Research Interest

Syntactic bootstrapping:

Human languages contain sentences where an argument is displaced from its canonical, thematic position in the predicate, as in wh- questions (e.g., What is Doris going to fix _?) and relatives (e.g., Michael likes the painting that Aaron created _). Surface structures of such could mislead infants into generalizing that the final verb is intransitive, if they perceive only the end of sentences and fail to establish the link between the fronted argument and the embedded predicate (created). How early are infants able to learn a novel transitive verb in sentences involving displaced NPs? What strategies do they employ in identifying these gapped structures?

Master's project: Before coming to UMD, I studied linguistics at Tsinghua University, where I was a member of Xiaolu Yang's Language Acquisition Lab. In collaboration with Rushen Shi at Université du Québec à Montréal, we looked at Mandarin-learning 19-month-olds' use of utterance-medial functional morphemes (a in XaY sequences) for classifying preceding words (X) as nouns or verbs. We found initial evidence for how phrase boundaries might help toddlers resolve distributional uncertainties and succeed in syntactic categorization. My thesis is available here.


Besides, I have also dabbled in areas including non-adjacent dependency, unergative vs. unaccusative verbs, control sentences, classifier-noun agreement, and wh- questions.