The Japanese Society for Language Sciences held its inaugural conference in 1999, and in 2008, its 10th conference. During the first decade, through trial and error, we have achieved a unique position in the area of language sciences in Japan and in the world.
The past plenary speakers include:
1999 Brian MacWhinney (Carnegie Mellon University) Sophia University
2000 Michael Tomasello (Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) Coop-in, Kyoto
2001 William O’Grady (University of Hawaii at Manoa) Japan Women’s University
2002 Andrew Radford (University of Essex) Japan Women’s University
2003 Catherine Snow (Harvard University) Kobe University
2004 Bonnie Schwartz (University of Hawaii at Manoa) Aichi Shukutoku University
2005 Dan Slobin (University of California, Berkeley) Sophia University
2006 Fred Genesee (McGill University) International Christian University
2007 Andrea Moro (San Raffaele) Miyagi Gakuin University
2008 Bernard Comrie (Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) University of Shizuoka
2009 Roberta Golinkoff (University of Delaware) Tokyo Denki University
The specializations of these plenary speakers include first language acquisition, second language acquisition, bilingualism, and linguistic typology. Half of them are psychologists and half of them are linguists, and in terms of theoretical orientation, both generative and functional linguistics are represented. The papers presented at the past conferences include linguistics, psychology, conversational analysis, neuroscience, among others, which represent diverse fields of inquiry. I believe this reflects our ‘interdisciplinary’ nature, which is one of the goals that we aim to achieve as an academic society. It goes without saying that complex phenomena involving language requires investigations from multiple perspectives, and it is one of our missions to provide such a forum.
Another goal is to make our inquiry ‘international’. Most existing Japanese academic conferences in the area of language sciences appear to be functioning as a forum for domestic researchers to present their own work, and to learn from invited speakers from overseas. This is important, of course, but we JSLS treat our annual conference as a international forum to present and discuss research on language sciences, and strive for a society that ensures two-way exchange of ideas between Japanese researchers and international communities of scientists.
This goal has been achieved to some extent in the first 10 years. For example, in 2008, approximately 40% of abstracts were from overseas, both in terms of nationality and affiliation of the presenters, which included countries such as USA, China, Taiwan, Korea, Germany, and Canada. In addition, the number of abstracts submitted for presentation in English was twice more than that for presentation in Japanese. To ensure the ‘international’ nature of our conference, JSLS maintains an English-Japanese bilingual policy, and has made every effort to make sure its activities will be useful for members and participants who do not know Japanese. One such endeavor is the selected proceedings of our annual conference Studies in Language Sciences published in English (with Japanese abstracts). In our review process, we invite top experts in the subfields of language sciences both from Japan and abroad to ensure high quality of the published papers.
One shortcoming of the current situation is that we do not have a medium where JSLS members can publish their research in Japanese. We are currently discussing this issue to rectify this problem. We also find that papers presented at the conference involve mostly quantitative research, and thus we would like to encourage scholars engaged in qualitative research, such as anthropologists to submit abstracts. (Personally, I am hoping to invite an ethnomethodologist as a plenary speaker.) JSLS invites all kinds of scientific research in language-related phenomena. We have seen some success in our first 10 years, and we further ask our members and future members to help us achieve further development of the society during the next ten years.
The 3rd President, Japanese Society for Language Sciences
Professor of Linguistics, University of Pittsburgh