Research

My research goal is to understand the grammar of languages in a way that is informed by classic methods of consultant judgments and speech samples, as well as through the analysis of corpora and the use of psycholinguistic methods. I am particularly interested in to what extent the grammatical patterns we find in languages (e.g., relative clause asymmetries, islands) can be explained in terms of processing factors and input characteristics. A major part of my work is concerned with how different populations―child first language learners, child and adult second language learners, heritage speakers, and the impaired—acquire, maintain, or lose the features of typologically different languages. I am also in using findings from acquisition research to facilitate language maintenance and conservation in endangered and heritage language contexts (Ryukyuan communities in Japan, heritage speakers of Tagalog in the United States).

My research centers on languages of Asia and the Pacific, such as Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Yoron-Ryukyuan. Below, you can find the description of my current projects:

  • Cross-linguistic investigation of relative clauses
  • Island effects in Japanese complex NPs
  • Language loss, maintenance, and conservation
  • Estimation of cue strengths in corpora
  • Studies on Tagalog morphosyntax
  • Structural probabilities in speech production

I have also been working on the development of different kinds of elicitation materials that can be used for experimentation and documentation.


Cross-linguistic investigation of relative clauses

Cross-linguistically, subject relative clauses are acquired earlier, processed faster, and comprehended and produced with higher accuracy than object relative clauses. I have been investigating whether a similar asymmetry is manifested in the processing and acquisition of relative clauses in typologically different languages and across different populations. So far, my collaborators and I have found a subject relative clause advantage in typically developing child and adult native speakers of Tagalog (Tanaka et al., 2019), Tagalog-speaking aphasics (Bondoc et al., 2019), and L1-English learners of Chinese (Cherici et al., 2020). I am currently using a similar methodology to investigate child and adult native speakers of Japanese.

Related Research Output

  • Cherici, A., Chang, Y.-Y., & Tanaka, N. (Submitted). A subject advantage in the production of Chinese relative clauses by L1-English learners.
  • Lau, E.,& Tanaka, N. (Submitted). The subject advantage in relative clauses: A review. 
  • Cherici, A., Tanaka, N., & Chang, Y.-Y. (2020, October). Subject preference in L1-English learners’ production of Chinese relative clauses. The 2020 Second Language Research Forum, Nashville, TN.
  • Cherici, A., Chang, Y.-Y., & Tanaka, N. (2020, September). A subject advantage in the production of Chinese relative clauses by L1-English learners. The 32nd North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics, Storrs, CT.
  • Cherici, A., Chang, Y.-Y., & Tanaka, N. (2019, October). The production of relative clauses by L1-English learners of Chinese. Paper presented at the NINJAL-UHM Linguistics Workshop on Syntax-Semantics Interface, Language Acquisition, and Naturalistic Data Analysis, Honolulu, HI. [Slides]
  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., & Bondoc, I. P. (2019). An asymmetry in the acquisition of relative clauses: Evidence from Tagalog. First Language, 39(6), 618–632. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723719859090 [Accepted Version PDF] [Please e-mail me to request the published version of the paper]
  • Bondoc, I. P., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., & Tanaka, N. (2018). Agrammatism in Tagalog: Voice and relativisation. Aphasiology, 32(5), 598–617. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2017.1366417 [Accepted Version PDF] [Please e-mail me to request the published version of the paper]
  • Bondoc, I. P., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., Tanaka, N., Chua, E. C., de Leon, A. C., & Siscar, J. A. (2018). More relativization asymmetries: Children find locative and benefactive relative clauses difficult. In A. B. Bertolini & M. J. Kaplan (Eds.), BUCLD 42: Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (Vol.1) (pp. 72–85). Somerville, Cascadilla Press. http://www.lingref.com/bucld/42/BUCLD42-06.pdf
  • Tanaka, N. (2016). An asymmetry in the acquisition of Tagalog relative clauses. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa. [PDF]
  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., Kim, C.-E., Hattori, R., Bondoc, I. P. M., & Soriano, J. U. (2016). An agent advantage in Tagalog relative clause comprehension. In H. Hsieh (Ed.), AFLA 22: The Proceedings of the 22nd Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (pp. 191‒202). Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. http://hdl.handle.net/1885/101155 [PDF]
  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., Kim, C.-E., Hattori, R., Bondoc, I. P. M., & Soriano, J. U. (2015). Split focus preferences in Tagalog: Evidence from child language. In A. Camp, Y. Otsuka, C. Stabile, & N. Tanaka (Eds.), AFLA 21: The Proceedings of the 21st Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (pp. 279‒288). Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics. http://hdl.handle.net/1885/95329 [PDF]
  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., Kim, C.-E., Hattori, R., Bondoc, I. P. M., & Soriano, J. U. (2014). Acquisition of Tagalog relative clauses. In W. Orman & M. J. Valleau (Eds.), BUCLD 38: Proceedings of the 38th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (Vol.2) (pp. 463‒470). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. [Accepted Version PDF]

Research Materials


Island effects in Japanese complex NPs

I investigate the island effects in complex NPs (relative clauses and factives) using the factorial definition of islands. Tanaka & Schwartz (2018) found island effects associated with wh-in-situ within relative clauses in native and non-native speakers of Japanese. I have also done work on island effects incurred by scrambling out of complex NPs (Fukuda et al., submitted).

Related Research Output

  • Fukuda, S., Tanaka, N., Ono, H., & Sprouse, J. (Submitted). An experimental reassessment of complex NP islands with NP-scrambling in Japanese.
  • Tanaka, N., & Schwartz, B. D. (2018). Investigating relative clause island effects in native and nonnative adult speakers of Japanese. In A. B. Bertolini & M. J. Kaplan (Eds.), BUCLD 42: Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (Vol. 2) (pp. 750–763). Somerville, Cascadilla Press. http://www.lingref.com/bucld/42/BUCLD42-58.pdf


Language Loss, Maintenance, and Conservation

I am interested broadly in working with speakers who are experiencing individual- or community-level language loss and/or who are in a situation that necessitates language maintenance and conservation, including heritage language speakers/learners and speakers of endangered languages. I would like to find out which parts of the grammar are more likely to be retained and which parts are lost, but I am also interested in using findings from acquisition research to facilitate language maintenance and conservation. I am currently working with heritage speakers of Tagalog in the United States and a Ryukyuan community in Japan, but I am also interested in working with other minority communities in Japan, the Philippines, and other parts of East and Southeast Asia, as well as Japanese, Filipino, and Ryukyuan diasporic communities in the United States, and I am actively looking for students and collaborators who share similar interests. I am also actively educating myself about societal and linguistic issues surrounding indigenous communities and immigrants in East and Southeast Asia and around the world, and have offered a few courses on this topic on the undergraduate level.

Related Research Output

  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., & Bondoc, I. P. (2019, September). Comprehension and production of word order and voice in bilingual Tagalog speakers. Poster presented at the 2019 Second Language Research Forum, East Lansing, MI. [Poster]

Estimation of cue strengths in corpora

The project uses corpus analysis to examine what kind of cues are available in the input provided for children and learners and what cues they themselves use in their own output. We have worked on Chinese and Japanese and have focused on cues that are used to encode transitive events: word order, animacy, and grammatical markers.

Related Research Output

  • Chang, Y.-Y., Cherici, A., & Tanaka, N. (2020, September). Estimating cue strengths in L1 Chinese input and output: A Competition Model approach to corpus data. The 32nd North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics, Storrs, CT.
  • Tanaka, N., & Shirai, Y. (2019, June). Estimating cue strengths based on corpus data: The case of L1 and L2 Japanese. Poster presented at CHILDES, TalkBank, Competition, Emergentism: Honoring the Impact of Brian MacWhinney on Language Research, Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Tanaka, N., & Shirai, Y. (2014). L1 acquisition of Japanese transitive verbs: How do children acquire grammar in the absence of clear evidence? In S. Nam, H. Ko, & J. Jun (Eds.), Japanese/Korean Linguistics (Vol. 21) (pp. 281-295). Stanford, CA: CSLI. [PDF]

Studies on Tagalog morphosyntax

I have done extensive work on relative clause asymmetries in Tagalog, as mentioned above. In addition, I have worked on other related issues in Tagalog, such as the voice/focus system and derivation of oblique relative clauses.

Related Research Output

  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., & Bondoc, I. P. (2019, September). Comprehension and production of word order and voice in bilingual Tagalog speakers. Poster presented at the 2019 Second Language Research Forum, East Lansing, MI. [Poster]
  • Bondoc, I. P., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., & Tanaka, N. (2018, May). Effects of pronoun case on sentence comprehension among Tagalog children. Poster presented at the 25th Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association, Taipei, Taiwan. [Poster]
  • Otsuka, Y., & Tanaka, N. (2016, June). Tagalog oblique relative clauses. Paper presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (AFLA 23), Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo, Japan. [Handout]
  • Tanaka, N., O’Grady, W., Deen, K., Kim, C.-E., Hattori, R., Bondoc, I. P. M., & Soriano, J. U. (2014, June). Acquisition of Tagalog focus system. Paper presented at the 16th Annual International Conference of the Japanese Society for Language Sciences (JSLS2014), Bunkyo University, Saitama, Japan. Received the JCHAT Award (Best Paper). [Slides]

Structural probabilities in speech production

This research investigates how structural cues influence incremental speech production. This question is motivated by the idea that acoustic properties in speech production are known to reflect probabilities of words and contexts chosen by the speakers. For example, highly frequent words are produced with shorter durations compared to less frequent words. The source of this effect has been attributed to articulatory practice, ease of lexical retrieval, and speakers’ accommodation of hearers’ needs. Would we see a similar effect if the predictability of the upcoming word is conditioned based on sentence structure, rather than word frequency? So far, we have investigated this question using Japanese relative clauses.

Related Research Output

  • Camp, A., & Tanaka, N. (2019). Integration of structural probabilities in speech production: Evidence from Japanese relative clauses. In S. Calhoun, P. Escudero, M. Tabain & P. Warren (Eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019 (pp. 3295–3298). Canberra, Australia: Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc. http://intro2psycholing.net/ICPhS/

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