RIJS People Faculty
Wesley M. Jacobsen
Professor of the Practice of the Japanese Language and Director of the Japanese Language Program Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations & Interim Director 2014-15, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
Professor Wesley M. Jacobsen was born in Tokyo and spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, returning to the United States in his later high school years. After graduating from Wheaton College (Illinois) with undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Religious Studies, he went on to do graduate work at the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1981. It was during his graduate years that his academic interests turned to Japan and to the study of the structure of the Japanese language, occasioned in particular by an eighteen-month period spent in residence at Tsukuba University in Japan for dissertation research. Following graduate school, he taught Japanese language and linguistics for twelve years at the University of Minnesota before joining the faculty at Harvard, where he is currently Director of the Japanese Language Program. He has spent research leaves in Japan at the National Language Research Institute in Tokyo, Kobe University, Dokkyo University, International Christian University, and Kyoto University. His research interests center on concepts of time, reality, and participantstructure (transitivity) and their interaction in Japanese grammar and on the development of effective teaching strategies for such concepts. His publications include The Transitive Structure of Events in Japanese (1992), On Japanese and How to Teach It (1992, co-editor), and articles in a variety of journals and books on tense, aspect, conditionals, negation, and transitivity in Japanese as well as on the mutual contributions of linguistics and language teaching. He served as advisory editor to Kodansha's Basic English-Japanese Dictionary (1999).