Evidence-based Theoretical and Typological Linguistics

Project Leader
ASAHARA Masayuki (Professor, NINJAL)
Project Period
April 2022 -
Subproject Title Subproject Leader Subproject Period
Evidence-based Computational Psycholinguistics Using Annotation Data ASAHARA Masayuki April 2022 -
Evidence-baced Study on the Intonational Diversity of Japanese and Ryukyuan IGARASHI Yosuke April 2022 -
Toward a Computationally-Informed Theoretical Linguistics: An Empirical Approach KUBOTA Yusuke April 2022 -
Empirical Study of the Typology of Nominalization―from Theoretical, Fieldwork, Historical and Dialectal Perspective Prashant PARDESHI April 2022 -
Data-oriented Typological Study of the Semantics and Grammar of Predicates MATSUMOTO Yo April 2022 -


Background and Purpose

The goal of linguistics is to clarify the nature of human cognition by exploring questions about language such as “What kind of regularity can be observed in intonational patterns in language?” and “How do the meanings of predicates reflect the structure of the outside world in an abstract manner?” As linguistics has traditionally belonged to the humanities rather than the sciences, much of its research consists of individual studies where the researcher must rely on introspection and intuition. Internationally, however, linguists are increasingly becoming aware of the methodological limitations of relying solely on such subjective, introspective research and have begun to explore a variety of ways to pursue hypothesis-driven, evidence-based approaches that can deliver reproducible findings.

Amid this global trend, the present project will spearhead such research both inside and outside Japan, with the ultimate aim of making theoretical and contrastive linguistics an open science. We expect this methodological transition stage to involve substantial trial and error. Having identified an inevitable impetus behind this paradigm shift and acknowledging our position as a national institute, we will invest in the new infrastructure necessary for current and future research activities, in addition to conducting innovative research ourselves. The project will achieve this secondary goal in two main ways. First, we will explore strategies for transitioning from a competition-based to a cooperation-based research paradigm without sacrificing the quality of research. One such strategy is to encourage the use of preprint servers. Second, we will disseminate our policy on making research data shared and accessible (research data management) among the academic community so that the findings can be shared and reused.

Objectives and Methods

We will organize four projects, each covering a separate theme in linguistics: Intonation (PI: Yosuke Igarashi), Nominalization (PI: Prashant Pardeshi), Semantic grammar of predicates (PI: Yo Matsumoto), and Computational Linguistics (PI: Yusuke Kubota). In tandem with these thematic projects, we will organize an Annotation project (PI: Masayuki Asahara) to build linguistic resources. The four thematic subprojects, each focusing on a subfield of linguistics, are designed to introduce new approaches that will overcome the limitations of existing linguistics research.

The subprojects will encompass a variety of central research questions and adopt a number of different approaches in accordance with the nature of the domains of inquiry in which they are engaged. We currently envisage the following scheme:

  • Intonation: Researchers will construct corpora and conduct fieldwork to gain insights into how intonation varies between and among languages and dialects.
  • Nominalization: Researchers will conduct fieldwork and review the literature to gain insights into the morphological, syntactic, and semantic categories of nominalizations and noun modifiers.
  • Semantic grammar of predicates: Researchers will conduct video experiments and analyze corpora to gain insight into the semantic structures of change-of-state predicates.
  • Computational linguistics: Researchers will construct corpora and use computational modeling to critically reconsider the theoretical status of the notion of syntactic transformation.

As this framework suggests, the subprojects will seek an optimal mix of interdisciplinary approaches—a mix that will best suit their particular linguistic concepts and that will prove most effective for critically examining these concepts. This diversity is a hallmark of the present project as a whole.

The annotation subproject, linked with the above four subprojects, will focus on building new linguistic resources that will play a vital role in facilitating scientific approaches to linguistics that cannot be accomplished with existing corpora. Our aim is to cultivate a collaborative, synergistic climate between the subprojects. To that end, we will organize project-level workshops and encourage researchers from different subprojects to engage in joint research and to share their knowledge of how to use the linguistic resources.

Theory and Typology
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