Marlboro Remembers Grant Li

The Marlboro community was deeply saddened by the passing of Grant Li, professor of Chinese, on June 14, 2019, after a long illness.

“Grant will be remembered for his contagious enthusiasm for teaching language and linguistics, and his abiding interest in language opportunities for Marlboro students,” said President Kevin Quigley. “He had a deep appreciation for the fundamental similarities between languages, and by extension, between people.”

Grant received his PhD in linguistics from the University of California, Irvine, and first came to Marlboro in 2008, after teaching Chinese at Smith College. He immediately felt at home at Marlboro, and was in his element working closely with students in small classes.

“Although Chinese is often considered a hard language to learn, Grant made it accessible to students with class activities and always brought out the fun and joy of language learning,” said Richard Glejzer, provost and dean of faculty. “He was also instrumental in making connections for Marlboro in China, and for opening up opportunities for students there.”

Grant helped lead a class trip to China in 2012, focused on environmental studies, and then stayed on with seven students at Heilongjiang University, his alma mater, for a six-week language program. During the trip he and Richard made great strides in establishing a student exchange partnership with Heilongjiang, soon followed by exchange students at Marlboro from China.

Grant’s research interests led him to explore Chinese language and culture, syntactic theory, and comparative linguistics, which he enthusiastically shared with Marlboro students. His book, Tao of Division: Syntactic Conditions on Distributivity, provides a theory for certain aspects of sentence meaning in English and Chinese that are constrained by universal principles of language structure. He considered a comparative study across languages particularly fascinating, as it often helped reveal the nature of language

“Because of his views on the nature of linguistics, students interested in any language could work with him,” said Richard. “What drew students to him, more often than not, was his warmth and humor. He will be sorely missed.”