People's Daily【Overseas Edition】Yang Yimin--- Pacesetter in Neurolinguistics



Yang Yiming and his innovation team

  Currently,he is the first and only Yangtze RiverScholar in Linguistics and AppliedLinguistics and professor specially-appointed by the Ministry of Education ofChina. In 2006 when he was no more than 50 years old, he was granted the firstprize of the Fourth Outstanding Achievements Award for Researches on Humanitiesand Social Sciences in Chinese Colleges and Universities, the highest award in humanitiesand social sciences in China. He is Yang Yiming, the director of CollaborativeInnovation Center for Language Ability of Jiangsu Normal University.

  YangYiming pioneered the perspective of “separation”, which is known as “a newmethod of the research on modern phonetics”. However, in the early 1990’s whenhe noticed the shift of international linguistics research, he and his innovationteam started the long research journey.


  As a Yangtze River Scholar, ProfYang still insists on teaching Introductionto Linguistics for undergraduate students. In the eye of the freshmen, heis always dressed in white shirts, suit pants, meticulously pressed, like hisattitude towards the academic pursuits.

  Walkingin the campus, Yang is very eye-catching for his fluffy white hairs. It is hardto find a few strands of black hair unless you come very close. You will besurprised about his grey hairs if you can a glimpse on how he works.

  ZhangQiang, one of his students, recalls that Yang once locked himself in the officefor 3 days bending his mind to a paper. Whenever he needed data, he would handout a small piece of paper through the crack of the door. His students wouldsend relevant papers to the room. When the door opened on the 4thday, the baked wheat cake on the table was only eaten for a few bites while thepacked food was still in the same place.

  Thisworkaholic spirit is derived from Yang Yiming’s deep sense of responsibility todisciplinary development: “We will be steadfast in academic research; it is ourgoal to be the best in China and to win a unique academic status in the worldfor China.”Neurolinguisticsis a new discipline. There are too many undeveloped areas and no experience forlearn. A lot of exploratory work needs to be done. Yang Yiming himself is abenchmarking, though he always says, “I’m not far-sighted, I believe that youngpeople will see further.”

  ②NewBranch on the Old Theory

  The LinguisticsTeam in Jiangsu Normal University is the pioneer of neurolinguistics in China.Since the early 1990’s, the team combines linguistic theories with neuroscience,becoming the first to recruit doctor and master candidates in neurolinguistics.Currently, the team has research focuses on reading barriers and nervelexicology, neural syntax, neural phonetics, sign language, stuttering andaphasia, as well as neural mechanisms about language barriers. It has obtainedhigh level research achievements.

  In2008, School of Language Sciences, the first in China, was established in JSNU. Hao Ping, vice Minister of Education ofChina and then director of the National Languages Committee, unveiled thenameplate of the school and pointed out “The establishment of School ofLanguage Sciences of Jiangsu Normal University is a milestone in the history oflinguistics in China.”

  InJanuary 2010, the team sent out a paper to the Netherlands. Four months later,this paper Developmental dyslexia inChinese and English populations: dissociating the effect of dyslexia fromlanguage differences., on which the team spent 5 years, was published inthe journal Brain, the top journal ininternational brain science. Brain remarked on the paper by “The writing andconception of this paper is outstanding. It is a groundbreaking achievement inthis field. The author should be proud of the effort”. This paper was correctedfor only two punctuation marks, and it was the first Chinese research publishedin Brain.After it publication, it was cited by SCI journals for 40 times in 2years.

  Thefirst author of the paper was a Phd candidate in this team, Hu Wei, who then was31 years old.

  InYang’s opinion, young man “play the leading role” at an early date is moreurgent than anything: “There are no disadvantages for young people to doscientific research but advantages. All people of accomplishment started at ayoung age. Young people should know that you will have an advantage as long asyou do it, and a disadvantage if you don't do that.”

  ③SmallTeam Has Great Power

  ProfessorYang's monograph Research on the NeuralMechanisms of Language and Linguistic Theory was granted by the Ministry ofEducation of China the first prize of the Outstanding Achievements Award forResearches on Humanities and Social Sciences. After the “11th Five-year Plan”, theneurolinguistics research team was selected as the first batch of science andtechnology innovation team of Jiangsu Province, and Linguo-CognitiveScience and Theory of Culture and Artwasapproved for building up disciplinarysuperiority.

  Neurolinguisticsis an frontier interdisciplinary science involving linguistics, cognitivescience, brain science, psychology, and computer science, biomedical and others.The problems occurred in the research process are always new and this requiresthe innovation ability of individual and team.

  Atthe beginning when the discipline was established, most young researhers in theteam were with a background in humanities, the budget was also insufficient, andthere was no MRI equipment for experiment. They went around hospitals in Xuzhouand finally found the right equipment in a hospital. But they still need to doa lot for preparation: knowledge in physics, making response-button box, packingantimagnetic material on the wire, making the reflectors between the magnets, makingground-glass frames, and persuading participants to take part in theexperiment. These efforts gained for them a great deal of valuable basic datathrough accumulation, making it possible for advanced study.

  In 2014,the neurolinguistics research team undertook the main preparatory and planningwork for the first International Conference on Language Language,which was organizedby the Chinese government and the UNESCO. At the conference, the research teamYang led won recognition for their achievements.

  Thereis still a long way for the team to achieve final success, Yang Yiming and his innovationteam set sail on a new starting point with the faith of scientific research andthe spirit of innovation.