Research Project (2022)


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 2021. 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 2022, 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.


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)
    • Mamoru Fujita  (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow, Assistant Professor, Keio University)
    • Aya Sano  (SOLIFIC Collaborative Fellow)


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.


Needs analysis for revising Workbook for Writing a Thesis for students majoring in language studiesomparative study on revival and revitalization of minority languages

    • Yoshinori Watanabe (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
    • Goro Christoph Kimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of German 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, Professor, Department of Russian Studies, Sophia University)
    • Atsushi Ichinose  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Sophia University)
    • Lucila Gibo (SOLIFIC, Assistant Professor, Department of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Sophia University)


The purpose of the proposed project is to revise the previous edition of the handbook published with the title of Workbook for Writing a Thesis. This workbook is intended to provide undergraduate students majoring in language studies with the basic principles of effective academic writing. The previous edition was produced in paper and electronic formats, both of which have been well accepted by the students and teachers. The purpose of the proposed project is the improve the quality of these versions to make them even more serviceable for users. To this end, needs analysis will be conducted to previous and current users, including students and teachers.


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 Researcher, 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.


Research for effective use of remote environment for phonetics and language education

  • Mafuyu Kitahara  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Department of English Studies, Sophia University)
  • Masahiko Komatsu  (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Dept. of Foreign Studies, Kanagawa University)


The present research project is a developed version of the project in the previous year: Research for effective use of online resources for phonetics and language education. Our goal is to propel the basic research and the development of a system for phonetics and language education utilizing both cloud-based solutions and face to face solutions.
We still cannot foresee the end of the COVID-19 pandemic at this point. In the meantime, we have accumulated working knowledge of running remote systems in research and education in these two years. Now we know that there are merits and demerits in the remote environment, but the mix (or hybrid) of remote and face to face environments in a classroom still requires more practice. For example, if multiple participants of a lecture turn the microphone and the speaker on simultaneously, feedback noise comes up instantly. It is still quite difficult to suppress the trouble only by being careful. This can be avoided by constructing a robust hybrid system introducing speakers, center-controlled microphones, and a sound mixer. As for phonetic experiments, it is still difficult to ask participants to conduct lengthy tasks in a sound-proof room which inherently has poor ventilation capacity. An alternative method is to send microphones to participants’ home and run a remote experiment with giving detailed instructions for recording over a zoom session. In addition, perception experiments can now be conducted on paid platforms which are also equipped with participant recruiting functions. A systematic application of such platforms has become available recently.

Under these circumstances, we are planning to test various sound equipment and experimental platforms in order to acquire working knowledge of such systems. We would like to apply for a research budget to purchase equipment and online software platforms.


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 2019~2021, we will expand in 2022 our corpus of “Le Monde” and further develop our analyses.


Teacher Engagement in CLIL and EMI

  • Chantal Hemmi  (SOLIFIC,  Professor, Center for Language Education and Research(CLER), Sophia University)
  • Emi Fukazawa  (SOLIFIC, Visiting Researcher, Lecture, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Hiroko Aikawa  (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Lecture, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Graham Mackenzie (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Project Associate Professor, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Richard Pinner (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Associate Professor, Department of English Literature, Sophia University )
  • Matthew Schaefer (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Lecturer, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Matthew Turner (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Dept. of International Tourism Management, Toyo University )
  • Mina Yajima  (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Japan Overseas Educational Services)


Activities from April 2022 will be dedicated to developing qualitative research on teacher engagement with CLIL and EMI, inviting lecturers from Japan and abroad on Zoom, holding lectures and panel discussions, and creating opportunities for dialogic inquiry amongst the members. The content of the interviews conducted for the research will be introduced with official permission, and the content will be summarised in the annual report.

Regarding the long-term consideration of critical thinking and approach in CLIL that has been conducted since 2021, English lessons at Sophia University using CLIL’s approach aiming at interactive learning that integrates content learning and language learning are the content learning. The purpose is to qualitatively analyse how it is performed at each stage of introductory to developmental activities and how it influences classroom discourse and critical thinking. In 2022, we will proceed with the second and third data analysis and start the data analysis to be collected in the fall semester of 2021. In particular, we will proceed with data analysis focusing on group discussions between learners who have little research. We would like to use this analysis result for presentations at academic conferences and writing papers at JACET.

As regards the new project which was launched in January 2021, the lesson audio data of the CLIL workshop for elementary school students, which was jointly planned and conducted by Mina Yajima (cooperator) of the Overseas Child Education Promotion Foundation and Joint researcher and Chantal Hemmi. In 2022, we will analyse the data obtained from eight classes. We will be analysing conversations in tasks that use critical thinking in interactions between teachers and students, and students working in pairs or groups.

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

  • Takanori Sato  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Associate Professor, CLER, Sophia University))
  • Chantal Hemmi  (SOLIFIC,  Professor, CLER, 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 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 began in 2021, aiming to identify the essential subskills of CT displayed in essays written by L2 learners. In the first year, we collected data from six professors specializing in CT (CT experts, hereafter) in the following procedure. First, the CT experts were asked to read 10 argumentative essays submitted by university students who attended CLIL courses. Then, they evaluated the writers’ CT skills as they would normally do in their courses without any pre-existing rating criteria and rubrics. While evaluating, the CT experts verbalized their thinking process and recorded their think-aloud protocols. After providing their think-aloud data, they participated in an individual semi-structured interview to indicate the essay features that influenced their judgments of students’ CT skills.

In 2022, we will collect data from four more CT experts and analyze the think-aloud and interview data. We will write a research paper based on the study and aim to publish it in an academic journal. The budget will be used for honorariums to the participants in the study and data transcribing. We will use Cripton Transcription Services to transcribe the data.


Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2014). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield.