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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Kaoru Ohta
JAPAN 440
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Japanese Linguistics

Overview of major topics in the linguistic description of Japanese: phonology, morphology, syntax, history, dialects, sociolinguistics, and the writing system. Elementary training in phonological, morphological, and syntactic analysis of Japanese. Prerequisite:either JAPAN 313 or JAPAN 334, which may be taken concurrently; JAPAN 342 or JAPAN 343. Recommended: introductory linguistics course.

Class description

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It endeavors to answer the question--what is language and how is represented in the mind? Linguists focus on describing and explaining language and are not concerned with the prescriptive rules of the language (i.e. how to form a passive sentence from an active sentence).

Japan 440 provides an introduction to the scientific study of the Japanese language, concentrating on the major linguistic phenomena of the Japanese language. In addition we will examine and explore the properties of the Japanese that are similar or dissimilar to other languages (such as English). We will be searching for answers to the questions, What does someone know when they know Japanese? and How do they get that knowledge?

To this goal, the course aims to accomplish two things: 1) Introduction to basic concepts of structural linguistics using Japanese as the primary examples. 2) Develop strong knowledge of intermediate to advanced level of Japanese grammar. As noted above, linguistics’ goal is to explain language rather than prescriptively states rules of grammar. Therefore, advanced knowledge of Japanese is crucial in understanding the contents of the course. Through grammar worksheets that are prepared for JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N2 level, students will gain more organized and practical knowledge of intermediate to advanced level of Japanese grammar. In addition, students will attain basic linguistic knowledge and skills through reading assignments, in-class lectures, in-class discussions and mini-field work.

Students must have completed 3rd year Japanese at college level (or be co-currently enrolled in Japan 313). In addition, the basic knowledge of linguistics and Japanese linguistics is required. Students not having completed Japan 342 or 343 may not be permitted to enroll in this course.

Student learning goals

Understand the phonological, morphological, and grammatical systems of Japanese

Learn how to view Japanese analytically

Develop intermediate to advanced level of Japanese grammatical skills

General method of instruction

Through this course, a wide range of topics in Japanese linguistics will be discussed. Students are expected to become familiar with fundamental concepts and methodology of linguistics, applied to Japanese. Course will be divided into three main activities: i) introduction of linguistic facts about the Japanese language and their analysis within the structural and generative linguistics, ii) discussion of the relevant data, and iii) studying intermediate to advanced level of Japanese grammar. To supplement a deeper understanding of topics discussed in class, reading assignments, data collection, homework assignments on linguistics topic, worksheet for JLPT N2 level grammar worksheet and quizzes will be given. Students are required to complete reading questions and summary papers in order to receive credits for reading, data collection assignments, and worksheets. At the end of the quarter, students are expected to present a mini-project (details will be announced later). The course does not have a final exam.

Recommended preparation

Prerequisites: completion or cocurrently enrolled in 3rd to 4th year Japanese and Japan 342 or 343.

This course is not designed to accommodate native speakers of Japanese.

Class assignments and grading

Reading assignments (reading questions will be provided). Problem solving assignments (as appropriate). Data collection Assignments and summary papers. JLPT N2 level grammar worksheets and quizzes based on the worksheets.

Reading Assignments … 10% Problem Solving Assignments … 10% Data Collection Summary … 10% Quizzes … 55% Classroom Participation … 5%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Kaoru Ohta
Date: 02/26/2012