lisa cheng I am a theoretical syntactician. My research focuses on the interfaces with syntax: syntax-semantics interface, syntax-prosody interface, and more recently syntax-processing interface. My work on the different interfaces is approached from a comparative syntax perspective, concentrating on Chinese languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, and Min), and on Bantu languages (Zulu, Chichewa), as well as on the comparison between these languages. This combination makes it possible for me to consider various theoretical questions from both a micro-variation and a macro-variation perspective.

Understanding Questions

NWO project (2014-2019)

Languages use different strategies for asking information questions. English uses only the wh-fronting strategy as in What did he buy? Mandarin Chinese uses only the wh-in-situ strategy, leaving the question word in-situ. French, on the other hand, can use both strategies. This project investigates whether prosody of wh-questions helps listeners anticipate questions, and whether prosody plays a role in the messy area of intervention effects involving wh-elements.

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Our PhD student, Yang Yang, has just defended her thesis, The two sides of wh-indeterminates in Mandarin: a prosodic and processing account (2018). Download

Here are some of our results:

Yang, Yang, Stella Gryllia and Lisa L.-S. Cheng. 2019. Clause type anticipation based on prosody in Mandarin Chinese. International Journal of Chinese Linguistics 6:1, 1-26.

Gryllia, Stella, Lisa L.-S. Cheng and Jenny Doetjes. 2016. On the intonation of French wh- in-situ questions: what happens before the wh-word is reached? In Speech Prosody2016, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2016-125.




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atheme1 is a collaborative research project studying multilingualism in Europe. AThEME stands for Advancing the European Multilingual Experience. This 5-year research project was set up with funding from the European Commission, in order to study multilingualism in Europe and ran from March 2014 until March 2019. The project has concluded. Please go to to see some of our scientific results. 

We have published a number of policy briefs: Cognitive effects across the lifespan, Cognitive aspects of multilingual interactions, Multilingualism and communicative impairment, and Multilingualism and regional minority languages.

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Ellipsis licensing beyond syntax

Ellipsis is a frequently used sentence-shortening device, whereby parts of a sentence that are evident from the (linguistic) context are left out. This kind of silencing that can affect parts of sentences happens at a large scale and is found widely across languages. This project aims at understanding the licensing of ellipsis via an integrated study on the syntactic, prosodic and morphological aspects of the formation of elliptical sentences. 

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Ellipsis wit 

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