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SHIMIZU Makoto Professor

Linguistics and Literature / Linguistics and Western Languages
Specialized Field
German and Germanic linguistics and philology
Research Subject
Modern German, History and dialectology of the German language, Dutch and Frisian linguistics, Nordic linguistics, Icelandic literature
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Lab. Letters: Messages from the Laboratory

Starting with German, learning continuously about the Germanic languages and dialects

The attraction of the Germanic languages, which include German, Dutch and languages of Scandinavia, lies in their mutual affinities. These languages have the same origin. Some have spread throughout Europe; others have spread around the world. For example, Icelandic went beyond the sea and started to be used on an island situated high up in the Arctic zone; Yiddish spread above all to Israel in the Middle East, and Afrikaans comes from a dialect in Holland that spread to the Republic of South Africa. Unlike the high hurdles that Japanese face when trying to learn English, this affinity makes it easier for learners who have mastered German to acquire a sound knowledge of other Germanic languages (e.g. Dutch).

The Germanosphere, located in Central Europe, has a long history of cherishing local cultures. In 1984, for example, a local dialect of Mosel-Franconian was socio-linguistically recognized and established as Luxembourgish. Germany is an environmental power, from which perspective some students take a linguistic interest, because the death of an endangered language is to be regarded as akin to environmental destruction. We are involved in research in the hope that our interest in languages will help to stave off the decline in linguistic minorities in the world.

  • Western Frisian Language Grammar, a copious work of 820 pages written by Professor Shimizu
  • A private residence in Northern Friesland, Germany, where the Northern Frisian dialects are spoken (photo taken by Professor Shimizu)

Study abroad and scholarship systems that support research:
Active information exchanges between students

Linguistics requires an interest in culture, as well as a theoretical foundation. My research mainly covers Frisian dialects and Icelandic, along with German. Unexplored languages promise new discoveries. In advising students, my stance is to place great emphasis on their autonomy. In 2009, a graduate student who was engaged in research on Swiss-German and in 2011, a graduate student who carried out research on Luxembourgish won the Incentive Award of the Society for the Promotion of German Studies (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Germanistik), which is bestowed on excellent young researchers.

A number of universities in German-speaking countries are almost tuition-free, which enables international students to concentrate on their learning without any financial constraints. Information on overseas study and scholarships is actively exchanged in my laboratory, which helps to boost promising students’ motivation to conduct research.

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