Graduate student Yushi Sugimoto earned his B.A. degree in English and American Literature from Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, and his M.A. degree in Linguistics from Sophia University, also in Tokyo. He has been a doctoral student in the U-M Linguistics department since September 2018.

As a student, Yushi has received several notable awards, including the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Overseas Challenge Program for Young Researchers and the John D’Arms Faculty Award Graduate RA with Acrisio Pires. 

Under the direction of advisors Marlyse Baptista and Acrisio Pires, Yushi’s research interests focus on theoretical linguistics, syntax, and generative grammar, the theory of language cognition first developed by renowned linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1950s that is based on the idea that all humans have an innate language capacity. 

Yushi became interested in language and the brain when he was an undergraduate student and took an introduction to linguistics course that also covered neurolinguistics. At Keio University, he later took a class taught by Hisa Kitahara and other classes about generative grammar, sociolinguistics, and cognitive linguistics.

Yushi has co-authored several peer-reviewed publications, and he is currently working on a joint paper with a research group led by Noam Chomsky. In his recent paper, “Minimalism: Where Are We Now, and Where Can We Hope to Go,” Chomsky mentioned that “Much of this work is based on extensive discussions among a group originally formed by the late Sam Epstein, known in the literature as EKS (Epstein, Hisa Kitahara, and Dan Seely), later joined by Robert Berwick, Sandiway Fong, Riny Huybregts, Andrew McInnerney, and Yushi Sugimoto (Chomsky 2022: 16, fn22).”

“One of the reasons I came to the U of M linguistics PhD program was to work with the late Sam Epstein who worked on the foundations of minimalism in generative grammar,” says Yushi. “His contributions to this field are so tremendous that his loss was something that I cannot overcome yet. After his loss, Daniel Seely, Hisatsugu Kitahara and my colleague Andrew McInnerney contacted Chomsky, and started to have a monthly Zoom meeting with Chomsky and other prominent scholars. Since then we’ve been working together.”

During the pandemic, Yushi took the opportunity to work with people inside and outside of the university via online meetings, and greatly enjoys these collaborations. He has been collaborating with fellow graduate student Andrew McInnerney and Linguistics alumnus Alan Ke (2019), now an assistant professor at Michigan State University. He has also co-authored with Andreas Blümel (Göttingen University, Germany) and Nobu Goto (Toyo University, Japan). Some of their work has been presented at the Penn Linguistics Conference (PLC45) and the 39th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL39).  In the past several years, Yushi has given many other refereed conference presentations, including at the annual meetings of the Linguistic Society of America and of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.

One part of Yushi’s PhD research explores foundational aspects of minimalist syntax regarding the structure building operation Merge, syntactic Labeling and rule ordering as a source of linguistic variation. As another part of his dissertation project, Yushi has been working with Marlyse Baptista on functional categories in Creole languages. This research was presented at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America 2022 and has also been submitted for journal publication (under review, Sugimoto and Baptista 2022). This project can be traced back to a term paper that Yushi wrote when he first took professor Baptista's class on Pidgins and Creoles in Fall 2018. Since then, he has been fascinated by Creole languages.

In addition to his research, Yushi has taught introductory courses in language and in cognitive science as a graduate student instructor (GSI). 

“I’ve been interested in the cognitive ability of language, but I’ve never had a chance to study cognitive science, so it was a nice opportunity to take COGSCI 700 (Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Cognitive Science) and teach COGSCI 200 (Introduction to Cognitive Science) as a GSI,” says Yushi.

Looking ahead, Yushi has accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Tokyo (Japan), where he looks forward to continuing his research: “I’ve been mainly working on theoretical linguistics, but I would also like to learn more about neurolinguistics, and connecting theoretical linguistics to the brain, using language models.”