Akira Watanabe

What was the broad question that you most wanted to get an answer to during your time in the program?

The only broad question I was interested in when I was a graduate student is, what shape does UG take? It’s not the kind of question you can get the final answer to before you finish the program (or before your life is over). It’s a matter of discovering new generalizations and coming up with new good ideas. I thought I would be very happy if I could contribute to this project. And of course, as a grad student, there were (and no doubt still are) practical sides, too. In my days, we were required to write up two generals papers by the end of the second year, and had to finish the entire program in four years. With a lot of progress made in the 80’s, this time table was getting rather tight for students in the early 90’s. So, you had to be looking for new generalizations and new ideas all the time. No other question occupied me.

What is the current status of this question? Has it been answered? Did it turn out to be an ill-conceived question? If it’s a meaningful question as yet unanswered, please tell us what you think the path to an answer might be, or what obstacles make it a hard question.

After 20 years, I’m interested in the same question, which continues to be fascinating. I think we can say that a lot of progress has been made since then and new vistas have been opened up. At the same time, there still are phenomena that defy a principled account and details that haven’t yet received proper attention. The human language faculty is a very complex entity, with interfaces connecting it to other cognitive domains. Collective efforts are needed to obtain new insights into how it works.