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Trends in Japanese Linguistics


Admission requirements

Background in linguistics and elementary knowledge of Japanese are recommended but not obligatory.


Japanese exhibits a variety of expressions and grammatical constructions that convey meanings pertaining to extra-linguistic factors, such as the context, social statuses of conversational participants, ‘perspectives’ taken by the speaker and ‘evidence’ available in the discourse. Examples of these expressions include deictic expressions (e.g., kore ‘this’, sore ‘it’, are ‘that’), honorifics, sentence-final particles (e.g., yo, ne), the logophoric use of zibun (self), verbs of coming/going and giving/receiving. These expressions are also interesting from the point of view of language learners since the elusive nature of their meanings typically makes them difficult to master.
How can we accurately describe the behaviors of these expressions in the current theories of linguistics? What do these expressions tell us about the model of linguistic meanings and conversation dynamics in general? Are the Japanese phenomena in any sense ‘unique’, or are they related to phenomena in other languages? In this seminar, we will address these questions by discussing concrete analyses in the current literature in Japanese Linguistics. By doing so, the students will also acquire theoretical tools and practical skills that will be useful when working on independent linguistic projects.

Course objectives

1) To become familiar with the use and interpretations of Japanese context-dependent expressions, and linguistic puzzles posed by them.
2) To become familiar with the theories of semantics and pragmatics employed to address the above puzzles in the current literature.
3) To acquire methodologies and theoretical tools to address various problems in semantics and pragmatics.
4) To get inspirations for possible MA thesis topics in Japanese linguistics.
5) To develop presentation and writing skills.


The timetable is available on the Japanstudies

Mode of instruction

Classes are work-intensive and consist of a combination of lectures, discussions, assignments and student presentations. Students are required to read the materials assigned for the day before coming to class, actively participate in discussions and submit the required papers and assignments by the relevant deadlines.

Course Load

Total course load for the course (10 EC x 28 hours) is 280 hours including:

  • 22 hours (11 courses x 2 hours) for attending classes

  • 110 hours (11 courses x 10 hours) for studying the compulsory literature

  • 33 hours (11 courses x 3 hours) for completing assignments

  • 65 hours for writing a research paper (possibly corresponding to a chapter of the MA dissertation)

  • 50 hours to prepare an oral presentation of the concept of the MA dissertation

Assessment method

  • Attendance and participation: 30%

  • Assignments and exercises: 10%

  • Research paper: 30%

  • Oral presentation: 30%


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Resits involve re-completing assignments, rewriting the research paper and presenting a revised concept of the MA dissertation.


Blackboard will be used and includes all the relevant information related to the course such as course syllabus, course schedule, required readings, keynote presentations, course materials, useful links, etc. All students need to be enrolled.

Reading list

To be announced in the first class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Wataru Uegaki