Greetings from the Director-General
Succeeding former Director-General Dr. Yukinori Takubo, I will serve as the 10th Director of the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) from April 2023. I would now like to use this opportunity to state my view of NINJAL.
This year is the second year of the fourth mid-term project period (2022–2027) of the Inter-University Research Institute Corporation (IURIC), and NINJAL is conducting various research projects under the general theme of "Empirical and applied research on the Japanese language using open language resources." For more information about each project, please see the "Research Activities" page on this website.
The purpose of the IURIC is to support the research activities of university researchers by installing large research equipment, such as particle accelerators and large telescopes, or by collecting valuable literature and research materials that are beyond the reach of individual universities. However, to fully realize this objective, researchers belonging to IURIC laboratories must possess the ability to conduct cutting-edge research on their own. In other words, an IURIC laboratory must have two missions: public and systematic support for the research infrastructure, and cutting-edge research. In addition, IURIC laboratories are expected to perform a third mission: training the next generation of researchers through graduate programs.
Of these three missions, NINJAL has made clear contributions to public support for the research infrastructure. Since the end of the 1990s, NINJAL has been developing large-scale language resources (mostly language corpora) of the Japanese language covering a wide range of language variants: spoken as well as written, modern as well as historical, mother tongue as well as a second language, and standard language as well as regional dialect. These corpora are open to the public and have become an established research infrastructure for researchers of Japanese both home and abroad. Other language resources developed by NINJAL include a Japanese thesaurus, an electronic dictionary for morphological analysis, and a word profiler that uses corpus data.
The development of the language resources mentioned above is in line with the goals of the recently flourishing Digital Humanities (DH) movement working for the digitization, standardization, and sharing of research materials related to the study of the humanities. This is also in line with the activities of National Institutes for the Humanities because DH is one of its most important research goals.
Second, regarding the third mission, NINJAL has joined the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI) and established a brand-new course in "Japanese Language Sciences" (a three-year doctoral course) for the training of the next generation of researchers in April 2023. The goal of the course consists in the training of students who are able to analyze the Japanese language objectively and quantitatively based on data including the language resources and research network of the NINJAL. The course also seeks to cultivate the ability to analyze language through a combination of research methods like linguistic theory, experiment, fieldwork, social survey, and computer simulation.
Then, finally, what about the second mission, cutting-edge research? I hesitate to assert that our achievements are sufficient in this respect. Rather, I think it may be premature to make an accurate assessment of the research achievements of NINJAL, as it has been only 13 years since its foundation as an IURIC laboratory in 2009. I think that in the fields of the humanities, including linguistics, more time is required than in other fields, such as information science, before research results can be properly assessed. In my opinion, the time span needs to be at least 10 years, and 20 years on average. If this is a valid assumption, assessment of the research results of the NINJAL is the kind of work that should begin now. Although there are many problems in the evaluation of research in the humanities, I would like to activate institutional research (IR) to obtain a correct picture of who we are.
Last, allow me to briefly introduce myself. My specialty is the experimental study of spoken language and the design and implementation of language resources; I hope that the perspectives and know-how I have gained in these areas, which are somewhat natural or information-science-oriented, will be of some help to NINJAL in the future. I will start my job by reconsidering the social and scientific missions of NINJAL together with the institute's colleagues, without being bound by the past achievements of the Institute, and considering the trends in cutting-edge research at home and abroad. In so doing, it is my sincere hope to take a step toward a new heyday for NINJAL.
Director-General of the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics