Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Lisa Cheng

Professor General Linguistics

Prof.dr. L.L. Cheng
+31 71 527 2104

Lisa Cheng is Professor of General Linguistics at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics. Her research interests centre upon comparative syntax, and the interactions between syntax and semantics, syntax and prosody, as well as syntax and processing. She is a co-founder of the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC). Since 2017, she is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

More information about Lisa Cheng

Fields of interests

  • Comparative syntax
  • syntax-semantics interface
  • typology
  • Chinese syntax
  • syntax-phonology interface
  • Bantu syntax 


What I find intriguing in language is the fact that languages can be superficially so different but at the same time so similar. This can be seen not only across dialects of a particular language (for example Chinese dialects), but also across language barriers (such as Basque vs. Dutch). The central questions of my research thus center upon the how’s and why’s of language variation. The answers to these questions can only be found by studying language as a system, and by doing interdisciplinary research on the brain. 

Main research Projects    

2015-2019 Ellipsis licensing beyond syntax. Prinpcipal Investigator with co-investigator Anikó Lipták. NWO
2014-2018 Understanding Questions. Principal Investigator with co-investigator Jenny Doetjes. NWO
2014-2019 Advancing the European Multilingual Experience (AThEME). Principal Investigator. FP7 European Commission
2004-2008 Research grant on the Word order and Morphological Marking in Bantu. Principal Investigator with co-investigator Thilo Schadenberg. NWO


  • Member Academia Europaea
  • LSA Fellow
  • Member KNAW

Curriculum Vitae

I obtained my PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991, with the dissertation entitled On the typology of wh-questions. I was assistant and associate professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Irvine from 1991 to 2000, before taking up the professor position in Leiden University. For more information please see my CV.

Teaching activities & supervision    

I teach syntax and syntax-semantics interface at both the undergraduate and the graduate level in the BA and MA linguistics programmes. I have supervised over 20 PhD students. Below is a partial list.

Yang Yang (2018) The two sides of wh-indeterminates in Mandarin
Marieke Meelen (2016) Why Jesus and Job spoke bad Welsh: the origin and distribution of V2 orders in Middle Welsh
Hongyuan Sun (2014) Time reference and bare predicates in Mandarin Chinese
Chin-hui Lin (2014) Utterance final particles in Taiwan Mandarin: contact, context, and core functions
Kristina Riedel (2009) The Syntax of object marking in Sambaa. A comparative Bantu perspective
Jenneke van der Wal (2009) Word order and information structure in Makhuwa-Enahara
Martin Salzmann (2006) Resumptive prolepsis: a study in A’-indirect dependencies
Joanna Sio (2006) Reference and modification in Chinese
Anikó Lipták (2001) On the Syntax of Wh-items in Hungarian


Professor General Linguistics

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL Taalwetenschap

Work address

Reuvensplaats 3-4
2311 BE Leiden
Room number 1.35



  • Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal Raad van Advies
This website uses cookies.  More information.