Comprehensive Research Based on Large-Scale, Long-Term Studies of Japanese

Project leader:INOUE Fumio
Invited Professor, NINJAL

Summary

For more than half a century, NINJAL has been carrying out long-term (longitudinal) surveys on the use of the standard language and of honorific forms in Tsuruoka (Yamagata Prefecture), in Okazaki (Aichi Prefecture), and in Furano (Hokkaidō). Using the same instruments in the same locations with the same participants over the course of many years, this research effort has no parallel anywhere else in the world. Based on the birth years of the many speakers who have been interviewed, we can say that this research has allowed us to observe language change spanning well over a century. We can see real-time changes (from the successive surveys in each location), apparent-time changes (from the differences between speakers of different ages at any one time), and changes across the lifespans of individual speakers who have been interviewed more than once. This abundant information on trends in standardization and in honorific usage can make significant contributions to our theoretical understanding of language change in general.

Through a comprehensive analysis of the diverse data that these large-scale surveys have yielded, the present project aims to construct a theory that can provide statistical forecasts of future changes in Japanese on the basis of reliable evidence.