[UTCP Juventus] Takahiro MORITA

23 August, 2010 MORITA Takahiro, UTCP Juventus

During summer vacation, young researchers of UTCP introduce themselves on the series of UTCP Juventus. This time, MORITA Takahiro introduces his research interest, works and future projects.

My research domain is linguistics, but I had some twists and turns before arriving at this domain.
When I was an undergraduate student of Tokyo Gakugei University, my major was the pedagogy of Japanese language. On the other hand, I continued to learn French, and my interest in linguistics was increasing. In 2002, I entered University of Tokyo, Language and Information Sciences in order to study linguistics, passed in France (EHESS) from 2006 to 2009, and started my career as a postdoctoral researcher of UTCP this April.

Now, while continuing my study on linguistics as a science, I am muddled by linguistic thoughts in other domains. Here I'd like to introduce my study so far and tell what bemuses me.

My works, linguistics as a science

My recent research has focused on the linguistic expressions of motion events in Japanese and French in the framework of the cognitive typology. In general, the typology treats languages that are more or less in genetical or regional relations. In this sense, Japanese and French have no relation, and everyone casts me perplexed or quizzical eyes: "is your study meaningful?"

When motion events are expressed by languages, the role of the verb allows us to divide languages into two types. In Japanese and French, basic motion events such as upward, downward, toward inside or outside, are all expressed by a verb. This expression pattern is certainly distinct from, for example, English that uses particles around the verb (in, out, up, down, and so on). More generally speaking, some languages use the verb to describe the process of motion events, and others to describe the result of motion events. In this sense, Japanese and French are grouped into the same type.

Nevertheless, we can observe some differences between Japanese and French. In Japanese, it is very frequent to express manner of motion as in go walking or cross swimming, but not in French. Deictic expressions are very frequent in Japanese, but not in French.

My work was to collect data, to prove that these differences are typologically significant, and to elucidate the factors triggering these differences.

Recent questions

I am satisfied, to some extent, with the results that I got by means of the scientific methods. So, I will continue this type of study.

At the same time, I'd like to challenge or explore a question from another point of view on the language in order to settle a slight uncomfortable feeling against the scientific approach to language; that is, what I have treated in my studies so far are not real or whole aspects of languages, but limited to scientific aspects. In other words, many philosophers and psychoanalysts tell something on "language", and this "language" does not seem the same as my research object.

There seems to be a profound disagreement between the science of language and linguistic thoughts in other domains. For example, in the verbal communications, we all have many successful and frustrated experiences. In a worst situation, even talking with Japanese, I may blame my counterpart who does not understand me saying: "you can't speak Japanese!". From a standpoint of linguist, I will say that "even in such a situation, you speak the same language" and analyze the discourse structure searching for the reason that provokes the friction. Maybe I could find particular usages of specific words to exert some illocutionary forces, but this research attitude is not satisfying; this approach will not allow me to take further steps into the real motivation, communication, or cognition relating to the language use.

How can I apply actual and vivid feelings to the linguistic researches? Where can I go from researches on objective space and observable languages?

These rustic questions will constitute a basis of my future researches.

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