Language reflects the inner workings of our minds that make us human.  By analyzing observable properties of language, linguists try to ‘hack’ into the brain and deduce the ‘mental software’ that accounts for our knowledge of language.  In doing so, they aim to answer some key questions, such as: what that mental software consists of, how it is acquired, and how it is put to use in real life.  Any rule or principle of grammar thus constructed is a hypothesis about that mental software, construed in biological terms as the product of nature and nurture.

In my research, I have devoted most of my efforts to the intellectual pursuit of (aspects of) the first question, particularly with respect to syntax

(how we structure words to make sentences, in seemingly different ways for different languages), and the relationship between syntax and semantics 
(how expressions thus put together map to appropriate meanings).

My research has addressed a variety of topics in syntactic theory and the syntax-semantic interface, related to (a) argument structure and syntactic projection; (b) syntactic operations (such as movement) and constraints on them; (c) the distribution and reference of reflexives, pronouns, and null pronouns; (d) interpretation of sentences with quantifiers and other logical elements; and (e) the syntax and semantics of questions across languages. 

A surprise Festschrift!
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Among the languages I work on, I have been interested in formal approaches to the study of Chinese languages, and more broadly in parametric theory with a focus on East Asian languages. I have worked on a wide range of topics in Chinese syntax—with respect to word order and phrase structure, lexical semantics and syntactic projection (passives, unaccusatives, resultatives, causatives), anaphora (pro drop,

null topics, long-distance reflexives, donkey sentences), questions (wh-questions, A-not-A questions), focus structure, and syntax-semantics mismatches.  I use the results of these works to both shed new light on some old problems in the traditional field of Chinese syntax, and contribute to current issues in general linguistic theory. 

My most recent and current work has explored the analytic-synthetic continuum in syntactic typology in formal theoretic terms, and capitalizes on the fact that many parameters of variation that have been posited in the past may be reduced to special cases of the analytic-synthetic macro-parameter.

Issues arise concerning the relation between macro- and micro-parameters as accounts of synchronic variation and diachronic change. I continue to be interested in the analyses of passives, resultatives, bound anaphora in all languages, and how they may shed light on the relationship among syntax, semantics and the lexicon. 

A Chinese translation published in 2014