Professor of Linguistic & Kochi-Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture | MIT |

Project Professor and Director of Online Education | University of Tokyo



I look at languages with the two questions in mind:

   - how are language the same?

   - in what ways can they vary?

There are series of phenomena I have studied, including agreement and agreementless languages, various forms of movement, lexical dependencies such as NPIs that reveal underlying structures, and argument structure and word order. 

Media | Open Education
Miyagawa was on the original MIT committee that proposed OpenCourseWare, and was the Chair of the MIT OpenCourseWare Faculty Advisory Committee, 2009 - 2014. For his work with OCW around the world, he was awarded the President’s Award for OCW Excellence from the Global OpenCourseWare Consortium. He is also Co-director of Visualizing Cultures ( with the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, John W. Dower, which was awarded MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award. With John Dower and Andrew Gordon of Harvard, 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), and a regional Best of Show at the 1997 MacWorld Exposition. For his work in technology and education, he was recognized with the Irwin Sizer Award For the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education (1995), and “Shapers of the Future” by the educational technology magazine Converge (2002). 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
Miyagawa works on syntax, morphology, and Altaic and East Asian linguistics. He has recently been exploring the idea that grammatical agreement, broadly conceived, is universally present in human language. He is the author of Agreement Beyond Phi (to appear, 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), and co-editor with Mamoru Saito of Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics published by the Oxford University Press (2008), 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 received his B.A. from the International Christian University in 1975 and his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1980.


Recent News, Awards  

Agreement Beyond Phi, Linguistic Inquiry Monograph, MIT Press, To appear. Link to pre-copyedited Chapter 1.

"Birds, Monkeys, and Humans." A mini MOOC, free.

BBC Radio 4 features Integration Hypothesis (about 17 minutes into the program). What the Songbird Said.

Nature Podcast interview with Chomsky, Miyagawa, etc. (17 minutes into the program). Real Life Dr. Dolittles.

"The precedence of syntax in the rapid emergence of human language in evolution as defined by the integration hypothesis." Frontiers in Psychology. 18 March 2015 (with Vitor A. Nóbrega). Article.

"The integration hypothesis of human language evolution and the nature of contemporary languages," Frontiers in Psychology. June 2014 (with S. Ojima, R. Berwick, K. Okanoya). MIT News. Science News. LiveScience.

"The emergence of hierarchical structure in human language," Frontiers in Psychology. February 2013 (with R. Berwick, K. Okanoya). Science News. MIT News.

Case, Argument Structure, and Word Order. Leading Linguists Series.Routledge. 2012. Review by Stella Markantonatou in Linguist. YouTube Video of Chapter 10.

Why Agree? Why Move? Unifying Agreement-based and Discourse Configurational Languages. 2010, MIT Press, Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 54.  Review by Anders Holmberg in Language.  Link to The MIT Press.  Link to MIT News.  Link to Google Books.

Awards & Fellowships

Finalist for the Japan Prize (NHK sponsored) for Visualizing Japan           2015
MITx/HarvardX MOOC.         
60th Anniversary Professor, International Christian University, Tokyo               2013-2015
President's Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence, Board of Directors,                2012
    Global OpenCourseWare Consortium
MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award (with John W. Dower)          2004
Named one of twenty national “Shapers of the Future” by the educational
    technology magazine Converge                            2002
Distinguished Award, Multimedia Grandprix 2000 (Japan), StarFestival Network     2000    
Best of Show, for Star Festival, MacWorld Exposition, Boston, Massachusetts
     (presented by the Northeast Mac Conspiracy)                    1997
Irwin Sizer Award, For the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education        1995
National Institute of Mental Health, Individual National Research Service Award
    (used for postdoctoral study in linguistics at MIT)                1982-83
Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology                                                      1982-83

Articles and Manuscripts

(see:  If you could set it up I can complete the page and upload manuscripts.