Research Project (2020)

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 2020, we will continue 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)
  • 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 2019. 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 2020, 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, grammatical difficulty etc.). These factors also interact with learners’ cognitive mechanisms, which could further implicate brain mechanisms. This study aims to explore these complex processes and mechanisms, by collecting data from learners of Japanese as a second language.

In 2020, we will continue 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). In our pilot study conducted in 2019, we collected data such as results of ACTFL-OPI (oral proficiency test) and J-CAT (web-based Japanese proficiency test) from non-degree Chinese students. We will further analyze data by comparing with students who had enrolled prior to the introduction of CLIL. In addition, based on the results of the pilot study, we will expand research to investigate the effects of CLIL in academic Japanese courses for degree students.

Furthermore, we will continue to present outcomes of the collaborative research conducted with members of the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer (IDAC) of Tohoku University. A paper based on L1 data was presented at an international conference in 2018, and that on L2 data, in 2019. By employing unanalyzed data on learners’ proficiency and individual differences (namely, working memory capacity), we aim to present and write papers.

In addition, data on the relationship between learners’ individual differences such as motivation and language aptitude, and proficiency in Japanese will be accumulated.

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 are 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.

Building upon the results already obtained in 2019, we will expand in 2020 our corpus of “Le Monde” and further develop our analyses.

An Investigation of the Change in Productive Skills in English for Academic Purposes Courses

  • Takanori Sato (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University)
  • Chantal Hemmi (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Center for Language Education and Research, Sophia University)


The present study will examine the change in productive skills in English (speaking and writing skills) focusing on university students who took English for academic purposes (EAP) courses at Sophia University.

The results of this study will be used to reveal the contribution of EAP and content and language integrated learning (CLIL) courses to the improvement of productive skills by comparing with the results of Sato and Hemmi’s study conducted in 2018. In the 2018 study, we investigated the change in English productive skills of attendees of CLIL courses at Sophia University, showing that their skills after taking one-semester CLIL classes were significantly higher than those before taking the classes. (A small-scale study done by Sato and Hemmi (2018) showed similar results.) However, it was not possible to attribute this result to CLIL itself because the study employed a pre-experimental research design, where there was no comparison group to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship. Therefore, it was necessary to conduct a similar study with attendees of EAP courses to confirm if the changes in productive skills are relevant to the type of English courses that students take.

We have already obtained speaking and writing performance data from approximately 200 university students, who took the same productive skills tests in the second and 27th classes in Academic Communication 1 (28 EAP classes) offered in Spring Semester 2019. We will select 70 students’ performance data (140 speeches and essays, respectively), ask five International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examiners to rate the performances, and examine the change in the skills throughout the semester. The budget will be used for honorariums to the IELTS examiners.

We aim to publish the results focusing on “The Contribution of CLIL to University Students’ Productive Skills Development.”