I'm Jingtao Zhu

There is a single computational system for human language which permits us to generate an infinite range of expressions from a limited set of elementary operations. An important way of approaching the nature of this capacity is by studying children’s knowledge of grammar. During my first work, I addressed the first factor, namely the age at which we have evidence for the presence of functional categories in child grammar by recording children’s eye gazing pattern. I am also interested in characterizing the brain mechanisms responsible for the syntactic operations and understanding the neural bases of syntactic structure building.

On the other hand, as the director of ClicAsia,Centre d’Estudis Orientals, one important goal of my research is to guide the second language (L2) acquisition. “Is the investigation on the first language acquisition relevant to L2 teaching?” or “Is it possible to invest our understanding of theoretical linguistics to develop better approaches to L2 teaching?” I approach these issues with a mix of experimental techniques, both with adults as well as with infants by comparing typologically different languages (as Spanish, Korean, and Mandarin). Such comparisons allow determining universal characteristics of syntactic processes and specificities in cross-linguistic variation.

My research interests lie in: 

Language acquisition (L1 and L2) and teaching

Hierarchical structure in (artificial) grammar learning

The acquisition of both canonical and non-canonical word orders

Language and cognition


Linguistic relativity (In collaboration with Mingshan Xu)

Join us: 

Modern linguistic theories (and current evolutionary assumptions) insist that the blueprint underlying the human faculty of language tends to be simple, economical and systematic (Boeckx, 2006). Although the linguistic input is limited and fragmented, the development of a child's language occurs rapidly (Plato's problem). 

However, the teachers' and students' experience of real-life (second) language teaching and learning still proves to be complex, costly and sometimes chaotic

This is what we call the language teaching paradox. Thus, is it really possible that we could have some examples of "good" language teaching theories which are based on a deep understanding of the language teaching paradox, and how "good" are they? 

Besides, what are the essential components of learnability (e.g. algorithmic mechanisms, parsing, parametric space, etc.), and how are these components connected? Finally, does the learner really needs to "learn" the grammar, as s/he learns the lexicon?

Thus, the objective of the foundation of ClicAsia is to bring together linguists who are interested in language teaching and learning and who can contribute to answering the questions pertaining to the language teaching paradox. If you are interested in joining our team, you can send me your CV to jtzhu@clicasia.com.


                                                                                                                                             (Last updated: May 24, 2021)