Tomonori Nagano: Research

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Acquisition of Japanese transitive pairs

In Haspelmath's (1993) study on the lexical markedness of causative verbs, Japanese is identified as one of the two languages that have no directed causative markedness (i.e., equipollent; e.g., atsum-aru "gather (intransitive)" vs. atsum-eru (transitive)). English is the other non-directed causative language since the causative morpheme is completely absent in lexical causative verbs (i.e., labile; gather can be used for both intransitive and transitive). I was intrigued by this interesting asymmetric parallel between Japanese and English and wondered how Japnaese native speakers acquire English lexical causative. In an experimental study, I tested 44 native speakers of English and 60 Japanese ESL learners participated in the grammaticality judgment tasks. The data show that the negative transfer exists in the inherently-directed motion verbs (such as go) and verbs of disappearance (such as disappear), but it is conditioned by the frequency of verbs. I have concluded that the existence of frequency effect on verbs in the asymmetric relationship indicates that certain classes of verbs must be learned from the input. This was my dissertation study and was published in Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism ( . A list of 220 lexical causatives in Japanese (an extended version of Jacobson (1992)'s list) is available here (Excel file).

Demographics of Heritage Language Speakers

The passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 (a.k.a. Hart-Celler Act) in 1965 not only increased the number of immigrants but also increased the diversity of languages that immigrants bring into the U.S. Using the U.S. Census data through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) database (Ruggles & Sobek, 1997), I have presented the demographic changes of heritage language speakers between 1980-2010. The article was published in The Modern Language Journal ( . Additional data are available here . The analysis script (in R) is available here .

Teaching and learning of modern languages at community colleges in the U.S.

Undergraduate enrollment at community colleges comprises nearly 40% of all undergraduate students in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Education, 2015) and community colleges in the U.S. serve mostly underprivileged populations, including children of immigrants, students of color, and students from working-class backgrounds. Community colleges play a unique role in U.S. higher education, as the gateway to higher education for working-class, nontraditional, and immigrant students. The present-day community colleges also display an interesting linguistic mélange with diverse HLs that students bring into the foreign language classroom. This series of survey and interview studies examined the current state of modern language instruction at community colleges, with a special focus on the role of heritage languages that community college students speak. This research project was published in Foreign Language Annals ( , Heritage Language Journal ( , and ADFL Bulletin ( . The survey instruments and data are available at .

Phonological Advantages of Heritage Learners of Japanese

This is an on-going study to examine phonological and syntactic advantages of heritage language speakers of Japanese over second language (L2) learners of Japanese. The goal of this study is to replicate the findings of earlier studies on phonological advantages of HL learners over L2 learners of Spanish and Korean (Au et al., 2002; Oh, Knightly, & Au, 2003). I am examining the acquisition of phonological and syntactic features in Japanese by HL and L2 learners through an experiment designed by PsychoPy. The phonological tasks include production of moraic nasal sound and phonemic long vowels and the syntactic tasks include the interpretation of long-distance reflexivizations and gap-less relative clauses in Japanese. Partial results were presented as a poster presentation at the PJPF 2018 (See a copy of the poster here ).

Unfortunately, the experiment has been suspended due to the COVID-19. I am working on converting the current PsychoPy experiment to an online experiment using PsychoPy3 ( and Pavlovia (