I’m a second-year PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at Yale University. I’m a Hong Konger and speak Cantonese. My research languages are mainly East Asian languages.
My main interests are syntax, semantics and their interface. Syntax and semantics are concerned with the structure and the meaning of natural languages respectively, and I’m interested in how language structure maps onto meaning. Recently, I’m intrigued by the phenomenon of quantifier doubling (also dubbed as concord), where two or more quantificational elements contribute similar meaning. Take negative concord as an example: I didn’t eat nothing may mean I didn’t eat anything in some varieties of English. Doubling is also found among other quantificational elements, such as existential quantifiers, universal quantifiers, modals, exlcusive focus particles, etc. Doubling phenomena constitute an apparent syntax-semantics mismatch and pose a potential challenge to the compositionality of meaning. Studying quantifier doubling thus helps us to understand the mapping between structure and meaning. In this respect, Cantonese serves as an excellent testing ground - we have a rich repertoire of quantificational particles, which may often be doubled or even tripled.
I’m also interested in the syntax-phonology interface, in particular supra-segmental phonology (prosody). Syntax essentially links sound (or signs) and meaning. To fully understand syntax, the effects of both external components should be considered. We may approach this issue by studying the PF interface where abstract syntactic stucture is linearized. Another way is to study how phonology may constrain and interact with syntax, for example, the mapping of syntactic structure onto prosodic structure. Having rich SFPs and intonation, Cantonese again offers useful evidence to this issue, and, as a tonal language, to the interaction of intonation and tones as well.
Besides, language variations (including micro-variations) also fascinate me. On the one hand, they provide hints on the nature of innate language capacity of human and contribute to theory building; and on the other hand, they also reflect socio-cultural interactions. Corpora are very useful for conducting this kind of research by revealing longitudinal and latitudinal variations, such as the Pan-Chinese synchronous corpus LIVAC. A list of Cantonese corpora can also be found here.
Outside academia, I’m a cat lover. Here collected the photos of my cat Tai Wong 大王 (literally “big-king”) in Hong Kong.
I go by both as Ka-Fai 家煇 ([ka55 fɐi55]) and Ming (my English name - though doesn’t sound Western).
Here is my CV.