Charles Li, born in Shanghai, China, in 1940. Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Fellow (1 September 1997 – 30 June 1998)
When I came to NIAS, I intended to work on two projects
grammatical changes of the Chinese language during the past two thousand years;
a popular book on animal communication commissioned by an American publisher.
I have made great progress in the first project. My research at NIAS resulted in several new discoveries leading to three articles to be published and three presentations in professional conferences.
My work on the popular book on animal communication has transformed into a serious inquiry on the evolutionary origin of language. I am happy to report that great progress has been made toward writing a book, entitled, “Evolution, Brain and Language” to be co-authored with Professor Jean-Marie Hombert of the University of Lyon. I presented a non-technical lecture on the origin of language at NIAS and at Tilburg University. I also presented a series of seminars on the same topic for faculty and graduate students doing research in this area at the University of Lyon II.
The NIAS Fellowship has made it possible for me to focus on my research in the two areas mentioned above: grammatical changes of Chinese and the origin of language. Regarding the second area of research, the fellowship provided me with the time and support for studying a huge literature in neural science, palaeontology, archaeology, reflected on the extent contribution by neural scientists, palaeontologists, psychologists, archaeologists and some linguists, and come up with my own synthesis and original ideas about the origin of language. Regarding the first area of research, the fellowship has again provided me with the time and support for discovering new diachronic processes in the history of the Chinese language.