Research Project (2019)


Comparative research on specific languages in interlingual communication

  • Goro Christoph Kimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German Studies, Sophia University)
  • Atsushi Ichinose (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Sophia University)
  • Lisa Fairbrother (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of English Studies, Sophia University)
  • Kanako (Takeda) Ide (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow)
  • Simon Tuchais (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of French Studies, Sophia University)


This collaborative research project builds upon a three-year SOLIFIC project conducted from 2009 to 2011that focused on the theory of interlinguistics, namely the choice of different linguistic resources in contexts where speakers do not share the same first language. Specifically, we looked at the use of code-switching in multilingual contexts, mixed languages, such as pidgins and creoles, planned languages, such as Esperanto, and hegemonic languages, such as English. The findings of this project were published in Sophia Linguistica No. 60 (2012).

However apart from comparing different types of interlingual communication, it is also important to consider how interlinguistic strategies may be applied differently depending on the language(s) used and the specific social context. To this aim, since 2012 we have been comparing the use of English, French, German, Portuguese and Japanese as lingua francas, with particular attention given to the characteristics, possibilities and specific issues relating to the use of each language as an interlinguistic resource. Our primary goals are to investigate the similarities and differences between each interlinguistic strategy beyond the individual language and also to determine how lingua franca communication is different from communication between native and non-native speakers. In the 2018 academic year, the main aim was to publish the results of the symposium held in 2015 (tbp in 2019 as a volume in the series “Studies in World Language Problems by John Benjamins). In 2019, we will try to compare the findings concerning each languages in order to get translingual perspectives.

Comparative Syntax: Theoretical and Empirical Studies

  • Takaomi Kato (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics Master’s (Doctoral) Program in Linguistics, Sophia University)
  • Naoki Fukui (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics Master’s (Doctoral) Program in Linguistics, Sophia University)
  • Yuko Otsuka (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Department of English Studies, Sophia University)
  • Ryosuke Takahashi (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German Studies, Sophia University)
  • Yasuhiko Kato (SOLIFIC Honorary Fellow, Emeritus Professor, Sophia University)
  • Masanobu Ueda (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow,Professor, Reserch Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University)


This research project is concerned with universal and diverging (‘parametric’) properties of human language syntax, from different, though fundamentally related, points of view, including straight syntax and comparative syntax, lexical syntax/semantics, the brain science of language, mathematical and formal studies, evolutionary linguistics, etc.

One of the major discoveries of modern theoretical linguistics is that humans are endowed with a species-specific biological property, called the “faculty of language,” which enables them to acquire a specific formal computational system (human language) – but not other symbolic systems – that allows for generation of unbounded arrays of hierarchical structures (linguistic expressions) linking sounds – or signs, as in the case of sign languages – and meanings. The scientific study of this biological capacity constitutes a major part of contemporary linguistics, and the object of inquiry so defined calls for truly cross- and trans-disciplinary studies. As the evidence compellingly shows, the faculty of language is species-specific, and uniform across the species, i.e., it is a universal capacity for all humans. Thus, syntax, the main computational component of this capacity, has universal properties. What are the universal properties of human language syntax? This is the fundamental research question addressed in this project. On the other hand, rather surprisingly, various manifestations of human language (English, Japanese, German, Swahili, Tongan, etc.) do exhibit certain degrees of variation. If the faculty of language is truly a universal biological property, as has been convincingly shown in the technical literature, where does the variation come from? Why is it that there seem to be various languages in the world? This is the second important problem we investigate in this project.

We started this project in 2012 and continued in the following years until 2018. In these years, we have investigated in detail various empirical and theoretical issues such as negation in Japanese, English, and other languages, the relation between syntax and the lexicon in German, Japanese, etc., the nature of the fundamental operation Merge and its manifestations in the brain, the evolution of language from the point of ethology, and so on. In 2019, we will continue to explore and develop analyses and theories pertinent to these issues, trying to unify some of the results accumulated in the past years.

Exploring the relationship between learning strategies, learning styles and university majors in the framework of CLIL: The case of undergraduate students majoring a foreign language at Sophia University

  • Yoshinori Watanabe (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
  • Goro Christoph Kimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German Studies, Sophia University)
  • Atsushi Ichinose (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Sophia University)
  • Sanae Harada (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of French Studies, Sophia University)
  • Kimiyo Nishimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, Sophia University)
  • Shinichi Akiyama (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Department of Russian Studies, Sophia University)


The purpose of the proposed project is to explore the relationship between learning strategies students employ, their learning styles and their undergraduate majors. Given the purpose, the study is intended to test the validity of the hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between three factors. The data will be collected by administering a set of inventories to the undergraduate students of various majors, learning various foreign languages, including German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian, amongst others. The data will be statistically analyzed, and the results will be interpreted in the framework of CLIL with the focus on three basic elements comprising language, cognitive skills (i.e., language learning strategies) and topical knowledge (i.e., majors). Based on the outcome that has been obtained so far, self-taught materials will be developed to help those students majoring in applied and theoretical linguistics to achieve academic success in the field.


The relationship between Japanese language proficiency and individual differences in classroom second language acquisition

  • Kaoru Koyanagi (SOLIFIC, Professor, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University)
  • Fuyuki Mine(SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University)
  • Yoko Mukouyama(SOLIFIC Visiting Fellow, Research Professor, Musashino University )


Second language acquisition is an intricate process in which external factors (learning environment, teaching methods) interact with internal factors (learners’ characteristics) and the nature of grammatical forms (developmental stages, difficulty etc.). These factors also interact with learners’ cognitive mechanisms, which could further lead to brain mechanisms. This study aims to explore these complex processes and mechanisms, by collecting data from learners of Japanese as a second language.

The first goal in 2019 is to examine the effects of CLIL on learning of Japanese. At the Center for Language Education and Research at Sophia University, the Japanese language program has recently adopted CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), and explored how to assess learners’ Japanese proficiency and evaluate the program in 2018. We continue to conduct an empirical research to investigate learning effects of CLIL. By collecting data such as results of ACTFL-OPI (oral proficiency test) and J-CAT (web-based Japanese proficiency test), questionnaires and interviews, learners’ performance will be analyzed, comparing with students who had enrolled prior to the introduction of CLIL.

The second goal is to present outcomes of the collaborative research conducted with members of the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer (IDAC) of Tohoku University. The purpose of this project is to explore how input processing skills will develop as proficiency levels increase from the neurocognitive perspective. This study examines how learners’ proficiency levels and language aptitude (namely, working memory capacity) would affect brain activities during sentence processing. Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), neural and behavioral data have been collected from native speakers of Japanese (L1 data) and Chinese learners of Japanese. (L2 data). A paper based on L1 data was presented at a conference in 2018. L2 data will be further analyzed and compared with L1 data in 2019.


Corpus-based study of French discourse markers


    • Simon Tuchais (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of French Studies, Sophia University)
    • Masayuki Tashiro (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow)


With the progress of information technology, corpus linguistics has developed greatly, and is currently making a significant contribution in the fields of discourse analysis and grammatical studies. The goal of this research project is to investigate how corpus studies can bring a deeper understanding of discourse markers in French.

The main corpora used for this study will be Frantext, developed by ATILF (Analyse et traitement Informatique de la Langue Française), and the text corpus of “Le Monde” provided by ELRA (European Language Resources Association). Frantext consists of texts of various genres ranging over several centuries, whereas the “Le Monde” provides a more homogeneous corpus of contemporary standard written French. The research will rely mainly on a quantitative analysis of large corpora, but using two different types of corpora makes it possible to use various approaches.

Traditional approaches based on methods such as commutation tests often fail to provide a clear distinction between similar markers. One of the main results that can be expected from a quantitative study of such markers in large corpora is to show the tendencies in the syntactic or discursive environment in which they appear and in the cooccurrences with other words, in order to bring out their differences and better understand their characteristics.