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Chenchen (Julio) Song

HTP Researcher, Zhejiang University
PhD, Linguistics, University of Cambridge

ORCID: 0000-0002-3543-8489


This is a profile picture.

I am a theoretical linguist currently working as a “Hundred Talents Program” researcher at Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, China). Before taking up my current position (May 2020), I studied at the University of Cambridge (Gonville & Caius College), from where I received my PhD degree in Linguistics (Oct. 2019). Before Cambridge, I had studied at Beijing Foreign Studies University (majoring in Hungarian). I am curious about all aspects of human language and am particularly fascinated by its syntactic module. I mainly work within the theoretical framework of Noam Chomsky’s transformational generative grammar but am open-minded about other frameworks too. I enjoy learning new perspectives and am always happy to observe how different theories converge. I also actively explore interdisciplinary directions in my research and endeavor to seek common ground across paradigms.


My main research area is syntax (and its interfaces with morphology/semantics). I do both synchronic and diachronic research and am particularly interested in understudied Chinese varieties, many of which are also endangered. I have worked on the following Chinese varieties either directly or indirectly (e.g., via supervising student projects):

  • Mandarin: Standard Mandarin, Dongying Mandarin, Sichuan/Chongqing Mandarin
  • Wu: Wenzhou Wu, Xinchang Wu
  • Jin: Gaoping Jin
  • Hakka: Heyuan Hakka

Beyond Chinese, I am interested in detailed crosslinguistic comparison in general. Languages I have previously worked on include English, German, Hungarian, Japanese, etc. Below are some specific phenomena I have investigated:

  • Complex/compound words
  • Aspects and event structure
  • Semifunctional/semilexical vocabulary items
  • Sentence-final particles

Aside from empirical studies, my research also involves a highly conceptual and metatheoretical aspect. Below are some of the more abstract issues I have worked on:

  • Foundations of syntactic categories
  • Theory of linguistic features
  • Category theory and its application in linguistics

Overall, my academic enthusiasm lies in formally rigorous and logically consistent analysis of human language. Outside of my main research domains, I also like thinking about the following language-related topics:

  • Internet language (e.g., emojis, neologisms)
  • Writing systems (especially Chinese characters)
  • Linguistically aided language learning


In progress

  • Categorical linguistics (linguistics + mathematics), since 2019
    Applying category theory to theoretical linguistics, with a focus on the big picture and general directions [a glimpse]
  • Resultative compounds in Chinese dialects, since 2017
    Examining the internal syntax of resultative verb compounds across Chinese varieties [latest talk]
  • Noncanonical pronouns, since 2021
    Investigating pronominal items that cannot be easily put in established categoriess [a new book chapter]
  • Typology of semilexicality, since 2021
    Surveying different types of semilexical elements across a wide range of languages and attempting to provide a unified account within the framework of root syntax [preliminary results]
  • Hilbert’s epsilon operator, since 2021
    Comparatively examining the application of Hilbert’s epsilon operator in linguistics [manuscript#1 (09/2021), manuscript#2 (02/2022), a related talk (06/2021)]

Degree works

  • PhD dissertation (defended with no corrections)
    University of Cambridge, 2019
    On the formal flexibility of syntactic categories [abstract, archived version]
  • PhD first-year report
    University of Cambridge, 2016
    A minimalist study of complex verb formation: Crosslinguistic patterns and variation [full text]
  • MPhil dissertation (High Distinction)
    University of Cambridge, 2015
    Structural variation in Chinese compound verbs: A comparative study of Standard Mandarin and Dongying Dialect [full text]
  • BA dissertation (Outstanding)
    Beijing Foreign Studies University, 2013
    A magyar és a német igekötők összehasonlítása szintaktikai és szemantikai szempontból [A comparison of Hungarian and German verbal prefixes from syntactic and semantic perspectives] [full text in Hungarian]

Selected publications

journal | edited volume | conference | departmental | general audience


Edited volume


  • 2023 (with Chenghao Hu). Result marker vs. result highlighter: on the internal syntax of Chinese resultative compounds. Talk at the “Resultatives: new approaches and renewed perspectives” workshop. Singapore, Mar. 20–22. [slides]
  • 2022. Weakening cartography: on the formal foundation of functional hierarchies. Poster at the 24th Seoul International Conference on Generative Grammar (SICOGG24). Online, Aug. 12–14. [e-poster, paper (preprint), paper (official)]
  • 2022. A formal linguistic approach to affective emojis in CMC. Talk at the Seoul International Conference on Linguistics (SICOL2022). Online, Aug. 11–12. [slides]
  • 2022. Category theory in theoretical linguistics: A monadic semantics for root syntax. Poster at the 5th International Conference on Applied Category Theory (ACT2022). Online, Jul. 18–22. [e-poster, abstract]
  • 2022. The logic of words: A monadic decomposition of lexical meaning. Talk at the Australasian Association for Logic Annual Conference (AAL2022). Online, Jun. 22–24. [slides]
  • 2022. Sentence-final particle vs. sentence-final emoji: The syntax-pragmatics interface in the era of CMC. Talk at Grapholinguistics in the 21st Century (grafematik2022). Online, Jun. 8–10. [video, slides, paper, extended version]
  • 2021. On the semantics of root syntax: Challenges and directions. Talk at the 18th Logic and Engineering of Natural Language Semantics workshop (LENLS18). Online, Nov. 13–15. [video, slides, paper]
  • 2021. A typology of semilexicality and the locus of grammatical variation. Talk at the 9th International Conference on Formal Linguistics (ICFL9). Online, Nov. 5–7. [video, slides]
  • 2021 (with Ke Javena Wu). Ways of telicization in resultative compounds. Talk at the 23rd Seoul International Conference on Generative Grammar (SICOGG23). Online, Aug. 13–15. [video, paper, extended paper]
  • 2021 (with Li Nguyen). Noncanonical pronominal items in Vietnamese and Chinese: Imposters or true pronouns? Talk at the 30th Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS30) Conference. Online, Jun. 1. [video, paper]
  • 2020. Grammatical types that cannot be: A category-theoretic theorem for Chomsky-school generative syntax. Poster at the Applied Category Theory (ACT) conference. Online, Jul. 6–10. [e-poster, extended abstract]
  • 2017. Revisiting non-inverting particle verbs in Hungarian. Talk at International Conference on the Structure of Hungarian (ICSH) 13. Budapest, Jun. 29–30. [slides]
  • 2017. There is no root-root merger: Revisiting Chinese non-endocentric compounds. Talk at Roots V Workshop. London, Jun. 17–18. [slides, manuscript]
  • 2017. Revisiting Chinese P: Is it a necessary category? Speed talk at Morphosyntactic Variation in Adpositions Workshop. Cambridge, May 8–9. [slides]
  • 2017. Emergent [V] flavors and minimized flexibility of lexical categories. Talk at Cambridge Comparative Syntax (CamCoS) 6. Cambridge, May 4–6. [slides]
  • 2016. Blocked particle verb movement in German and Hungarian: A unified analysis. Talk at Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) Annual Meeting. York, Sep. 6–9. [slides]
  • 2016. Revisiting Chinese potential constructions: Cross-dialectal variation. Talk at 11th Newcastle Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics. Newcastle, Mar. 18. [slides]


  • 2022. Sentence-final particle vs. sentence-final emoji: The syntax-pragmatics interface in the era of CMC (extended version of the grafematik talk). Cambridge SyntaxLab, Jun. 28. [slides]
  • 2021. On Hilbert’s epsilon operator, pair merge, and the source of asymmetry in adjunction. Zhejiang University, Jun. 11. [slides, paper]
  • 2020. Complex verb mobility in Germanic languages: Variation and parameterization. Zhejiang University, Jun. 19. [slides]
  • 2019. Adjunction in minimalism: Ideas and ideals. Zhejiang University, Nov. 11. [slides]
  • 2019. Towards a nontrivial notion of granularity in generative syntax. Zhejiang University, Nov. 11. [slides]
  • 2019. Granularity in generative syntax and why it matters. Cambridge SyntaxLab, Oct. 15. [slides]
  • 2019. More than abstract nonsense: A Category-theoretic sketch of the syntactic category system. Cambridge SyntaxLab, Jan. 29. [slides]
  • 2018. Root-supported categories and their morphosyntactic characteristics. Cambridge SyntaxLab, May 1. [handout for Part I][slides for Part II]
  • 2017. The flexibility of categorial features: Types and consequences. Cambridge SyntaxLab, Feb. 7. [slides]

General audience

  • 2023. Response to Notes and queries “What languages do native speakers of Mandarin and Arabic find the hardest to learn?” The Guardian. Jul. 9.
  • 2017. From bedtime to spacetime : The hidden language behind compound words. Talk at the Gonville & Caius Graduate Research Symposium. Oct. 22.
  • 2017. Universal Grammar and where to find it. Gonville & Caius MCR/SCR talk. May 30.
  • 2016. Event and its aspects: How do different languages talk about events with their verbs? Talk at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas (Linguistics Day). Oct. 22.


blog | multimedia | hobbies


I run my own blog named I-Yuwen and like posting articles about language and linguistics (especially in relation to Chinese) on it when I have time. I sometimes post stuff about mathematics too, mainly about category theory. Below is a selection of my posts:


I have a YouTube channel and occasionally upload original videos to it about my professional or personal studies.

  • Most watched:
  • Active series:
    • Classical Chinese Grammar (a self-study tutorial) [playlist]
      🎬 Latest episode ⬇️

      [PDF notes: Lesson 1, Lesson 2, Lesson 3]
      [Answer key to exercises: L1–2]
    • Chinese Characters (supplementary to the Classical Chinese Grammar series) [playlist]

In the past, I have contributed to the creation of a short film on the multimodal nature of human language:

  • 2016 (with Craig Pearson and Toby Smith). Talk with Your Hands: Communicating across the Sensory Spectrum. Short film made for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.


When I’m not doing linguistics, I like watching movies or TV series, listening to podcasts, drinking tea or coffee, and occasionally traveling away (which has been very occasional in the last three years due to COVID-19). Sometimes I also like taking random photos of interesting things I see. In the future, I would like to try some new pastimes like iPad painting.

What job would I be doing if I were not a linguistician? :-)

a photo of fish swimming in a river
A photo of some fish (Feb. 2021, Hangzhou)