Field Research Project to Analyze the Formation Process of Japanese Dialects

Abbreviation : Dialect distribution
Project leader: ONISHI Takuichiro
Professor, Department of Language Change and Variation, NINJAL
Research field: Japanese linguistics/dialectology
Keywords: Geolinguistics, dialect distribution, distribution formation, dialect radiation theory


This research project is carried out jointly by dialect researchers all over Japan who share collected data to clarify how the distribution of Japanese dialects has developed.

More than 50 years ago, dialectologists including members of the old NINJAL started detailed research on regional differences of Japanese by plotting dialect maps based on the geolinguistic method. While a number of detailed regional maps have been created mainly at individual universities, The Linguistic Atlas of Japan and The Grammar Atlas of Japanese Dialects, published by the NINJAL, are the most comprehensive atlases of Japanese dialects achieved so far.

The basic principle in explaining dialect distribution is the "dialect radiation theory," which holds that new change spreads from the center to the periphery. This theory, however, has not been sufficiently verified with empirical data. By exploiting results from the research method of dialect distribution, which has a long history in Japan, the process of distributional changes over time will be clarified with greater precision. This project thus aims to pioneer dynamic research that will illuminate distribution changes of dialects on the basis of concrete data.