My research interests have been in theoretical linguistics, in particular, the syntax-semantics interface and the comparative syntax between Japanese and English. Adopting the general framework of generative grammar (cf. Chomsky 1995: MIT Press), I have been engaged in research on the properties of the grammar, i.e., the language faculty, which is hypothesized to exist independently of other cognitive faculties.
Language is used for our daily communication. Thus, various pragmatic factors no doubt affect its felicitous use, and it is not clear a priori that an interpretation associated with a given sentence emerges directly from the grammar. My dissertation addresses this very issue, making reference to sentences containing quantificational elements (e.g., everyone, someone). It demonstrates, for example, that the interpretation where everyone takes wide scope with respect to someone in everyone is loved by someone can be considered as emerging directly from the grammar while that in someone loves everyone cannot. Hence it is not always the case that a given interpretation is solely based on the grammar. This work, furthermore, identifies means to determine when we can reasonably understand a given interpretation as emerging directly from the grammar.
The view presented in the dissertation has been extended to a number of other areas. One project I am engaged in, which has to do with focus, also confirms the view under discussion. The field pursues a uniform theory of the association of focus, which is designed to account for the contrast between sentences like John only gave Mary an APPLE, and John only gave MARY an apple (where focus elements are capitalized). In the adnominal uses, only can appear before, but not after, a preposition. The Japanese counterpart of only, i.e., dake, on the other hand, can occur either before or after a case-marker/postposition (e.g., (A) John talked dake to Mary and (B) John talked to dake Mary), and gives rise to different interpretations depending on its location. My research so far indicates that the focus phenomena in the (A) type sentences come from the core part of the grammar while those in the (B) type sentences involve extra-grammatical factors.
Another project I have been undertaking is to identify the licensing condition of ellipsis (i.e., under what condition, sentences like John can finish reading War and Peace before Bill can
In addition, I have been undertaking a project to discover whether or not the formal operations of the sort involved in passives and wh-questions in English are also operative in Japanese. In the field, it is often assumed that scrambling, passive, and unaccusative constructions in Japanese involve the formal operations of the sort just alluded to. Upon isolating interpretations solely based on the grammar, however, (much of) the evidence put forth for the standard view disappears and we are led to conclude that Japanese lacks formally triggered movement altogether, as argued in a series of works by N. Fukui since the mid 1980s.
In summary, my research so far confirms that studying Japanese grammar in depth, in comparison to the grammars of English type languages, together with the view defended in my dissertation, provides us with new perspectives in a number of areas in Generative Grammar (as well as in surrounding fields such as Philosophy of Language). In the future, I would like to continue to understand and evaluate issues in the field(s), adopting the methodology I have employed so far.