). Talking power: Girls, gender enculturation and discourse. In R. Wodak (ed.). Gender and Discourse, 225-244. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy. (1996). Editor. Constituting gender through talk in childhood: Conversations in parent-child, peer, and sibling relationships. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 29(1). Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1996). You can be the baby brother but you aren't born yet: Preschool girls' negotiation for power and access in pretend play. Research on Language and Social interaction, 29(1), 57-80. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy and Rohleder, Lisa. (1996). Sharing the same world, telling different stories: Gender differences in co-constructed pretend narratives. In Dan Slobin et al. (eds.), Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise, with Maureen Reddy and Martha Roth (1994/1995). Mother Journeys: Feminists Write About Mothering. Spinsters Ink.
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1992). Conflict talk: Sociolinguistic challenges to self-assertion and how young girls meet them. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 38(1), 95-117. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1990). Pickle fights: Gendered talk in preschool disputes. Discourse Processes, 13(1), 5-31. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1990). Kings are royaler than queens: Language and socialization. Young Children, 45, 4-9. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1990). A feminist perspective on women as mentors. Mentoring International/Career Planning & Adult Development Journal , 4(3), 16-20. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise, and Elizabeth Henly (1986). Duration and context effects on the perception of English /r/ and /l/: A comparison of Cantonese and Japanese speakers. Language Learning, Vol. 6, No. 4, 505-521. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise, with Winifred Strange (1982). The acquisition of /r/ and /l/ by Japanese learners of English: Evidence that speech production can precede speech perception. Applied Psycholinguistics, 3.3., 243-61. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1979). The acquisition of relative clauses in French and English: Implications for language-learning universals. Fred Eckman (ed.) Current Themes in Linguistics: Bilingualism, Experimental Linguistics, and Language Typologies., 49-70. Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1974). The role of parallel function in the acquisition of relative clauses in English. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, Download
  • Sheldon, Amy Louise (1974). The acquisition of relative clauses. Indiana University Linguistics Club.
  • Fellow, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University, 1988 - 1989
  • Canada Council Research Grant, Co-Principal Investigator, 1975 - 1976
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Invited Participant, Embodied Methodologies Working Group. Grant from the Institute for Advanced Study, University Symposium on Body and Knowing, Fall 2008 - Spring 2010
  • Academic-Business Partnership Research Award-Technology Partnership Fund at Minnesota Technologies, Inc., Co- Principal investigator, 1998 - 1999
  • McKnight Arts and Humanities Summer Fellowship, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota, 1993
  • Graduate School Summer Faculty Research Fellowship, University of Minnesota, 1993
  • Graduate School Summer Faculty Research Fellowship, 1985
  • Research Grants-in-Aid, Graduate School, U of M, 1973-75, 1991-93
  • Conflict and Change Center (Hewlett Foundation Grant), H. H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, U of M, 1989 - 1991
  • Research Grant-in-Aid, Center for Research in Learning, Perception and Cognition, University of Minnesota, 1993
  • President's Distinguished Faculty Mentor Program, 2014 - 2015 (18 months)
  • Research mentor, student recipient of the Eugene M. Lang Summer Initiative Grant, Swarthmore College, 2010
  • Faculty mentor, CLA Freshman Research Award., 2010
  • Advisor to 18 Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grantees, 1987 - 2011
  • Faculty Mentor, Teaching Opportunities for Doctoral Students (TOPDS), U of M, 1994 - 1995
  • McKnight Foundation, Course Development Grant, 1977 - 1978
  • Educational Development Grant, 1987 - 1988
  • Small Grants (3) - CLA Infotech, 2003 - present
  • Cited for teaching excellence, "Teacher of the best course in my major at the U of Minnesota", in a survey of graduating CLA seniors, Fall graduation, 200
  • Thank a Teacher Awards, Center for Teaching and Learning Services, 2002, 2004, 2005