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Professor of Linguistics & Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture

Senior Associate Dean for Open Learning (2018) | MIT |

Project Professor and Director of Online Education, University of Tokyo

Media | Open Education

Miyagawa is Senior Associate Dean for Open Learning at MIT. He was on the original MIT committee that proposed OpenCourseWare, and was the Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Committee, 2010 - 2013. He is also Co-director of Visualizing Cultures ( with the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, John W. Dower. With John Dower, Andrew Gordon of Harvard, and Gennifer Weisenfeld of Duke, he created Visualizing Japan, a MOOC offered by edX for the first time in the fall of 2014 that has attracted over 9,000 learners world-wide. Visualizing Japan was a Finalist for the prestigious Japan Prize in 2015. He is also the producer of the multimedia program, StarFestival, which stars George Takei as the voice of the main character. StarFestival was awarded the Distinguished Award at the Multimedia Grandprix 2000 (Japan). Since 2014, he has served as the Project Professor and Director of Online Education for the University of Tokyo as a joint appointment with MIT.


 Linguistics | Language in Evolution

Shigeru Miyagawa, teaching at MIT, 2015

Miyagawa works on syntax, morphology, and Altaic and East Asian linguistics. He has recently been exploring both case marking and grammatical agreement across languages. In a joint work with Danfeng Wu and Masa Koizumi, he has developed an approach that derives Case Theory and the general notion of Case in favor of labeling of structures (Chomsky 2013). He has also developed the idea that grammatical agreement, broadly conceived, is universally present in human language. He is the author of Agreement Beyond Phi (2017, Linguistic Inquiry Monograph, MIT Press), Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order, Leading Linguists Series (Routledge, 2012), Why Agree? Why Move?, published as a Linguistic Inquiry Monograph by MIT Press (2010), along with over fifty articles on various linguistics topics. 

He has recently developed a theory of language evolution that hypothesizes that human language arose from the integration of two pre-existing systems in nature, one seen in birdsong, the other in primate alarm calls. His ideas are developed in jointly authored articles (Frontiers in Psychology, 2013, 2014, 2015). The Integration Hypothesis received mention in the journal Science and its news website ( Nature interviewed him, along with Noam Chomsky, for a program on primate communication and human language (Nature Podcast). BBC produced a 30-minute special inspired by his Integration Hypothesis of human language evolution. It aired in May 2015 on Radio 4, which has a multi-million listener base (

He has recently broadened the scope of research in looking at cave art as a marker of symbolic thinking that underlies language, a work jointly written with Cora Lesure and Vitor Nóbrega (Frontiers 2018).

He received his B.A. from the International Christian University in 1975 and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1980.

OpenCourseWare redefined the relationship between MIT and the society it serves, bringing the two closer together, with benefits to both sides.
— Shigeru Miyagawa