Chinese history was co-constructed by Han (Chinese) people, transmitters of farming language and culture, and non-Han people, typically transmitters of nomadic language and culture in North and Northwest China. Governance by non-Han steppe rulers lasted for almost ten centuries (half of the history of imperial China since the First Emperor of Qin) and the Gansu-Qinghai area was the most important migration corridor between Central and East Asia. These languages and populations have competed, mixed and merged for ages. Surprisingly, a cross-linguistically comprehensive portrait of this region is missing in spite of individual language descriptions.
The present Project will study language mixture and language replacement patterns in the Gansu-Qinghai area, which geographically constitutes a natural demarcation between nomadic herders and farmers. In this intense contact area, home to nomadic languages and populations, Sinitic (Han) languages started to resemble non-Han languages, adopting similar syntactic means, while Yugur languages (Western Yugur belongs to Turkic language group and Eastern Yugur belongs to Mongolic language group), spoken by typical nomadic populations, kept their syntax relatively intact. The mixing degree of languages and populations in this area remains unclear, and in-depth research with an interdisciplinary approach is necessary. The project runs from 1 January 2021 to June 2027.

Principal Investigator:




Dan XU-SONG is currently Professor of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany.


2021- Member of Academia Europaea (

2009-2014 Senior Member at University Institute of France (IUF, Honored Member since 2014. 

2003-2022 Professor of INALCO (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales). 

1998 Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches.

1995-2003 Associate Professor of INALCO (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales). 

1987-1991 Researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

1987 PhD degree at Sorbonne University of Paris.



2021-2027, ERC-2019-ADG 883700-TRAM Tracing language and population mixing in the Gansu-Qinghai area.

2021-2023, Co-PI of the PHC PROCORE PROJECT N° 46864RH (France/Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme).

2016-2019, Co-PI (Co-Principal Investigator) of the project YB1624A127 The Tangwang language in Preserving endangered languages in China, subsidized by the Ministry of Education of China.

2012-2016, ANR-12-BSH2-0004-01 Do languages and genes correlate? -A case study in Northwestern China.

2009-2014, IUF Space and quantification–Towards diachronic and cross-linguistic approaches

2006-2010, ANR-06-BLAN0259 Quantification and Plurality–Plural and Personal Pronouns in Asian Languages


2003-2006, ACI-03326 L’espace et ses représentations en Asie Orientale à travers divers langages : verbal, gestuel, anthropologique et bouddhique.




Individual Books

​2018 Chuanshi wenxuan yu chutu wenxian de lishi jufa yanjiu. [Studies on diachronic syntax based on transmitted and excavated texts] Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan [Commercial Press]. 345p.

2017. The Tangwang Language- An Interdisciplinary Case Study in Northwest China. Cham: Springer Nature. 184.

2014. Tangwang hua yanjiu [Studies of the Tangwang language] Beijing: Minzu chubanshe. 472p.

2006. Typological change in Chinese Syntax. Oxford University Press. (2014. Reprint in China by Oxford and World Publishing Corporation). 260p.

1996/2010 (second printing). Initiation à la syntaxe chinoise, Paris: l'Asiathèque. 

(2004. Translated in Chinese. Beijing Yuyan Daxue chubanshe, 2015. Translated by Baker as e-book. Cf. Google, Amazon). 254p.

1988. La reprise anaphorique du chinois, Paris: Langages Croisés. 130p.


Edited books

2018 Yuyan jiechu yu yuyan bianyi. [Language contact and language variation] Beijing: [Commercial Press]. (Author and co-editor with Jingqi Fu). 396p.

2017. Languages and Genes in Northwestern China and Adjacent Regions. Singapore: Springer Nature (Xu Dan and Li Hui eds). (Author and editor). 156p.

2015. Studies of Space and Quantification in Languages of China. Dordrecht: Springer. (Xu Dan and Fu Jingqi eds). (Author and editor).  251p.

2012. Plurality and Classifiers across languages in China. Berlin: De Gruyter. (Author and editor). 288p.

2010. Liang yu fushu de yanjiu [Quantification and Plurality] Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan.  [Commercial Press]. (Author and editor) 370p.(Author and editor) 370p.

2008/2012. Space in Languages of China–Cross-linguistic, synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer. (2012 Reprint in China by World Publishing Corporation). (Author and editor). 284p.

2008. Dictionnaire des verbes résultatifs en chinois. Paris : l’Asiathèque. (Author and editor). 350p.

2000. Ordre des mots et typologie linguistique (éd. A. Donabédian & Xu Dan, Cahiers de Linguistique de l’INALCO) (Author and editor). 231p.


Co-written books

2019. Xu, Dan, Ran Qibin. Gansu Dongxiang Tangwanghua. [the Tangwang language spoken in Dongxiang, Gansu]. Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan [Commercial Press]. 273p.

2014. Sun, Hongkai, Xu, Dan, Liu, Guangkun, Lurongduoding. Shixing yu yanjiu [Studies of the Shixing language] Beijing: Minzu chubanshe. (second co-author. Author of the chapter on syntax and of three transcibed and translated stories in Shixing) 390p.


Articles published in refereed journals


  1. 2022. “Cong Shijing kan huaxia nongye de chengshu yu fazhan” [The Shaping and Development of Huaxia (Chinese) Agriculture through the Book of Odes]. Zhongguo Nongshi [Agricultural History of China], 04, 3-13.

  2. 2022. “Cong kuaxueke shijiao yanjiu zhongguo beifang hanyu ji minzu yuan” [Studying Han and non-Han Languages in Northern China from an Interdisciplinary Perspective]Chinese Social Sciences Today [中国社会科学报], 04/01/2022.

  3. 2021. “Intertwined model of syntactic borrowing in the Gansu-Qinghai linguistic areaHimalayan Linguistics, vol. 20(3), 146-168.

  4. 2021. “Hanyu ‘polokai (xi)’ de laiyuan-jiantan hanyu yu feihanyu de shenceng jiechu [The Source of polokai ‘knee’ in Chinese: Deep Contact between the Chinese and Non-Chinese Languages]Minzu Yuwen [Minority languages of China], 03, 25-37.

  5. 2021. “Zhuizong Gan Qing yidai yuyan quyu nei hanyu jiqi bianti gebiaoji xingcheng de guiji” [Tracing the Case Forming in Sinitic Languages and Varieties in the Gansu-Qinghai Linguistic Area]. Yuyan Kexue [Linguistic sciences], 20(3), 272-286.

  6. 2020. “From topic to case marker-A case of case formation in Gansu-Qinghai linguistic area”. Asian Languages and Linguistics, 2, 278–308.

  7. 2020. “Exploring the historical layers of the Tangwang language”. Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 2, 297–322.

  8. 2020. “Adjectifs en mandarin : Verbe ou adjectif ? ” In Franck, Neveu et al. (eds.). L'Adjectivité. Approches descriptives de la linguistique adjectivale. 170–186. Berlin: De Gruyter.

  9. 2018. With Peyraube “Zhongguo jingnei Gansu Qinghai yidai de yuyan quyu” [Linguistic area of Gansu-Qinghai in China] Hanyu xuebao [Journal of Chinese research] 3, 2–15.

  10. 2018. “Zhongguo jingnei de hunheyu ji yuyan hunhe de jizhi” [“Mixed languages” in China and language mixing mechanism]. Yuyan zhanlue yanjiu [Language Strategy research] 2, 59–79.

  11. 2018 With Wen Shaoqing and Yao Hongbing “Gansu Yongdeng Xuejiawanren de Shaoju-jiantan Xuejiawanren de laiyuan” [Secret language spoken by people at Xuejiawan in Yongdeng District, Gansu Province-from a genetic perspective] In Xu Dan and Fu Jingqi (eds.) Yuyan jiechu he yuyan bianyi yanjiu [Language contact and language variation] 99–122. Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan [Commercial Press].

  12. 2018 “Gan Qing yidai yuyan jiedai de lishi cengci ji moshi” [Layers and models of language borrowing in Gansu and Qinghai]. Minzu Yuwen [Minority languages of China]. 6, 3–21.

  13. 2017. Xu Dan and Wen Shaoqing “The Silk Road: Language and population admixture and replacement” In Dan Xu and Hui Li (eds) Languages and Genes in Northwestern China and Adjacent Regions. 55–78. Singapore: Springer Nature.

  14. 2017. Xu Dan and Wen Shaoqing “Formation of a “Mixed Language” in Northwest China-The Case of Tangwang”In Dan Xu and Hui Li (eds) Languages and Genes in Northwestern China and Adjacent Regions. 87–105. Singapore: Springer Nature.

  15. 2017. “Guanyu hanyu shengdiao de yixie sikao” [Reflexions about Chinese tones]. Nankai yuyan xuekan. 2. 11–23.

  16. 2016. “Zhanguo Zonghengjia shu li suo jian de kongjian ci jiqi biaoda” [Space expressions seen in the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu] In Guhanyu yufa yanjiu xinlun [New research in Ancient Chinese grammar] Chengdu: Bashu shushe. 1-11.

  17. 2016. “Gu hanyu li de zongxiang shijian biaoda” [Expression du temps vertical en chinois ancien]. Yuyan kexue [Linguistic sciences]. 1, 1–10.

  18. 2016. “Gansu Yongdeng Xuejiawan Shaoju diaocha” [Investigations sur une langue secrète parlée dans le district Yongdeng, province de Gansu]. Minzu yuwen [Minority languages of China]. 2, 23–38.

  19. 2015. “Zhanguo Zonghengjia shu li suo jian de kongjian ci jiqi biaoda” [Space expressions seen in the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu], in Xiancheng Zhang et al. (eds.) Gu hanyu yufa yanjiu xinlun [New studies on ancient Chinese grammar] 1–11. Chengdu: Bashu shushe. 

  20. 2015. “The role of geography in the Northwest China linguistic area” In D. Xu and JQ. Fu (eds) New Studies of Space and Quantification in Languages of China. Dordrecht: Springer. 57–73.

  21. 2015. “Cong jieci kan Xibei diqu de yuyan jiechu” [Language contacts through loan words in Northwest China]. Minzu yuwen [Minority languages of China], 2, 23–35.

  22.  2015 “Yanjiu yuyan de xin shijiao” [New perspective in linguistic studies] Contemporary Lingustics. 2, 215–226.

  23.   2015 “Tangwang Initials” In Cao et al. (eds.) Languages in contact in Northwestern China. Paris: Monograph series of the EHESS-CRLAO. 319–338.

  24. 2015 “Sinitic languages of Northwest China: Where did their case marking come from?” In Cao et al. (eds.) Languages in contact in Northwestern China.  Paris: Monograph series of the EHESS-CRLAO. 217–244.

  25. 2014. “Gan-Qing yidai de binge biaoji jiqi leixingxue shang de yiyi” [The accusative mark in Gan-Qing linguistic area and its typological significance]. Jicheng yu tuoxin-Hanyuyan wenzixue [Inheritance and innovation: Chinese languages and philology]. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong. 495–516.

  26. 2014. “Cong Zhanguo zhonghengjia shu kan Xi Han shiqi de chengshu biaoda” [Numeral expressions at the beginning of western Han through the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu] in Festshrift in Honor of Mei Tsu-lin. 466–481.

  27. 2013. with Wen Shaoqing et Xie Xiaodong “Jiechu yu hunhe: cong Y ranseti de jiaodu kan Dongxiang renqun jiqi yuyan de guanxi” [Contact and mixture: Using Y chromosomes to study the relationship between the Santa people and their language] Yichuan [Genetics]. 35, 761–770.

  28. 2013. “Tangwang hua de yuxu” [Word order in Tangwang] Fangyan [Dialects] 3, 206-214.

  29.  2013. “Cong Zhanguo Zonghengjia shu kan gu hanyu li de shishou tongci” [Old Chinese active-passive homonyms in the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu] in Festshrift in Honor of Mucun Yingshu. Tokyo: Baidishe. 73–85.

  30. 2012. with Wen Shaoqing and Xie Xiaodong “The Dongxiang Language and People” Minzu Yuwen [Minority languages of China]. 2013 (English version) Journal of Cambridge Studies, Vol 8, No 2, 40-48.

  31. 2012. “Reduplication in languages: A case study of languages of China” in Dan Xu (ed) Plurality and Classifiers across languages in China. Berlin: De Gruyter. 43–63. 

  32. 2012. “Introduction: Plurality and Classifiers across languages of China” in Dan Xu (ed) Plurality and Classifiers across languages in China. Berlin: De Gruyter. 1–19.

  33. 2011. with Fu Jingqi “liangci jiqi leixingxue kaocha” [Classifiers and some typological considerations], Yuyan Kexue [Linguistic Sciences], 6, 1–14. 2012 (English version) Classifiers and some typological considerations in Breaking down the barriers: Interdisciplinary studies in Chinese linguistics and beyond). Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica [Language and Linguistics Monograph Series]. 865–885.

  34. 2011. “Tang Wang hua de ge biaoji” [Case markers in the Tangwang language] Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 2, 145–154.

  35. 2011. “Guanyu Hezhouhua ji zhoubian diqu li fei zhiren mingci de fushu biaoji men” [On the plural marker [-human] men in Hezhou and its neighboring dialects] Minzu yuwen [Minority languages of China], 6, 9–23.

  36. 2010. with A. Peyraube “Xi Han chuqi de gaishu biaoda” [Approximate numbers at the beginning of western Han] Lishi yuyanxue yanjiu [Historical linguistics research]. 3, 114–122.

  37. 2010. with A. Peyraube “hanyu lishi jufa yu leixingxue” [Diachronic grammar and typology] Lishi yuyanxue yanjiu [Historical linguistics research], Commercial Press.2, 1–10.

  38. 2009. with Fu Jingqi “SVO yuyan li de binyu qianzhi” [Preverbal object in SVO languages], Minzu yuwen [Minority languages of China], 3, 3–15.

  39. 2009. “Xiayou Shixing yu de mouxie tedian” [Some syntactic features of the Shixing in the lower reaches], Minzu yuwen [Minority languages of China], 1, 25–42.

  40. 2009. “Cong Zhanguo zonghengjia shu kan Xi Han chuqi fushu gainian de biaoda”, [Expressions of plurality at the beginning of Western Han through the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu], Lishi yuyanxue yanjiu [Historical linguistics research], Commercial Press. 2, 83–94

  41. 2008. “How Chinese structures space” in Xu Dan (ed.) Space in Languages of China–Cross-linguistic, synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer, 1–14.

  42. 2008. “Cong renzhi jiaodu kan hanyu de kongjianci” [Expressions of space with cognitive perspective], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 6, 504–510.

  43. 2008. “Asymmetry in the expression of space in Chinese –– the Chinese language meets typology” in Xu Dan (ed) Space in Languages of China–Cross-linguistic, synchronic and diachronic perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer, 175–198.

  44. 2007. “Yuyan leixing yanjiu yu hanyu jiaoxue” [Language typology and the Chinese language teaching], Yuyan jiaoxue yu yanjiu [Language teaching and research]. 3, 43–47.

  45. 2007. “Ye tan wu wu” [Again on two negative particles wu and wu], Yuyan kexue [Linguistic sciences], 3, 42–49.

  46. 2007. “Shiyi yishi : yufahua yu cihuihua” [shiyi and yishi : grammaticalization and lexicalization], Yufahua yu yufa yanjiu [Grammaticalization and grammar study] (3), Beijing : Commercial Press, 281–294.

  47. 2007. “Cong Zhanguo zonghengjia shu kan gu hanyu di yi rencheng daici” [First person pronoun in the Zhanguo zonghengjia shu], Dongfang yuyan zazhi [Journal of Oriental languages]. 3: 19–33.

  48. 2006. “Mouxie chutu jianbo wenxian li suo jian de quxiang dongci lai he qu de yongfa” [Motion verbs ‘come’ and ‘go’ attested in excavated texts], Jianbo yuyan wenzi yanjiu [Study on bamboo and silk language], Chengdu: Bashu shushe, 2, 2–14.

  49. 2005. “Tan ‘po’–hanyu mouxie dongci de leixing zhuanbian” [Typological change of some verbs: the case of po ‘to break’], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 4, 333–340.

  50. 2005. “Tan ‘de ziju” [About the construction of de], Xiandai Zhongguoyu yanjiu [Studies of contemporary Chinese], Japon, Tokyo, 7, 50–58. 

  51. 2005. “Quxiang dongci lai/qu yu yufahua” [Grammaticalization of motion verbs ‘come’ and ‘go’], Beijing: Peking University. Guoxue yanjiu [Studies of Chinese ancient civilization]. 14, 315–330.

  52. 2005. “Mouxie juyou [+geiyu] yiyi dongci de yufahua” [Grammaticalization of verbs with the meaning [+give]], translation of the article published in French in 1999), Yufahua yu yufa yanjiu [Grammaticalization and grammar study] (2), Beijing: Commercial Press, 245–260.

  53. 2004. “Xian Qin Han chu hanyu li dongci de zhixiang” [Orientation of verbs in Pre-Qin Chinese], Yuyanxue Luncong, Beijing: Commercial Press, 29, 197–208.

  54. 2004. “Shanggu hanyu houqi fouding ci ‘wu’ daiti ‘wang’ ” [Replacement of wang by wu in Late Old Chinese], Hanyushi Xuebao [Journal of Chinese history], 5, 64–72.

  55. 2004. “About verb’s marking by the preposition yu”, Etats Unis: Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 282–307.

  56. 2003. “Hanyu shi zi ju de yanbian” [Evolution of the causative in Chinese], Yufahua yu yufa yanjiu [Grammaticalization and grammar study] (1), Beijing: Commercial Press.

  57. 2002. “Shanggu hanyu fu fuyin yu qianzhui” [Distinction between cluster and prefix in Old Chinese], Kaipian, Haowen, Japon, Vol. 21, 8–14.

  58. 2001. “Semantic Features of V2 in the Rise of Resultative Compounds (V1+V2)”, Collected Essays in Ancient Chinese Grammar, EHESS and CRLAO, 405–420.  

  59. 2001. “Cong dongbu jiegou de xingcheng kan yuyi dui jufa jiegou de yingxiang” [Semantic impact on syntax : a case of the rise of resultative compounds], Yuwen Yanjiu [Language research], 2, 5–12.

  60. 2000. “Ordre des mots et actance dans la diachronie du chinois” [Word order and agency in diachronic Chinese], Cahiers de linguistique de l'INALCO, 3, 111–126.

  61. 2000. “Dongbu jiegou zhong de shang zi yu xia zi” [Studies on resultative compounds], Yufa yanjiu he tansuo [Grammar study], Beijing: Commercial Press, Vol. 10, 112–120.  

  62. 1999. “Grammaticalisation de certains verbes ayant le sens [+donner]” [Grammaticalization of verbs with the meaning [+give] ], Cahiers de linguistique de l'INALCO, 2, 131–145.

  63. 1999. “Dongci+xingrongci dongbu jiegou de yi xie tedian” [Some characteristics of the structure “verb+adjective”], Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives on the Grammar of Sinitic Languages, Guangzhou: Jinan Daxue chubanshe, 34–45.

  64. 1999. “Distribution syntaxique des marqueurs de négation en chinois (mandarin)” [Syntactic distribution of negative particles in Mandarin], Cahiers de linguistique de l'INALCO, 1, 71–79.

  65. 1995. “Cong Beijing 'Vzhe' yu Xibei fangyan 'Vde' de pingxing xianxiang kan 'de' de laiyuan” [Origin of de through the parallel between “Vzhe” in Pekinese and “Vde” in Northwest dialects], Fangyan [Dialects], 4, 289–295.

  66. 1994. “The Status of Marker gei in Mandarin Chinese”, Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 22–2, 363–394.

  67. 1994. “Sur zai/dao/de postverbaux en Pékinois”, [Postverbal zai/dao/de in Pekinese], Mélanges offerts à Alexis Rygaloff, Paris : Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, CRLAO, 333–348.

  68. 1994. “On the reflexive ziji in Chinese”, Yuyong yanjiu lunji [Collected essays on Discourse], Beijing: Beijing Yuyan Xueyuan chubanshe, 96–112.

  69. 1994. “Guanyu hanyu li 'dongci+x+didianci' de juxing” [On the construction “V+x+Loc.” in Mandarin], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 3, 180–185.

  70. 1992. “Hanyu zhong de zai yu zhe(zhuo)” [The grammatical words  zaizhe(zhuo) in Mandarin], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 6, 453–461. 

  71. 1992. “Beijinghua zhong de yufa biaoji ci 'gei' ” [The marker gei in Pekinese], Fangyan [Dialects], 1, 54–60.

  72. 1990. “Postverbal Word Order in Chinese”, Cahiers de linguistique Asie Orientale, 1, 91–107.

  73. 1990. “Pingjie 'Jieci wenti ji hanyu de jiejue fangfa' ” [Book review, Le problème linguistique des prépositions et la solution chinoise, by Claude Hagège], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 6, 465–473.

  74. 1990. “Guanyu geiyushi de lishi fazhan” [Evolution of dative constructions], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 3, 219–229.

  75. 1990. “C-command gainian yu zhaoying guanxi” ['C-command' in anaphora], Guowai Yuyanxue [Linguistics abroad], 3, 41–43.

  76. 1989. “Ye tan liansuo fuju” [Again on liansuo fuju], Yuwen Jianshe [Language construction], 1, 14–15.

  77. 1989. “Guanyu yuesu lilun” [About Binding Theory], Guowai Yuyanxue [Linguistics abroad], 2, 66–72.

  78. 1989. “Di san ren cheng dai ci de te dian” [Features of the third person pronoun], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 4, 281–284.

  79. 1989. “Beijing kouyu zhong fei zhi ren de ta” (Ta [-H] in Pekinese), Fangyan [Dialects], 1, 7–8.

  80. 1988. “Qian tan zhe/na de bu duicheng xing” [Asymmetry in the use of zhe/na in Chinese], Zhongguo Yuwen [Chinese languages], 2, 128–130.

  81. 1987. “Ta non référentiel” [Non-human referent ta in Pekinese], Cahiers de linguistique Asie Orientale, 2, 259–276.