Research Project (2023)


Comparative Syntax: Theoretical and Empirical Studies

    • Ryosuke Takahashi  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of German Studies, Sophia University)
    • Naoki Fukui  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
    • Yuko Otsuka  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. 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)


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 2022. 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 2023, 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, Dept. of German Studies, Sophia University)
    • Aingel Aroz  (SOLIFIC, Associate Professor, Dept. 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.


Revising Workbook for Writing a Thesis for Students Majoring in Language Studies, 3rd edition

    • Yoshinori Watanabe (SOLIFIC, Professor, Graduate School of Languages and Linguistics, Sophia University)
    • Goro Christoph Kimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of German Studies, Sophia University)
    • Sanae Harada (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of French Studies, Sophia University)
    • Kimiyo Nishimura (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of Hispanic Studies, Sophia University)
    • Shinichi Akiyama (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of Russian Studies, Sophia University)
    • Atsushi Ichinose  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Sophia University)
    • Lucila Gibo (SOLIFIC, Assistant Professor, Dept. 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 based on the information gathered from the needs analysis that was conducted in the last academic year. 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 to publish a fourth edition of the manual by improving the quality of these versions to make them even more serviceable for users.


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

    • Kaoru Koyanagi  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Center for Language Education and Research(CLER), Sophia University)
    • Fuyuki Mine (SOLIFIC, Professor, CLER, 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 cognitive perspective 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 research project aims to explore these complex processes and mechanisms, by collecting data from learners of Japanese as a second language.

International students are returning to campus after the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, which makes it possible to collect new data face-to-face from learners of Japanese. Thus, we will conduct research, using new data as well as previously collected data and publicly available learners’ corpora.

1) By using the large-scale learners of Japanese corpus (I-JAS) as well as the corpus including six learners’ longitudinal data (C-JAS) constructed by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, developmental stages in terms of grammar will be further elaborated based on the Processability Theory. In the previous year, the statistical analysis focused on voice, in particular, passives, which resulted in proposing the model in which Japanese proficiency test scores can predict the use of passives. In 2023, the project aims to further sophisticate this model by exploring other grammatical forms such as causatives and giving and receiving verbs.

2) By using data from Mongolian learners of JFL (Japanese as a foreign language) already collected, the relationship between language aptitude and SLA will be investigated. In the previous year, we looked at the relationship between phonological short-term memory and L2 proficiency. In 2023, this project aims to further explore the relationship between language aptitude (working memory capacity, phonological short-term memory, language analytic ability) and speaking ability in terms of complexity, accuracy, and fluency of utterances.

3) The third research topic is to investigate what kind of components of language aptitude affect second language acquisition depending on different skills and different learning conditions. This year, focus is placed on the relationship between language aptitude and reading comprehension. As language aptitude components that could predict reading comprehension, working memory capacity, phonological short-term memory, text memory, processing speed etc.) will be measured. In addition, the measurements for reading will be examined by comparing multiple-choice questions and retelling stories. If time allows, we will undertake the development of materials to explore the impact of learning conditions on second language acquisition.


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

  • Mafuyu Kitahara  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Dept. 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, Dept. 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 2019~2022, we will expand in 2023 our corpus of “Le Monde” and further develop our analyses.


Teacher Engagement in CLIL and EMI

  • Chantal Hemmi  (SOLIFIC,  Professor, CLER, Sophia University)
  • Graham Mackenzie (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Project Associate Professor, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Richard Pinner (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Associate Professor, Dept. of English Literature )
  • Matthew Schaefer (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Lecturer, CLER, Sophia University )
  • Matthew Turner (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Lecturer, Tokyo University of Science )


Activities in 2022 have been centered around developing qualitative research on teachers’ engagement in CLIL and EMI, inviting a lecturer from overseas on Zoom, and providing opportunities for research members to actively engage in dialogue.

In 2023, we will continue to conduct qualitative research on CLIL and teacher engagement in EMI. We will also invite CLIL experts and provide the latest research to CLIL researchers, educators and graduate students. do. Specifically, interviews will be conducted on CLIL education that encourages critical thinking and creativity.

Critical Thinking in CLIL:
Development of Rubrics and Qualitative Analysis of Critical Thinking in Discourse

    • Takanori Sato  (SOLIFIC, Professor, Associate Professor, CLER, Sophia University))
    • Chantal Hemmi  (SOLIFIC,  Professor, CLER, Sophia University)
    • Emi Fukazawa  (SOLIFIC, Visiting Researcher, Lecture, CLER, Sophia University )
    • Hiroko Aikawa  (SOLIFIC, Collaborative Fellow, Lecture, CLER, Sophia University )


Critical Thinking (CT) has been acknowledged as a skill to be cultivated in current education in general, including foreign language education. In particular, in the context of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), fostering CT has been emphasized along with foreign language proficiency and subject knowledge. Nevertheless, as there is a dearth of research on CT in CLIL, this field still lacks an understanding of CT in terms of pedagogy and assessment. Hence, the present study will address the following two research tasks.

The first research task is to develop assessment rubrics to measure students’ CT through their argumentative essays. We will identify the essential subskills of CT from the data Sato collected in AY2021 and AY2022 (criteria used by 11 CT researchers to evaluate CT displayed in argumentative essays) and create draft rubrics. Subsequently, we will receive constructive advice from three language assessment experts and modify the draft. Then, we will request three university English instructors to use the rubrics and evaluate argumentative essays written by Japanese university students. The validity and reliability of the rubrics will be examined by analyzing the scores awarded by the instructors. We aim to develop rubrics applicable to writing assessment in CLIL.

The second research task is to explore the influence of pedagogical activities implemented in CLIL on the development of students’ CT. We will qualitatively analyze how students’ CT improves through peer-peer interactions observed in CLIL lessons in Sophia University. We will delve into the interaction data collected and analyzed from AY 2019 by Fukasawa, Aikawa, and Hemmi. In the analysis process, we will receive constructive advice on data analysis from two classroom discourse experts: Prof. Christiane Dalton-Puffer and Prof. Ana Llinares. In so doing, we will proceed with data analysis focusing on group discussions that have rarely been addressed in the field thus far.