Compensatory Contribution of
Linguistic and Social Factors
for Early Language Acquisition:
Cross Linguistic Study Between
European and Asian Languages


  • Lecture

    Lecture (only in Japanese)

    Venue Zoom & NINJAL
    Admission Free
    Speaker Mitsuhiko Ota (The University of Edinburgh)
    Host Haruo Kubozono (NINJAL)


To explore the mechanisms underlying infant language acquisition through the comparison among 6 Asian and European languages


How do infants learn to acquire the language(s) spoken by adults around them?

Languages around the world vary in terms of syntactic rules including word order, lexical properties, vowel and consonant inventories, and prosody. Despite being born in different language environments, infants eventually learn to speak their native language during the first few years of life.

Our project explores how this natural process of language acquisition occurs.

Principal Investigator
Language Development Subgroup of Laboratory for Molecular Mechanism of Brain Development
RIKEN Center for Brain Science
Reiko Mazuka


For a long time, Indo-European languages including English and French have been the focus of language research. However, Asian languages including Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Thai differ from those Indo-European languages in terms of linguisticproperties such as their syntactic and phonological systems. With regards to the language environment, there could also be cultural differences in the way how caregivers interact with their infants.

Region Language Word order Clause boundary Adjective Rhythm Lexical prosody
East Asia Japanese SOV Postposing Before nouns Mora-timed Pitch accent
Korean SOV Postposing Before nouns Syllable-timed? None
Southeast Asia Mandarin Chinese SVO Postposing Before nouns Syllable-timed? 4 tones
Thai SVO Postposing After nouns Syllable-timed? 5 tones
North America English SVO Preposing Before nouns Stress-timed Stress
Europe French SVO Preposing After nouns Syllable-timed None
Table 1.

Major directions

Cross-language difference in speech development

Using behavorial experiments to explore infants’ speech development between languages

Cross-cultural difference in communication style

Using behavioral and recording experiments to explore differences in mother-infant communication between cultures

What are infants paying attention to

Using behavioral and eye-tracking experiments to explore what properties of mother-child communication capture infants’ attention

Research Team

Locations of the joint research labs


International research collaborators

  • Youngon Choi (Chung-Ang University, Korea)
  • Alejandrina Cristia (ENS, France)
  • Judit Gervain (University of Padova, Italy)
  • Thierry Nazzi (INCC, France)
  • Chutamanee Onsuwan (Thammasat University, Thailand)
  • Leher Singh (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
  • Henny Yeung (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Japan research team

  • Reiko Mazuka / Language Development Subgroup (RIKEN CBS)
  • Sho Tsuji (IRCN, The University of Tokyo)
  • Haruo Kubozono, Hanae Koiso (NINJAL)
  • Akihiro Tanaka(Tokyo Woman's Christian University)
  • Hisashi Ishihara, *Minoru Asada, *Yuuichirou Yoshikawa(Osaka Universtiy)
  • Akira Utsugi (Nagoya University)
  • Hiromu Sakai (Waseda University)
  • Shigeto Kawahara (Keio University)

(*Research collaborators)


Are you interested in participating?