Cross-linguistic Studies of Japanese Prosody and Grammar

Abbreviated Name
Cross-linguistic Studies
Project Leader
KUBOZONO Haruo (Professor, Theory & Typology Division, NINJAL)
Project Period
April 2016 - March 2022
Prosody, Noun modifying expressions, Toritate expressions
Related Site
Project Site


Background and Purpose

While research on the Japanese language has a long history and has produced excellent results, sufficient efforts have not been made to analyze the language in comparison with other languages in the world. As a result, it is not entirely clear (i) what type of language Japanese is among the world’s languages, (ii) what insight can be obtained from general linguistic or typological considerations when analyzing Japanese, and (iii) how research on Japanese can contribute to the development of general linguistics and typological studies. It is now essential to address these questions by looking at Japanese both from the inside and from the outside.

With this background in mind, this project seeks to illuminate the nature of Japanese (including dialects) by comparing phenomena in Japanese with phenomena in various languages of the world, and thereby to promote research on Japanese on a world-wide scale. To achieve these goals, this project examines various aspects of the language including pronunciation, lexicon, grammar, and meaning from cross-linguistic and typological perspectives, paying attention also to research in related fields including language acquisition, psychology and cognitive science. By so doing, it attempts to illuminate the similarities (universality) and differences (diversity) observed among languages. The results of this research will be disseminated to academic communities around the world.

Objectives and Methods

To accomplish the above-mentioned goals, this project is organized into two groups or sub-projects: a prosody project and a grammar project. The former focuses on the phonetic and phonological characteristics of Japanese prosody, both lexical and post-lexical. The latter covers three independent, but interrelated topics concerning the grammar of the language: noun modifying expressions, toritate expressions, and the semantic structure of verbs.

Ordinarily, the prosody and grammar groups operate independently by organizing their own research meetings and publishing their own books and articles. On the other hand, they work together to organize research meetings and international symposia on a regular basis and to publish research results in English. They also work together to host foreign-based international conferences focused on Japanese or on language typology, thus promoting globalization of research on Japanese and of NINJAL’s activities.

Furthermore, the project will invite leading scholars abroad to join its team and also organize an advisory board consisting of leading scholars both in Japan and abroad, with a view to making its activities widely open to the scholars around the world.

Through research on the prosody of endangered languages and dialects, the prosody project will work closely with the NINJAL project on endangered languages and dialects. Research on noun modifying expressions in the grammar project will involve close collaboration with the NINJAL project on the parsed corpus of modern Japanese.

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