Associate Professor NAKANISHI Taro

Affiliations :

Pursuing the meaning of human greetings

I specialize in Japanese linguistics, sociolinguistics, and the dialectology of the Japanese language. More specifically, I investigate linguistic behavior and greeting expressions, their geography, history, and crosslinguistic aspects.
This inquiry grows out of several mundane interactions during my first university year. In one, a graduate student was leaving early and I suddenly had to say goodbye to my senior in both age and position. Lacking experience, I fumbled for a proper phrase to no avail. My wording ended up terribly awkward.
Then one day I heard another senior student say, ‘Take care!’
and immediately it clicked. I must have heard this expression countless times before, yet never processed it. But on that day, it became a part of my vocabulary. I realized then this must be how people learn ways to address others.
I developed an interest in all kinds of expressions in the following years. My bachelor thesis discussed the paradox of using ‘Good morning’ after midday, a common practice in the entertainment industry. However, my curiosity was not satisfied.
Why do some people use such greetings, while others do not?
Do those who accept using ‘Good morning’ after noon process it in the same way I processed ‘Take care’? What is their logic?
These exciting questions, as well as my fascination with new language phenomena, have driven me to the field of research in greeting expressions.
Some twenty years later, my research also includes inquiries into dialects and the history of language. Furthermore, it now extends far beyond the borders of Japan. But I still remember that first crucial sparkle of wonder, my first step into the world of linguistics.

  • Research, History
  • Books, papers, etc.
  • Courses
    Japanese Linguistics (General Lecture); Japanese Linguistics (Special Lecture); Japanese Linguistics (Seminar)
    Personal History
    Received a B.A. in Japanese linguistics at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
    Received a Ph.D. at the Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University

    Research fellow in charge of industry-academia collaboration, Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
    Lecturer, Faculty of Languages and Cultures, Meikai University
    Lecturer, Mejiro University
    Associate Professor, Faculty of Letters, Atomi University
    Current position
    Ph.D. (Literature)
    Japanese linguistics, Japanese dialectology, Sociolinguistics
    Research Subject
    Research on communication such as greetings and language behavior
    Research on communication with non-native speakers
    Dialectological research through corpora-based methods
    greetings; linguistic behavior; non-native speakers; accessible Japanese; dialects; Great East Japan Earthquake (Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami); communication
    The Society for Japanese Linguistics; Dialectological Circle of Japan; The Japanese Association of Sociolinguistic Sciences
  • Books
    Save the Dialect, Save the Dialect - Proposals from the 3.11 Disaster Area (Hitsuji Shobo, 2013), Opening the Future of Dialectology (Hitsuji Shobo, 2014) and The Great Question of the Japanese Language (Gentosha, 2021).
    Academic Papers
    “Utilizing Dialects in the IT Society,” in Yasushi Hanazawa and Saeko Arai (eds.), Practical Dialectology Course: Activating Society with Dialects. Tokyo: Kuroshio Shuppan, 2020.
    “The Standardization of New Year's Greetings and Condolence Expressions,” in Takashi Kobayashi (ed.), Dialectology of Language Behavior by Nationwide Survey. Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo, 2021.
    “Towards a Linguistic Typology of Greeting Expressions: A Comparison of Japanese and Taiwanese Greeting Expressions,” in Kenji Tomosada (ed.), Developments in the Study of Interjections. Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo, 2022.
    “Group language (shūdango),” in Yoshiyuki Asahi, Mayumi Usami, and Fumio Inoue (eds.), Handbook of Japanese Sociolinguistics Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2022.
    “Distribution and Formation Process of Greetings during Visits to Other People's Homes,” in Takashi Kobayashi (ed.), Dialectology of Interjections Based on Nationwide Survey. Tokyo: Hitsuji Shobo, 2022.