Born in Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province, Cao Zhiyun graduated from School of Literature of Shangdong University with a PhD in Literature. His titles are as follows: the vice principal and professor of Beijing Language and Culture University(BLCU), academic leader of Chinese Philology, doctoral supervisor and post-doctoral cooperative supervisor of linguistics and applied linguistics, director of Chinese Language Resources Preservation Research center, leading talent in philosophy and social science of the "Ten thousand plan" – National high level talents special support plan, one of the talents in the New Century National Hundred, Thousand and Ten Thousand Talent Project, as well as in the National Talents of Culture, enjoying the special government allowance. Apart from the above mentioned, he is also the vice chairman of Chinese Linguistics Society, vice chairman of Chinese Dialect Society, standing director of China Minority Language, chief expert of Chinese Language Resources Preservation Project, and supervisor of national outstanding doctor's degree thesis. He served as deputy director of BLCU academic committee, director of Language Institute, dean of Faculty of Linguistic Sciences, chief editor of Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies and chairman of China Sociolinguists Society.
He mainly studies Chinese dialects, geographical linguistics and language resources. He has been engaged in the investigation and research of Chinese dialects for a long time, devoted to the discipline construction of geographical linguistics and the rescue and conservation of language resources. He has published Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects (Ed.), Study on the Wu Dialect in South China, Study on the Yan Zhou Dialect, Study on the Chuqu Dialect (cooperation), Study on the Wuzhou Dialect(cooperation), Jinhua Dialect Dictionary, Illustrations of Folk Culture in Tangxi Dialect, Walking in the Fields---A Dialect Investigator’s Fieldwork Notes" worksand so on.
He also published over 100 papers in domestic and international academic journals such as Studies of the Chinese Language, Dialect, Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies, Journal of Chinese Linguistics. His once won the first prize of Scientific Research Achievement Award (humanities and social sciences), the first prize in Beijing Outstanding Achievement Award for Philosophy and Social Sciences, the award nomination of Books of China Publication Government Award, Peking University Wang Li Award for Linguists, and Young Linguist Prize of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, to name just a few. Among them, Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects is the first linguistic atlas which is based on the field survey and comprehensively reflects the basic features of Chinese dialects in the 20th century. Currently, Cao Zhiyun is committed to the Chinese Language Resources Preservation Project, which is an oversize national project on language and culture initiated by the Ministry of Finance, and led by the Ministry of Education and the State Language Commission. The Project mainly includes the investigation of Chinese dialects, ethnic minority languages, literature collection and the construction of recording and exhibition platform.