C. T. James Huang

Professor of Linguistics


C. T. James Huang (黃正德) is Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University. His research focuses on the ‘mental software’ of the brain that accounts for our knowledge of language, in particular looking at 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. Regarding these questions, Professor Huang researches 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).

Professor Huang’s 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.

Notably, Professor Huang is interested in formal approaches to the study of Chinese languages, and more broadly in parametric theory with a focus on East Asian languages. Having 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, he uses 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.

His most recent and current work explores 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.

Research interests: syntactic theory; syntax-semantics interface; Chinese linguistics.

Selected Publications


  • Hanyu Shengcheng Yufa《漢語生成語法》[Chinese Generative Grammar], translated into Chinese by Chunyan Ning, Fang Ho, and Dasan Zhang, Heilongjiang University Press, Harbin, 1983. 《漢語生成語法》寧春岩、侯方、張達三合譯, 黑龍江大學出版社出版, 1983.
  • Logical Structure and Linguistic Structure: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991. [Co-edited with Robert May]
  • New Horizons in Chinese Linguistics. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996. [Co-edited with Y.-H. Audrey Li]
  • Logical Relations in Chinese and the Theory of Grammar, Garland Publishing, 1998.
  • Long Distance Reflexives. Syntax and Semantics 33, Academic Press, New York, 2001. [Co-edited with Peter Cole and Gabriella Hermon]
  • The Syntax of Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. [With Audrey Li and Yafei Li] Reviewed by Zhang, Daqiu. The Linguistic Review 29: 321-332 (2012)
  • Chinese Translation Hanyu Jufaxue. Heyou Zhang (translator) and Yang Gu (editor). Beijing: World Publishing Inc. 2013. 中文翻譯版《漢語句法學》張和友翻譯、顧陽校訂, 北京世界圖書出版社出版, 2013. Reviewed by Fu, Yu. Contemporary Linguistics 2010:275-278.
  • Between Syntax and Semantics. Routledge Leading Linguists Series, volume 15. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2010. Reviewed by Liu, Na. Linguistic Sciences 15(1): 96-104, 2016.
  • The Handbook of Chinese Linguistics. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2014. [Co-edited with Audrey Li and Andrew Simpson]
  • Peaches and Plums: Interdisciplinary Essays. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series 54. Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. [Co-edited with Feng-Hsi Liu]
  • [A festschrifts in honor of C.-T. James Huang] Chinese Syntax in a cross-linguistic perspective, ed. Audrey Li, Andrew Simpson and Dylan Tsai. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Encyclopedia of Chinese Languages and Linguistics. Editor: Rint Sybesma, Associate Editors: Wolgang Behr, Zev Handel, C.-T. James Huang, and James Myers. Leiden: Brill, 2016).

Recent Articles and Chapters

  • ​​“Language typology and the fine structure of argument structure.” In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Sinology. Academia Sinica, June 2012.
  • “Macro- and micro-variations and parametric theory in minimalism.” In Proceedings of the 13th International Symposium on Chinese Languages and Linguistics (IsCLL-13), National Taiwan Normal University and Academia Sinica, Taipei, June 2012.
  • “Variations in non-canonical passives.” In Non-canonical Passives, ed. Artemis Alexiadou and Florian Schaefer, 95-114. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 2013.
  • “Remarks on classifiers and nominal structure in East Asian.” In Peaches and Plums, ed. C.-T. James Huang and Feng-Hsi Liu, pp. 53-74, 2014. [With Masao Ochi]
  • “On the syntax and semantics of the new non-canonical passive bei XX.” Linguistic Sciences 13:225-241, 2014. (In Chinese 新興非典型被動式「被XX」句法與語義結構《語言科學》13:225-241, 2014.) [With Na Liu 黃正德、柳娜合著]
  • “A new passive form in Mandarin: Its syntax and implications.” International Journal of Chinese Linguistics 1:1-34, 2014. [With Na Liu]
  • “Movement theory and constraints in syntax.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, ed. James D. Wright et al, Vol 16:1–7, Oxford: Elsevier, 2015. [With Hiroki Narita]​​​​​​​
  • “On syntactic analyticity and parametric theory,” ed. Audrey Li, Andrew Simpson, and Dylan Tsai, pp. 1-48. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • “The syntax and semantics of prenominals: construction or composition?” Language and Linguistics 17:431-475. 2016.
  • “Control and raising passives, and why Mandarin doesn’t smuggle,” Journal of East Asian Linguistics 25:385-404. [Co-authored with Na Liu]
  • “Long-distance reflexives: syntax and discourse,” in The Syntax Companion, ed. by Henk van Riemsdijk and Martin Everett. Malden: Wiley Blackwell. [With I. Charnavel, P. Cole and G. Hermon] [to appear] 
  • “On overt topics and null topics,” [with Barry Yang] (under review) 
  • “Principles and parameters of Universal Grammar,” in The Oxford Handbook of Universal Grammar, ed. Ian Roberts, et al., pp. 000-000. [Co-authored with Ian Roberts]
  • “Phase-c-command, referential anaphora, and quantificational binding in Chinese,” (Coauthored with Jowang Lin)