Sinologists in Bydgoszcz

Prof. Chinfa LIEN

Prof. Chinfa LIEN

Prof. Chinfa LIEN obtained his doctoral degree in linguistics at University of California at Berkeley in 1987. He started his teaching career as an associated Professor in the graduate Institute of Linguistics at National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. He has been Professor of Linguistics at the same Institute since 1993, also serving as its director from 1995-1998. In 2004, he was appointed as Chair Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at the same university. He has been an emeritus professor since February 2019.

His current research interests focus on diachronic change in Southern Min including the detailed syntactic analysis of Ming and Qing dynasty plays, the Li Jing Ji/Li Zhi Ji, and the interaction between chronological and dialectal strata in Chinese to which he has applied the theory of lexical diffusion. In particular, he supposes under the supervision of Professor William Wang the thesis of bidirectional diffusion. His recent research roughly falls into two major categories: (1) lexical semantics and (2) functional categories.  For lexical semantics, his major concern has been the issues of semantic extension, interface between constructions and fixed expressions. For functional categories, his research ranges over a set of topics such as phase (or rather aktionsart) and aspect, deictic system, directional patterns, interrogative, negative words, mood, copular constructions and adverbials.

He has coordinated many recent research projects mainly on the synchronic grammar of Southern Min grammar, but also including three on the language of Ming and Qing dynasty plays, with grants from the National Science Council and Ministry of Science and Technology. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious National Science Council awards for Outstanding Research (1995, 1999, 2002), Outstanding Scholar Award (2003-2008) (offered by Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship) and National Science Council awards under the Contract Research Award (offered by NSC) (2004-2006, 2006-2008).


  1. Grammatical Studies on the Adverbials in Taiwanese Southern Min. 台灣閩南語 狀語語法研究 (MOST 2018/08/01~2020/07/31)
  2. ASEAN Hokkien Diapora and Social Network: The Structure of Functional Categories and Their Evolution in Hokkienese (Southern Min) 東南亞閩南離散 社群研究-福建(閩南系)話中功能範疇的結構和變遷 (MOST 2017/06/01~2018/11/30)
  3. Copular and Related Constructions in Southern Min: A Synchronic and Diachronic Perspective 閩南語繫詞和相關句式研究:共時歷時兼顧 (MOST 2016/08/01~2018/07/30)


  1. Lien, Chinfa. 2015. The condition and change of 共 vis-à-vis 合 in Southern Min with a sidelight on intra-dialectal variation. Journal of Chinese Linguistics 43.1A: 1–33.
  2. Lien, Chinfa. 2016. Mak5 ke4 乜个 and man3 njin2 瞞人 in Hakka: A historical and typological perspective. Journal of Chinese Linguistics 44.1: 86-108. January.
  3. Lien, Chinfa. 2017a. The emergence of e5 khuan2 个款 as a sensory evidential marker in TSM. International Journal of Chinese Linguistics 4.2 : 173–190. December.
  4. Lien, Chinfa. 2017b. Human-denoting interrogative words in early Southern Min: Coexistence and evolution. In Peng Gang and Wang Feng (eds.) New Horizons in Evolutionary Linguistics, Monograph Series Number 27. 130-158. The Chinese University Press of Hong Kong. April.
  5. Tsai, Cheng-Hung and Chinfa Lien. 2018.On how to defend or disprove the universality thesis. In Stephen Stich, Masaharu Mizumoto, and Eric McCready (eds.) Epistemology for the Rest of the World. 267-278. Oxford: Oxford University Press. July.


Topic: Interrogative Adverbs of Degree in Taiwanese Southern Min

Prof. Lien’s talk explores the syntactic and semantic properties of interrogative adverbs of degree (IADD) in Taiwanese Southern Min (TSM). The IADD in TSM occurs in two kinds of constructions: (1) it comprises the adverb 若 (偌) jua7 ‘how’ and a scalar adjective, as exemplified in 若遠 jua7 hng7 ‘how far’, and (2) it consists of the adverb 若 (偌) jua7 ‘how’ and a noun phrase of quantity, as in 若多(濟)册 jua7 tsue7 tsheh4 ‘how many books?’ and 若多(濟) jua7 tsue7 ‘how much/how many?’. In the second case, the element denoting an individual such as 冊 tsheh4 ‘book’ is optional.

Jua7 as a word meaning ‘how’ is underspecified in the following senses. Its interpretation has a close tie with the clause typing/force or mood in traditional terms. Prof. Lien assumes with Rizzi (1997) that force as well as topic and focus is anchored at the split-CP above TP and VP in the hierarchy of functional categories. He proposes that there is a checking relationship between the operator of clause types, such as questions, exclamatives or indicative clauses, and the unvalued wh-word 若jua7 (Chomsky 2001; Frampton & Gutmann 2002; López 2007).  First, the Q operator in CP and the wh-word 若jua7 have to enter a local configuration where the Q operator is positioned at the head of the degree adverbial projection of interrogatives and the unvalued wh-word 若jua7 occupies its specifier position in the clause-typing or rather the force in the split-CP.

The relationship between the Q-operator and the wh-word should be local. In particular, the two elements cannot be interrupted by a third functional element. If the intervention occurs, the merged expression will clash or has to resort to or be given a different interpretation. For example, if there is a functional category such as a negative element無bo5 not.have that intervenes between the Q operator and the wh-word, then the interpretation of the degree interrogatives will be blocked. As an option, the whole expression under the scope of negation will take on an proximal scalar interpretation in the indicative, as in 無若懸 bo5 jua7 kuainn5 not have how tall ‘not so tall’.

Second, if what is involved in the force layer of the split-CP is an EXCL (exclamative) operator, then the whole expression will take on an exclamatory interpretation following the checking of the EXCL operator and the unvalued 若jua7,  as in 若好食咧jua7 ho2tsiah8 leh0 ’How delicious it is!’ where the sentence-final particle 咧leh0 is an explicit operator of exclamatives along with the specific adjustment of intonation. (Zanuttini & Portner. 2003)

The constructions involving IADD are interesting in the diachronic perspective. The composition of the ordered set of number denoted by 偌jua7 ‘how’ and individuals has to be accomplished with the mediation of a functor of quantity, be it explicit or implicit. For example, how men is not well-formed in English since the function of quantity is missing. Likewise, 偌人 jua7 lang5 is not grammatical in TSM. However, 偌人 jua7 lang5 meaning ‘how many men?’ is perfectly acceptable in early SM dateable to the sixteenth century at the earliest (Wu 2001a, 2001b, 2001c, 2001d). It is also attested in the text of the late nineteenth century (Douglas 1873: 185). It is not acceptable in TSM for the following reasons. 偌jua7 in偌人 jua7 lang5 is a fusional form of 若 jiok8 and the word of quantity夥 ua7 ‘many, much’ in early SM. However, a new functor of quantity 濟tsue7 ‘much/many’ in TSM has to be added to yield偌濟人 jua7 tsue7 lang5 in place of 偌人 jua7 lang5 when the early form of quantity 夥 ua7 ‘many, much’ has been incorporated in 偌 and as a result its meaning has been considerably obliterated. The new word of quantity 濟tsue7 ‘much/many’ emerges to fill the lacuna left by its early predecessor 夥 ua7 ‘many, much’. This is a manifestation of cyclic change in diachronic syntax (Gelderen 2011).


Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by Phase. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.) Ken Hale: A life in Language, pp. 1–52. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 

Douglas, Rev. Carstairs. 1873. Chinese-English Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy with the Principal Variations of the Chang-chew and Chin-Chew Dialects. London: Trübner and Co.

Frampton, John and Sam Gutmann. 2002. Crash-proof syntax. In Samuel David Epstein and T. Daniel Seely (eds.) Derivations and Explanations in the Minimalist Program, pp. 90–105. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Gelderen, Elly van. 2011. The Linguistic Cycle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

López, Luis. 2007. Locality and the Architecture of Syntactic Dependencies. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rizzi, Luigi. 1997. The fine structure of the left periphery. In Liliane Haegeman (ed.) Elements of Grammar, pp. 281–337. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Wu, Shouli. 2001a. Ming Jiajing Kan Li Jing Ji Xiwen Jiaoli [Annotated Texts of the Romance of Li Jing Ji of Ming Jiajing Edition (JJ) ]. Taipei: Congyi Workshop.

Wu, Shouli. 2001b. Ming Wanli Kan Li Zhi Ji Xiwen Jiaoli [Annotated Texts of the Romance of Li Zhi Ji of Ming Wanli Edition (WL) ]. Taipei: Congyi Workshop.

Wu, Shouli. 2001c. Qing Shunzhi Kan Li Zhi Ji Xiwen Jiaoli [Annotated Texts of the Romance of Li Zhi Ji of Qing Shunzhi Edition (SZ) ] Taipei: Congyi Workshop.

Wu, Shouli. 2001d. Qing Guangxu Kan Li Zhi Ji Xiwen Jiaoli [Annotated Texts of the Romance of Li Zhi Ji of Qing Guangxu Edition (GX) ]. Taipei: Congyi Workshop.

Zanuttini, Raffaella and Paul Portner. 2003. Exclamative clauses: The syntax-semantics interface. Language 79(1): 39-81.