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Dr Boping Yuan

Empirical studies of bilingualism and multilingualism; linguistic approaches to non-native Chinese grammars; Chinese linguistics, syntax and semantics
Dr Boping Yuan

Reader in Chinese Language and Linguistics

Fellow and Director of Studies in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Churchill College, Cambridge

Office Phone: 01223 335170


Boping Yuan became a worker in a carpentry workshop in China after his secondary school, and was among those first groups of people who entered universities when universities re-opened in China after the ten-year Cultural Revolution. He read English language and literature as an undergraduate at Yantai Normal University (now Ludong University), China, from 1978 to 1982. Then he taught English as a foreign language at universities in China and on the China Central Television. In 1986, he entered Shanghai Jiaotong University, China, and did postgraduate studies in Applied Linguistics. In 1988, he got a scholarship from the British Council to study at Edinburgh University, where he first studied for an M.Sc. in Applied Linguistics and then for a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. In 1992, he came to Cambridge, where he has been teaching Chinese language and linguistics, directing the modern Chinese language program as well as supervising graduate students in developmental Chinese linguistics. He also provides services for international academic journals and organizations, which include being the vice President (2005-2008) and executive member (2008-present) of the Executive Committee of The  International Society for Chinese Language Teaching.

Research Interests

Empirical studies of developmental and synchronic aspects of second language acquisition, bilingualism and multilingualism;

linguistic approaches to non-native Chinese grammars; second language acquisition theory;

formal linguistics; syntax and semantics.

Other Professional Activities

He has supervised undergraduate and graduate dissertations on Chinese linguistics and second language acquisition. He has designed modern Chinese syllabi for both the undergraduate program and the two-year M.Phil in Chinese Studies. He welcomes enquiries from graduate students interested in Chinese syntax and second language acquisition within the framework of formal linguistics.

Service for international academic journals and organizations

Vice President (2005-2008) and Executive Director (2008-present) of the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching  世界汉语教学学会

Editorial Board Memberships

International Review of Applied Linguistics (2000 - )

Second Language Research (2006 - )

Second Language (2004 - ) 

Chinese Teaching in the World《世界汉语教学》 (2005 - )

Foreign Language Teaching and Research 《外语教学与研究》 (2009 - )

Linguistics & Applied Linguistics《现代外语》(2014 -)

Dr Yuan's current project is on mental representations of Chinese wh-words as universal quantifiers in English and Japanese speakers’ non-native grammars of Chinese, which is supported by a grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

PhD Students Supervised

Zhao, Yang (2005) Causativity in Chinese and its representations in English, Japanese and Korean speakers’ L2 Chinese grammars. Click here for the abstract.

Shan, Chuan-kuo (2006) Split Intransitivity in Chinese as a Second Language. Click here for the abstract.

Liang, George (2006) Nominal phrases in English and Japanese speakers' L2 Mandarin Grammars. Click here for the abstract.

Zhao, Lucy (2008) The Syntax and Interpretation of Overt and Null Arguments in Chinese and Their Acquisition by Second Language Learners. Click here for the abstract.

Dugarova, Esuna (2010) Behaviours of wh-elements in English and Russian learners' L2 Chinese. Click here for the abstract.

Mai, Ziyin (2012) Properties of the (Shi)…de Focus Construction in Adult L2 Acquisition and Heritage Language Acquisition of Mandarin Chinese. Click here for the abstract.

Lin, Yvonne (2015) Ditransitivity in English-Chinese Interlanguage. Click here for the abstract.

Zhang, Lulu (2016) Ellipsis in Chinese and its Acquisition by Second Language Learners. Click here for the abstract.

Guo, Yanyu (2017) L2 Acquisition of Aspect Markers by English-Speaking Learners of Chinese. Click here for the abstract.

Natasha Yu-hsin Huang (2017), Reconfiguration of thematic features in non-native grammars of Chinese. Click here for the abstract.


Key Publications

Recent Publications:

Yuan, B. (2017) Can L2 sentence processing strategies be native-like? Evidence from English speakers'
L2 processing of Chinese base-generated-topic sentences. Lingua, 191-192:42-64.

Yuan, B. (2017) Computational Complexity and L1 Transfer in L2 Chinese attitude-bearing questions [in Chinese]. Chinese Teaching in the World, 1:85-104.

Mai, Z. and Yuan, B. (2016) Uneven reassembly of tense, telicity and discourse features in L2 acquisition of the Chinese shì … de cleft construction by adult English speakers. Second Language Research, 32: 247-276.

Yuan B (2015) The effect of computational complexity on L1 transfer: Evidence from L2 Chinese attitude-bearing wh-questions. Lingua 167: 1-18 

Yuan, B. (2015) Interfaces in second language acquisition of Chinese. [in Chinese] Modern Foreign Languages, 38:1, 58-72.

Yuan B (2014) “Wh-on-earth” in Chinese Speakers’ L2 English: Evidence of Dormant Features. Second Language Research 30: 515-549.

Yuan, B. (2013) “Is Chinese ‘daodi’ ‘the hell’ in English speakers’ L2 acquisition of Chinese daodi wh … questions? Effects and recoverability of L1 transfer at L2 interfaces”. International Journal of Bilingualism, 17, 403-430.

Yuan, B. and Dugarova, E. (2012) “Wh-topicalization at the syntax-discourse interface in English speakers’ L2 Chinese grammars”. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34, 533-560.

Yuan, B. and Zhao, Y. (2011) “Asymmetrical syntactic and thematic reconfigurations in English speakers’ L2 Chinese resultative compound constructions”. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15: 38-55.

Yuan, B. (2010) “Domain-wide or variable-dependent vulnerability of the semantics-syntax interface in L2 acquisition? Evidence from wh-words used as existential polarity words in L2 Chinese grammars”. Second Language Research, 26: 219-260.

See more here (link to PDF)