Hongyuan Dong

Hongyuan Dong

Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics
Rome Hall 467
Phone: 202-994-6728
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Semantic Theory, Historical Linguistics, Language Policy.

Dr. Hongyuan Dong is a linguist specializing in semantic theories, with research focuses on the formal aspect of meaning. His research explores how languages differ in their surface forms but have common constraints at a deeper level. Dr. Dong has worked on the semantic properties of questions, focus, adjectives, and quantification. For the past few years he has been exploring ways to combine formal semantics with historical linguistics in the new field called formal diachronic semantics. He has done research in the formal semantic analyses of grammaticalization paths of locative-to-aspect developments, and modes of lexical semantic change from the perspective of intensional logic.

Current Research

  • Formal Diachronic Semantics;
  • Bayesian Semantics and Pragmatics;
  • History of language policy in China.


Ph.D. in Linguistics, Cornell University (2009)



Semantics of Chinese Questions2019 Semantics of Chinese Questions: An Interface Approach, in The Routledge Studies in Chinese Linguistics, Routledge, New York, NY and Abingdon, UK.  

This is the first major study of Chinese questions, especially wh-questions, within the framework of Alternative Semantics. It takes an interface approach to study the syntax, semantics and phonology of questions and proposes a phonological scope-marking strategy in Chinese questions, based upon experimental data. It also incorporates historical linguistic data regarding the grammaticalization of sentence-final particles such as –ne and –ma to study the formal diachronic semantics of questions.


2014 A History of the Chinese Language, Routledge, New York, NY and Abingdon, UK.

Professor Hongyuan Dong's new book, A History of the Chinese Language (Routledge 2014), provides a comprehensive introduction to the historical development of the Chinese language from its proto Sino-Tibetan roots in prehistoric times to Modern Standard Chinese. Taking a highly accessible and balanced approach, it presents a chronological survey of the various stages of Chinese language development, covering crucial aspects such as phonology, syntax and semantics. This book is an essential reference book for students of Chinese Language and Linguistics and for anyone interested in the history and culture of China.



To appear Temporal partitions in the grammaticalization of imperfective aspect markers: A formal semantic approach. Language and Linguistics (Academia Sinica).

2019   A semantic analysis of –ne as a topic marker: A grammaticalization perspective. Proceedings of the 30th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-30), vol 2, pp. 472-489, eds. Y. Zhu, et al. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.  

2017   Language policy, dialect writing and linguistic diversity. In Proceedings of The 29th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-29). Vol. 2, pp. 463-480.  

2016  An LFG analysis of pronominal binding in Mandarin ChineseProceedings of the Linguistic Society of America, Vol. 1, Article 2:1-15.  

2016  Teaching linguistics to supplement the implementation of the five Cs. Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, Vol 18, pp. 1-24.

2015  Chinese: A Linguistic Introduction, by Chaofen Sun (review article). Chinese as a Second Language: The Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association-US, Vol 50, No. 3, pp. 95-100.

2015  Musicality meets tonality: A Tonal Congruence Index (ITG) for Chinese vocal music. In Hongyin Tao et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the 27th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-27), Vol 2, pp. 322-339.

2007 The Semantics of Wh-Questions with the verbal "how" in Mandarin, in Proceedings of the Sixteenth Amsterdam Colloquium, edited by Maria Aloni, Paul Dekker, and Floris Roelofsen. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, pp. 67-72.

2005  (co-authored with Yang Shen 沈阳) “直接统治”与第三人称代词“他”的句内所指规则 (Direct C-Command and the Intra-sentential Co-reference Rules of 3rd Person Pronoun "ta" in Chinese), in 汉语语法研究的新拓展2 (New Explorations in the Research of Chinese Grammar Vol 2), edited by Jingmin Shao and Jingguang Lu, Zhejiang Education Publishing House, Hangzhou, China.

2004  (co-authored with Yang Shen 沈阳) “直接统制”与“他”的句内所指规则 (Direct C-Command and the Intrasentential Co-reference Rules of 3rd Person Pronoun “ta” in Chinese). 中国语文 (Studies of the Chinese Language), 1:16-29, Beijing, China.

Classes Taught

  • Chinese Semantics
  • History of the Chinese Language  
  • Language Policy of China  
  • Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
  • Language courses on all levels


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