I’m a first-year PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at Yale University. I’m a Hongkonger and speak Cantonese. My research languages are mainly East Asian languages.
My main interests are syntax, semantics and their interface. Syntax is concerned with the structure of language and semantics is concerned with the meaning of language. Their mapping is known as the syntax-semantics interface. Recently, I’m intrigued by the phenomenon of concord, where two elements are giving the same meaning. Take negative concord as an example: I didn’t eat nothing may mean I didn’t eat anything in some varieties of English. Concord, especially quantifier concord, not only imposes problems on compositionality of meaning, but also sheds light on the syntax-semantics interface. Cantonese serves as an excellent testing ground on this issue, where quantificational particles can often co-occur with other quantifiers (as well as focus markers & modals).
I’m also interested in syntax-phonology interface, particularly supra-segmental phonology or prosody. Syntax essentially links sound (or form) and meaning. To fully understand syntax, we need to look at the effects of both external components. There are at least two lines of relevant research in East Asian languages: (i) The role of prosody, e.g. stress, in different constructions; (ii) the interaction of sentence-final-particles and intonation. Cantonese, again, being rich in SFPs and intonations (realized at the end of sentences – not the English kind!), offers useful evidence on the topics.
Besides, my research is also concerned with methodologies of linguistics. If corpora and experiments can contribute to the empirical grounds of theoretical research – then why not? Please go to “Links” for a list of Cantonese corpora.
Outside academia, I’m a cat lover. I’ll update with my cat Tai Wong 大王 (literally big-king) in Hong Kong (irregularly). He was a stray in Sai Kung 西貢, eastern part in Hong Kong. Photo credit goes to my family.
I go by both as Ka-Fai 家煇 ([ka55 fɐi55]) and Ming (my English name - though doesn’t sound Western).