Greeting from Harumi Kobayashi, the 4th President

Greetings from the President

Language is the most important tool for both communication and thought processes. Any human or environmental aspect that is considered important is given a label. These labels are then used by humans to convey information to themselves and others, build societies, produce innumerable stories and works, and promote research and development. Language, as well as non-linguistic information, directly reflects how humans think and behave, so it can be said that language itself makes up the nature of human beings. Thus, the study of language helps us to understand human beings. Article 2 of the JSLS regulations states, “The purposes of this society shall be to stimulate research in the language sciences based on natural language data, in areas such as language acquisition, psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, and sociolinguistics, and to support the development of the language sciences through exchanges between researchers. In order to attain this goal, JSLS accepts and promotes any scientific research related to language.” Therefore, our areas of interest are broad and include: first-language acquisition, psycholinguistics (phonetics, semantics, grammar, and pragmatics), second-language acquisition, second-language education, language theories (phonology, morphology, and syntax), natural language processing, cognitive linguistics, brain sciences, bilingualism, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, philosophy of language, sign language, and others.

The Japanese Society for Language Sciences was founded in 1999 under the presidency of Yuriko Oshima-Takane as the JCHAT Language Science Society by members of the JCHAT Project independent of CHILDES (this is why “JCHAT” appears first in the name of the society). The JCHAT Project aimed to construct a database and analysis tool for Japanese language in CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System), an international language acquisition data exchange system. JCHAT Language Science Society soon grew to become a society that promoted all types of studies on language sciences, independent of CHILDES. Under the following presidency of Yukio Otsu, the society changed its name to Japanese Society for Language Sciences at the third annual international conference,and was formally established as an academic society.

Under the direction of the third president Yasuhiro Shirai, the society experienced three major developments. The first was JSLS’ designation as a Cooperative Academic Research Organization (Kyoryoku Gakujyutsu Kenkyu Dantai) by the Science Council of Japan in November 2010. The Science Council of Japan (SCJ) is “the representative organization of the Japanese scientist community, ranging over all fields of sciences, including humanities, social sciences, life sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.” Thus JSLS was “officially” established as an academic society in Japan. The second development was that the United Associations of Language Studies (UALS) that includes 27 member societies was founded in the same year 2010, of which JSLS became a member society. This enables JSLS to share and receive information on member societies’ conferences and meetings, in addition to providing information on the organization, all of which contribute to the further development of JSLS. The third development was that Studies in Language Sciences (SLS) became the official journal of the society (now known as Studies in Language Sciences: The Journal of the Japanese Society for Language Sciences). Previously, SLS was a proceedings volume that included plenary talks, invited symposiums, and selected oral papers that were sent to independent SLS reviewers. The reviewers were top researchers from both Japan and abroad, which allowed SLS to amass a collection of high-quality papers. Designating SLS as an official journal, we succeeded in developing a high-level review procedure and can promote paper submissions by general researchers, as well as conference participants. In doing so, we strive to make the journal a publication for papers of very high quality.

As we worked to enhance the shape of the society, our previous conference chairpersons and conference committee members exerted a great deal of effort in running conferences. The following is the list of the plenary speakers invited from overseas. Brian MacWhinney, Michael Tomasello, Andrew Radford, William O’Grady, Catherine E. Snow, Bonnie Schwartz, Dan I. Slobin, Fred Genesee, Florian Coulmas, Andrea Moro, Bernard Comrie, Roberta Golinkoff, Jack Bilmes, Niko Besnier, Niels Schiller, Colin Phillips, and James McClelland. As this list shows, very famous speakers from a variety of fields were invited. Since our meetings follow an international conference style, many papers and posters are presented in English. However, we allow presentations in Japanese; therefore some papers and posters are presented in Japanese. A bilingual policy is in place for our conferences so that individuals who do not understand Japanese can at minimum understand the program and summary, and comfortably participate in the conference.

While JSLS proceeds in a hopeful direction as an academic society, we still have issues to consider. First, the number of members has not adequately increased. I need to highlight that there are few psychologists or individuals from the psychology field. As a psychologist, I think the psychology field’s contribution to language sciences and other fields is very important. Psychologists who study language, especially experimental psychologists, frequently conduct experiments to test hypotheses. Experimental approaches are compatible with related research fields, such as language education and brain sciences, so I expect an increase in experimental researchers using empirical scientific approaches. Second, we need to further promote interest in the society and outreach to the general public. An academic society is a place for researchers who execute the intellectual pursuit of humankind, but at the same time we need to consider the possible contributions to society. The attainment of scientific research funding, such as competitive funding from JSPS (Japanese Society for Promotion of Science), is a very important issue for researchers. When applying for funding, we are always required to appeal for societal contributions and to communicate with the public. Through language science research, in addition to understanding humankind, we need to reciprocally exchange information with other fields of research and application, such as sharing our findings in language science with people who research or teach developmentally challenged children or researchers in assistive robotics. In addition, I believe language sciences can contribute to emerging interdisciplinary areas, such as research on the origins and evolution of language that are related to linguistics, biology, psychology, animal behavior, robotics, and computer simulation research.

I invite all current members of JSLS, and those who wish to become members, to join us as we navigate the new field of language science together!

Harumi Kobayashi, President of the Japanese Society for Language Sciences