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Chenchen (Julio) Song

PhD, Linguistics, University of Cambridge

ORCID: 0000-0002-3543-8489


I have joined Zhejiang University as a “Hundred Talents Program” researcher in May, 2020.


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I am a theoretical linguist currently working as a researcher at Zhejiang University. My major area of study is formal syntax, and I have the following general research interests:

  • The foundations and ontological organization of syntactic categories (noun, verb, tense, etc.)
  • Linguistic feature theories across paradigms (e.g., Minimalist Program, HPSG) and their logic
  • Category theory and its application in linguistics (especially in relation to syntactic categories or types)
  • Noncore linguistic phenomena (e.g., emotion, register) and their syntacticization

Some grammatical phenomena I have previously investigated:

  • Complex/compound word structure (or word-internal syntax)
  • Grammatical and lexical aspects (or Aktionsarten)
  • Event structure and predicate decomposition
  • Semifunctional vocabulary items (which are very common in analytic languages)
  • Sentence-final discourse particles (including emojis)

The close attention I have paid to word-internal structures makes my expertise lie somewhere between syntax and morphology (i.e., around the syntax-morphology interface). I also have a growing interest in mathematical linguistics.

Beyond my major area, I am interested in the following broader topics:

  • Internet and visual languages1
  • Potential application of linguistics in AI1.5
  • Linguistically aided language learning1.6


I received my bachelor's degree (BA) from Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) and both my master's degree (MPhil) and my doctoral degree (PhD) from University of Cambridge (Gonville & Caius College). My degree projects are as follows:

  • PhD dissertation (defended with no corrections). 2019. On the formal flexibility of syntactic categories. [abstract, archived version]
  • PhD first-year report. 2016. A minimalist study of complex verb formation: Cross-linguistic patterns and variation. [full text]
  • MPhil thesis (86%, high distinction). 2015. Structural variation in Chinese compound verbs: A comparative study of Standard Mandarin and Dongying Dialect. [full text]
  • BA dissertation (grade: outstanding). 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, English version tbc]


2019. ViaX one-on-one tutoring (high school student). Syntax.
In this 20-hour online course I taught a Chinese high school student the basics of generative syntax and guided them to produce an 8000-word research paper on discourse factors involved in the distribution of null subjects in Mandarin Chinese. The course and the paper were both in English. The paper got accepted into the International Conference on Foreign Language Education and Linguistics (FLEL 2019) as an oral presentation and was subsequently published in Open Journal of Social Sciences.

2017–2018. Cambridge undergraduate supervision (second-year students). Li9: Syntax.
From University website: “Supervisions are small-group sessions ... with a supervisor (an academic) .... This system of personal tuition is one of Cambridge’s greatest strengths. Supervisions provide the opportunity to explore your subject more deeply, discuss your own work and ideas, and receive regular feedback.”

2016–2017. Cambridge undergraduate supervision (first-year students). Li2: Structure and Meaning.


Below is a list of my academic publications:

(journal | edited volume | conference | SyntaxLab | invited | general audience | others)


Edited volume

  • To appear. Categorizing verb-internal modifiers. In T. Biberauer, S. Vikner, A. Bárány & J. Douglas (eds.) Clausal architecture and its consequences: Synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Berlin: Language Science Press. [Here is the prepublication manuscript (Song 2017).]

Conference/Workshop talks

  • 2017. Revisiting non-inverting particle verbs in Hungarian. 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. Roots V Workshop. London, June 17–18. [slides][manuscript, comments welcome]
  • 2017. Revisiting Chinese P: Is it a necessary category? Morphosyntactic Variation in Adpositions Workshop. Cambridge, May 8–9. [slides]
  • 2017. Emergent [V] flavors and minimized flexibility of lexical categories. Cambridge Comparative Syntax (CamCoS) 6. Cambridge, May 4–6. [slides]
  • 2016. Blocked particle verb movement in German and Hungarian: A unified analysis. Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) Annual Meeting. York, Sep 6–9. [slides]
  • 2016. Rethinking complex verb formation: Three levels of derivation and their effects. 13th Workshop on Syntax, Semantics and Phonology (WoSSP). Barcelona, Jun 30–Jul 1. [slides]
  • 2016. Revisiting Chinese potential constructions: Cross-dialectal variation. 11th Newcastle Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics. Newcastle, Mar 18. [slides]
  • 2016. Syntax of Aktionsart. Linguistic Variation in the Interaction between Internal and External Syntax Workshop. Utrecht, Feb 8–9. [slides]

Cambridge SyntaxLab talks

  • 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]

    Invited talks

  • 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]

Public presentations (to 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.2 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]
  • 2016. On the edge of verb shell: What makes complex verbs so versatile? Gonville & Caius Graduate Research Symposium ("Caius to the Future"). May 8. [poster]3


  • 2020. Grammatical types that cannot be: A category-theoretic theorem for Chomsky-school generative syntax. Virtual poster at the Applied Category Theory conference (ACT2020). Online, Jul 6–10. [extended abstract, blog post, explainer video, poster]
  • 2020. Complex verb mobility in Germanic languages: Variation and parameterization. Talk at Zhejiang University. Online, Jun 19. [slides]


Here is some other stuff I have produced in the past five years or so:

Selected blog posts


  • 2016 (together with Craig Pearson and Toby Smith). Talk with Your Hands: Communicating across the Sensory Spectrum. Short film made for Cambridge Festival of Ideas. [video][webpage][news]
    This interdisciplinary project was funded by the highly competitive Wellcome Trust ISSF and was one of the four short films selected into the 2016 Cambridge Shorts series. The film introduces the amazing multimodal characteristic of human language by interviewing blind/deaf people and bringing together insights from a neuroscientist and a linguist. It also features a sign language version of the famous Chinese poem Zài Bié Kāng Qiáo (再別康橋, ‘Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again’) by Zhimo Xu (徐志摩).3.5

Language Technology

I attended the 2016 San Sebastián (Donostia) summer school (“Codefest”) on natural language processing and developed a morphological analyzer for Hungarian, which can automatically analyze the morphosemantic components of inflected words as well as generate orthographically correct words based on abstract linguistic representations. [code]

Essay Prize

My nonlinguistic essay entitled “Scenery depiction in Classical Chinese poetry: Strategies, effects, and motivation” won the 2016 Master's Essay Prize of Gonville & Caius College. You can find the essay here.


You can contact me via email5 or find me on Twitter, GitHub, or my blog.

  1. See my blog article on emojis and my short film on sign language.

  2. Check out my open-source morphological analyzer for Hungarian.

  3. The efficiency of foreign language learning can be greatly enhanced with linguistic knowledge. See my blog article for relevant stories.

  4. From College website: “Colleges provide a creative and supportive environment for research, bringing together Fellows and students from all subjects. This provides opportunities for researchers to discover new fields and to form cross-disciplinary research partnerships.”

  5. Actually you can see me in the event photo on this webpage. :D

  6. There is a stone in King's College carved with four lines from the poem.

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