Historical syntax studies syntactic changes throughout the history of Chinese. Based on the theories of generative syntax, prosodic grammar and stylistic-register grammar, taking formal syntax and logical reasoning as measures, the research on historical syntax at JRCCLAL inherits the academic tradition of Chinese exegesis (especially the Zhang-Huang School) and explores the motivations and rules of the diachronic changes in Chinese grammar.

According to the theory of formal syntax, diachronic variations in language result from the failure in transmission of linguistic features throughout a time span (Kroch 2009). Facing ambiguous structures and various stylistic-register grammars, children choose a different way of analysis (i.e., re-analysis) of the input of the language from the last generation, which leads to the failure in transmission of linguistic features, consequently results in language change. Endogenous change of grammar may arise from phonetic differences and the transformation of stylistic-register grammars. It then resets the parameters of UG under the competition of diaglossia grammar. Historical syntax aims at revealing and re-establishing the mechanism and process of diachronic change in language. Recent years, a series of remarkable progress has been made, such as the change in word order, the origin of Ba-construction, the development conditions of VR-construction, the disappear of light-verb movement and the activation of the syntactic operations of light nouns (classifiers and localizers), showing that motivated by the typological change in prosodic system happened between Western Han and Eastern Han, Chinese language has undergone significant typological changes.