C. T. James Huang

Professor of Linguistics

C. T. James Huang


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.