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We are delighted to announce that a memo of understanding (MOU) has been established between the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UHM). The signing ceremony took place in Hawaii Hall 209 on February 16, 2018, where NINJAL Director-General Yukinori Takubo and UHM Chancellor David Lassnar signed the MOU. Several key administrators and faculty from both institutions witnessed the event, including Deputy-Director Nobuko Kibe from the NINJAL, LLL Dean Laura Lyons, and SPAS Dean R. Anderson Sutton, who is also the Assistant Vice-Chancellor for International and Exchange Programs. The MOU is a result of collaborative efforts between the two institutions that are dedicated to documenting, researching, conserving and revitalizing endangered languages and their speech communities in East Asia.
Founded in 1948 and recognized in 2009 as one of the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) and Inter-University Research Institute Corporations, the NINJAL has documented various aspects of the Japanese language across regions and through the ages, developing reference materials, various kinds of corpora and databases for researchers of the language. More recently, NINJAL reinvented itself as an international locus of theoretical, typological, and diachronic studies on the languages of Japan. The institute is organized into different research divisions: Theory and Typology Division, Language Variation Division, Language Change Division, Spoken Language Division, and Japanese as a Second Language Research Division. The Language Variation Division, led by Deputy-Director Kibe, focuses on studying, documenting, and preserving the grammar, texts, and vocabulary items of the endangered languages in Japan, such as Ainu and the Ryukyuan languages, and a great number of underdescribed Japanese dialects. There is also a Network-based Project with other NIHU institutions that works on the language that was used by Japanese emigrants outside of Japan.
Following successful and fruitful collaborations between NINJAL and UHM at the levels of individual researchers in the past several years, initiated by the faculty in the Language Variation Division at NINJAL and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL) and the Department of Linguistics at UHM, the purpose of the MOU is to establish an official partnership between the two institutions to facilitate further research collaborations and encourage exchanges of various resources between the two institutions, with EALL and Linguistics being the “point departments” at UHM. The first major event following the establishment of the MOU will be an international symposium hosted by the NINJAL this August, entitled as Approaches to Endangered Languages in Japan and Northeast Asia: Description, Documentation and Revitalization. William O’Grady of the Department of Linguistics will participate in the symposium as a keynote speaker, and graduate students from the LLL are also expected to participate in this event as presenters.