Lucy Chiang

From Kaohsiung, a southern city in Taiwan, graduate student Lucy Chiang spent time in Taipei for her undergraduate and master's degree at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). In her upbringing she was exposed to languages such as Mandarin, Taiwanese Southern Min and Hakka, picking up Mandarin and Taiwanese Southern Min as her first languages. 

As an undergraduate, Lucy trained to be a school teacher. Her introduction to linguistics came about when learning about phonetics as an essential tool for teaching English in Taiwan. When her advisor led her into the world of syntax, Lucy came to understand the logic behind Linguistics and thought about syntax as a “fun puzzle”. Her new found passion for the subfield led her to further syntactic research in graduate school in Taiwan. Intrigued about exploring new phenomena and their analysis under generative linguistics, Lucy decided to pursue her PhD in linguistics.

Lucy came to U-M wanting to see how we can compare different languages, finding out the patterns/rules that they all share, and how they converge and diverge. She came to Michigan led by a recommendation from a professor she had at NTNU, Gerardo Fernandez-Salgueiro, a 2008 Linguistics PhD alumni. He suggested that she’d have a good time and good training here, which she believes was proven right.  As an additional connection, both Lucy and Gerardo have been co-advised by Acrisio during their time at UofM.  Lucy is co-advised by Acrisio Pires and Natasha Abner.

Lucy’s research has the general goal of investigating the cognitive properties of human languages, specifically via sentence structure. In line with what got her into linguistics, finding a uniform rule-based system underlying the grammatical structures of different languages despite their different forms has led to two other goals. 
The first is to determine the rules underlying sentence structure cross-linguistically and to link formal syntactic theory to other subfields/interfaces, such as semantics, psycholinguistics and language acquisition. Lucy states that she is particularly interested “in structures that have not been well-studied in formal linguistic analyses of Mandarin Chinese or have remained as puzzles”.

The other goal is to link linguistic theory to her community, focusing on syntax acquisition of Mandarin by different groups of Mandarin speakers, including native speakers, second language speakers, and heritage speakers in Taiwan. Her dissertation combines her syntactic and language acquisition research with the community focus, with the hope that she can make some contributions to language learning and pedagogy,  also fostering positive language attitudes towards different groups of Mandarin speakers.

In 2018 Lucy received the Chia-Lun Lo Fellowship from the University of Michigan, when she wrote a qualifying research paper “A remnant movement analysis of right dislocation: Deriving word order, complementizers and a Topic/Focus distinction in Mandarin Chinese”. She received a Rackham Humanities Research Candidacy Fellowship in 2019. Most recently she was awarded one of the most prestigious graduate student awards granted by the Rackham Graduate School, a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship for the 2021-2022 academic year. The fellowship supports outstanding doctoral candidates working on dissertations that are unusually creative, ambitious and impactful. In March Lucy defended her dissertation prospectus titled: Acquisition of the Syntax and Semantics of Light Verbs in Mandarin Bilinguals.