Prof. LEE Hun Tak Thomas



  • Director, Office of University General Education
  • Programme Director, General Education Foundation Programme
    Director, Baldwin Cheng Research Centre for General Education
    Emeritus Professor, Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages


Professor Lee received his BA in English Literature from Swarthmore College, and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from UCLA. His research interests lie in language and cognition, drawing influences from linguistics, psychology and philosophy, with particular reference to language learnability and first language acquisition of Cantonese and Mandarin. He formerly served as Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Arts, Chairperson of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, and Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Language Enhancement. Professor Lee is on the editorial boards of a number of journals, including Language Acquisition and Contemporary Linguistics. He led the construction of several early child language corpora, including CANCORP (The Hong Kong Cantonese Child Language Corpus), and was a core designer of the grammatical assessment component of HKCOLAS (The Hong Kong Cantonese Oral Language Scales).

Selected Publications

  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak李行德, 2022. “Language Acquisition and Language Development”, “Universal Grammar”, “Roger Brown”, and “Roman Jakobson”. In Third Edition of the Chinese Encyclopedia (Language and Script).
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak and Hongming Zhang. 2021. On the relationship between phonological representation and phonetic representation: Some thoughts from the perspective of New Descriptivism (音系表徵與語音表徵的關係—來自新描寫主義的思考). Contemporary Linguistics 23(2021.3): 317-323.
  • Lu, Yaqiao and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2020. The syntactic and semantic criteria for unaccusative and unergative verbs in Mandarin Chinese (漢語非賓格與非作格動詞的句法及語義界定標準). Contemporary Linguistics 22 (2020.4):475-502.
  • Paul, Waltraud, Yaqiao Lu, and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2020. Existential and locative constructions in Mandarin Chinese. The Linguistic Review 37(2):231-267. doi:10.1515/tlr-2019-2043.
  • Lu, Yaqiao, and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2019. Telicity and objecthood in the acquisition of unaccusativity: Mandarin-speaking children’s interpretation of manner-of-motion verbs. In Proceedings of the 43rd Boston University Conference on Language Development, edited by Megan M. Brown and Brady Dailey, 373-386. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
  • Lei, Margaret Ka-yan, and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2019. Acquiring distinctions in nominal and verbal domains: Differentiating universal quantification from completive aspect in child Cantonese. In Three Streams of Generative Language Acquisition Research. Selected papers from the 7th Meeting of Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition – North America, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, edited by Tania Ionin and Matthew Rispoli, 159-183. Language Acquisition and Linguistic Disorders 63. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi:10.1075/lald.63.09lei.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak and Zhuang Wu. 2019. The acquisition of nominal structure, word order and referentiality in Chinese: Corpus and experimental findings on the numeral phrase. In Interface in Grammar, edited by Jianhua Hu and Haihua Pan, 301-340. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi:10.1075/lfab.15.11lee.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 2018. The use of child language in linguistic argumentation: Some methodological considerations (用兒童語言來進行語言學論證:一些方法學上的考慮). Contemporary Linguistics 20 (2018.4): 552-571.
  • Lei, Margaret Ka-yan and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2018. Differentiating universal quantification from perfectivity: Cantonese-speaking children’s command of the affixal quantifier saai3. In Linguistic and Cognitive Aspects of Quantification, edited by Katalin É. Kiss and Tamás Zétényi, 57-82. Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-91566-1_4.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 2012. Quantificational structures in three-year-old Chinese-speaking children. In Plurality and classifiers across languages of China, ed. Dan Xu, 243-282. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 2010. Nominal structure in early child Mandarin. In Chinese matters: from grammar to first and second language acquisition, eds. Chris Wilder and Tor Åfarli, 75-109. Trondheim, Norway: Tapir Academic Press.
  • Huang, Aijun and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 2009. Quantification and individuation in the acquisition of Chinese classifiers. In Proceedings of the Tenth Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics, ed. Yukio Otsu. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 2006. A note on garden-path sentences in Chinese. In Linguistic studies in Chinese and neighboring languages: festschrift in honor of Professor Pang-hsin Ting on his seventieth birthday, eds. Dah-an Ho, Samuel Cheung, Wuyun Pan and Fuxiang Wu, 491-518. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica.
  • T’sou, Benjamin K., Thomas Hun-tak Lee, C. S. Tung, Y. H. Man, A. Chan, C. To, P. Cheung, A. Ng, and Y. Chan. 2006. Hong Kong Cantonese Oral Language Assessment Scale (HKCOLAS). City University of Hong Kong & Department of Health (ISBN9628868-13-6 / ISBN978-962-8868-13-1).
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak and Colleen Wong. 1998. CANCORP-The Hong Kong Cantonese Child Language Corpus. Cahiers de Linguistique – Asie Orientale 27(2): 211-228.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 1996. Theoretical issues in language development and Chinese child language. In New Horizons in Chinese Linguistics, eds. James C.T. Huang and Audrey Li, 293-356. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  • Xu, Lie-jiong and Thomas Hun-tak Lee. 1990. Scope ambiguity and disambiguity in Chinese. Papers from the 25th Chicago Linguistic Society Meeting: Part One, General Session, 451-466.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak, Lie-jiong Xu, and Yuen-leung Ngai. 1989. The semantic and logical features of the particle ze in the Shanghai dialect (上海話ze的語義及邏輯特點). Zhongguo Yuwen (Chinese Linguistics) 《中國語文》211: 264-272.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 1985. The phonetic quality and the length distinction of Cantonese vowels. Fangyan (Dialectology) 《方言》7(1): 28-38.
  • Lee, Thomas Hun-tak. 1983. An acoustical study of the register distinction in Mon. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 57: 79-96.