Yen-hui Audrey Li

Yen-hui Audrey Li

Department of Linguistics, University of Southern California, United States
Formal linguistics

16/03 - 01/06/2020

 Prof. Yen-hui Audrey Li received her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1985 from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, USA). She has been professor since 2001 at the same university where she also headed the department of ‘East Asian Languages and Culture from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2014 to 2018. She is the author of three books and about fifty articles about formal syntax and semantics on Sinitic languages, working under the framework of generative grammar, more particularly inspired by Chomsky’s Minimalist Program. She will stay at EURICS from 15th of March to 1st of June 2020.

Research project

Deconstructing the parametric approach in Chinese syntax
This project examines the many issues arising from a lexical or grammatical parametric approach to language variation, broadening the scope of data investigation beyond what is available in the literature for more adequate empirical generalizations, and providing accounts from more inclusive perspectives, including discourse and prosody, which will address the inadequacy of a microparametric approach anchoring on individual lexical specifications.   A main topic of my study is on a number of microparameters proposed as converging into an “analyticity macroparameter”. Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM) is more analytic than Mandarin, which in turn is more analytic than Cantonese. That is, these languages demonstrate different degrees of analyticity, with TSM being of the highest degree: TSM > Mandarin > Cantonese.   My current and continuing work aim to demonstrate that the distinction among these languages is not as clear-cut as presented in the literature and relevant accounts fail to capture the empirical generalizations and make wrong predictions. Theoretically, when accounts couched in the above-mentioned microparametric research program are mainly built on the specification of the strength of features (strong vs. weak) on certain lexical items, opportunities are lost to gain a deeper understanding of relevant issues.   Factors in the domain of syntax-phonology interface and syntax-discourse interface will be shown to play important roles on the empirical generalizations reached via extensive corpus study and field work.  This research program can benefit greatly from the world-class scholars at CRLAO, EHESS, whose works have been impactful in the contemporary and historical study of the Chinese languages.