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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 University of Cambridge (Gonville & Caius College), 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 language and particularly fascinated by its syntactic module. I mainly work within the theoretical framework of Noam Chomsky (i.e., 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.


My main research area is formal syntax, with an empirical focus on Chinese grammar. I do both synchronic and diachronic research and am particularly interested in understudied Chinese varieties. A dialect that I have studied in depth is Dongying Mandarin, which is a Ji Lu Mandarin subvariety spoken in the Yellow River Delta area.

Beyond Chinese, I am interested in detailed crosslinguistic comparison. Languages I have looked into include Hungarian, German, Japanese, Korean, etc. Below are some specific topics that I have investigated:

  • Complex/compound word formation
  • Aspects and event structure
  • Semifunctional vocabulary items
  • Sentence-final particles

And below are some more abstract issues I have worked on:

  • Foundations of syntactic categories
  • Linguistic features and their logic
  • Category theory and its application in linguistics
  • Noncore linguistic phenomena (e.g., emotion, register) and their syntacticization

The close attention I have paid to word-internal structures has helped me accumulate some expertise in the syntax-morphology interface, and my amateur interest in mathematical logic has extended my curiosity to the syntax-semantics interface as well. So, my overarching theoretical enthusiasm is in formally rigorous and logically consistent analyses of language.

In addition to my main research domains, I like thinking about the following language-related topics:

  • Internet language (e.g., emojis, novel usages)
  • Writing systems (especially Chinese characters)
  • Application of linguistics in AI
  • Linguistically aided language learning
  • Language beyond the human species


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 thesis (High Distinction)
    University of Cambridge, 2015
    Structural variation in Chinese compound verbs: A comparative study of Standard Mandarin and Dongying Dialect [full text]
  • BA thesis (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 | SyntaxLab | invited | general audience


Edited volume


  • 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. [poster, extended abstract]
  • 2017. Revisiting non-inverting particle verbs in Hungarian. Talk at International Conference on the Structure of Hungarian (ICSH) 13. Budapest, June 29–30. [slides]
  • 2017. There is no root-root merger: Revisiting Chinese non-endocentric compounds. Talk at Roots V Workshop. London, June 17–18. [slides][manuscript, comments welcome]
  • 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]

Cambridge SyntaxLab

  • 2019. Granularity in generative syntax and why it matters. Oct 15. [slides]
  • 2019. More than abstract nonsense: A Category-theoretic sketch of the syntactic category system. Jan 29. [slides]
  • 2018. Root-supported categories and their morphosyntactic characteristics. May 1. [handout for Part I][slides for Part II]
  • 2017. The flexibility of categorial features: Types and consequences. Feb 7. [slides]


  • 2019. Adjunction in minimalism: Ideas and ideals. Minilecture at Zhejiang University. Hangzhou, Nov 11. [slides]
  • 2019. Towards a nontrivial notion of granularity in generative syntax. Talk at Zhejiang University. Hangzhou, Nov 11. [slides]

General audience

  • 2017. From bedtime to spacetime : The hidden language behind compound words. Talk at Gonville & Caius Graduate Research Symposium. Oct 22. [slides]
  • 2017. Universal Grammar and where to find it. Gonville & Caius MCR/SCR talk. May 30. [slides][archive]
  • 2016. Event and its aspects: How do different languages talk about events with their verbs? Talk at Cambridge Festival of Ideas Linguistics Day. Oct 22. [slides]


Here is some other stuff that I have done in graduate school. I run my own blog and regularly post articles about language and linguistics. I have also codirected a short film, developed a morphological analyzer, and won an essay prize. Besides, I accumulated some outreach and committee experience while studying in Cambridge. I also have some hobbies.

Selected blogposts

Short film

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

Morphological analyzer

I attended the 2016 San Sebastián summer lab “Codefest” and developed a morphological analyzer for Hungarian, which can automatically analyze the morphosemantic components of inflected words and generate orthographically correct words based on abstract linguistic representations. [code]

Essay prize

My nonlinguistics essay entitled “Scenery depiction in Classical Chinese poetry: Strategies, effects, and motivation” won the 2016 Master's Essay Prize of Gonville & Caius College. [full text]

Outreach and committee experience

I have been a marker for UK Linguistics Olympiad since 2016. I also served on a number of committees during my PhD, such as the LAGB student committee, the COPiL editorial team, and my college's MCR committee.


When I'm not doing linguistics, I like watching movies, listening to podcasts, drinking tea, and occasionally traveling away.


You can contact me via email5 or find me on Twitter.

  1. júliôso̊ñg9̉1[delete extra symbols] AT gmail DOT com