Research Project (2021)

Comparative study on revival and revitalization of minority languages

  • Goro Christoph Kimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German Studies, Sophia University)
  • Aingel Aroz(SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, Sophia University)


In the studies of language revival and revitalization, gaining and reproducing native speakers have often been regarded as crucial. In reality, however, in many cases it has become clear that it is difficult to maintain a community of native speakers in a given territory. So, attempts are made to transmit the language in other ways than through use at home by parents and in the immediate neighborhood. This research project focuses on such tendencies to seek alternatives or compensations to the ‘core-stage’ of language revival. Through comparing different types of minority language, this joint research seeks to get deeper insights not only into prospects of reversing language shift, but also into the various possibilities of the existence of languages in the society.

Concretely, the type of speakers called ‘new speakers’ or ‘post-vernacular’ type of language existence, languages as local or regional resources also for non-speakers of the concerned languages are topics to be examined. The languages studied in this project include European languages as Basque, Cornish, Francoprovençal and Sorbian, as well as Aynu in Japan and indigenous languages in the Andean Countries in Latin America.

Development of Rubrics that Measure Students’ Critical Thinking Skills Through Argumentative Essays

  • 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)


Some second language (L2) pedagogical approaches acknowledge critical thinking (CT) as an important ability to be developed. For example, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) stress its importance and regard CT as an essential component. However, assessing L2 learners’ CT is challenging because the definition of CT is wide and entails a large variety of subskills (Paul & Elder, 2014).

The present study aims to identify the subskills that are important and feasible to measure in the assessment of essays written by L2 learners. We will use 30 argumentative essays submitted by university students who attended CLIL courses. First, five experienced practitioner researchers of CT in academic writing will be asked to evaluate the students’ CT skills through their argumentative essays. They will evaluate students’ CT skills as they normally do in their courses without given any pre-existing rating criteria and rubrics. While evaluating, they will verbalize their thinking process and audio record their think-aloud protocols. Then, we will develop a rubric based on Paul and Elder’s (2014) nine fundamental intellectual standards for assessing reasoning (also based on a rubric developed by Yanning (2017)) and ask three English instructors to evaluate the same argumentative essays by using it. The important subskills will be identified by analyzing the think-aloud protocols and calculating the correlations between ratings awarded by the CT researchers and English instructors. The reliability of the ratings indicates the degree to which each subskill is possible to measure. Finally, we aim to develop a rubric to measure university students’ CT skills.

The budget will be used for honorariums to the participants in the study.

Comparative Syntax: Theoretical and Empirical Studies

  • Ryosuke Takahashi (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German Studies, Sophia University)
  • Naoki Fukui (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
  • Yuko Otsuka (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of English Studies, Sophia University)
  • Takaomi Kato (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
  • Yasuhiko Kato (SOLIFIC Honorary Fellow, Professor Emeritus, Sophia University)
  • Masanobu Ueda (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow, Professor Emeritus, 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, 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 2020. 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 2021, 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)
  • Sanae Harada (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of French Studies, Sophia University)
  • Kimiyo Nishimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, Sophia University)
  • Shinichi Akiyama (SOLIFIC, 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 research has mostly been conducted in European languages, in particular in English. However, empirical studies in Japanese from the viewpoint of cognition are still scarce. 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.

The current social situation makes it difficult to collect new data from learners of Japanese, due to problems such as the decline of foreign students coming to Japan in number, the difficulty with face-to-face data collection. Thus, in 2021, we will investigate the following topics by utilizing unanalyzed data previously collected and learners’ corpus available online.

1) By using the Japanese learners’ corpus (I-JAS) constructed by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, oral utterances related to grammar development will be extracted, and statistically analyzed to explore the developmental stages in Japanese learners, which is supposedly universal based on Processability Theory.

2) Based on data from Mongolian learners of Japanese, the relationship between phonological short-term memory measured by non-word repetition tests and language development over eight months will be examined. Phonological short-term memory could affect acquisition of vocabulary and grammar, in particular at an early stage of learning.

3) Motivation in advanced learners of Japanese will be explored. Quantitative data from questionnaires on motivation and self-evaluation of language proficiency will be analyzed together with qualitative data from interviews. This analysis could illuminate what factors could contribute to motivation and motivated behaviors.

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 and 2020, we will expand in 2021 our corpus of “Le Monde” and further develop our analyses.